recovering from a cast iron disaster- step by step for the home cook.

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by luc_h, Feb 16, 2015.

  1. luc_h

    luc_h

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    I rarely start threads but I thought this subject might be helpful to some home cooks.

    Yes this is another thread about cast iron.  Sorry for the long post.

    Long intro (you may skip this part)

    There is a dominant cook in every household. That's me in my home.  I haven't taken the time to teach all my techniques to my wife and kids thinking that curiosity will make them ask about how to cook such and such at which point I would provide.

    Lacking experience, the equipment gets damaged and neglected (knife become dull and cast irons become sticky).  I try to explain how to take care of these but there are things that don't get through so I mend as I go along.

    My cast iron skillets have been getting gunky, dull and stickier lately. My daughter is cooking eggs regularly for breakfast, maybe a phase, and leaving the dirty skillet all day in the wet sink then often my wife sneeks a couple of good rubs in the soapy dish water when I am not looking or not around. I know they keep secrets from me....

    So, one day I return from an extended business trip , I was early enough that I could prep dinner.  I noticed one skillet was sticking annoyed I tried another, same thing, then my third one looked dull.... Years of seasoning gone I come to realized.  Everybody plays innocent obviously. So this weekend, I took drastic measures

    The technique

    I placed every cast iron skillet that needed to be re-seasoned in the oven then set to autoclean. 

    They came out dull gray covered with ashes completely devoid of their seasoning.  One skillet even had a thin layer of rust.

    I set the oven at 450F

    I wiped each with a damp paper towel then proceeded to remove everything left behind bringing the whole surface to bare metal. That included 320-420 grit metal wet sand paper and zero steel wool. I used water to wash away until I saw metal.  Then I wiped each surface with white vinegar, letting it rest 5-10 minutes then rinsed everything under tons of running water.

    I wiped each skillet dry with paper towel and placed them in the hot oven. (the surface is very reactive to oxidation at this point. If the pan is not dry, it will rust in the hot oven) (one pan actually came out rusty so I repeated the process again)

    I use flaxseed oil I keep in my freezer (let it melt to liquid) to spruce up the seasoning of my neglected pans.

    Once the pan come up to temperature, I took them one at a time and wiped every metal surface (mine are all metal) with a paper towel dabbed in flaxseed oil.  I applied a very thin layer, no drops, no streaks and place the pan back in the oven for 30min.

    I applied oil like this 4 to 5 times.  The pans went from dull metal gray to deep velvety dark brown/charcoal.

    The last step was to leave the pan in the oven an extra hour or more at 500F.  The pans are ready when the surface is no longer tacky (use a dry paper towel to test if you don't want to use your fingers). You can let them cool in the turned off oven I guess. 

    I used one skillet immediately to make a St-Valentine dinner, savory crêpes, and it worked wonderfully!!

    (I did not take pictures at each step thinking this would probably not succeed- I should have)

    Luc H.
     
    phatch and flipflopgirl like this.
  2. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Before Teflon pans breakfast cooks used to season their frying pans in a like fashion

    You filled them with salt then on an open burner till salt turned greyish then threw it out wiped the pan well with a DRY  kitchen towel then rubbed with cooking oil and put away in your locker. These pans were only to be used by the breakfast cooks on the line and for eggs only nothing ever stuck to them. If they got wet however you would have to do the whole process over again.
     
  3. teamfat

    teamfat

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    I've got a small cast iron skillet that is just right for frying two eggs. And they slide right out.  My wife does almost all the washing and cleanup, but she doesn't touch my cast iron or my knives. I like her.

    mjb.
     
  4. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I feel your pain.. similar situation in my household.  You may have completely over-reacted by burning them to bare metal but that is water under the bridge.  Looking toward the future, you need to provide them with an alternative.  I have a couple of aluminum pans for my family to use.  With those, they are more than willing to leave my cast iron and steel pans alone.  Similar logic should be applied to knives.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
  5. luc_h

    luc_h

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    Thanks for the feedback

    @chefedb I never heard of that technique but I am now intrigued

    @teamfat Don't get me wrong, I still love my wife and kids.. hihi

    @BrianShaw You're right to keep cheaper tools for the unexperienced staff but I am not a professional chef (it is not my livelihood), my kitchen is not staffed and storage is limited, my budget as well and i believe in sharing in the family experience.  What has changed since this experience though, is that I found out myself and made it clear to everybody in the household that it takes 1 day to bring back the cast iron to usefulness so the abusers of these pans will do it the next time. (evil laugh: moooo ha ha haaaa! cough cough!)

    Luc H.
     
  6. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Well good luck with the "education" approach.  Been there; done that.  It works, but only if the rest of the family is really interested in learning and are diligent students.  I'm talking about home environment, not professional kitchen.  (In a professional kitchen my attitude would be more like firing a cook who doesn't respect the equipment... but it has been quite a while since I've been in a professional environment.)  12 inch Teflon pan at local warehouse store is about USD20.  Wife and kids are more than happy to use that and leave the other frying pans alone.  Don't have nearly as much trouble with saucepans so we share those.  Sometimes the smarter way to share the family experience is to realize that there are boundaries to respect.  Let us know how things work out for you.  :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
  7. lakeified

    lakeified

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    I've been in your boat. Unfortunately I don't use all of my cast iron enough, and it never fails I find about one item per year that I just want to reseason, for whatever reason. I use a similar technique for my cast iron, Luc_H, though I did switch from flaxseed oil back to Crisco or Lard. The flaxseed just never gave me as deep or dark of a patina from the seasoning, and not to mention, it's more expensive overall.

    As for cleaning, if they are just gunky, I honestly use a technique from Jeffery B. Rogers, look him up on YouTube. Essentially hot running water, a Lodge scraper to scrape away cooked on spots, then a light run over with a no-scratch green brillo pad. Dry thoroughly, put on the stove and bring to medium heat to dry even more, then cool down and lightly coat with a bit of oil. This keeps the seasoning, while getting a heavier cleaning when needed. I also use Jeffery's mini-seasoning process on a burner, sometimes. 
     
  8. dledmo

    dledmo

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    My wife ran my cast iron skillet through the dishwasher /img/vbsmilies/smilies/frown.gif
     
  9. mckallidon

    mckallidon Banned

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    That'd be a serious deal breaker for me. 
     
  10. chefross

    chefross

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    That was me. Nobody touched my egg pans, not never, not ever...
     
  11. mckallidon

    mckallidon Banned

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     I've heard about that from old-timers.  I've always wanted to try it.  These days it seems the places without non-stick don't do this and just opt to put way too much oil in the pan.  What type of metal works best for this, or does it not matter?  I have a good stainless pan I never use with a thick bottom that could be a good candidate.  I also have an aluminum pan I hate but wouldn't mind finsing a use for. 

    What does the salt do when you heat it?
     
  12. ordo

    ordo

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    In 
    In my experience, nothing. I've tried it with woks, carbon steel pans and cast iron pans. It does nothing.
     
  13. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I don't know if this is true or an extension of my very limited experience with heating metal in other environments, but I always thought the salt helped even out the heat (avoid hot spots).
     
  14. mckallidon

    mckallidon Banned

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    That's what I was thinking, and I always thought that you just kept it greasy and never did anything but use a dry towel to clean it and use lots of grease.  I need to hunt down and ask an OG about this.
     
  15. teamfat

    teamfat

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  16. mckallidon

    mckallidon Banned

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    Nice link. 
     
  17. luc_h

    luc_h

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    @teamfat Great reference article! I basically agree with all the points raised in the article except for washing with soap not because I think the seasoning will degrade with soap but because in my household we use a scrubby pad to wash dishes and that scratches the surface.

    One thing I learned is that I have vintage skillets and pans because some are very smooth. One is from my Mom so that makes sense bu the other was from a yard sale and used for camping for many years before getting married. I have another one that's bumpy and I know that one is new.

    This is the protocol I set at home (and always wish everybody follows it when I'm away):

    Right after using, I fill my pan while hot with water then set to heat over medium high to boil (for a flat skillet, I pass under running water).  I use a natural or rigid plastic bristle vegetable brush to remove sticky bumps (get those in China town as a wok accessory). Once boiling, I rinse under running water.  I have a polycarbonate scraper to scrape stubborn sticky spots if any. Wipe dry with paper towel (not to dirty a dish towel) and store very often still hot/warm.

    One thing that's very true about cast iron is to preheat (wait) before cooking in them. That's the way my daughter has ruin the seasoning by putting cold eggs in a cold pan then my loving wife tries to scrub away the bumps when doing the dishes.

    Thanks for everybody’s feedback!!

    Luc H.