If you ever need to reseason your cast iron cookware, flaxseed oil is the absolute best choice. It polymerizes better than any other oil that’s safe for human consumption. To do the best job, apply a very thin layer, and bake at high heat for several hours, and let cool. Repeat the process at least 5 times. You will build up a seasoned, non-stick surface equal to or better than Lodge’s factory results.
Wouldn’t this scrape any seasoning you’ve built up right off of the cast iron?
I’d hope better – their non-stick was pretty sticky.
Nope. Not at all.
A fantastic guide.
Using anything metal to clean your cast iron pan is misinformation. Nylon bristles.
I’ve been cooking exclusively with cast iron for 12 years now and I can attest that the best method for cleaning is coarse salt. It has the added benefit of being antimicrobial and antibacterial as well as not scratching or scoring the surface. It can also be used on enameled cast iron such as Le Creuset which scrapers and chain-mail will destroy.
As for the linseed seasoning, many who have tried report that flaking is a serious issue. Lard is the best method I’ve found for seasoning. Coconut oil is a close second.
My prize pan is a #10 owned by my great grandmother over 100 years ago. It has only seen lard and salt for seasoning and cleaning. Nothing will stick to it. Even burned food comes right off. It’s also never been cleaned with water. The worlds best cornbread (IMO) comes from that pan.
America’s Test Kitchen (Cook’s Illustrated Magazine) suggests in their reviews that a short-handled brush with short hard nylon bristles is better than chainmail. [Link to review] They say that the chainmail is the most effective, but too tough on hands. They like a $10 OXO brush specifically, there is a link to Crate & Barrel at their site.
Serious eats also just published a number of guides.
The most important thing to remember is cast iron is almost idiot proof. Oil it, don’t leave it wet, don’t put it in the dishwasher, and don’t get steel wool involved and you’re pretty much good. There’s only so much damage you can do to the stuff. All of the stuff you hear about how various things will “ruin” the pan just so much hand wringing. At worst you usually just mildly inconvenience yourself. You encounter a bit of stuck on food and have to brush some rust off with a scotch pad.
Why do so many people think cooking with cast iron and maintaining cast iron are so difficult? Do you think our great grandmothers put this much thought into it? Personally I scrub with salt after I use mine, then wipe it out. That’s it.
But really, as long as you use the cast iron, and cook with some fat, and wipe it afterwords, the specifics won’t really matter, and they’ll matter less the longer you do it.
Yes, I’m a materials scientist, I understand that there will be a difference from one method to another, but is it really worth my time to care? I’ve never noticed anything to suggest it is.
I wash mine with soap. The horror! Contrary to nearly everyone’s advice, this will not destroy your seasoning.
Note: I don’t always use soap. Usually a brush and hot water is plenty.
Back in the early 80’s we lost a #14 pan, which had been handed down through the family, to soap and water. It was cleaned by hand with soap and a scrubber and hung up to dry. 70+ years of seasoning perfection were lost and the pan has never fully returned to its original (aged) condition. It was a bit more than a mild inconvenience. It was the loss of generations of love and care put in to that pan.
Call it hand wringing all you want, but if someone comes at my pots and pans with a scrubber, they had best be prepared to be beaten with them.
BTW, if you like Lodge and feel they are a quality product, take some time on the auction and antique sites. Pick up a pre war (WWII) pan and compare the weight and thickness. They can be had for very little money and you might be surprised at how light, quick to heat, and comfortable they are compared to modern Lodge iron.
I have a full set of pre-1930’s cast iron (mostly Griswold) from my great grandmother. I’ve cooked with them all my life. My mother cooked with them all her life, her mother cooked with them all her life. And yes there’s a sentimental hit when you damage or accidentally remove the season (my dad is over zealous with the brillo, and my brother is lazy enough to throw them in the dish washer) you hardly “lose” or destroy the pan. Re-season it a few times and it should be back in shape. That’s part and parcel of using the things for so long, and sometimes its neccisary or a good idea to deliberately strip the pan and re-season. Mine are getting a bit wonky, heavy carbon buildup on the exterior, uneven season etc.
And as someone who has always used vintage cast iron, and more recently has picked up some lodge stuff. The differences you claim are minor at best. The old stuff is very slightly thinner, and they are very slightly lighter. But the difference is almost unnoticeable, and from a performance point of view there’s no real difference. The smoother cooking surface is the only practical difference I’ve noticed. It seems to take a season easier and quicker. Deals with eggs and melted cheese and other legendarily sticky shit just a tiny bit better. I think much of the "oh my god the real stuff! you hear is more about fetishizing something old. Season doesn’t necessarily “build-up” or improve over time the way many people assume. If it did you’d have inches of build up inside the pan (which is what I have outside the pan, its grossish and leads to rust).
Any type of metal scrubber will put in micro scratches in cast iron.
That causes food to stick over time. Try running that thing over some nice and shinny aluminium and I bet you can see scratches.
Perhaps the Griswold are more in line with what Lodge makes. The pre-war iron I use is significantly lighter than the same size Lodge. The cooking surface is much smoother and the handles much more comfortable than the chunky Lodge stuff. They also come to full heat faster (probably due to the thinner cast) I’ve never had a piece of Griswold so I can’t compare that brand. My old stuff has no maker marks and are only stamped with the size number except for the Cousances but those are enameled pieces.
I’ve never stripped a pan down to re-season it and can’t imagine why you would want to.
If you make a habit of scrubbing with salt after every cook both inside and out, you can greatly reduce the buildup on the outside. Using pans with smooth outer walls instead of the rough cast stuff (Lodge) makes the biggest difference for the exterior cleaning.
Though I will try the chain mail out, I was led to beleave you should only use something “softer” than the skillet you are cleaning? I buy very cheap ( $0.50 each non handle) copper pads after I was given this one with a handle. Seems to remove the crusty buildup without removing the iron.
I love my cast iron.
You’d want to strip and re-season the pan to deal with problems and damage, or to restore an old pan that hasn’t been properly maintained. Uneven seasoning, bare spots caused by uneven or over heating. Thick carbon buildup. Rust and pitting that might be under layers of seasoning. Flaking seasoning. A lot can happen in 80+ years of constant use. And no amount of scrubbing with salt is going to remove an 1/8 inch + layer of exterior carbon and season build up. I could chip at it with a paint scraper. Or I could strip the pans and re-season/restore them. And whatever I do to the pans now in terms of cleaning and general maintenance, isn’t going to magically reverse anything that was done in the intervening 80+ years by my very large family of enthusiastic cooks. Neither is it going to get a vintage pan I find now into working condition. But stripping them and re-seasoning them will.
My point being there is very little I could do to any of these pans that would out and out destroy them. Maybe I could shoot them. Or store them outside in the elements for years on end. Or deliberately heat them to the point where the metal cracks or warps. Unless you really seriously neglect them, or deliberately destroy them the worst case scenario with cast iron pans is usually you have to strip them to bare metal and give them a couple of rounds of seasoning. That’s why there’s so many old ones still around.
@kentkb I’ve been told the stainless chain is in fact harder than the bare cast iron. Supposedly its not harder than the season though. So its unlikely to cause any damage. There’s also a big difference between dragging a few rings of relatively thick stainless over the surface a few times and what you get with steel wool. There you’re dragging thousands (if not millions I guess?) of much finer (and probably softer) threads of steel repeatedly over the surface. The chain isn’t much different than scraping with a spatula, the steel wool is like more aggressive sand paper. I tend to stick to scotch pads and salt though. Does me fine.
Lodge is a perfectly fine brand.
It is clunkier than griswold and has a terrible texture all over inside and out.
Sandpaper or other appropriate abrasive usually fixes that though.
The chain mail will not remove the seasoning to get to the iron. The seasoning is incredibly hard and difficult to remove. Soap and water, used quickly and rinsed off and then dried will not hurt them either. Normal use with butter or animal fat frying will put back more than you are taking off with occasional soapy water. The chain mail will not do a thing. I regularly use it. I sometimes also use a stainless spatula to scrape the pan while cooking, it can’t damage the seasoning.
once every year or so I clean with soapy water, completely dry and then lightly coat with whatever oil I think most appropriate – I mean super lightly – and season. thats maintenance. If a houseguest leaves one with water in it and I get rust marks, I will scrub it all out and season one or two cycles in the oven. Thats the sum total of maintenance.