Several have asked about how to get cast iron smooth and slick enough to be non-stick for things like eggs.
It isn’t easy! It seems that when Lodge began selling pre-seasoned cast iron, they also began leaving the finish rough so as to facilitate the “seasoning” to stay attached to the pot.
The first method, which isn’t my preferred method, is to grind the cast iron down to make it smooth. Here’s a youtube video of someone doing that.
It does work. Vince has used a grinder to remove rust on some of the old pieces we have. I find that no matter how careful he is, and no matter how fine the grit, we still end up with some cuts into the metal. They do disappear with seasoning but there’s something deep within me that can hardly stand the thought of grinding on those beloved pots.
But, people do it! There are lots of youtube videos out there of people doing it.
The method I prefer is to keep the pot on the stove or keep it handy. If I’ in the kitchen for a while, I’ll turn the burner on, let the pot get HOT, rub it with oil, keep it on the burner til it’s smoking, turn the fire off, wipe off the excess oil. Be careful not to put too much oil on it when it’s hot. It will flame up. Keep a lid handy and if that happens, just put the lid on it and it will choke the flame out and there really should be such a small amount of oil that it isn’t going to cause more than a little poof.
What I’ve read is that the oil with “polymerize” and that’s what makes the hard, smooth surface on the pot. The way I think about it is my fingernails. My nails have ridges . . always have. I know fingernail ridges are supposed to mean you’re lacking in something or fixing to die . . can’t remember that either, but I’ve had ridges in my nails since I was in high school. But, if I put fingernail polish on my nails (which I never do these days), the first coat, the ridges show. The second coat, they’re less noticeable and by the third coat, if I make it that far, my nails are smooth and look nice. That’s how I relate the oil/seasoning on an iron skillet.
I really do the heat/oil/heat/wipe routine on my roughest pots sometimes three times a day if they’re sitting on the stove and handy. My theory is that that the oil continues to fill in the low spots and will eventually give you a totally smooth surface.
Another thing I will do with a rough skillet is cook bacon. I love bacon and that gives me an excuse to eat more bacon. Maybe that’s why I keep buying cast iron! 🙂
Cook a few pieces of bacon in the rough skillet. When the bacon is done leave the grease in there. Next day, turn the fire on and as soon as the grease is melted, pour it off into a jar (don’t let the grease get super hot or you’ll break the jar), save the grease for beans (yes, we do that!). Don’t wash the pan. Don’t wipe the pan. Just put more bacon in it. Cook the bacon. Repeat.
One more thing that helps foods not stick: Always preheat the pan. I never put food in a cold cast iron pan. I preheat it, add a bit of oil if needed and then begin cooking. Even with bacon, preheat the skillet!
My newest skillet, which isn’t that new but I haven’t been very diligent about seasoning it, is still rough. It’s the skillet I use for the biscuits.
I do use soap on my skillets, if needed. Many people say don’t do it though. If you can get by without it, that’s probably best. It was my super non-stick skillet that I made the mushroom soup in last night. When I rinsed it out, there was residue and milky looking chunks on the side of the pot so I squirted a little Dawn in there, added a bit of hot water, used my Lodge brush to scrub it, rinsed it, wiped it dry, put it on a burner to heat, then oiled it, let the oil get hot enough to smoke, turned the fire off, wiped it out and it’s good as new . . better than new! 🙂
A couple more things about cast iron:
- I try to always use wooden spoons or plastic spatulas (not metal) with cast iron. Some say metal is ok but I have scratched the seasoning coating using metal. It’s easy enough to get it back to being smooth but I don’t want to scratch it.
- I do use acidic foods in cast iron but for the most part, only if it’s something that’s going to be cooked and removed quickly.
- Never soak cast iron in water or place in the dishwasher.
For those who aren’t lovers of cast iron, if you’re even still reading, it all sounds harder than it is to use and maintain but it’s the easiest thing really. I’ve used it forever and love it.
For those struggling to get your cast iron to have a smooth, slick coat, hang in there . . you’ll get it.