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Cast iron fry pan not building up seasoning  RSS feed

 
Wilbur McGillicuddy
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Hello!

New user, first time post. I have an interest in a lot of the sub-forums here so hope I have found a good place to start with this question...

I've been a bit obsessive lately with getting my new frying pans seasoned. And I've done a lot of research, ready websites and watched videos. Paul Wheaton's website has been helpful and I find his information practical and useful. But that said, my efforts at building up seasoning are getting me nowhere.

I sanded my Lodge 10" and 12" pans almost mirror smooth. I did a 500+ degree burnoff to clean them up, then a couple cycles around 300 with very, very thin coats of vegetable grease to get that first layer of seasoning. They came out looking great and that initial layer has held up. I also cooked down some pork fat one time for the heck of it after the initial seasoning, wiping it clean when done.

I then proceeded to use the pans for various meals. Eggs do wonderful with a bit of butter. I fried some fish in a thin pool of peanut oil. I pan seared some fish. I sauteed some vegetables a couple times in butter and/or oil. Cleanup routine is to avoid water unless needed, and when so just quick rinse in hot water. Generally just a wipe down of a warm pan with a paper towel to wipe out excess oil and/or debris. Then another wipedown if needed of a thin layer of oil. Things go fine cooking these types of foods.

But bacon or meats, like a pork chop, usually stick a little bit here and there and leave a very thin layer of scalded debris in isolated spots. Half of this scalded remnant will scrape away with a Lodge scraper but never gets back to the previous slick oiled surface. I usually scrub at it repeatedly with a spatula, Lodge scraper or my fingernail. I worry if I leave it then it will become the cause other food to stick on the same spot. I know sugars in bacon can contribute to this but my bacon doesn't mention sugar in the curing agents. And a pork chop doesn't have it. I even put a thin wipe of oil in the hot pan before cooking the bacon this morning and it still stuck here and there.

All that said...my seasoning is not building up. At best I feel like all the seasoning I have is the original thin layer that I polymerized on at 300 during the initial seasoning. Whenever I wipe the pan clean it always looks the same and I don't get those dark areas starting to build up. Borrowing from Paul's great website is this pic of his showing dark areas building up. Mine doesn't do that - mine looks like that pan minus the dark areas. Any thoughts on what I should be doing differently? I'm hesitant to cook more meat because of how I get a little sticking, and fear my cleanup process might be preventing the buildup I seek?

 
Craig Dobbson
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When I cook a messy meal in my skillet I do the following:

Remove as much food and grease from the pan as you can while it's still hot. Don't scrap, just remove what will easily move. Use a spatula for the bulk and then a paper towel for the little stuff. Allow the pan to cool to room temp. Once cool, fill with hot water. This will soften the layers of cooked on junk without removing the thin layers of seasoning you're building. (If you add water to a hot pan, the seasoning is ruined as the water boils off.)
Let stand for five minutes. NO Scrubbing. Empty water from pan and wipe clean with a paper towel. Now, most of everything should be gone. Now heat the pan on the stove on low heat until dry. If there is anything left on the pan, use a dry paper towel, a little kosher (course) salt and some fat/oil to scrub the pan. Once all of the crud is off, shake the dirty salt into your kitchen scrap container. Return the pan to the heat and apply a thin layer of oil while wiping with a clean paper towel. Continue heating the pan and wiping until the oil just begins to smoke. Turn off the heat, keep wiping until the pan is cool enough that the oil won't burn. Allow pan to cool before storing away.

Hope some of that helps

I season using pork fat. Nothing else seems to hold up as well.


 
Wilbur McGillicuddy
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Well, that sounds like good advice and not too much different from what I do. If I can get away with a wiping out then that is all I do. Usually that is all that is needed after some eggs or veggies.

I guess I just don't understand how that nice black mottled patina starts to appear...what is it? Baked on grease? I know heating the pan up real hot with too thick a coat of oil will just create a tacky film that comes off quickly.
 
Craig Dobbson
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The key is to work all of that finishing oil into the pan itself. If you are using a gas range then you'll notice that as the pan heats up, the area directly over the flame begins to change color. That's the polymerization of the oil in that area. It's a fine line between a sticky oil mess (too much oil) and a burnt mess (too much heat). That's why heating the pan slowly and evenly is so important. You want to have that same effect on the oil all over the surface of the pan. So ideally you'll have just enough oil in the pan to "wet it". In other words the oil shouldn't pool or run if you tilt the pan.

As long as the pan is heating evenly and you're constantly moving the oil around the surface you'll eventually achieve that polymerized sheen on the entire surface. It can actually be done in an afternoon if you're really diligent about it. It's a cyclical process that you just eventually develop an eye for. One thing that I've found helpful on gas ranges is to start with a low flame to heat the middle of the pan and then turn in off for a few minutes so the rest of the iron heats evenly. Then turn the flame back one medium to do the oiling. If you rush it you'll have hot spots and the oil won't do it's job as well in the colder spots.

Best of luck
 
Wilbur McGillicuddy
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I have a radiant surface so the heat should be uniformly distributed, and I always preheat the pan around a 4 (out of 10) and usually end up cooking around a 5. This is enough to get the oil just smoking before I add my food to the pan.

I've considered doing a second layer of seasoning since I took this Lodge pan down to smooth metal. You know, preheat it with a little oil, then wipe it all out except the sheen and let it polymerize at 300 for an hour. I've wondered if I was simply cooking on too thin of an initial seasoning and getting some stickiness with certain foods. So perhaps another layer if done properly would help?

I've also wondered just the opposite - maybe I'm just being too anal and obsessing over the cleaning. But I do this because I know a second cooking on top of existing sticky burns will only lead to gumminess that wears off and leaves bare spots.
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