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Using a cast iron skillet ain't so hard!

 
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Teresa McCoy wrote:Having read your article, I would offer a few observations:

~ it is possible to take an old cruddy cast iron pan (that bargain you found at a flea market!) and remove the old seasoning that might be rough and flaking: spray the pan well with oven cleaner - do this outside as the fumes can be harmful!; put the sprayed pan in a plastic garbage bag, close and tie the top of the bag and let it sit overnight outside; the next day or the day after that, scrub the pan well and see if more of the same treatment is needed; repeat this process until you have reached the bare (grayish) iron. Wash well with soap and water, scrubbing hard. Dry completely, then start the seasoning process: rub the entire pan inside and out with shortening, such as Crisco brand. Line a baking sheet with foil, lay pan on bottom up, bake in a slow oven (250 to 300 degrees) for several hours, let cool. Repeat the seasoning process several more times until the pores are sealed and the seasoned pan has a nice, smooth, black, glossy look to it. I reconditioned my grandmother's skillet and it is ready for the next 50 years. It was hard work and took several days, but it was worth it!



Thanks for this suggestion.

This year I managed to burn one pan and remove some of the seasoning on another causing it to rust.

Can any one offer suggestions on what would be best to fix these?
 
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Teresa McCoy wrote:Having read your article, I would offer a few observations:

~ I have a problem with your use of the term oil/grease throughout the article. Our grandparents used lard, bacon grease, cooking oil, and butter. Today we might use butter for frying eggs and canola/safflower/sunflower/olive oil in place of the lard and bacon grease.

~ a quality cast iron pan can be heated quite hot on a stove top with no problem - i.e. Cajun blackened fish or pan seared steaks can be cooked at high temperatures in cast iron

~ the best way to season a new cast iron pan is not to cook cornbread, but to fry French Fried potatoes in as much oil as the pan can safely hold; by heating the oil to the proper temperature for making fries, you will start the process of sealing the pores in the untreated, raw iron pan

~ another way to clean cast iron after use is to sprinkle some coarse salt in the pan and scrub with dish cloth or brush; the abrasive action of the salt will help to loosen any remaining food particles

~ it is possible to take an old cruddy cast iron pan (that bargain you found at a flea market!) and remove the old seasoning that might be rough and flaking: spray the pan well with oven cleaner - do this outside as the fumes can be harmful!; put the sprayed pan in a plastic garbage bag, close and tie the top of the bag and let it sit overnight outside; the next day or the day after that, scrub the pan well and see if more of the same treatment is needed; repeat this process until you have reached the bare (grayish) iron. Wash well with soap and water, scrubbing hard. Dry completely, then start the seasoning process: rub the entire pan inside and out with shortening, such as Crisco brand. Line a baking sheet with foil, lay pan on bottom up, bake in a slow oven (250 to 300 degrees) for several hours, let cool. Repeat the seasoning process several more times until the pores are sealed and the seasoned pan has a nice, smooth, black, glossy look to it. I reconditioned my grandmother's skillet and it is ready for the next 50 years. It was hard work and took several days, but it was worth it!

  easy way to clean a caked cast iron frying pan is put in red hot coals of a fire. pull it out the next day. burns off everything.  season with crisco or bacon fat. just like brand-new! my grandfather taught me that and i still have his wagner skillet. he was a cook in the logging camps and he cooked with nothing but cast iron.
 
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Cast iron seasoning. Didn't read all 11 pages of previous posts but I did scan for anything about seasoning with flax oil. Didn't see any so here's my 2 cents worth based on my research & experience with it about 5 years ago ...

... apparently modern pork is different than "the good old days" pork so it doesn't season like "the good old days". Followed by many pages of scientific data. With many more pages supporting the use of flax seed oil to season cast iron. So I gave it a try. Had an old skillet, the flax oil, & it was winter. Not a summertime activity in Texas. The final results are very impressive. Worth the time & electric bill.

1. Put cast iron in oven & adjust for max heat.
2. When temp stabilizes at maximum remove the cast iron & coat with flax oil. (very smokey process)
3. Put back in oven & turn heat off. Allow to cool to room temp.
4. Repeat about 8 or 10 times. After about the 3rd coating patches of a shiny teflon like coating begin to appear. Repeat until the entire cast iron is well seasoned.

That particular skillet has been used & often abused almost every day since. Just now getting to the point of needing another treatment. Next time every piece of cast iron I own will be seasoned with flax oil. I'm convinced it's the next best thing to heirloom pigs.


 
pollinator
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Mike Barkley wrote:Cast iron seasoning. Didn't read all 11 pages of previous posts but I did scan for anything about seasoning with flax oil. Didn't see any so here's my 2 cents worth based on my research & experience with it about 5 years ago ...

That particular skillet has been used & often abused almost every day since. Just now getting to the point of needing another treatment. Next time every piece of cast iron I own will be seasoned with flax oil. I'm convinced it's the next best thing to heirloom pigs.



I had never heard the pork difference referenced alongside cast iron.  The modern pork diet is high in corn.  Must be something about that in the fat that behaves differently.

I love documentations like this with your actual experience!  This means a lot and I may use flax seed on our next cast iron seasoning regimen.

Peace
 
pollinator
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Peanut oil is another very good oil to season cast iron with.  It has a high smoke point.  That said, I use bacon grease or lard mainly for seasoning.
 
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I learned alot about cast iron this winter in northern maine, I used my woodstove and cast iron for every meal. I seasoned using bacon the first cook, it is what grandma told me to do, lol . I store it in my cabinets and use it on my propane stove now that it is warming up. I love the taste and how easy cleaning is. I have not experienced any problems with pitting, wish I could advise.
 
Mike Barkley
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If memory serves it is because the pig's diet AND the pig itself has changed. All I know for sure is the flax oil works very well.
 
steve bossie
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Jolene Jakesy wrote:I learned alot about cast iron this winter in northern maine, I used my woodstove and cast iron for every meal. I seasoned using bacon the first cook, it is what grandma told me to do, lol . I store it in my cabinets and use it on my propane stove now that it is warming up. I love the taste and how easy cleaning is. I have not experienced any problems with pitting, wish I could advise.

hi Jolene. I'm up in the st. john valley. i still have my grandfathers cast iron. if that skillet could talk! he was a cook at a logging camp in the allagash for 40 yrs. only man i knew that could make a 3 cousre meal on the tailgate of his truck. he would even make biscuits in a cast iron dutch oven! would cook for us on hunting trips. we'd eat so much no one wanted to go back out in the afternoon!
 
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Cast iron can pit if you cook acidic food and leave it in there for a long time.  It's a very old timey way to get some iron into your diet to cure the disease of pale ears.  However, you need to wash out the acidic substance well, then re-season.  Repeated seasoning will fill in those tiny pits.  I would NEVER be without at least a skillet & griddle of cast iron.  They do such a superior job cooking anything by smoothing out any hot spots and gentling down the heat while you cook - home-cut hashbrowns or pancakes, or even pan-baked breads never cook as well on anything else!

As for seasoning, use whatever higher smoke point fat (a frying oil/fat, as opposed to salad oil) you normally cook with, I've never found it matters all that much as long as it will take enough heat to open the pores of the iron for good absorbtion.
 
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Lorin B wrote:What causes pitting in cast iron?  Is there a way to remove or smooth out the pitting?

Julie L.



Pitting could be due to a cheap manufacturing process.

But be happy to a degree.

Women should be using *ONLY* cast iron cookware.

Reason:
women need 18mg of daily iron intake.
Cast iron gives off a small amount of iron (acids from foods eat away some of it - red meats have a bit more sulfur released when cooked).
Every little bit helps!

I do wonder what impurities cheap cast iron has in it.

Cadmium perhaps?

Dunno - not a metallurgist.

https://www.britannica.com/technology/cast-iron
 
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I tossed all our coated pots and pans many years ago.  While I have and appreciate cast iron (especially for baking) our  go to set is a collection of quality stainless steel.
 
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I use a newish Lodge Logic frying pan.  I own a few older mirror smooth frying pans.  I like the old ones better, for aesthetics.  They are beautiful, compared to the new Lodge pan.  The new Lodge pan is easier to keep seasoned.  Food doesn't stick to it more.  The new pan was cheap.  Just go to almost any store that sells cookware.  No scavenger hunt on the internet required.  Much of what is said about cast iron cookware is not true.  Feel free to experiment and test what you are told.
 
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I picked up a pan with a lid/skillet (almost looks made for crepes) last year in a tote of stuff.  I haven't gotten to it yet but I hope to get it cleaned up in the next month or so.
 
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Is it practical/possible to use cast iron with a modern glasstop oven? I know there is the extra risk of handling it and if you drop it, bye to the cooktop, but will just using it possibly damage the surface? Thanks!
 
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Rick Deckard wrote:Is it practical/possible to use cast iron with a modern glasstop oven? I know there is the extra risk of handling it and if you drop it, bye to the cooktop, but will just using it possibly damage the surface? Thanks!



Many people do, and some work better than others. My parents shelved a bunch of their cast iron when they got a new stove. The ones with a ring on the bottom are stable, but the ones without will wobble and spin. The cooktops are quite tough.
 
steve bossie
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I've bending it for 7 yrs with no damage.
 
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Just want to share that I turned my PEP Badge Bit entry into a blog post (digital repurposing!) that also links back with an acknowledgement to Paul's cast iron page and to Permies in general.

It's here: https://www.catintheflock.com/2021/02/the-perfectly-seasoned-cast-iron-skillet.html

Thanks for helping us reach cast iron nirvana!
 
pollinator
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I bake alot with cast iron, pies, cornbread, but my favorite piece...
IMG_2828.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_2828.JPG]
 
randal cranor
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randal cranor wrote:I bake alot with cast iron, pies, cornbread, but my favorite piece...



I DO NOT clean my cast iron with soapy water. I heat them up and burn the crud out, sometimes I will heat/boil water and clean loose crud out but NO SOAP, NO CLEANER...
 
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Anyone who criticizes cast-iron hates it because it is indestructible, which is not how things are supposed to be made these days. Many people, especially women, are anemic. Cast-iron alleviates this. Your pan is your weapon in dire circumstances. Cast-iron is dual-purpose. Teflon pans are terrible. One inevitable scratch on the pan, and you are eating Teflon; your pan has become, besides a worthless weapon, a poisonous presence. To destroy a cast-iron pan, one would have to throw it in the ocean, or the fires of Mordor. There is no argument to be had between cast-iron and aluminum/teflon. Only shysters and charlatans would attempt it. Give them your finger.
 
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All the posts criticizing Teflon are quite accurate. Even some of the diamond coated cookware, which are generally non toxic, have  PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). That's  one of the toxic chemicals also in Teflon pans. Teflon fumes can even kill a pet bird, it's the same stuff that is in 'Scotchgard' on couches.

I have always had trouble though with cooking certain things in cast iron, but I love the way things come out and taste in them like steak or potatoes, or baked cornbread. But pancakes are a nightmare for me. Supposedly a copper diffuser will help distribute the heat evenly, it goes under the cast iron pan on the stovetop. I'm always flabbergasted when I see people flipping perfectly golden pancakes in a lodge style cast iron pan. That looks like a magic trick as mine are stick city and uneven. I'd also like to do cast iron waffles but have never tried it, the only Teflon in my house is my evil, coated waffle maker.
 
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The best cast iron skillet is here, light weight, will not stick and you can wash it.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crowdcookware/the-buccaneer-skillet-finally-solves-all-cast-iron-issues?ref=discovery_location
 
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Teresa McCoy wrote:Perhaps you have heard of putting cast iron pans into a roaring fire and letting the seasoning burn off that way. It may work.......then again......it may crack your treasured cast iron pan. I won't be pulling that stunt.
Teresa


My husband and I did this. Or, we built-up an outdoor fire around and in the cast iron dutch oven. The fire did the trick and burnt off the old coating (which had a horrible taste and smell) so that we could re-season it. We've used it constantly for over ten years now. It's become an essential part of our kitchen.
 
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chowhound link doesn't work.
 
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I love to go "shopping" regularly at our Town dump. You would not believe what folks throw away! Stainless steel pots and pans, real good quality stuff. It is amazing to me. some folks don't cook in stainless steel because "it sticks". Well, duh: If you go watch TV while you are cooking, stuff will stick!
Last year, I found a cast iron skillet, a bit big for just the 2 of us, but plenty serviceable. It was seriously encrusted and rusty on both sides, like someone had used it left the food in it, never washed it, then left it outside. Who would treat a nice Lodge skillet like that!
I didn't know the trick about putting it in a coal fire or use the high temp in an oven, so I went to work with a wire brush and steel wool.
It took me a while but I now have a very nice pan "rescued" from the dump. I wipe it after each use. [I have a blue Scott towel that I keep in a can of lard just for that purpose.]
By the way, I used to use a can of Crisco. One such can was left in the back and I kinda forgot about it as I opened another one. when I found it, it had developed a plastic film on it. I could not believe it I pinched it and a sheet of plasticky gunk came off of it. I have not bought any more 'lard' since then. I keep duck grease and even chicken grease from when I make broth and stew. duck is particularly good at sealing the pores of cast iron. Or I buy real lard if I run out.
About these "non-stick coating" that will "last a lifetime": It will last the lifetime... of the pan, not YOUR lifetime. It will scratch and flake away and someone will be eating lots of PFAs. I became a water officer in my town and I have a deep concern about PFOs, PFAs and PFOAs. Did you know that these forever chemicals really last forever... in your body [but not as a coating in your pans]? They are bioaccumulators. I read a limited study from China where they examined infant's urine and found PFOs in it.
My town is finding a lot of nitrates in groundwater from commercial Ag ...but they are barely thinking about these forever chemicals. I'm ringing the alarm bells every time I get a chance!!
 
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This isn't exactly about cast iron pans although we do use them almost exclusively . The previous post mentioned ever growing concerns about PFAs contamination, everyone concerned about the environment should watch the movie "Dark Waters", starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, it is an eye-opening and chilling account of the seriousness of the problem.
 
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Inasmuch as most vegetable oils are just slow poison, keeping a bottle or two did not make as much sense, to me, as buying a tub of lard for the sole purpose of treating my pans.

We have a glass top stove and most cast iron pans would eat it's top in a few uses.  To solve that problem, I took the pans out to the shop, fired up the grinder, with a sanding pad, and smoothed the bottom and the inside.  Our older pans didn't need that, but the new ones, certainly, did.  

By smoothing the pan bottoms, we've been able to use them on the stove.  The new pans, even higher end ones, are not finished to the degree they were back in the fifties and before. Their rough surfaces makes pushing them toward non-stick really tough, if possible at all.  The smoother the inside, the better they work.

To season the pans, I fired up my propane torch to carbonize the lard.  I did it outside, because this puts off a lot of smoke.

The propane torch worked far better than tossing the pans in a hot oven, or just on a burner, since I was able to treat the sides, in and out, too.
 
Kelly Craig
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IF you are getting hardening from flax seed oil, it's for the same reason boiled linseed oil hardens - reaction with oxygen hardens the flax seed [from which boiled linseed is made]. It's called polymerization in the woodworking world.


C. E. Rice wrote:

Mike Barkley wrote:Cast iron seasoning. Didn't read all 11 pages of previous posts but I did scan for anything about seasoning with flax oil. Didn't see any so here's my 2 cents worth based on my research & experience with it about 5 years ago ...

That particular skillet has been used & often abused almost every day since. Just now getting to the point of needing another treatment. Next time every piece of cast iron I own will be seasoned with flax oil. I'm convinced it's the next best thing to heirloom pigs.



I had never heard the pork difference referenced alongside cast iron.  The modern pork diet is high in corn.  Must be something about that in the fat that behaves differently.

I love documentations like this with your actual experience!  This means a lot and I may use flax seed on our next cast iron seasoning regimen.

Peace

 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Rich Rayburn wrote:This isn't exactly about cast iron pans although we do use them almost exclusively . The previous post mentioned ever growing concerns about PFAs contamination, everyone concerned about the environment should watch the movie "Dark Waters", starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, it is an eye-opening and chilling account of the seriousness of the problem.




Wow. a true story of a real lawyer suing Dupont over their Teflon coating... And Dupont is still making that shhhtuff.
I can't wait to see it, perhaps on U-tube?
 
Kelly Craig
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A lot of relative information can be learned from seasoned woodworkers, who use hardening oils regularly.

Polymerization works by reaction with oxygen. Heating the oil can speed polymerization.  Too much heat, when polymerizing flax seed oil to make "boiled" linseed oil will ruin the batch.  By the way, the boiling is not actual boiling. Rather, the name came from that the air blown through the oil, to catalyze it, gave the appearance of boiling.

I haven't experimented, but it may be a lower temp and a longer seasoning time would help.  As I posted elsewhere, I torch my pans to carbonize the lard I use.


paul wheaton wrote:Dan,

Lots and lots to talk about ....

I have now seasoned a bunch of stuff.  At one point i put an aluminum cookie sheet in the oven to catch drippings.  About ten minutes into it, I noticed some brown puddles on it.  Oh no!  I pulled it out and put foil down instead. 

I spent 15 minutes trying to scrape off the brown puddles.  I had to give up on that.  I'm guessing that this is polymerized oil, right?  You would call it a dry polymer?

These brown puddles were super smooth.  And super hard.  I'm guessing this is what we're going for? 

So then I thought I would go ahead and put a polymerized coating on the whole cookie sheet.  It came out all mottled/spotty.   The first puddles were nice and even.  I wanted the nice even layer over the whole thing but got this .... spotty stuff.  What happened? 

I seasoned my favorite skillet three times.  Organic shortening smeared on in a thin layer with the skillet upside down in the oven.  500 degrees for two hours each time.  Each time, the seasoning was really mottled.  I then used it  a lot hoping for the carbon layer to build up.  But it didn't really - (might be my fault - the stuff I was making sometimes stuck).  In fact, the bottom started to appear gray - the color of the iron underneath.  You could kinda tell where the seasoning had come off in big patches.

So then I tried to make sure to add a carbon layer.   I put about two tablespoons of organic shortening in the pan and kept it smoking for about an hour - moving it around frequently.  It turned yellow, and then brown.  It started getting sticky and thick.  I was moving it around with my stainless steel spatula.  I kept wiping that off periodically because I was worried it might stick.  After an hour I turned off the heat, waited for the smoking to stop, and wiped out the excess goo.

When the pan cooled, the residue that was left behind was sticky.  And you could still see where the seasoning had come off, although the surface was noticeably darker. 

Later I fried a couple of eggs in it.  The surface was so slippery I was having a helluva time getting the eggs onto the spatula! 

So this must be the "sticky polymers"

If I were to put this pan in the oven now, with the sticky polymers, would they turn into dry polymers?

My "Organic Shortening" is apparently "mechanically pressed organic palm oil" - how does this stuff compare to lard or other shortenings? 

How do you feel about using bacon squeezins (collected bacon drippings) for seasoning?  I've read that some folks say it is bad because it will contain a lot of salt.

Is making the roux good because of the flour?  I'm guessing that the flour adds carbon.



 
Kelly Craig
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Then there is the other side - if cast iron cooking will alleviate low iron in women, it's bad for men. Men and older women do not need nearly as much iron as a YOUNG woman and the iron can contribute to heart and circulatory problems.

This would seem to make the need for good seasoning all the more important.


Joe Banks wrote:Anyone who criticizes cast-iron hates it because it is indestructible, which is not how things are supposed to be made these days. Many people, especially women, are anemic. Cast-iron alleviates this. Your pan is your weapon in dire circumstances. Cast-iron is dual-purpose. Teflon pans are terrible. One inevitable scratch on the pan, and you are eating Teflon; your pan has become, besides a worthless weapon, a poisonous presence. To destroy a cast-iron pan, one would have to throw it in the ocean, or the fires of Mordor. There is no argument to be had between cast-iron and aluminum/teflon. Only shysters and charlatans would attempt it. Give them your finger.

 
Rich Rayburn
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We have 16 cast iron skillets and 4 griddles, we have been using them about 35 years and they are all vintage cast iron (anything marked Griswold, Piquaware, Wagner, Martin,Vollrath, Wapak ) we wouldn't use anything else because of the inferior quality. It's worth the wait and time to find vintage cast iron at flea markets, garage sales, antique stores etc. My wife originally seasoned the pans by coating them with lard and putting them in a hot oven (about 350°) for an hour or so. Occasionally if there's a buildup on the pans they get put in a bed of hot coals in our wood stove and then are reseasoned, now with organic olive oil.
It's not rocket science as people have been doing this for at least hundreds of years! I'm guessing most of the difficulties encountered are because of the inferior products now on the market. As far as safety most research shows that there are more benefits than risks associated with using cast iron, especially when seasoned to make them functional!
 
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Love my cast iron skillets and they are used daily. Got rid of the non stick stuff years ago.  Now we use mainly cast iron but we do have some stainless pots which are used for boiling pasta, potatoes or other veggies that require cooking. Also have an oval Dutch oven which is great for a one pot meal or roasting veggies and then I discovered unglazed clay bakeware. These are incredible and also nonstick but have to be used only in the oven. They cannot take direct heat from a gas stove or electric range top because they shatter. I have some clay bakeware that is almost 30 years old and some that are nearly new. Great for cookies, cakes, pizza, and they make incredible breads.
 
Vaios Eleftheriou
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The best cast iron skillet is here, light weight, will not stick and you can wash it.
This is the actual web page
https://www.crowdcookware.com/collections/the-buccaneer-skillets
 
Rich Rayburn
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

Rich Rayburn wrote:This isn't exactly about cast iron pans although we do use them almost exclusively . The previous post mentioned ever growing concerns about PFAs contamination, everyone concerned about the environment should watch the movie "Dark Waters", starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, it is an eye-opening and chilling account of the seriousness of the problem.




Wow. a true story of a real lawyer suing Dupont over their Teflon coating... And Dupont is still making that shhhtuff.
I can't wait to see it, perhaps on U-tube?


C'ecile, I actually bought the movie Dark Waters online for about seven bucks and after watching it I'm glad I did, I added it to our video library.
 
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I use a lye bath and then a vinegar bath to clean. It would be fun to do electrolysis! This is a great article about different cleaning methods:
http://www.castironcollector.com/cleaning.php#electrolysis

This is how and why I, and Americas Test Kitchen, season with flax oil. Solid science. An awesome blog post:
https://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/

And another interesting post of hers:
https://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/02/black-rust-and-cast-iron-seasoning/#more-759

A lot of YouTube videos of all the ways to do these things.
 
pollinator
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A huge percentage of my food is cooked on one of my 3 antique cast iron pans.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE them.  One is a recent inheritance from my mother.  
Anyhoo, I currently have a propane cook stove that I bought when I moved to the country so I could always make meals regardless of  what the power grid is doing.  The Great Ice Storm of '98 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_1998_North_American_ice_storm) was still fresh in my memory.  With recent declines in solar panel prices I will soon be investing in a grid tied PV system and so  I want to replace my propane stove with an induction cook stove.  Does anyone have any experience with cast iron on induction ?  Sounds like it would be a no brainer, but Ive found that many things that are obviously true have considerations that are nt obvious.  Such as will the cast iron scratch the stove top?  One of my pans has 1/8th inch ring around the bottom, does that mean that only the frying surface above the ring will directly get hot?  

Thanks.
 
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