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Should I get a new cast iron skillet?  RSS feed

 
Gray Simpson
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
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I've been using an old skillet for the past few days, instead of my usual Teflon. It doesn't have a logo, just "8D", so I'm not sure if it's a good quality brand. It sits flat and has a good ring when rapped with the knuckles. However, it has a rough, scratched-up surface. There is some seasoning, but I found a little rust underneath when I scrubbed a patch of it with steel wool. I think I might have further damaged the seasoning by caramelizing some onions, which involves deglazing with water and might have been too acidic for too long. Here are some pictures.

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/yQSM4I7c1Y7acRbPRE3X7BIQ8_Af65CFgOBfFrBdxbk?feat=directlink
https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/P18hRXlnlrSMp7sSWs9XCxIQ8_Af65CFgOBfFrBdxbk?feat=directlink
https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/TqpRPV35pWkzVuk9-ya4VBIQ8_Af65CFgOBfFrBdxbk?feat=directlink

I found a Wagner Ware #6 skillet, 2" deep, made in Sidney, on Ebay for $23 with shipping. The picture is a little fuzzy, but it looks like it's in good condition and the seller has a 99% rating.

Does this sound like a good deal, or can I refurbish my current skillet?
 
Craig Dobbson
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Seems to me that you can easily re-season the one you have. It might be worth scrubbing it down with the steel wool til the surface is smooth again and then just follow the instructions in the cast iron article Paul has posted on the main page. I've refurbished some old pans that were seriously neglected (rusted bad) and had no real issues since. It just takes a bit of time to get enough layers of seasoning on there. The key is to start with a nice smooth surface then build the layer up. Unless the metal is actually pitted badly, any iron skillet can be fixed with proper use. Best of luck. That pan looks pretty good all in all.
 
Gray Simpson
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
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Thanks, Craig. I think the steel wool I have isn't up to the job. It shed bits everywhere, one of which ended up in my thumb, and I didn't make the surface any smoother. Plus I'm concerned about biting into my pancakes or fried eggs one day and getting a mouthful of rust!
 
Burra Maluca
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Here's the link to Paul's Cast Iron Article.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Gary - Hi Neighbor! I'm in SC. Why don't you just give me that old thing and get yourself a new one

Seriously though, while a cast iron skillet never really dies, if you aren't comfortable cooking on it I would just get a new one.

Have you thought about keeping that one for cooking outdoors on or just using for bacon, sausage and the like?
 
Craig Dobbson
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Gray Simpson wrote:Thanks, Craig. I think the steel wool I have isn't up to the job. It shed bits everywhere, one of which ended up in my thumb, and I didn't make the surface any smoother. Plus I'm concerned about biting into my pancakes or fried eggs one day and getting a mouthful of rust!


Somebody gave me one of the Lodge brand pans which is not smooth to begin with, so I used my disc sander to make it smooth as glass. Then I seasoned it pretty much the way Paul has laid out in the article. I found that just heating it up and rubbing it with oil then letting it cool down for a while worked well. Repeating that about 10 times put a pretty good sheen on it. Good enough to cook on at least. Having bare metal will result in rust and if there is rust under the seasoning, it'll just keep rusting away as long as moisture gets in there. Best to get it cleared up any way you can and then grease it up real good.

I've been lucky that I've found pretty good pans at yard sales and thrift stores usually for under 10 dollars. but let's face it... if the pan is taken care of, it'll last longer than you will, so 25 dollars is still a good investment.
 
Ken Peavey
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Looking at the pictures, you have a comal-pretty handy, and that one has plenty of life left to it.
 
Gray Simpson
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Location: McDonough, GA
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So that's what it is, a comal! This link says that comales are traditionally painted black. Hmm...
http://www.mexgrocer.com/9115.html

I just bought a #5 Wagner Ware skillet made in Sidney for only 15 bucks. Can't wait till it arrives!
 
Ken Peavey
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Because a comal has no sides it has less mass. It takes less energy to heat up. You can get to cooking sooner. I use mine for grilled sandwiches, fried/scrambled eggs, pancakes-foods that don't splatter. If all you did was use it for grilled sandwiches for a while, you'll build a fine seasoning in no time. Also makes tortillas.
 
Eric Markov
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Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
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Gary,

Your pans look great as is.

cast iron doesn't need to be smooth for it to be a great non-stick pan.

Also, when we purchased 2 Chinese cast iron woks at the wok shop in San Francisco, they recommended that your burn onions (or green onions) on them before using.
Supposedly it gives the wok "flavor" that is added to any food you cook on it afterwards.


In defense of Lodge's, made in the USA, pans, the rough surface is actually an advantage.

The rough surface makes it easier to obtain a uniform seasoning coat, so you get a much more uniform black seasoning coat than you do on a smooth pan.

On the smooth pans, I experienced, every now and then the seasoning would flake off in parts, leaving a small area that food would stick to.
(After extended usage, the Lodge's look much nicer than the Wagners, because of this)

Also when cooking using the rough surface; the oil is "captured" by the rough indentations so the oil is more uniformly applied over the whole surface.

On the slicker pans, the oil would just slide around as a puddle and not really oil the entire surface.

We had a smooth wok and a rough one. we kept the rough one and sent the smooth on to Goodwill.
I've also used Wagner's smooth pans (while at vacation rentals). They worked great, but the oil did slide around and they just didn't look as nice, because of seasoning flaking.

We've purchased 2 Lodges: an 8" and an the chicken fryer pan. They came seasoned and didn't really need any extra, although the seasoning does get better over time.
For the unseasoned woks we bought, peanut oil works better than vegetable oil (bacon & chicken oil even better). Just got peanut oil off the top of organic peanut butter jar.



As an aside:

Butter is actually a much better lubricant when cooking than oil.
Just a little butter, less than a teaspoon, will make your eggs slide like they are on an air-hockey table.


Sometimes when people use cast iron for the first time they burn the oil which creates a sticky goo. This makes the food stick and they blame it on the "rough" surface.
If you create the sticky goo, you can either burn it off, more seasoning. Or you can simply scrub it off with a rough sponge while running hot water over the pan in the sink.
 
Gray Simpson
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
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I found a piece of sandpaper, 120 grit garnet, and sanded another very small patch of the skillet. After removing the top layer and a very thick layer of rust, I came to a second layer of black stuff which adheres strongly to the metal. Since it's possible that one of the black layers is some kind of paint, I'm going to stop cooking with this pan for now.

It took about 30 full seconds of sanding to get to the shiny metal, and even then there was still some black stuff left, so I know I can't sand it by hand with this kind of sandpaper. Maybe an aluminum oxide or silicon carbide sandpaper with coarser grit will help.
 
Leila Rich
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The easiest method I've used to deal with seriously rusty pans/dodgy coatings, is to shove the whole pan, sans wooden handle, of course , into a hot outdoor fire and let it die down around the pan.
The pan needs to stay in long enough to burn off any carbon from the fire.
Pull it out hot or leave it in till cooled a bit (not cold though as it will start rusting again) , give it a good srub with steel wool, wash, then season it.
 
Burra Maluca
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Joe Braxton
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Gray, if you really think there's paint then bead blast or really fine sand blast is the cure. That will take everything off and you can start over. Most any automotive machine shop, plating shop, or even a few auto body shops will have them. If you see ANY sign of a weld or braze repair hang it on the wall, it cannot be made safe to cook with.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Not sure about Oz, but here in the States it's not necessary to purchase new, let alone have one shipped to you. Almost any size and shape cast iron can be found in thrift stores, antique stores or garage sales. They're everywhere! Most people don't know what they're getting rid of when they donate their iron cookware or pile in a box to be sold. As an aside, I'm astounded at the amount of still-good stuff that hangs on the walls of some restaurant chains, but that's another story. It's my observation that the vast majority of the iron cookware found second hand can be made ready with a little TLC or re-seasoning and, voila! a new addition to your cookware selections. I ran across a video of a guy whose actual hobby is finding cast iron cookware and restoring it to good use. If a guy makes that his hobby, it's a good shot there's plenty of pieces out there to bring back to life.
 
Ryan Lenz
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Electrolysis is extremely effective and really simple if you are comfortable with electricity (and have a manual battery charger laying around).

Lots of methods on the web, but most are roughly the same. Here's one: http://curtcorwin.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-to-clean-cast-iron-cookware-with.html
 
Andy Moffatt
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I think just light a fire outside and throw it in when its roaring and take it out after a while. I got two rusty ones for free and did this recently and they're as good as new. Both Holcroft AGA
WP_20160605_010.jpg
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straight out of the fire
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[Thumbnail for WP_20160614_001.jpg]
after cooking bacon and eggs for two weeks and a few pizzas
 
Hal Hurst
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Location: Willamette valley, Oregon.
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I think just light a fire outside and throw it in when its roaring and take it out after a while. I got two rusty ones for free and did this recently and they're as good as new.


This sounds like the same process I have stumbled onto from somewhere- I have a self-cleaning oven, the sissy urban equivalent to a roaring fire, and if i place a crusty old cast iron pan inside for the self-cleaning cycle, it comes out with some grey powder ash inside and bare cast iron, inside and out, ready to reseason. No elbow grease involved.

definitely worth a try before getting out the angle grinder and goggles.

 
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