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How To: Seasoning Cast Iron
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skjessen
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now I have to buy a blow torch? Anyone want to buy some ironware?
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SgtNickFury



Joined: 20 Nov 2006
Posts: 37

PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 9:09 pm    Post subject: Re: How To: Seasoning Cast Iron Reply with quote

Jörg wrote:
I noticed that we don't have a post here about seasoning cast iron, so I thought I'd add one in case anyone ever needs it. This was originally posted in my blog, but I'll duplicate it here for convenience.


Just wanted to say GREAT article.....I mean really great.......I now know why sometimes when I season cast iron it turns out perfect, and sometimes it's "sticky"......more heat.....longer time.....Teasing
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Blue Pilgrim



Joined: 03 Sep 2007
Posts: 25
Location: Ilinois

PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2007 6:05 am    Post subject: Laws of nature... Reply with quote

I'm not an engineer but I've done a lot of art & craft stuff, and mechanicla amateur science things -- and I've discovered some laws:

1: it always takes time.
2. there is no easy way.
3. it much, much more complicated than you know.
4. eventually you get it to work, but you never figure out exactly why or how. (here we need not black magic, but dark brown magic?)

I'm currently trying to season a cheap pan I picked up -- made in Taiwan. It doesn't want to season -- it loves to flake. My guess it that it's cheap iron and has spots which have impurities in it. There are a few areas which are much worse than others. I've been working on thise over a period of months -- all stove top on low heat because the oven isn't that good and it's been hot to light it anyway. I've done it before with other pieces and it's worked fine -- but not this one.

I don't think it's just carbon -- I could flame in a candle and get carbon but that would wipe right off, so there must be some kind of matrix involved with the fat. The tray thing under the gas burners in my old stove are all blak -- seasoned -- but they have never gotten that hot. My best results is using a low flame over several hours. I suspect that there is a slow deposition on the iron of some mix of carbon and fat, and that the micro-structure is important.

I've colored art metal with oxides and sulfides, and it has to be done slowly or it comes right off. This is likely similar. Plating is like that too -- try to plate too fast and it "burns" and flakes off.

My mother was no engineer by any means, or even a gourmet cook, but the pans I have from her have great coatings -- she just cooked in them for 40 years (and washed them in the sink with the other dishes). There may be some involvement of proteins -- nitrides? -- from the food cooked?

I've looking all over the web hoping to find some report of a scientist who cut a seasoned pan in half and looked at the interface with the coating with an electron microscope and all -- I would guess there would some sort of complex structures there with different molecules in some particular orientations (almost like crystal growth).

Anyway, my latest experiment is trying to season over a low flame, but with the pan upside down so the hydrocarbons left over from whatever gas is unburned has contact with the surface -- maybe a little like a reducing flame: when I've done camp cooking it's near the bottom of the pot, where the smoke comes up, and a little grease drips down, and it gets coated with creosote, which always has the nicest coating (except for under the rolled lip). Maybe I'll build a little wood fire, coat the pan with grease, and put it on upside down -- that's how the stuff gets on a pot that's almost impossible to clean off.
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2007 3:02 am    Post subject: Re: Laws of nature... Reply with quote

Carbon from a candle is just soot, or carbon black that makes the pan dirty. That is not at all the same reaction that takes place when a pan is properly coated with a high smoke point oil and then baked for an hour or so at a temperature at least 30 degrees F ABOVE the smoke point of the oil. An oil coated pan, not baked long enough or hot enough for the oil to carbonize will just be another sticky, dirty pan. Don't try to season the pan over a low open flame (stove). I hope you don't mean a bunsen burner. You won't accomplish the same thing anywhere as easily or with as high a quality as in an oven.
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Manatus22
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 2:10 am    Post subject: Cast Iron Reply with quote

Here is my experience...

a) cooking eggs, specially scrambled, can be a bear on cast iron if you try to do it low fat, fried eggs are less troublesome. With sufficient oil, it works well. You may have to test yourself what is the best amount of oil for your particular size cast iron ware and the type of eggs and amount you are making. If you goof-up, I can only recomend soaking and elbow grease a.k.a scurbbing, perfect drying, followed by seasoning cycle.

b) I have a ceramic cook top stove....! So my cast iron requires special treatment as to not scratch the surface and not get oil stuck on the ceramic.

I used to season the whole pan/skillet when I had a standard electric range every so often, but when I moved my new home came with fancy glossy ceramic top- yet I did not want to let go of my favorite cookware. So I adjusted. I never season the bottom so the oil does not rub off unto the ceramic (pain to clean later). After washing cast iron, I dry it with a hand towel and then place it on the burner on low/warm to finish drying for a few minutes to ensure all moisture is dryed before a re-oil it for storage (I live in FLA) thus its humid and oiling is beneficial to keep moisture away.

c) In bettween seasonings, mini-season on the stove top on low -medium heat for 1/2 hr.

d) When I do season (weather oven or stove top) I discovered that if I use too much oil it only gooks up. I found that using the least amount of oil (just enought to barely cover the full skillet and minimally make it glissten) is best. I apply three drops to a bit of paper towel and rub on the whole skillet (inside in my case). Oil when heated becomes runny, so even when you thought you used almost no oil, it will drip, puddle or gook up on you. So my motto is keep it thin. Repeat the cycle as needed, but keep it thin. Also thin coats of oil => low or no smoke.

e) I try to re-season during times that I am using the oven for something else (take advantage of a hot oven). You can either co-cook or simply using the hot oven after you cooked your food (which I preffer). Taking advantage of oven-pre-use saves you on pre-heating time and ultimately money/earth friendly.

f) I do not use my cast iron ware in high temperatures for cooking. I find that though they may take a bit to fully heat (specially my heavy pan), food does best if I keep it below 4 on my electric range knob. Remember that with electric ranges at least one of the burners (it may vary by brand) tend to be high heat (very high heat) and the rest are calibrated to a lesser top temperature when set on high. Eggs, pancakes and meats do well in 4 or less (at least for me).

I recommend this even if you use teflon, as teflon will give off toxic fumes at high temperatures.

--
I have 3 iron wares, one frying pan (pretty heavy) which I use for fish or dishes with sauces, such as stews or do anything else I need (thought he sides can get in the way for certain dishes. A skillet, (my fave- not as heavy) which I use for almost everything from eggs (including scrambled) to pancakes, meats, quesadillas etc. and my mini frying pan that I got as a gift to make cornbread. I use it for all my mini fixings, keep things warm,....


Well hope my experience if of use to you : ) Happy cooking!
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 352
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 1:04 am    Post subject: Re: Laws of nature... Reply with quote

GaryProtein wrote:
Carbon from a candle is just soot, or carbon black that makes the pan dirty. That is not at all the same reaction that takes place when a pan is properly coated with a high smoke point oil and then baked for an hour or so at a temperature at least 30 degrees F ABOVE the smoke point of the oil. An oil coated pan, not baked long enough or hot enough for the oil to carbonize will just be another sticky, dirty pan. Don't try to season the pan over a low open flame (stove). I hope you don't mean a bunsen burner. You won't accomplish the same thing anywhere as easily or with as high a quality as in an oven.


Yeah, buuut, everytime you use a cast iron pot/pan will 'season' it. Whether (not weather) you use an oven or stove top. Try checking out a 'soul food' restaurant, they just USE that pan. And by use, it's got fat bubbling from dawn until dusk on the stove top. Ain't seasoned?

Plus, ran across one of my readers that had this 5 gallon cast iron pot that needed 'seasoning'. Man, heat on the stove top, and use. Use and use. Coat with oil when done and then use. You can't put that sucker in a standard oven to give a good ol' seasoning.

If you have a rule, I can break it. Or at least make myself look like an idiot in the process.

xo, Biggles


Last edited by DrBiggles on Wed Dec 12, 2007 6:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 3:53 am    Post subject: Re: Laws of nature... Reply with quote

DrBiggles wrote:
Yeah, buuut, everytime you use a cast iron pot/pan will 'season' it. Whether (not weather) you use an oven or stove top. Try checking out a 'soul food' restaurant, they just USE that pan. And by use, it's got fat bubling from dawn until dusk on the stove top. Ain't seasoned?

Plus, ran across one of my readers that had this 5 gallon cast iron pot that needed 'seasoning'. Man, heat on the stove top, and use. Use and use. Coat with oil when done and then use. You can't put that sucker in a standard oven to give a good ol' seasoning.

If you have a rule, I can break it. Or at least make myself look like an idiot in the process.

xo, Biggles


Where have you been lately, we've missed you!

I understand what you are saying, BUT, I am under the impression that most people who are writing in, asking about seasoning a pan are asking because their pan is NOT seasoned, regardless of how old or used it is. Poor seasoning and/or cleaning techniques will prevent a cast iron pan from ever acquiring the surface characteristics a well seasoned pan is known for. A soul food restaurant is using their pans 12 hours a day, sometimes leaving them greased, empty and unattended between entrees on a hot stove (which helps season it) every day, which doesn't come close to what a homeowner would be doing with his/her cast iron cookware. So, for those engineers, architects, florists. housewives and doctors who use their cast iron ware for an average of less than a meal a day, I stand by my statement. A good, reliable initial seasoning technique is required. Cool
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 352
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 6:18 pm    Post subject: Re: Laws of nature... Reply with quote

Hay,

Where have you been lately, we've missed you!

OH, I find that hard to believe.

I understand what you are saying, BUT, I am under the impression that most people who are writing in, asking about seasoning a pan are asking because their pan is NOT seasoned, regardless of how old or used it is. Poor seasoning and/or cleaning techniques will prevent a cast iron pan from ever acquiring the surface characteristics a well seasoned pan is known for. A soul food restaurant is using their pans 12 hours a day, sometimes leaving them greased, empty and unattended between entrees on a hot stove (which helps season it) every day, which doesn't come close to what a homeowner would be doing with his/her cast iron cookware. So, for those engineers, architects, florists. housewives and doctors who use their cast iron ware for an average of less than a meal a day, I stand by my statement. A good, reliable initial seasoning technique is required. Cool

Yeah, not seasoned, need help making it right. But I'm still going to submit that I can put a good season on a fry pan stove-top. In fact, I do it on a regular basis. Mostly because I got a new range hood and like to watch the smoke get sucked up.

Biggles
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2007 2:10 am    Post subject: Re: Laws of nature... Reply with quote

DrBiggles wrote:
Yeah, not seasoned, need help making it right. But I'm still going to submit that I can put a good season on a fry pan stove-top. In fact, I do it on a regular basis. Mostly because I got a new range hood and like to watch the smoke get sucked up.

Biggles


I'm sure you can do it, but you're a special case! Laughing Out Loud
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 352
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2007 3:12 am    Post subject: Re: Laws of nature... Reply with quote

GaryProtein wrote:
DrBiggles wrote:
Yeah, not seasoned, need help making it right. But I'm still going to submit that I can put a good season on a fry pan stove-top. In fact, I do it on a regular basis. Mostly because I got a new range hood and like to watch the smoke get sucked up.

Biggles


I'm sure you can do it, but you're a special case! Laughing Out Loud


Totally agreed and in more ways that one.

xo, Biggles
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Blue Pilgrim



Joined: 03 Sep 2007
Posts: 25
Location: Ilinois

PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 10:02 am    Post subject: Bad iron? Reply with quote

I have other cast irons things I've been able to season relatively easily, just on a fire or stove top, but I got a frying pan at a 'used stuff' store, made in Taiwan, and it does not want to season, no way, no how. It's seems to start getting a coating, and then it all comes off again. I'm wondering if the alloy is strange on the inside surface, or if something once got on it to mess up the surface. Sulfur? Silicon? Hard water? Something in the way it was manufactured?

I still haven't found anything about the actual chemistry involved in any detail. If I look up painting, as for artists, I can find things about fat over lean, and drying oils, and variations of pigments, and tests for permanence -- all kinds of stuff. And I can find material about coloring art metal with sulfides and oxides and various patinas, But iron cookware? It all seems to come down to different people saying about the same thing, with some preferences for oils or fats and temperature -- all the 'experts' disagreeing on the details, but darn little about the chemistry or empirical data. It could be complicated: the chemistry of art painting can be very complex, and particularly with iron oxide pigments.

I know I can take off old oil paint by softening it with heat -- and that's pretty much linseed (flax) oil and carbon. But the heat to do that won't take off a good seasoing coat on cast iron, so I'm guessing there is something else going on -- maybe some kind of iron-carbon-polymer matrix -- but I don't know what. It's a mystery to me.
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you have a self cleaning oven, put the pan in there next time you run it. Then let it cool, and get a wire brush to fit into your electric drill and scrub out the inside, or use emery cloth to sand it really clean down to the parent metal surface. Then try seasoning again. If that doesn't work, donate the pan back to the used stuff store and get a new one. Cast iron pans are too inexpensive to spend your time on a fruitless cause.
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Blue Pilgrim



Joined: 03 Sep 2007
Posts: 25
Location: Ilinois

PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I first got it it looked like it had been painted and the paint had peeled off in sections. Maybe whoever gave it to the store had the same problem. Anyway, I did clean it off and sand it down -- but maybe I'll try cleaning it chemically with lye or acid.

It's not just time now -- it's WAR Anger I shall NOT be defeated!

It's a good pan for experimenting. This is getting my curiosity up. (And if it's a weird pan I don't want to stick some other poor soul with it.)

You know -- a culture which can invent paint-on solar panels and multi-layer integrated circuits oughta be able to figure out how to season cast iron -- but I don't know anyone has tried to make it into a science, instead of 'black magic'.

http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/pageviewer?frames=1&cite=http%3A%2F%2Fcdl.library.cornell.edu%2Fcgi-bin%2Fmoa%2Fmoa-cgi%3Fnotisid%3DABS1821-0003-227&coll=moa&view=50&root=%2Fmoa%2Fmanu%2Fmanu0003%2F&tif=00131.TIF&pagenum=14
and
http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/pageviewer?frames=1&coll=moa&view=50&root=%2Fmoa%2Fmanu%2Fmanu0003%2F&tif=00131.TIF&cite=http%3A%2F%2Fcdl.library.cornell.edu%2Fcgi-bin%2Fmoa%2Fmoa-cgi%3Fnotisid%3DABS1821-0003-227

describes tinning cast iron -- sounds interesting.

This is an online book from 1871, via Corrnell University library: The Manufacturere and Builder; A practical Journal of Industrial Progress. Fascinating stuff -- an engineer could get lost in there for hours.
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pbone



Joined: 05 Jan 2008
Posts: 99
Location: Dutchess County, NYS

PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:32 pm    Post subject: maintaining seasoning on iron skillets or dutch ovens Reply with quote

How you clean black iron cooking skillets, etc, is key to keeping and refreshing the seasoning. I never use soap of any kind. No matter what I cook in it, I let the skillet cool, then I put it under cold water and clean it with a chore boy (copper cleansing pad) in a circular motion (or whatever) until I feel the surface is nice and smooth and the tiny bit, if any, of residual oil is pretty much down the drain. then I immediately dry with a rag or paper towel. All my black iron frying pans are shiney and black and nothing sticks to them. If, for any reason, like cooking something acidic in them, the seasoning seems disturbed, I just add a little oil and wipe out w/ paper towel. Continued use and cleaning as above repairs anything that goes wrong, and they stay just perfect. Sometimes I wipe the outsides with oil, just to keep it beauteous.
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 352
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 1:55 am    Post subject: Re: maintaining seasoning on iron skillets or dutch ovens Reply with quote

susan pettibone wrote:
How you clean black iron cooking skillets, etc, is key to keeping and refreshing the seasoning. I never use soap of any kind. No matter what I cook in it, I let the skillet cool, then I put it under cold water and clean it with a chore boy (copper cleansing pad) in a circular motion (or whatever) until I feel the surface is nice and smooth and the tiny bit, if any, of residual oil is pretty much down the drain. then I immediately dry with a rag or paper towel. All my black iron frying pans are shiney and black and nothing sticks to them. If, for any reason, like cooking something acidic in them, the seasoning seems disturbed, I just add a little oil and wipe out w/ paper towel. Continued use and cleaning as above repairs anything that goes wrong, and they stay just perfect. Sometimes I wipe the outsides with oil, just to keep it beauteous.


Most excellent last name, cheers!

I clean mines by letting soak in hot water for 10 minutes, then using a bristle brush of some ilk. Lately it's been a plastic bristled one and works fine, plus it just tosses in the dishwasher for cleanup. Then let pan dry, wipe with oil and toss on the pile. In my assholian opinion, the copper pad is far too coarse and would remove said Cure. But it sounds like it's working for you, so what the darn.

xo, Biggles
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