Cowboy Kent Rollins tells us how to fix sticky cast iron

So you’re OK with functionally identical and just as old fashioned pans so long as they are $100?

Or is the lesson that we should be needlessly obsessed with brands?

Mauviel is cheap as shit on etsy. Pick your brand, whatever.

Thin, lightweight carbon steel pans are a world away from your gramma’s clunker.

Modern aluminum or copper core stainless pans are fantastic and don’t require a religion to keep clean.

But I’m glad you got to say something.

My solution:
Use normal washing up liquid and a scourer. If it’s still not clean, use a Brillo pad and some elbow grease.

(And “warming the pan to open the pores” wtf?!, Is you pan made of skin rather than iron? If it has holes in it, then it’s broken).


Not really I own both. Hell my great grandmother owned both. They heat a bit faster because they’re thinner. At the expense of heat retention. This makes them a bit more responsive. Otherwise they are pretty much the same.

More over the maintenance regime is identical to cast iron. And they’re actually harder to season, cause they’re slicker. So there’s more of it.

Which makes sense because it’s almost the same material, save for slightly less carbon in the mix.

It’s truly weird to shit on cast iron as old fashioned and maintenance heavy while singing the praises of carbon steel. It’s the same, it’s a wash.

“Thin, lightweight” carbon steel (1mm or less) is prone to warping from heat. Standard and heavy (2-3mm) are a hell of a lot like cast iron. They lose some searing power, but they’re a bit more responsive. Shapes are a bit better for tossing. They’re a bit slicker when freshly seasoned. That’s about the breath of it.

Sure. But they’re sticky. And don’t retain heat as well for searing. Which is good when you want that. But it makes them harder to clean. See I’ve got those too. Hell my other great grandmother had those.

Yeah but I don’t think you’re getting it.


… wait a minute. I thought that’s one reason why you used cast iron- once it’s heated up by soaking up a certain number of minutes preheating, it gives a fairly even heat over the entire surface. (including the handles…)

Personally, at this stage I’m resigned to my cast iron pans being left, unloved, in the cabinet, whilst spending money every couple years replacing the trashed non-stick T-Fal pans because the cooks in the house don’t grok the concept of ‘please don’t use a metal fork or knife on the nonstick’, despite being as subtle as a piano dropped off the top of the empire state building about it.

The dutch oven, though? it gets used for making potsticker soup. (don’t ask, I don’t know why they are being cooked that way, except they taste OK; Personally I like the ‘recommended’ method printed on the bags of the frozen ones we buy…)


Ask and Ye Shall Receive: The Cast Iron Cleaning Death Match thread


Not quite.

Once it soaks up that heat it holds onto it. Almost regardless of how much shit you throw in the pan. So the heat is “even” in the sense that it’s stable.

But iron and steel don’t conduct heat well. And aren’t as good at transferring it into things as aluminum or copper.

As a result cast iron heats up pretty unevenly. You see it when you first heat up a pan, it’ll be hot in the center and bare hand touchable cold towards the edge. For quite a while. It’s prone to hot and cold spots. If it isn’t centered on the burner, or is larger than the burner by too much some spots will remain colder practically forever.

This is exactly why a carbon steel wok works the way it does. Ripping hot at the bottom, cooler up the walls.

By contrast aluminum and multiply stainless heat up very evenly across the whole bottom. Pretty damn quick. They cool the same way when you change the burner temp.

The way around that with cast iron and carbon steel is to take your time heating them up. And move the pan around the burner to ensure it’s even.

You’d have to do that anyway. Non-stick surfaces break down over time. Being super careful will get you a couple more years maybe. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one hold up for more than 5 years unless it’s lightly uses.

Wonton soup.


No, seriously- potstickers thrown into a dutch oven with a couple quarts of boiling water, chives, and IIRC sesame oil or some other flavored oil, as opposed to pan frying them to put some crisp on them and then steam cooking them the rest of the way. I kid thee not.

I mean, it works, but as the sole item for a dinner? nope. I usually bake some egg rolls at the same time.

When I cook potstickers, I do it according to the package after getting the rice cooker running, and time the egg rolls to finish around the same time as the potstickers. I might steam some broccoli at the same time for additional color to the meal.

I mean if you used chicken stock it’d be wonton soup. Which would be fine, frozen pot stickers are just more available than wontons. Why water? Does some one fear flavor?

ETA: there’s also nothing wrong with boiling that sort of dumpling. I’m rather partial the the same type of dumpling (Jiaozi) boiled or steamed, and both are pretty damn traditional. They’re marketed as potstickers because of the popularity of that prep-method in the US/West.

The problem here is this is not how you make broth.

I have an induction stove top and notice my cast iron pan does heat up more evenly now than when I had gas or electric burners.

Does anyone know how the physics involved are different between the 3 types of heat and their affects on the various cookware?

Induction heats the metal directly through magic and fairies. So it’s not dumping heat into a contact patch, it’s gonna heat anything in the magnetic field pretty evenly. And full sized electric and induction burners tend to be a lot wider than gas burners to begin with. Any burner besides induction will be hottest in the center.

So I think that’s just a bigger, more even hot area across the bottom of the pan to start. I’ve heard on at least some induction burners a pan that heavily over hangs the size of the burner will be less even, as in the part that over hangs will take longer to heat up or even out. And that’s approximately how things work out with standard electrics. I just hear it less with induction, more in terms of a 12" skillet on a hot plate being an issue than something you run into with a range.

I think the main issue between gas and standard electric is that gas is just hotter and can change it’s temp faster. So it’s going to pump more heat in than a coil, even if it’s more concentrated. There might be some difference between the radiant heat of the burner, and the conduction of the coil but I don’t know how much impact it has given the rather big difference in raw heat produced. Induction tends to produce heat in much the way gas does. High heat, easily changed. But it’s throwing wizards around instead of transferring heat in.

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On the last stove I had I could see the pattern in shimmering oil it was so distinct even after it was hot for awhile. Depending on what I’m cooking I’ll heat the cast iron up in the oven to get it evenly hot, then cook with it on the stove.

I know you qualified it with “once it’s heated up,” but you can test heating patterns yourself pretty easily. I’ve seen parchment paper and flour used to find hot spots.


One of the advantageous side effects of using induction with cast iron is that all of the heat goes directly and evenly to the bottom of the pan, so it takes a LOT longer for the handle to heat up. Many times, I don’t even have to bother with a pot holder or silicone sleeve.


Kk. Enjoy your magic pans. They’re still not a replacement for good technique.

I don’t know, on my Fagor hobs, boiling water in cast iron (even easier than using parchment paper) results in a ring of bubbles. It’s nowhere close to being even heat.

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@ MANY: I’ll concede the point on the uneven heating.

(Also, nothing really magic about cast iron, it’s just been around for a century or two.)

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Used as cooking pots, it’s been few thousand years for China, and since the 16th century for Europe.

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Does tend to reduce cases of anemia!

For cast iron. There were wrought iron pots of various sorts in Europe well before the 16th century, though they may not have neccisarily been common. In neither case would they have been skillet, which were a pretty early kind of pot, but mostly earthenware with a side line in copper or bronze if’n your a fancy lad.

If memory serves in terms of metal cookware; wrought iron or hammered steel was more common, earlier for woks and skillets. And there’s not a whole lot of difference between a wrought iron and a carbon steel pan. So despite the reputation carbon steel skillets are probably older than the cast iron we think of today.

Cast iron is pretty easy to make pots from, which is probably why that’s what they were doing in China thousands of years ago. Did they also have earthenware and carbon steel? Sure. But I was correcting the claim that the use of cast iron pots in particular for cooking is only a few hundred years old.

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