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Cooking with cast iron - little black flecks on food


pastryani
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Hi eG cooks - I have a lodge cast iron pizza pan that I have recently started to use for making dosas (Indian lentil crepes).  Even though these pans are said to be pre-seasoned, I seasoned it a bit before use with oil in a hot oven.  

 

I started making dosas on it a few weeks ago.  The first few times it worked well - it was by no means non-stick and I still needed a ton of oil, but eventually the dosas would come off without any marks.  Recently however, the dosas are not releasing from the pan easily (despite using oil) and they have little black flecks on them (see pic below):image.jpeg

 

image.jpeg

I did a search and people said it was burnt-on food and that I should wash the pan - basically sacrificing a bit of the seasoning for a fleck-free dosa.  So I washed it, but alas, the flecks and the dosas sticking to the surface persists.  Also attached is a pic of the pan.

 

Any ideas as to what's going on here?

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It looks to me like bits of the polymerized fat from the seasoning could be detaching from the pan. I've had that a couple of times on pans I've picked up in various places. If that's the case, the solution is to take it down to bare metal and start over on the seasoning. That's not as bad when the pan is relatively new, and you haven't got serious time invested in the finish. 

 

Don't take my unsupported word for it, though. I love my cast iron, but I'm not a serious maven like some of the others around here. 

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Thanks both - why does the seasoning come off like this?  If im doing something that's encouraging this then I'd like to know!

 

Also - silly question but how do I strip it?  Should in use steel wool and scrub it all off?

 

Lastly, aside from lard, what is your favorite (and quickest) way to season something like this?  ATK said to use linseed/flax seed oil but I find that it leaves a sticky residue.

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You can strip the pan by putting it in a very hot oven to burn everything off, some people even put them in the oven during the self cleaning cycle. Look around online and you should find some detailed instructions that will work for you.

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I have found that flaking of the seasoning is usually caused by trying to use too thick a coating of oil and then heating it. It takes time and effort, to get a proper seasoning. I've found that several coats of oil wiped off to a barely perceptible film between multiple heatings is necessary for a flake-free, non-stick coating that lasts without flaking.

 

Also, I don't know how much trust I'd put in factory pre-seasoning when everything seems to be done in a cost-cutting way these days.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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That pan doesn't look like its really seasoned. There isn't a slick black plasticized layer of fat on it.

 

Kenji Alt explains it well here http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/06/how-to-buy-season-clean-maintain-cast-iron-pans.html

 

I season my steel and iron pans by getting them smoking hot and applying a thin layer of peanut oil...repeatedly. eventually it is a black reasonably non-stick, stable layer

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22 minutes ago, pufin3 said:

Your pan doesn't look very 'seasoned'.

Anything you put in a cast iron pan that contains ANY form of acid is going to remove the carbon 'seasoning'.

Like tomatoes, vinegar etc.

 I don't find this to be the case at all with a well seasoned pan.  It would not be my choice for a long simmered tomato sauce nor would I leave any acid in it for any length of time. But for making a quick pan sauce I don't find it an issue. YMMV

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@pastryani, you may find this topic useful:  Cast iron: seasoning, care and restoration

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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animal fat is what you do not want to use.  it does not polymerize , and will go rancid   i.e. oxidize and rot.  it will also burn at seasoning temps.

 

consider Flax oil.  you can easily get it at those organic vitamin shoppes.

 

use as little as possible with each coating , and built up the coatings that way.  take your time and you will be rewarded handsomely 

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Wow thanks everyone.  I don't have a self-cleaning feature so I guess I'll have to amp up my little oven to 500F and let it go to get rid of the coating, and then follow it up with slow and steady seasoning... again! (Why isn't there a service out there that will season for you?!!)

 

Ps - I don't use acidic foods like tomato on it, it's only for dosa (which is sour but I know people use cast iron all the time for this).

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4 hours ago, Smithy said:

@pastryani, you may find this topic useful:  Cast iron: seasoning, care and restoration

 

Go to page 7 of the thread and scroll down to the post by Hassouni.  It is the method I use. I have 3 pans waiting now, but they need to wait until after the early December destination wedding on the other coast from where we live.  I made the mistake, ONCE, of burning off the old seasoning and crud, then setting the pan aside for a month or so, Never again.

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43 minutes ago, Porthos said:

 

Go to page 7 of the thread and scroll down to the post by Hassouni.  It is the method I use. I have 3 pans waiting now, but they need to wait until after the early December destination wedding on the other coast from where we live.  I made the mistake, ONCE, of burning off the old seasoning and crud, then setting the pan aside for a month or so, Never again.

 

 

I think Porthos is referring to this post.

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7 hours ago, rotuts said:

animal fat is what you do not want to use.  it does not polymerize , and will go rancid   i.e. oxidize and rot.  it will also burn at seasoning temps.

 

consider Flax oil.  you can easily get it at those organic vitamin shoppes.

 

use as little as possible with each coating , and built up the coatings that way.  take your time and you will be rewarded handsomely 

Ok, that's good to know!  Thanks.

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On 11/25/2016 at 7:29 AM, rotuts said:

animal fat is what you do not want to use...

Hmmm, that's interesting My mom mainly fries bacon in her cast iron skillet to keep it seasoned and that pan is "pert-near" non-stick these days. Of course, this is after 55 years of use.

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4 hours ago, Toliver said:

Hmmm, that's interesting My mom mainly fries bacon in her cast iron skillet to keep it seasoned and that pan is "pert-near" non-stick these days. Of course, this is after 55 years of use.

 

I swear by bacon for getting seasoning started, too. I don't really rub it with bacon fat, though, so much as I use the pan exclusively to cook bacon and look for excuses to use bacon (breakfast, blts, carbonara sauce, etc.) often. Which is obviously a real hardship. :D When I'm done cooking the bacon I wipe the pan out and make sure there is no stuck food, then coat with a thin thin layer of vegetable oil. So it's sort of a bacon fat-vegetable oil combo treatment?

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Lard and cured pork would have been the defaults until relatively recently, I suppose.

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"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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9 minutes ago, chromedome said:

Lard and cured pork would have been the defaults until relatively recently, I suppose.

 

Not necessarily. The Indian subcontinent has been majority vegetarian for a very long time.

 

Also, not everyone as much meat as the average modern American back in the day. In hot climates, storage of fats is problematic, but oils can be pressed from nuts and seeds and used as needed -with a longer shelf life than butter or lard. Look at the middle east and Mediterranean areas where olive oil and nut oils are the default.

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(shrug) Can't answer for what worked/was used elsewhere, of course. In my part of the world, oil was relatively (I stress relatively) uncommon and expensive until the late 1960s and early 1970s. Pork fat was cheap and local, so that's what was used. 

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“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Specific to your black flake problem, it could be that the extra seasoning that you tried didn't adhere properly to the factory seasoning.   The few factory finished pieces I have bought over the years, I have ended up stripping and then reseasoning to my process.     Different fats will work but you should be aware of their smoke points, and they don't all give same results as far as how durable they are.  I prefer using a high smoke point oil, refined grapeseed is usually what I have in house.  Many thin coats with long enough between applications to fully polymerize. 

 

a CS wok I bought a couple years ago with about 10 or 11 very thin layers

 

GEDC4907_zpsc372f8e1.jpg

 

GEDC4910_zps68f51713.jpg

 

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I'll add that this is a major fault of newly produced black iron cookware. Notice the pebbly finish to these new pans, they tend to hold burn food and not season as well as the older pans.

 

Vintage pans were turned to a smooth finish on the interior, facilitating seasoning and cleaning.

 

 I hear there are some small ,boutique makers of cast-iron pans finishing them smoothly on the inside, but they cost in the hundreds of dollars.

 

 Probably from Brooklyn...

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- Errol Flynn

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