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May 8, 2016 6:01 PM   Subscribe

I have a new cast iron pan. Long story short, I tried deglazing with white wine vinegar because I don't really know what I'm doing in the kitchen. Now there's a stain on the pan where the vinegar was. Is this fixable? I've tried scrubbing with my cleaner brush but I don't think it's helping.

I'm new to cooking and feel like an idiot. Please be gentle.
posted by soonertbone to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Acid strips the seasoning off a cast iron pan, but cast iron is well nigh indestructible and seasoning can be replaced.

You just need to reseason the pan.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:04 PM on May 8, 2016 [16 favorites]

Yup, just reseason it. How to season a cast iron pan.

And don't deglaze with vinegar in the future. Wine, wine derivatives (e.g. brandy, sherry, madeira), or stock. Even water, in a pinch.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:04 PM on May 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's fine. Rub some oil into that bad boy and keep cooking. Cast iron is a 'pass it down to your grandkids' kind of material, a little vinegar isn't going to hurt it. Even if you rust the crap out of it by leaving it in water too long, you just buff it off and keep it going. Diamonds break if you smash them with a hammer. Cast iron is forever.
posted by ananci at 6:11 PM on May 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

yeah, don't even cook tomatoes in a cast iron pan: acid. these pans are great for many things but not all things. you are not an idiot! (i mean, you might be i guess, but you have not demonstrated it here.)
posted by sheldman at 6:12 PM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yeah; you got this. Don't worry.

Jaquilynne and FFFM have got some great resources, but as a community, we kind of babble about cast iron quite a bit.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:15 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's the answer I gave to a previous response about seasoning cast iron. I regularly cook with tomatoes and vinegar in my pans and the following works great:

Preheat your oven to 200F. Put the skillet in and let it until it's heated through. Pull it out and turn the oven up to 450F-500F. Rub in flax seed oil with paper towels. There shouldn't be any pooling of oil. To make extra sure you may want to put some foil on the bottom of the oven and put the skillet in upside down. Bake it at 450-500 for an hour, then turn the oven off and let it sit until cool. To really get a good coat on do this 2-3 times.

Like peachfuzz says, this will set up a thin, hard layer of polymerized oil which is what you're going for. Preheating the skillet to 200F before applying the oil helps to open up the pores in the iron, allowing a better application of the oil.
posted by lharmon at 6:28 PM on May 8, 2016 [12 favorites]

in the future, clean it with cold water and a good scrubbing. You can use detergent on it but once you're done cleaning, dry it immediately and re-oil it.

And deglaze with whatever you want, just be sure to re-oil it after cleaning.
posted by Smibbo at 6:40 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Chain mail scrubbers are awesome for cleaning cast iron, by the way.
posted by goggie at 6:55 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Now there's a stain on the pan where the vinegar was. Is this fixable?

Yes. Here's how you do it:

Examine the stain closely, and say to yourself "this is a cast iron pan, so stains don't matter".

posted by flabdablet at 8:24 PM on May 8, 2016 [37 favorites]

Yeah, don't worry about it. Just re-season it and keep using it. Many stains and blemishes will come and go as you use your cast iron.
posted by The Deej at 8:33 PM on May 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

First of all, the original store bought seasoning on your cast iron is crappy and I am LOL that you thought vinegar was a done deal on it. I make steaks in my cast iron and deglaze with wine all the time. All you did with the vinegar was add more iron mineral to your dish :)

Forget chain mail! (We use chain mail gloves for oyster shucking, they're expensive!) You can use crumpled aluminum foil to scrub cast iron. If you want.

Flax seed oil (honestly, I use coconut mostly) is the go-to for seasoning cast iron. You can not break cast iron cookware. Unless it is enameled.

Here's how I do. You do you...

After cooking (part of the joy here is you get your empty pan screaming smoking hot before cooking food) is I add water just after cooking. After eating, I scrub the pan with salt and a brush or aluminum foil and a brush. Rinsed? Good. Pan goes back on the stove high heat to get screaming hot, I rub on good oil EVERYWHERE (use a pot holder to manipulate the pan and big wad of paper to coat with oil) turn off the heat, let the pan cool down. Store it. Done.

Don't glop the oil. As the pan cools, the surface contracts, the oil forms a smooth finish. That's about it.

posted by jbenben at 8:43 PM on May 8, 2016

Yes, cast iron is basically indestructible. If you get crap stuck in it, I find that cooking it out on the stovetop usually frees up the bigger particles. Once you get those out, coat that bad boy in olive oil and throw it in the oven for four hours and bam, good as new.
posted by deathpanels at 9:54 PM on May 8, 2016

See, OP? Iron is very hard to hurt. This is why that superhero is called Iron Man, not Le Creuset Man or Copper Bottom Man. You are not an idiot, you have done no harm, and now you have a plethora of resources about how to maintain the seasoning on your lovely pan.

Go forth and deglaze with impunity.
posted by ananci at 10:27 PM on May 8, 2016 [14 favorites]

cooking with acids (vinegar, tomatos) on cast iron is absolutely fine. The point that people make of acids being harmful is mostly a myth, and will, in moderation, not damage your pan. This is explained in a very good way by J. Kenji López-Alt, the Managing Culinary Director at Serious Eats:

from the article:


The Theory: Acidic food can react with the metal, causing it to leech into your food, giving you an off-flavor and potentially killing you slowly.

The Reality: In a well-seasoned cast iron pan, the food in the pan should only be coming in contact with the layer of polymerized oil in the pan, not the metal itself. So in a perfect world, this should not be a problem. But none of us are perfect and neither are our pans. No matter how well you season, there's still a good chance that there are spots of bare metal and these can indeed interact with acidic ingredients in your food.

For this reason, it's a good idea to avoid long-simmered acidic things, particularly tomato sauce. On the other hand, a little acid is not going to hurt it. I deglaze my pan with wine after pan-roasting chicken all the time. A short simmer won't harm your food, your pan, or your health in any way
posted by alchemist at 11:55 PM on May 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

You can not break cast iron cookware.

I wish. I bought a cast iron pan at a garage sale (or possibly a flea market, it's been a long time) and didn't notice that it was cracked until some time later when I went to clean it up and season it.

It was cheap enough that I don't mourn the money. That should probably have been a clue.

It's in the scrap pile now, waiting for me to get that home shop foundry going.
posted by Bruce H. at 12:05 AM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Its cast iron, stains come and go. About the only way to ruin cast iron is to too rapidly heat or cool it. I. E. put a large skillet on a small hot burner or pour a cold liquid on to very hot iron, that may cause it to crack. The most important thing is to heat it dry after cleaning and wipe a thin coat of oil or grease on it while it's hot. The more you use it the better it gets.
posted by ridgerunner at 2:00 AM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Phew, thanks for the reassurance folks. My summer project is to get over my fear of cooking and it's stuff like this that tends to throw me off. Will keep at it!
posted by soonertbone at 8:33 AM on May 9, 2016

I destroy mine in various ways occasionally but never re-season because I'm a lazyass. Just cook some bacon in it. Voila: good as ever.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:05 AM on May 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

It'll get rusty at some point, too, when you forget to dry it properly. (In my house, "properly" means "by heating it up on the stove.") The solution is simple, just like Don Pepino says.

If you burn something in it and it sticks too hard to scrub off, don't be afraid to put some water in the pan and let it soak for a few hours so that it's easier to scrub off. I do that almost every day. You won't wreck it. You pretty much can't wreck it.
posted by clawsoon at 10:28 AM on May 9, 2016

As a belated FYI: At some point in the last couple of years my hoarding instincts turned to old cast iron, and I've been collecting and refinishing it for a while now. Vinegar is actually fantastic for removing rust (find old rusty cast iron in yard, put old rusty cast iron in a vat of vinegar, remove cast iron 4-24 hours late, scrub a bit, and dry out newly unblemished cast iron). Which is just to say: what everyone else has pointed out, and, vinegar can actually be a good and useful thing to put on your cast iron, in the right circumstances.

Bon Appetit has an article on this here, and you can find more with a quick googling.
posted by experiencing a significant gravitas shortfall at 8:07 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Once upon a time, a handsome young man who was in love with my room-mate stripped all the seasoning off of my wok. He was a nice person and I wanted to support his interest in my room-mate, but inside I screamed. Today, however, my wok is fit for everything, including all sorts of acids and other bad treatments. Old-style cookware lives forever..
posted by mumimor at 11:21 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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