Do I need to re-season my cast-iron pan?
February 6, 2020 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Hi folks. I have a big ol' cast-iron frying pan. It was working fine, but I washed it and accidentally left it on the lit burner to dry for like half an hour. It had a layer of black powder (soot?) in it, so I cleaned that off. The bottom was kind of rough, so I used a piece of wadded-up aluminum foil to scrape it flat. Now it's dull and silvery, and there are a few flecks of aluminum foil that refuse to come off.

1. Do I need to re-season it at this point?
2. How do I get the foil bits off? Just scrub it?
3. What exactly should I do to re-season it? It's been a while.

Pics are here.
posted by Slinga to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd wash it, wipe some vegetable oil on it and then heat it on the stovetop. Let it cool, wipe it down with a paper towel and put it away.

It's only in our recent era of Youtube how-tos that we have come to think of things like this as full of rules and the Right Ways and Wrong Ways. Just use it and wipe it clean after every use.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:47 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]

Haha I've been in your shoes recently! I did the exact same thing and let the pan on what I thought was low, but wasn't. I pretty much just did a mini re-season, rubbing oil on the problem spot and then sticking it in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes a few times. Worked fine!
posted by Carillon at 1:36 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you burned the seasoning off. That's the black powder that you saw. They're easy to re-season though - just put some oil in it (I use olive, don't know why) and stick it in a hot oven, 400 or so, for about half an hour. Turn the oven off, leave the pan in there. When it's fully cooled off, do it again. When it cools off after the second time, take it out, dump the oil out, wipe it out with paper towels and hey presto it's basically reaseasoned. It may take some cooking to get it all the way back up to where it was but essentially it's done. Pro-tip: you can always fry stuff in several inches of oil in it to deliciously hasten the full seasoning along; this is a good thing to do if it starts getting dull and cranky anytime.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:37 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

"Chainmail scrubbers" are exactly what they sound like, small linked metal rings in washcloth form, and I've found mine pretty handy for elbow-grease removing of burned-on stuck bits of char (and foil in this case!) stuff. The worst stuck-on-char mishap I had also benefited from putting some extremely salted water in the skillet, and leaving it on burner till most of the water boiled away. Then as soon as it was safe to handle again, scrubbing did much better at taking off the problem bits.

Then just reseason after. There's plenty of techniques that modern Content Creation(tm) likes to overplay the effectiveness of to make people think if it's not glossy perfect better than any non-stick coating you must be doing it wrong (be sure to leave a comment below and watch my other videos Top 30 Mistakes YOU Are Making With Cast Iron!, smash that bell button); they all boil down to just lightly coat with oil, heat, wipe off excess when you can do so safely. Expect to repeat that now and then. Cast iron's nifty, but not magic. (Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.)
posted by Drastic at 1:45 PM on February 6 [7 favorites]

Yep, there's all kinds of ridiculously complicated instructions for re-seasoning cast iron out there, but the best way is still to fry a pound of bacon (or falafel or coconut oil or something if you're veggie) in there and just keep using it.

Your pan isn't bad at all. I honestly wouldn't bother with "re-seasoning," just rinse it out and keep using it as usual.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:46 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

Just to add to the above excellent advice, if the pan isn't developing any rust spots then one or maybe two casual re-season cycles should be fine. If you do find rust you'll need to wash/scrub it off, thoroughly dry the pan, you'll need to do additional re-season cycles to build the protective layer back up.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:11 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

All of the advice above is perfect and you can definitely fix this issue and re-season your pan using stuff you already have at home (salt, cooking oil, low/slow heat, etc.)


I bought some of this cast iron conditioner at my local craft fair a few months back on a whim and it. is. AMAZING. No other single oil I've ever used (this is an oil blend + chunky sea salt scrub) has ever been as instantly effective as this stuff at both cleaning AND reseasoning. My pans are SO GLOSSY and food just bounces off of them. I LOVE it.
posted by helloimjennsco at 2:17 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]

What I do whenever I have a cast iron pan that I need to get a better season on is just cook with it using oil. After I finish and scrub it out with water and a brush I'll throw it on a burner, get it good and hot and pour in a splash of canola oil, rub it all around the inside with a paper towel and wait for the faintest hint of smoke before I kill the heat.

This is only for the first few cooking cycles, after that I find it's got a well established season and further cycles of post cooking oiling is unnecessary.
posted by Ferreous at 2:38 PM on February 6

Everybody has a strong opinion about caring for cast iron so of course I do, too. I use a metal scrubby instead of chain mail, and I think it will work way better than foil to scrub anything that gets cooked on. I seldom use soap on the inside, occasionally on the outside if it's greasy. And if it needs seasoning, I make bacon or other food with lots of fat -potato cakes, fried tofu. My older pans stay seasoned and non-stick, a newer pan usually needs oil, they're all a pleasure to use.
posted by theora55 at 4:27 PM on February 6

I currently have the best season of my life on my cast iron pan, which has occurred after I heated the pan at 450 for an hour, put in way too much butter and a big ol' salmon filet, then put it back in the oven and cooked the fish.

So, the best way to season in my experience it is to cook with it, and just use a lot of oil the first couple of times. I've tried all the fancy step-by-step stuff and it's never been as good as this.
posted by dbx at 11:15 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]

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