Toledo Talk

Cooking Question

Given that there are any number of culinary experts here on Toledo Talk, I was wondering if someone in the know would take a few minutes to enlighten me.

I can cook well enough to feed myself and, given time, impress a lady friend. I have good quality stainless steel cookware and wooden cooking utensils. However, I have never had much luck with cast iron. In particular, the traditional cast iron skillet doesn't work for me. Food burns and sticks to the pan, everything turns out wrong, and I'm at a loss.

So, in particular, how and why does one season a skillet? What benefit does seasoning provide?

Will someone please point me in the right direction?

created by madjack on Jan 12, 2017 at 06:51:19 pm     Food     Comments: 43

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MJ - I just got a cast iron dutch oven for Christmas, I had never used cast iron before, and I oiled it with canola oil before using it. After I put a thin layer of oil in it I baked in oven at 375 for about an hour to "set" the oil. I used it the next day to bake a whole chicken and it worked out great. Cleaned right up. It does leave the appearance of the oil film but I believe that is how it is supposed to do.

posted by trixanne on Jan 12, 2017 at 07:08:57 pm     #  

Fat polymerization. That's the reason you season a skillet. A well seasoned skillet is always slick. They hate moisture, and they handle insane levels of heat. Also, they are a good (but not as good as people say) distributors of heat. Finally, they really hold the heat. These qualities are ideal for any protein searing. That delicious brown "Maillard reaction" cast iron is your very best friend for this. Tremendous for veggies as well-the best steaks you can do at home WILL include this bad boy. The uses are endless.

Seasoning is pretty easy-make sure it's rust free, if not, scrub it with barkeepers friend. Dry it on your stovetop. Then, take the warm skillet and rub crisco all over it. Put it upside in your oven for an hour at 350 or so. Make sure you get the whole thing and place a cookie sheet on the rack below it to catch grease. Then for care, quick wash with not abrasive sponge and water. Physically scrape as much food as you can off. Soap is ok, but minimal, and a last resort. Never ever soak. As soon as it's clean. Heat it on your stove until all of the moisture evaporates and then rub it with vegetable or canola oil. Some people clean it with nothing but kosher salt and a towel, never letting it see water.

That's it-there's a ton of guides out there, and just as much Dogma. My cast iron skillet is my best piece of cookware, and 10x better than my All Clad skillet. Season it, use it, love it.

posted by ahmahler on Jan 12, 2017 at 07:14:56 pm     #   2 people liked this

I'm digging mine out from the bottom of the pan stack after that beautiful answer. :)

posted by justread on Jan 13, 2017 at 07:34:31 am     #   2 people liked this

Ditto what ahmahler said - with a couple of minor caveats:

Do yourself a favor and start by purchasing a good quality (Lodge) cast iron skillet that is pre-seasoned. You can maintain the seasoning as it is used. I am one of those that use the kosher salt/dry towel method for clean up. The more you use your skillet, the better the seasoning will become. Do not cook highly acidic foods for long periods of time in your skillet as the acid will remove the seasoning. I avoid putting much of anything acidic in my cast iron unless it is a splash of lemon juice or wine at the end of cooking.

I do still love my All Clad stainless steel cookware - especially the French skillets. For example, I wouldn't drag out the cast iron for a quick omelet.

ahmahler is right about steaks - nothing better than one done in a screaming hot cast iron skillet.

posted by Foodie on Jan 13, 2017 at 07:50:04 am     #   1 person liked this

My wife brought a cast iron skillet home several years ago. She got it from a friend at work that could not get it seasoned right. What I did is wipe the inside and out with extra virgin olive oil and placed it in the oven for 1 hr.
I always leave it stored in the oven wiped down with olive oil. When I am preheating the oven I leave it in - then pull it out when I go to bake.
Side note - I ran across a cooking on cast iron for dummies book at Bass Pro while Christmas Shopping. I should have picked it up.

posted by Molsonator on Jan 13, 2017 at 08:03:40 am     #  

Yes, foodie-good points. Acid isn't great, but it takes a while. It also leaches iron into the sauce- not good eat
Careful with olive oil-it will spoil. I'm guessing you use it frequently. You may consider switching to a stable oil. Canola and vegetable are ideal because of the higher smoke point.

I've been reading about linseed oil as the ultimate for seasoning. Interesting stuff.

posted by ahmahler on Jan 13, 2017 at 08:30:21 am     #  

I feel bad, but if it can't go in my dishwasher, I'm not going to cook with it. We have a lodge set we use for camping, but that't it.

posted by SensorG on Jan 13, 2017 at 09:04:54 am     # <--- GREAT writeup on seasoning a pan.

posted by endcycle on Jan 13, 2017 at 09:07:00 am     #  


I left out of my reply: you mentioned wooden cooking utensils - of which I also have many. Don't forget to oil those as well when needed. Use a good quality, food grade oil such as what would be used to oil a bamboo cutting board or butcher block. Avoid vegetable, canola or olive oil for this task as all three can go rancid on the wood. Doesn't take much. A drop or three depending on the utensil rubbed in well with your bare hands then let it sit out to "dry" preferably overnight.

posted by Foodie on Jan 13, 2017 at 09:53:12 am     #  

I only use cast iron skillets and have several sizes. All of mine are old, really old. The only reason I mention this is that the new ones are not as smooth on the bottom. Try buying one at an antique store or even a yard sale in the summer. An old one can always be cleaned and renewed, and will have a better non stick surface than a new one. Also, in addition to seasoning, make sure the pan is preheated well before adding cooking oil and whatever you're frying.

posted by oldmom on Jan 13, 2017 at 10:03:43 am     #  

One use for mine is frying where the mass helps keep heat consistent after you drop in the bit you're frying. Typically I do this outside on my grill side burner so that the vaporized oil doesn't mess up the kitchen (and stink up the house). Cast iron can take nearly anything you throw at it.

I also like to sear on the grill burner as it can achieve much higher heat than I can indoors (50k btu burner) and I don't have any issue with ventilation as this is sometimes a bit smokey. Cast iron is brilliant for this as well, try searing a nice ribeye and when you take it off, saute a couple of shallots in the same pan and deglaze with a little balsamic vinegar and reduce to make a sauce for your steak, serve on a bed of arugula prepared with a splash of lemon juice.....delicious!

posted by breeman on Jan 13, 2017 at 11:03:27 am     #   1 person liked this

Yes, this. I do all of my sauteing outside for the exact reasons you mention.

posted by Foodie on Jan 13, 2017 at 12:05:19 pm     #  

My thanks to all of you for your help.

Use a good quality, food grade oil such as what would be used to oil a bamboo cutting board or butcher block.

Would you please give me an example? I'm out of my depth here.

posted by madjack on Jan 13, 2017 at 05:47:01 pm     #  

I believe Linseed Oil (aka Flaxseed Oil-NOT "boiled") and Mineral Oil are the 2 popular choices. Incidentally, I ran into a blog about Linseed as the very best oil to use when seasoning cast Iron, although, the writer claims to use it because it is a "drying" oil. The problem is-if it's a drying oil, it has been boiled (not actually boiled, but chemically altered to replicate boiled), which uses non-foodsafe chemicals to achieve the effect. So... It goes deeper, but Mineral Oil and flaxseed oil are good.

posted by ahmahler on Jan 13, 2017 at 06:46:31 pm     #  

what am i missing by cleaning my lodge pans with water and soap every time and then re-oiling them lightly after every cleaning and heat-drying ? i will stop using olive oil for this... thanks

the cast iron is also great for making super thin crepes and soft tortilla shells and of course for perfect pancakes. as mentioned before the even distribution of heat and maintaining temperature is great.

also, the giant antique store just north of findlay has a couple booths that specialize in old cast iron pans.... dozens and dozens of shapes and sizes and specialty ones. i have not been there in maybe a year but they were there then and had been there for years before

posted by enjoyeverysandwich on Jan 13, 2017 at 07:22:40 pm     #  

I've used olive oil for years with no problem.

I have been to the Antique Mall enjoyeverysandwich and they are still there. Most were brand new.

posted by Molsonator on Jan 13, 2017 at 10:48:13 pm     #  

If you are around, WBGU is showing America's Test Kitchen at 11 am today- all about cast iron cooking.

posted by golddustwoman on Jan 14, 2017 at 11:22:52 am     #  

Once seasoned, never wash with soap and water or you'll be re-seasoning again and again. Once the pan cools from use, use a little vegetable oil with kosher salt. The salt won't dissolve in oil, only water, and it acts as an abrasive to clean the surface. I've seen some stainless "chainmail" looking devices to use to but I've not tried them. I have old Wagner and Griswold pieces, nothing new.

posted by MI_Builder on Jan 16, 2017 at 12:37:12 am     #   1 person liked this

Remember what I said about Dogma last week? Everyone has their routine, which if it works, is awesome. Just don't be intimidated. Instead, read Serious Eats, regularly. And soap and water are fine.

posted by ahmahler on Jan 16, 2017 at 08:47:29 am     #   1 person liked this

Agree with ahmahler regarding soap and water, I've used cast iron for decades and always just washed them like any other pot/pan just make sure to dry them quickly, never soak them in water, and oil them a bit before putting them away.

Yes, you may need to re-season them from time to time if you abuse them a bit, but it's cast iron...your great-great-grandchildren can still use them no matter what you do to them. They are not really fussy (as some try to make them out to be), you don't really need a special chain-mail scrubber, or other exotic accessories to baby them. Just cook something delicious, clean them, oil them a bit and put them away until you need them next.

posted by breeman on Jan 16, 2017 at 09:08:36 am     #  

Everything you need to know about cast iron is here:

I have been using CI for at least 10 years but I only got really good at it after I joined this FB group. The FILES section has excellent information, recipes and videos. Don't be afraid to ask questions in the group, they are all good people. Jeff Rogers also has excellent videos on youtube, his way is absolutely the correct way to handle CI.

One caveat: It's not really true that they last forever, even if you handle them correctly. We are currently expecting delivery of a replacement Lodge Grill Skillet because it cracked WHILE we were using it the correct way. Lodge is good because they stand behind their products; older pans that crack will not be replaced so easily.
This is how we store ours to make sure they don't get banged aorund and cracked accidently:

Hope this helps. Join the FB group, you will not find a better place for good info. :)

posted by nana on Jan 16, 2017 at 03:32:38 pm     #  

Ugh, sorry, thought I did it right, but it's an Imgur image so blah. The Hub built rows of wood and heavy hooks in the stairway down to the basement so that each pan has it's own hook and rests on the wood below it to keep it off the wall. It's steps from teh stove, very handy. You'll see lots of other ways to store pans in the group, so many different ways!

posted by nana on Jan 16, 2017 at 03:36:39 pm     #  

My thanks to all of you for your sound advice.

I managed to assemble the three cast iron pans, all of which are older than I am if you can believe it, along with a brand new can of Crisco in the galley kitchen of my new home in Columbus. Sometime between breakfast and my mid-morning bourbon I started the seasoning process.

I constructed a shallow pan out of tin foil and placed it on the bottom rack and pre-heated the oven to 375° while I cleaned and greased up the first pan. I washed the pan within an inch of its life, then (being sober and no dummy) dried it on the stove. Warning: wait a long time for the pan to cool off before you start smearing Crisco all over it.

Truly, you haven't lived until you scoop up a nice big handful of Crisco shortening and smeared it all over a 30 pound cast iron skillet, including the handle. The stuff makes everything slippery, and doesn't wash off easily. I put the pan on the top shelf of the oven, taking care to turn it upside-down and keep it over the tin foil. I left it inside for an hour, and it came out funny looking. Oh well, whatever. I treated the other two in the same manner. My house smells like I burnt something on the stove.

Today I cooked some bacon in the pan, and voilà! - nothing sticks to it. Now I have three brand new favorite pans.

I'm using the kosher salt method to clean it. I don't trust the water method.

I also have a large cast iron pot with a lid that I'm going to season and use. I have to retrieve it from the house in Sylvania.

Thanks again!

posted by madjack on Jan 30, 2017 at 02:26:08 pm     #   2 people liked this


If you DO get stuff stuck to it, don't sweat it, seriously, follow the Serious Eats link above. I've had the same pan for 20 years, and since i learned how to keep in well maintained, haven't had to re-season AND I use soap and water.

posted by ahmahler on Jan 30, 2017 at 02:49:59 pm     #   1 person liked this

Nice thing about cast iron is if you do get something stuck, nothing short of a jackhammer will hurt it.

posted by breeman on Jan 31, 2017 at 06:29:55 am     #  

I'm thinking about getting a good carbon steel pan next - seems like they have the best characteristics of cast iron along with a lot less weight. America's Test Kitchen did a great video on them a while back (it's on youtube) and I notice that they're pretty common everywhere in the world except the USA.

posted by endcycle on Jan 31, 2017 at 09:26:11 am     #  

A couple of years ago my (now 19) son asked for a cast iron skillet when he was working on his cooking merit badge in scouts. We got him one, and I have used it maybe 5-6 times to help him get some seasoning to it. Seemed like way too much work than it was worth. Mainly just fried some meats, nothing spectacular...Well, now all of your talk made me get the thing out last night. It was looking rough, even had some rust. Scrubbed it with salt, and then put in 1/3 cup butter. Dredged some bone in chicken breasts in egg/flour/seasonings and put meat side down in the melted butter. Threw the whole thing in a 425 oven for 1/2 hour, flipped the breasts, cooked for another 15 min. and voila. Very good! Thanks for all the tips!

posted by llz on Jan 31, 2017 at 01:56:55 pm     #  

Cast iron is very useful for frying, helping to manage the temperature, but don't forget about baking too. Try a pineapple upside down cake or cornbread in cast iron. It will impart a nice texture (think crispy edge or crust) that I think cannot be reproduced in any other way. You don't need a specialized cast iron baking pan, just use a skillet for either of these items (they are also very versatile!)

posted by breeman on Feb 01, 2017 at 10:59:38 am     #  

justread posted at 06:34:31 AM on Jan 13, 2017:

I'm digging mine out from the bottom of the pan stack after that beautiful answer. :)

I did. It looked rough. I started wiping oil in it and then switched to salt a few times, and kept wiping the mess out and repeating for about 15 minutes. That salt sure got dark at first. When I was done, it looked pretty good. Immediately made the best home fries we have had in years, and so much less oil infusion because the temp stayed nice and hot. No greasy taste at all.

Have used it a couple of times since, and I plan to sear some steaks soon.

Speaking of old tech that works best, I want to get into some hot water and pressure canning. I like the idea of longer term storage of batches of things I like, without tying up freezer space and getting freezer burn in 6 mos. Find a couple people to trade canned stuff with, and it would be a good thing all around. Our moms were on to something...

posted by justread on Feb 01, 2017 at 12:43:00 pm     #   1 person liked this

endcycle posted at 08:26:11 AM on Jan 31, 2017:

I'm thinking about getting a good carbon steel pan next - seems like they have the best characteristics of cast iron along with a lot less weight. America's Test Kitchen did a great video on them a while back (it's on youtube) and I notice that they're pretty common everywhere in the world except the USA.

I found this article in Cook's Illustrated, Carbon-Steel Skillets By Cook's Illustrated - Published September 2015. It's an interesting read, especially if you're considering a new skillet.

If you believe the article, carbon steel skillets start at $40 and finish at $250. The high end is a bit rich for my current cash flow, but since most are around $50 I think I might manage one sometime soon. From what little I read, you're much better off getting a heavy skillet, as the thin ones tend to warp.

posted by madjack on Feb 02, 2017 at 01:17:20 pm     #  

When you're tired of chicken and steak and bacon, here's a recipe from Dorie Greenspan to try in your cast iron pans. Disclaimer - I haven't tried this one yet, but did make quite a few others from her new cookie cookbook for Christmas and all were excellent.

David Lebovitz’s version:

posted by suz on Feb 02, 2017 at 02:30:36 pm     #  

By chance I saw they have them on sale at the Kroger in pburg

posted by In_vin_veritas on Feb 02, 2017 at 06:49:24 pm     #  

Timely piece in the NY Times today-Burgers in Cast Iron. Huge proponent, especially for the "smashed" version.

posted by ahmahler on Feb 06, 2017 at 05:09:50 pm     #  

Krogers ALWAYS has Lodge CI on sale.

Lodge makes carbon steel pans.
We have the 12", it's a really nice pan.

posted by nana on Feb 07, 2017 at 09:48:58 am     #  

Thanks to all of you for the great links and advice. Now we're on to part two.

So I'm clearing out the trash, yeah? I find this large cast iron pot in a cupboard. This thing is solid cast iron, about 14 inches in diameter and maybe 6 inches in depth. It's heavy. The lid must weigh in at around 15 pounds all by itself. No, I'm not kidding, and no, I wasn't drinking at the time. The whole business probably weighs about 40 pounds. The pot has a large ring type handle attached to it, and three little cast iron legs that support it.

I should have taken a photo of the thing, but I wasn't thinking.

So then, what is it and what do I do with it? I've never seen anything like it before, and I figure anything that heavy has got to be valuable.

posted by madjack on Mar 05, 2017 at 02:03:11 pm     #  

Very, very cool. What you have there is a Dutch Oven specific for cooking over an open fire. Great for camping.

posted by ahmahler on Mar 05, 2017 at 02:40:48 pm     #   1 person liked this

Seriously, you need to memorize everything this guy says about CI and follow him religiously. Watching his videos helped me so much when I first got started and I have never ruined a piece nor had one not take seasoning following his methods.

Now that you have a spider dutch oven, look into programs offered by the State Parks this summer on cast iron cooking outdoors. We went down to Ceasar Creek SP last year and cooked lunch with a bunch of people and had a ball. They supply the ingredients and recipes and know-how and we all brought our own pans. I use my CI all the time over our open wood fires, I have certain pieces that are only for camping, and I have successfully baked bread in my spider twice after taking that course. :)

posted by nana on Mar 05, 2017 at 04:55:47 pm     #  

Thanks for the links and information!

posted by madjack on Mar 08, 2017 at 05:15:49 pm     #  

This thread is getting a bit long, but here's the latest question.

You see, living alone as I do and being half full of whiskey most part of the time... well, I bought a package of BUBBA Burgers, which are quick, fun, and easy to fix, and I really didn't feel like cooking last night. So it's out with the old stainless steel sauté pan, into which I put some vegetable oil, and under which I turned on the heat.

Maybe I took my eyes off it for a minute or three, but when I casually tossed the frozen burger into the pan - whoosh! The whole business went up like the colossal fuck up that it was. I turned off the heat, and by the time I could dig a lid out of the cupboard the crises was over.

I have a fire extinguisher under the sink, which is easily large enough to take care of a grease fire and pollute everything in the kitchen, but now I'm wondering - what do any of you contributors keep easily available to deal with a situation like this?

And before everyone jumps on the band wagon, I know better than to dump water on it. Or gin, for that matter.

posted by madjack on Mar 14, 2017 at 05:24:59 pm     #  

Baking soda will work MJ.

posted by OneMoreBourbon on Mar 14, 2017 at 06:54:38 pm     #  

I keep a big container of kosher salt on my counter. I've had 2 fires on my stove, both were extinguished immediately and with no mess, by dumping the salt on the fire.

posted by ahmahler on Mar 14, 2017 at 07:53:59 pm     #  

The most effective way to put out a pan fire is with what you forgot to drag out along with the pan - which is the lid.

For decades, I've made it a practice to have the lid at the ready when I cook for this very reason. Many times, I have no need for the lid for the cooking process but keep it handy just in case.

posted by Foodie on Mar 15, 2017 at 09:23:14 am     #  

That or a handy nearby larger pan on top (assuming it too is not full of hot oil). Anything to take away the oxygen for a bit will bring it under control toot suite!

posted by breeman on Mar 15, 2017 at 07:53:32 pm     #