Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Does Katie Know ANYTHING About Cast Iron Care? (or How to Season and Care for Cast Iron)

September 19th, 2012 · 27 Comments · Green Living

cast iron seasoning care and cleaning

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Apparently, I’m a cast iron dunce.

I’ve received more helpful "teachable moment" comments and emails (no phone calls yet, thank goodness) about this cast iron and egg cooking debacle than anything else I’ve written about!

I mentioned cast iron and cooking eggs (and the messes I make) when I talked about safe cookware, Teflon-Free Tuesday, and then again when I reviewed Xtrema’s ceramic pan.

So many folks have stepped up to defend good old cast iron that truly, the pans ought to run for president. They’re winning a popularly contest hands down over here!

Everyone tells me they cook perfect eggs and clean up is a breeze.

I am told my pan is just not well seasoned enough.

(My pan is very old and has been used almost daily for a few years here at my house, so it’s not "too new." I’ve just never "officially" seasoned it in the oven.)

Time to invite you to my kitchen…

Here’s me cooking eggs:

cast iron - cooking eggs (2) (500x375)

See some of that "non-stick" quality happening under the eggs? It was working great…

cast iron - cooking eggs (3) (500x375)

Until the end of the process. Yuck. Lots of stuck egg!

cast iron - cooking eggs (5) (500x375)

This is a pain…

cast iron - cooking eggs (6) (500x375)

Scraping got this much off…but it still took water, a green scrubby, and 5-10 minutes to finish the job.

I was planning to just follow the directions to season the pan last week and then post on cast iron care…but after I seasoned it using one set of directions, not only did I find about 5 other ways to do it, but I also still couldn’t cook the perfect egg.

It was better:

cast iron - cooking eggs (7) (500x375)

But not perfect.

So.

As usual, here I am telling you how NOT to do something.

As part of the Safer in September series, my readers will step in and share today about their successful egg-cooking love of cast iron, and by the time you reach the bottom of the post, you’ll have plenty of ideas about how to season yours!

How to Season Cast Iron Pots and Pans

cast iron care cleaning and seasoning

Always add oil, in my opinion. Keeps the moisture out!

And here’s how I season mine: rub with bacon grease (I’m sure any solid fat would work well) and set in the oven while I’m baking bread or something that takes longer than 30 minutes to bake. Leave the pan in during baking and afterwards, and then you should have a nice black pan. I don’t rub it with oil after every time I wash it, but only if I’ve cooked something that has started to affect the seasoning (like polish sausage and sauerkraut).

I tried this version at 350-400F for about an hour and a half to 2 hours. They smoked, they smelled, the bread and dinner still baked up okay, but my eggy results are the last photo above. More testing needed!

I seasoned our cast iron skillets (a wedding gift to my mom 30 years ago that she NEVER used, so she gave them to me) according to the method listed on GNOWFGLINS.

We’ve used them numerous times and never had to re-season them. maybe the problem is that you are “washing” them… even if it’s just with water. i never use water on ours unless i ABSOLUTELY have to. (that’s happened maybe twice.) i simply use a metal spatula to scrape off whatever is on the pan when it’s still hot, and then leave it! no water, no scrubbing, no drying. (talk about a major benefit to using cast iron!) i have noticed that when i’ve used water, it’s like all of the oil is gone and the pan almost seems a little rusted. the couple times i’ve had to do this, i just coat it as soon as it dries with a layer of butter.

Links that really give comprehensive tutorials on seasoning cast iron:

  • From Naturally Knocked Up – this is the one I’m trying next when I get around to it – a whopping 500F with all your windows open!
  • If that doesn’t work, this method that hinges on using flax oil would be another one to try, but I don’t really love buying flax oil because it goes rancid so quickly.
  • How to fix old and rusty cast iron – this tutorial has lots of photos and uses oven cleaner, a plastic bag, a vinegar soak, and then teaches how to season the cast iron with oil upside down in an oven. Helpful for those garage sale finds!
  • From Joy the Baker – she instructs to heat on the stove, add fat, then bake upside down at 350 multiple times.
  • From About.com – a few hours at 225F; don’t know if I trust this one

seasoning cast iron

This is my second cast iron pan, one that was given to me new a few years ago and sat in a box for 6 months when we moved. It looked pretty rusty when it came out, and I FINALLY got around to some reseasoning it last week in the oven with dinner, as I mentioned above.

This black oil is freaking me out though – no way am I putting food in there! Perhaps this is why some sites on seasoning cast iron say to wipe the excess out, thin layers are good, and turn the pan upside down to catch any "pooling." Pooling is bad. I’m thinking this is the result of pooling. Don’t do what I do…

When the cast iron is really a mess:

Cast iron restores well, too. We inherited one that had layers of stuff stuck to it. While we were having a bonfire one night we put the pan right in the fire. The next day we pulled a brand new pot out of the ashes. All it needed was a little seasoning.

How to Cook with Cast Iron

Here’s the advice I’ve always used for cast iron cooking:

  1. Heat up the pan for a few minutes without anything in it.

  2. Add the grease, liberally (on medium heat so you don’t smoke out)

  3. Add the food.

  4. When you’re finished and the eggs still seem to have made a mess, add water and bring to a boil. Most – most – of the junk will come right off.

I also received plenty of egg cooking advice from folks who make perfect eggs in cast iron. It’s an art form to be learned, for sure!

Warm Pan, Cold Oil – Key to cooking with cast iron!

I also use cast iron for everything including eggs and pancakes. The key is enough oil, but I usually only oil once while making pancakes.

"Warm pan, cold oil," meaning you heat up the pan, then add the oil.

My mom’s been using cast iron her whole life to do most of her cooking, and this is how she taught me to do it.

Perhaps the most helpful and simplest tip:

A reader pointed out when she saw the photos of my cast iron and Xtrema in my ceramic cookware review that I probably learned to cook eggs in Teflon, because I was using a plastic spoonula. She was the only one to point out the simple problem:

Just use a metal spatula like this one to scrape the eggs as you go.

Really? I tried it with our metal grill spatula which looks like the one she pointed out but longer handled, and honestly, it did make a humongous difference. However, it still took me 5 minutes (not 10!) and some elbow grease to get out the stuck scrambled eggs from the side of the pan. Maybe I need a wire brush instead of my scrapers and green scrubby?

eggs will stick…

via email: Hey – I cook with cast iron. Always have, and keep pans seasoned well. Here is the truth about cast iron and not sticking: 1) if you are searing something inherently dryish (meat, veg) on a dry hot pan and you pay attention to it, turning/removing as soon as it releases from the pan, it will stick very little. 2) If you are cooking a colloid (like eggs) or another gelling-sticky substance (like cheese or milk products), you must use a goodly amount of oil/fat, preferably putting it into a hot pan (as hot as the oil will take without smoking). 3) Otherwise, fuhgetaboutit.

My reply: LOL! You’re right, it IS why Teflon sells. I know the fat thing, I just can never get enough, even though I’m not afraid of fat. It gets expensive cooking that way! Thanks for the encouragement!

no butter, no scraping…

My hubby fixes eggs in the same cast iron skillet I do, and inevitably leaves a lot of egg remnants in the pan. Whereas I’ll fix the same style of eggs, and leave almost nothing – I think it is just technique.

I also don’t fry my eggs in butter – only lard or ghee. (or bacon fat.)

For eggs I heat the pan on medium (while gathering materials), put in my fat, and throw in my eggs once the fat is hot. I gently move quickly with a fork, (one less dish!) flipping over parts that are cooked, rather than dragging my utensil across. I also turn the heat down slightly.

A note from Katie: Yes, I get to talk in this post, too! Winking smile Many readers have also mentioned that the newer cast iron pan, like that Lodge Logic one linked to above, are made differently than the old ones.

Older cast iron is smoother, newer are more pitted and absorb more (not a good thing). So. I guess that wasn’t really me talking, was it? My readers know everything!

use butter, let the bottom cook first…

LOTS of readers told me I just need to change my eggy technique. "Not so much stirring, Katie!" coming from all directions.

Apparently, one trick to cooking with cast iron is to let the scrambled eggs cook up a bit on the bottom, then flip them over, instead of constantly stirring and stirring. This blogger to whom I was referred says to use butter, brown it, then cook slowly with minimal stirring.

This is going to break my son’s heart. Since age 4, he’s prided himself on making the best eggs in the house, mostly because he has the time and patience to cook on low, low heat (the best flavor for eggs, guaranteed!!!) and stir them the whole time so there aren’t bits of white and bits of yolk, but creamy, uniform eggs. 

The rules for cooking eggs in cast iron:

1. Get the pan hot first. Maybe at least 2-3 minutes of preheating.

2. Use lots and lots of fat – enough to really cover the bottom.

3. Use a metal utensil and scrape as you stir

and/or

4. Let the bottom set up a bit and then flip, rather than constantly stirring.

How to Clean and Care for Your Cast Iron

I get why some people run and hide from the idea of cast iron cookware. It’s not as simple from the get-go as non-stick – although sometimes it’s simpler, in practice.

You just have to remember the rules for cleaning cast iron:

  1. As mentioned above, preheat the pan really well first to avoid messes.
  2. Just wipe it out if it’s not a big mess.
  3. Don’t use soap. Just hot water for big messes.
  4. Scrapers are okay! Metal utensils are okay!
  5. Salt is a great scrubbing tool.
  6. For stuck on food, many people – myself included – find that adding hot water right away and/or boiling a bit of water on the stovetop loosens everything up quite nicely. Cuts cleaning/scraping time by 75%!
  7. Make sure it’s completely dry – I tend to use the stovetop for 30-60 seconds to dry it out. Cast iron stains my towels too much and I don’t like using paper towel if I can help it.
  8. Most say to add a layer of oil after drying, if you used water. (I’m cutting up old T-shirts to keep under the sink for this task, in an attempt to not use paper towel to do it anymore. I’ll throw them away after a few uses – it’s not recommended to put oil-soaked rags in the washing machine.)
  9. Don’t store nested with others to prevent rusting/scratching

More tips from the KS community:

rinse and salt…

I have cooked with iron pots for years. After they are well seasoned just rinse out and apply a little salt while keeping it on warm on your stove -then shut it off and it will be like new again.

cold water immediately…

Run cold water in it the minute you take out the eggs and they should be more removable when you get to it.

hot water immediately…

I’ve been cooking with cast iron for over 40 years and have never experienced the difficulty you’re having.

You simply need to add water to the hot pan, place it back on the stove, eat your meal & then clean up.

The heated water loosens everything in the pan. Also, use a heated pan to cook. I use butter to cook eggs. I found that olive oil (which I prefer) will always make the eggs stick. Sometimes I mix both. When you clean the skillet, never use anything except soap & water. Place the wet pan on the stove and reheat to dry.

You may need to oil the pan to season it before you use it again.

Good Luck

no water…

i’ve never, ever had pancakes stick, and i’m surprised to hear you say yours do! i don’t even use that much butter. hmm. they just always slide right out of the pan for us.

so first, a good seasoning should DEFINITELY help, and second, maybe try not to use water unless you have to? even when i saute things like peppers, onions, garlic, or after pancakes, etc… i just remove the crumbs (usually just with my fingers but a towel or paper towel would work, too) and then leave the pan on the stovetop ready for its next use. no water!

I LOVE my cast iron pans. I own 3 skillets–small, medium and large. The first two are hand-me-downs from my grandmother, who had used them for 50 years prior to me getting them (and I’ve had them for 16+ years). My care methods may not be perfect for everyone, but I’m happy to share what I do:
1) They don’t always need washed. Grilled cheese, pancakes, fried eggs, etc, can be wiped out and put away for later. Strong flavored foods, such as onions and garlic will flavor the next thing cooked unless washed.
2) If food is stuck, such as scrambled eggs, once you’ve scraped out what you can, while the pan is still hot, pour in a little water (warm water better). Scrape, let sit while you eat, then come back, finish scraping out.
3) I DO use dish soap when needed. Dry immediately afterward with a papertowel as some black marks may stain dish towel. If pan is dull and gray, wipe it down with some oil before storing it away.
4) Cast iron is great for baking in the oven too. Be sure to oil the pan well before you put the bread dough/batter in!
5) I store my pans in the oven. Sometimes I forget to pull them out before turning the oven on, but it isn’t a problem.

A cast iron pan isn’t that expensive. Target sells a Lodge Logic Cast Iron 12″ skillet for less than $20. Take care of it and pass it down to your grandchildren. That is cheaper than buying and replacing Teflon-type pans.

hot pan, cold water…

The best trick I’ve found for cleaning when my cast iron has stuck on items (like fried potatoes or squash) – I heat the pan hot, then stick under cold water and scrub quickly with a scrub brush. That gets anything off.

Except sauces – I make sauces regularly in my cast iron too, which pull off the coating somewhat (I really should use my stainless, but I like cooking everything in one pan.) So for sauces I have to run hot water on the pan, scrub and voila.

A brand new “pre-seasoned” cast iron skillet is a miserable thing though. It took a lot of work to get my skillet to a useable form.

I’m glad you found something that works better for you, but it doesn’t seem that you’re giving cast iron a fair chance here. I use mine multiple times a day and rarely have to scrub it.
My husband bought our set of cast iron pans for our first anniversary when I was struggling with anemia (not romantic, but I loved it!). Since then, I’ve sailed through five pregnancies with the doctor grumbling that my iron level was better than his.

I believe it’s really worth the work to get used to using cast iron.

how to clean cast iron pans

from Twitter:

I wrote: Need help with cast iron care – can I use a green scrubby? Do you clean by boiling water in pan? Do u heat to dry on the stove, then grease?

I use a pampered chef scraper + hot water on mine, towel dry & then rub a couple drops of olive oil inside. It works just fine.

Yes to scrubby, don’t boil water in it, just rinse with hot water and scrub gently. Dry on med heat for about 1 min then oil.

Wipe it clean. If the food is caked on, heat the pan so the food comes off easily. Rinse with hot water. Hope this helps.

I scrape off any gunk with a plastic scraper (like for my pizza stone) and wipe dry with a paper towel. Keeps it well seasoned.

Hot water and a stainless steel scrubby, then put on the stove over low heat to dry, add a little coconut oil if needed.

The Rules?

As you can see, as long you either never use soap or just use soap, never use water or use hot or cold water, reseason with oil every time or leave it alone, and either dry it on the stove hot or don’t dry it at all…you’re taking good care of your cast iron.

Ahem.

Apparently there are as many right ways to care for cast iron as there are wrong ways! (I think I’ve probably done all the wrong ways and some of the right ways…)

And One Important Reminder:

Also from a reader:

I can’t remember where I heard it from, but someone mentioned that cast iron from China is known to have lead in it. So be sure that your thrift store cast iron is made in the US.

Cast iron is largely considered completely safe and some say it’s actually good for you to get iron in your system.

Others say the iron is not bio-available and that if your body can’t get rid of it, it could cause problems. In some ways, it seems crazy to filter heavy metals out of my water with my Berkey and then end up with them right back in my soup because of the pot I’m using. ??? (Win $125 credit to LPC Survival, authorized Berkey sellers, through Friday night!)

But…it’s definitely something that has been used for cooking for a long, long timesince before stoves, in fact (500 B.C. in China, preceded by brass). God made iron, God made fat…and those are the two parts of the game when cooking with cast iron. Plus, it looks so rustic on the stove! I’m a fan…especially if I can get mine to act more like these ladies’ do!

Note: I’m doing a fun LIVE teaching class for FREE on Sunday evening at 9 p.m. EST. I’m demonstrating a recipe from my upcoming book, Better Than a Box, and two ways to make a white sauce to reverse engineer all those "cream of" soup recipes and casseroles you might not make anymore since you don’t want to use processed cans.

Maybe I’ll even use my cast iron! Mwah! Winking smile

You can register HERE and also can see the class after the fact if you can’t make it live (I know that’s dinner hour on the West Coast) – but you have to register in order to view!

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27 Comments so far ↓

  • rachel

    Is that last picture of your cast iron pan? I don’t think silvery metal should be visible in a properly seasoned pan–the whole pan should be black. With use the finish will become a shinier black.

    I use a stiff brush to scrub mine when I have sticking egg incidents (which only seem to happen when I mix cheese in with scrambled eggs), but the scrubber might be doing too much and scrubbing the patina right off.

    My Lodge pan came with instructions to wash immediately with hot water/no soap and scrub with stiff bristled brush (I got a vegetable scrubber type thing for this purpose alone), dry, and oil while still hot, wiping out the excess oil. The oiling after washing has made a huge difference for our pan.

    As far as black stuff/oil in the pan, I don’t make a big deal out of it. That’s why I’m cooking in cast IRON, right? ;oP I clean out debris, rinse, dry, re-oil, wipe and call it a day. It is my easiest pan to care for.

  • Kelly

    Oh, thanks so much for a chuckleful post! It’s interesting to see all the different methods and opinions. I do use the flax seed oil and love it because of the super slick surface even though it’s the only thing I use it for. And I have the new, pocky, rough lodge logic pans. (If you use metal spatulas and season with multiple coats, that does eventually smooth out.) So if you want to see how shiny my actual pan is with that method from GNOWFGLINS, I used my own picture to pin to pinterest. Here’s how mine looks: http://pinterest.com/pin/147563325261743376/ The shine you see on the sides is on the bottom too.

    Vikki Reply:

    I’ll have to do some research, but I was under the impression that flax seed oil was not to be heated. Btw, you pan looks great. Mine is just about that shiny, but it’s well use and extremely old. It was my grandmothers and I think her mother before, but that is questionable. She died when my mother was a little girl and my grandfather didn’t know.

    Kelly Reply:

    You’re absolutely right about not heating flax oil for consumption. It should be kept refrigerated and used within a few weeks of purchase for consumption and never heated. But I’m sure it doesn’t apply to seasoning since the whole idea is to polymerize the fat into a hard coating. When I’m done seasoning, there is no black oil, no residual anything. My napkin stays white or maybe picks up some brown bits from cooking later on. In that regard, I don’t even worry how old it is since I will be taking it way beyond edible anyway. I crank the oven to 500º and my seasoning flax oil is only used for that purpose.
    So cool that you inherited an heirloom piece!

    Vikki Reply:

    Thank you. I hadn’t thought of it that way, just that it would be coming in contact with my food. But you’re correct, when seasoned properly it isn’t exactly coming off on my food…lol

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Wow, girl, that is one shiny pan!!! :) Katie

    Robin Reply:

    Yep, I also used the flax seed oil method on gnowfglins and it worked beautifully! I had a cast iron pan (Lodge from Target) that I never did get the hang of using-stuff would stick to it, and when I would oil it to try and keep it seasoned, it developed a gummy/sticky layer that made it even harder to cook in, so I let it sit for several years without really using it. Then, I saw the post on using flax seed oil, and I completely stripped my pan and started over. I LOVED this method-my pan works so amazingly well now, and I actually do use the occasional soap and/or scrubby on it when needed. It gets a little “dry” looking after I do that, but I just make sure to cook something oily next time (like frying french fries, etc.) and it looks all pretty and shiny again. Scrambled eggs have still proven difficult for me as well, but I can usually do fried eggs no problem (and I will try using a metal spatula next time with scrambled). I also did read somewhere that it is important to use metal spatulas on your pan on occasion to prevent that buildup of gunk you can get and keep a nice, flat surface. And also, I usually just let my pan air dry, I don’t dry with a towel, so I’m not exactly the picture of excellence when it comes to taking care of my pan, but I think doing the seasoning properly at first really made a huge difference. Also, with pancakes, I just made some this morning, and it made me laugh that pancakes are another item that give you issue with your pan, because that’s one of the things I like to make when I need some more seasoning on my pan-I use coconut oil to cook my pancakes, and I add a little before each batch, as I love the way they turn out as they sort of “fry” in coconut oil (I maybe add a couple teaspoons or so before each batch?), so my pan is nice and slick after I’m done :-).

    Robin Reply:

    Oh! I should also note that with the Lodge pans, it is probably a good idea to strip it down and reseason (even if you buy it preseasoned), as I read somewhere that there’s something in the seasoning that you really don’t want in your food. Plus, you’ll get a much better seasoning if you strip it and do it yourself.

  • Vikki

    You have gotten a ton of information on something so simple. My mom always fried everything in the same old cast iron pan. She kept in in the oven so it didn’t take up room on her stove top. It was black and a little cruddy looking but it cooked the best food you’ve ever tasted. I don’t remember it ever being washed. She’d use the same greasy over an over. She used shortening back then. Then one day my dad decided to clean it for her. He took it to his workshop after dumping out the grease and put it on his grinder to get it shiny new. Completely ruined it.
    as for me, I keep mine on the stove top, because like her I use it almost every day. I cook everything from eggs, to searing meat to cornbread or biscuits in it. I keep it well seasoned, by wiping it down with clean oil after every single use. I almost never use water on it. What little sticking I get will usually wipe right out with a damp cloth and a bit of salt. Biscuits being the biggest exception. The flour they leave behind normally needs a little water.
    Once clean I pop it on the stove, crank up the heat and let it dry until it’s smoking. Then using a soft cloth or a paper towel with a pair of tongs, I oil it down good. Turn off the heat and let it sit on the hot (electric) burner until it’s cooled off.
    For eggs, I add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan then sprinkle with salt. I normally fry eggs over easy and just until the whites are set. I like my eggs runny. I’ve think maybe you don’t bake your pans long enough since you’re seasoning them while cooking. I have several different pans and I do them all at one time, well all that will fit at one time. I preheat oven to 350, coat all my pans inside and out with shortening, it’s all I ever use shortening for. Just a thin layer. Then load them up on the racks upside down and back them for up to two hours, then turn off oven and let them cool off in there. Once out, I wipe them down with oil again if I’m using them, otherwise I wrap them in a plastic garbage bag an store them till needed. I’ve never had one rust

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Vikki,
    How funny – I feel like whenever I accidentally let my dry pan get so hot that it smokes, that that’s when it loses its seasoning for the next time! Maybe I have a renegade pan… ;) Thanks! :) Katie

  • Jen

    We started collecting, cleaning, seasoning and selling old cast irons a couple of years back and I can tell you – It does not have to be complicated.

    1. Use an old vintage pan. I will probably never go back to using a Lodge. I’d rather cook on stainless steel than a new cast iron pan.
    2. Heat your pan up nice and hot before adding the eggs. I haven’t ever noticed a difference between adding oil to a hot or cold pan.
    3. Yes, make sure it has a layer or two of seasoning and use a fair amount of fat . . . any fat . . butter/lard/ghee . . . whatever.
    4. Add the beaten eggs and don’t touch it! Let it bubble and start to cook the first layer (like 30 seconds). Then gently move some cooked egg to the side so more liquid egg can get to the bottom and then don’t touch it! Let it bubble more and repeat. I usually repeat this like 3 times and the eggs are DONE. After removing the eggs to a plate, I wipe any excess fat out with a paper towel. It should be as clean as before you started.

  • Debra Thompson

    Well, an iron skillet, as it was called in the day was the only pan my mom used. It was well seasoned and things just didn’t stick to it. She did not scramble eggs. They were never on the menu. But boy could she fry the perfect egg in bacon grease. She always started with bacon grease in the pan, even if she was frying bacon. I cannot remember ANYTHING ever sticking. She always cleaned the pan with a metal scratcher, soap and water and then wiped it down with, yes you got it: bacon grease. Iron skillets are a treasure and some people do not appreciate or understand them. I think it’s a learned practice because I have an iron skillet that I use for everything. In the past few years, as my family has grown smaller and it’s just me and the hubby, I have purchased a smaller one for cornbread cooking. I wiped it down with bacon grease, put it in the oven on 500 for a few hours and we’re off to the races. I have had to intervene several times when well intentioned guests try to help with the kitchen clean up and put the pan in the dishwasher. Can you just imagine? That ranks right up there with blasphemy. I suppose that appreciating an iron skillet can be learned,but experiencing the love, care and functionality of one just seems to work better when you’ve grown up with one.

  • Morgan

    The cast iron in my home growing up was my great grandmother’s! Another piece my Mom ‘rescued’ from the ashes of a random house fire. Yet another was ‘rescued’ from her friend’s house where it had been left to rust on the leaky back porch. All are still in glorious condition and require very little work. She had few hard and fast rules, especially in her kitchen, but taking the extra time to properly care for her beloved cast iron was something she always adhered to….and it was really quite easy! After dinner was plated she’s quickly wash up the pan and oil it. She’d preheat the stove so the pan never cooled {still warm from supper/washing and maintaing heat from the stovetop} then she’d simply pop it into the over before bed and sleep well knowing her pan would probably outlive her. That was it. Really no fuss or muss. A low heat for a good 8 hours or so :) I’ve yet to achieve her success but I’m not nearly as dedicated, lol. I usually get lazy and leave the pot overnight and take it out of the oven too early. Oh well, good luck to us both then!

  • Leigh

    Katie, I haven’t visited in awhile but found a link to this post and, since I use mostly cast iron for cooking, had to pop over. I really enjoyed this post and agree it’s those scrambled eggs that can be a deal breaker. Sometimes mine stick (usually), sometimes not. I need to pay better attention to the details to see if I can tell the difference in what I’m doing. I always think I’m doing the same thing every time, but obviously not.

    Leigh Reply:

    I forgot to mention my method of dealing with that stuck-on egg. I use a copper or steel scrubby, and scrub the pan dry, no water. I wipe out the crumbs with an oily paper towel. Yes, the scrubbies get cruddy eventually, but I figure this is better than soap and water for my CI.

  • Melody Joy

    We have a lot of food allergies in our house, so to prevent cross-contamination we do have to “wash” our cast iron from time to time, but I still almost never use soap (I’ve used soap on my dutch oven once or twice because of a casserole baked in there, but that’s it). This is what we do:

    We did season ours in the oven, initially, but we also use the cast iron every time we render lard or tallow, and this has helped to keep them shiny black.

    If there is an allergy-based need to wash our pans, I get my scraper (that I use on my pampered chef stones) and get out as much of the “debris” as possible with that. Then I will take a non-soapy scrub brush and warm running water and get out anything left behind that way. I pat the pan dry w/a paper towel OR put it on the stove on low till the water evaporates out, then put a little lard or bacon grease in there and spread it around nicely. We’ve never had to re-season any of our pans in the oven, but again, we render lard in there pretty regularly.

  • Diana

    Yeah, I’d say the black stuff is too much oil in the pan. I try to put a layer just thick enough to crystallize into that nice shiny black surface.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! I use and love my cast iron pan, but sometimes I do still get sticking stuff. I’ll try some of these ideas too, and maybe my grandchildren will inherit a pan that stainless steel scrubbers can’t rip the seasoning off of :) Ha! Good luck to yours, too :)

  • Cory

    The instructions from About.com are the same as in Joy of Cooking. So I think they’re probably trustworthy.

  • Heidi

    To comfort your son, he can whisk the eggs in a dish before putting them into the skillet. I grew up doing it that way although now I just dump the eggs in.

  • Heidi

    My experience with cast iron and eggs – my pan sticks, my mother-in-law’s doesn’t. Her pan is seasoned wonderfully, and mine is not. It’s been on my “to do” list for a long time. Not sure which method I’ll use, but I do like the bonfire idea, and I’ve also considered a tip I read about putting it upside inside a hot grill.

  • Krysta

    I also season at 500, but only the initial seasoning (looks like yours need it. Upside down on the top shelf with tinfoil on the bottom shelf to catch the drippings. I leave it till it stops smoking (absolutely want doors and windows open) then I cut off the oven and leave it overnight to cool.
    After that I just make popcorn (using a glass lid) when it starts looking a wee bit iffy.
    With the eggs you can turn down the heat once the bottom starts to cook. You want your eggs to be room temp, not right out of the fridge. Think of searing chicken.. Move it too soon and it sticks! :)

  • Katherine

    Katie,
    Your post made me laugh. Everyone has their ways. My grandmother, a germaphobe, insists on washing her 50+ year old skillet with soap, and it’s in perfect condition. My aunt cleans hers out with a newspaper. I use hot hot water and salt. My best “seasoning” came after having made a butterflied blackened chicken breast–sauteed on the stove, then roasted in the oven at a hight temp all in the skillet. After that, the seasoning was fantastic, better than when I’ve done a dedicated seasoning session in the oven.

  • Sarah via Facebook

    I just got a cast iron skillet from the thrift store…I’ll be using all these tips!!!

  • Deidre via Facebook

    I have seasoned all of my cast iron with bacon grease and they’ve been great for years.

  • Jill

    I just got a cast iron skillet pan for christmas – lodge brand. All I’ve cooked in it is eggs – over-hard & scrambled. Nothing sticks (I re-seasoned it with coconut oil.)

    BUT, it leaves little black specks on the eggs, and parts of eggs turn black. Is this ok? Is something wrong with my pan? Is this normal & safe? The eggs were not burned – not even slightly.

    When I rub it out, the residue is also black.

    Also, I noticed that the center of my pan is kind of gray-ish – a slightly different tone than the rest of the pan. What does that mean?

    Thanks for any help anyone can give!

  • Mc

    You’re not supposed to use metal on the seasoned surface when cleaning. The black layer gets scratched off when you do, leaving the exposed metal which rusts even if seasoned. if your pan is rusting after washing without detergent, it might have lost its cast iron layer.

  • Heather @

    Thank you for reminding us about this post! I have been trying to use our skillet more and I have totally gone off the deep end with my bacon grease. :) I cook bacon first and don’t dump any off after. Then I throw the eggs on. I don’t have any issues now. I get perfect eggs every time. I also use a metal spatula too. I am going to refer back to this post for my reject pan. I ruined it and it is all rusty now.

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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