The "scientific" way to season cast iron

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The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Fred Sipe » Tue May 27, 2014 6:30 pm

I just ran across this. It makes sense to me.

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/ ... cast-iron/
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Tue May 27, 2014 7:01 pm

I saw that one a short while back, Fred, and liked what I read. I haven't had a chance to try it out, though. Please report back if you give it a shot.

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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby John Treder » Tue May 27, 2014 10:34 pm

I like the idea. I'm not so sure I want to spend three days seasoning a pan.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Christina Georgina » Tue May 27, 2014 10:53 pm

If it works, time doesn't matter. I would not be able to do it because my oven [ Miele ] cools itself very quickly, perhaps the only drawback to this oven. There have been some baked goods I would like to cool slowly - cheesecake and pates that just don't work in this oven. A feature that you just never think about when looking at oven appliances.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Howie Hart » Wed May 28, 2014 7:26 am

I'm not sure about the "scientific" thing here. The author only did this once and reported the results shortly after completion, with no results on performance over time.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Bob Henrick » Mon Jun 23, 2014 11:10 am

I participate in a cast iron forum (some would say I live there but I don't). There is a "best way" to season cast iron, and anyone here wanting to have a copy of their way drop me a note and I'll send it to you via email or PM. There really is a right and a wrong way to do this and make it last.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Jun 23, 2014 1:40 pm

Bob Henrick wrote:I participate in a cast iron forum (some would say I live there but I don't). There is a "best way" to season cast iron, and anyone here wanting to have a copy of their way drop me a note and I'll send it to you via email or PM. There really is a right and a wrong way to do this and make it last.

Why not post it here, Bob?
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Bob Henrick » Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:07 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Bob Henrick wrote:I participate in a cast iron forum (some would say I live there but I don't). There is a "best way" to season cast iron, and anyone here wanting to have a copy of their way drop me a note and I'll send it to you via email or PM. There really is a right and a wrong way to do this and make it last.

Why not post it here, Bob?



Will do Robin.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Bob Henrick » Fri Jun 27, 2014 6:59 am

I am posting here on how to clean and season cast iron cookware. Cleaning means how to take all that built up burned gunk off your CI cookware. Click on the link then click on the link embedded in the first post in this thread. This will download a PDF file with a complete pictorial guide on how to clean and season cast iron cookware. As you can see there is more than one way to clean and season cast iron. Example: If you only have one skillet to clean the easiest way is to spray it heavily with a lye containing oven cleaner like "Easy Off" and then double bag it in plastic bags and leave outside where it will get warm in the sun. After about a week, open the bags and spray (water hose but not on your grass) IOW take the lye off the skillet and see if any gunk is soft enough to brush off with a steel brush. DO NOT USE a copper or brass brush. That would impart color to the iron and that area will NEVER season properly. Cast Iron is a subject like wine in that there are questions that this will not answer. No one post could ever take care of all questions of interested parties, however, I will try to answer any you might have, and if I don't have an answer I will go get one. I am also posting a clickable link to the forum I participate on in case anyone would like to look, it is very interesting. There are two sides to the forum, one open to the public, *which is the secon half of the page under General, and one for members only. So, if you find it interesting you might like to sigh-up

http://www.wag-society.org/info/cleanin ... soning.pdf

http://www.griswoldandwagner.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl


And here is a short tutorial on how to season an already cleaned piece.

Seasoning Cast Iron

You know we all have our own ways and methods to season, but the method below has been used by many collectors and cooks alike and it appears to be the BEST for seasoning.

Take the extra time to actually season in the oven as makes a world of difference in the end result.

Once a piece is fully cleaned and dried put it in the oven "naked"; no oil of any kind and heat it to 450°F. Leave it in long enough to just reach that temperature. Be careful and remove the piece from the oven and let it cool to where you can just handle it. This step works great for slightly darkening the piece and giving it a uniform appearance. No one likes a spotted or zebra stripped piece. Use Crisco shortening only and use a cotton rag (t-shirt) to apply a thin/very light coat on the entire piece. If there are tight nooks and crannies to fill in, use a Q-tip.

Once completely and lightly coated (note: we stress a LIGHT coat), put it back in the oven at 400°F for 30 (use a timer) minutes and at that point turn off the oven and leave it in the oven till it cools on it's own.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Jun 27, 2014 9:11 am

Bob Henrick wrote:I am posting here on how to clean and season cast iron cookware.

Thanks for posting, Bob! Detailed and useful.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Bob Henrick » Fri Jun 27, 2014 3:01 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Bob Henrick wrote:I am posting here on how to clean and season cast iron cookware.

Thanks for posting, Bob! Detailed and useful.


Thanks Robin, You might have noticed in the pictorial link that this guy uses a copper scrubbie. I definitely DO NOT recommend this type scrubbie. instead I recommend using a Steel/stainless scrubbie. These are readily available at any grocery store or even at the Dollar General store. A good brand to buy is Chore Boy.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sat Jun 28, 2014 3:08 am

Thanks, Bob.

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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Bob Henrick » Sat Jun 28, 2014 5:03 pm

Fred Sipe wrote:I just ran across this. It makes sense to me.

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/ ... cast-iron/


I tried to read that report Fred, but on my computer it is difficult to read as the formatting is mixed with the message. Do you have another URL perhaps?
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Fred Sipe » Sat Jun 28, 2014 5:11 pm

I'm afraid not, Bob. But here's a copy/paste. Robin, if this is not ok I apologize and please remove it. This is from "Sheryl's Blog" at sherylcanter.com from January 2010.
-----------------------------------------------------------

Start With the Right Oil (It’s Not What You Think)
I’ve read dozens of Web pages on how to season cast iron, and there is no consensus in the advice. Some say vegetable oils leave a sticky surface and to only use lard. Some say animal fat gives a surface that is too soft and to only use vegetable oils. Some say corn oil is the only fat to use, or Crisco, or olive oil. Some recommend bacon drippings since lard is no longer readily available. Some say you must use a saturated fat – that is, a fat that is solid at room temperature, whether it’s animal or vegetable (palm oil, coconut oil, Crisco, lard). Some say never use butter. Some say butter is fine. Some swear by Pam (spray-on canola oil with additives). Some say the additives in Pam leave a residue at high temperatures and pure canola oil is best. Some say it doesn’t matter what oil you use.

They are all wrong. It does matter what oil you use, and the oil that gives the best results is not in this list. So what is it? Here are some hints: What oil do artists mix with pigment for a high quality oil paint that dries hard and glassy on the canvas? What oil is commonly used by woodturners to give their sculptures a protective, soft-sheen finish? It’s the same oil. Now what is the food-grade equivalent of this oil?

The oil used by artists and woodturners is linseed oil. The food-grade equivalent is called flaxseed oil. This oil is ideal for seasoning cast iron for the same reason it’s an ideal base for oil paint and wood finishes. It’s a “drying oil”, which means it can transform into a hard, tough film. This doesn’t happen through “drying” in the sense of losing moisture through evaporation. The term is actually a misnomer. The transformation is through a chemical process called “polymerization”.

The seasoning on cast iron is formed by fat polymerization, fat polymerization is maximized with a drying oil, and flaxseed oil is the only drying oil that’s edible. From that I deduced that flaxseed oil would be the ideal oil for seasoning cast iron.

As a reality check of this theory, I googled “season cast iron with flaxseed oil” to see what came up. The very first hit is a page written by a guy who seasons his cast iron cookware with linseed oil from the hardware store because it gives the hardest surface of anything he’s tried. (I’m not sure how safe that is; I don’t recommend it.) Below that were several sites selling traditional cast iron cookware from China, which they advertise as being “preseasoned with high quality flax oil”. I don’t know whether they really use food-grade flaxseed oil (which is expensive) or linseed oil from a hardware store. What’s significant is the claim. Seasoning with high quality flaxseed oil is something to brag about.

With this encouragement, I stripped one of my skillets and reseasoned it with flaxseed oil. As you can see in the picture above, the result was a dramatic improvement. The finish is smooth, hard, and evenly colored.

Seasoning Is Not Cooking: Different Principles Apply
The first time I seasoned a pan I chose avocado oil because it’s monounsaturated and doesn’t easily go rancid. It also has the highest smoke point of any edible oil, 520°F, so I could heat it in a 450°F oven without passing the smoke point. I knew that when cooking, you should never heat an oil past its smoke point because that causes the release of “free radicals”, which are carcinogenic. I was careful not to choose a polyunsaturated oil – and especially not an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – because these are especially vulnerable to breakdown with heat and the release of free radicals.

Ironically, it’s for exactly these reasons that the best oil for seasoning cast iron is an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – in particular, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Free radicals are actually what enable the polymerization. Drying oils, which produce the hardest polymers, are characterized by high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acid ALA.

The lard that was traditionally used for seasoning 100 years ago was much higher in ALA than fat from pigs today, because back then pigs ate their natural diet. Today they are raised on industrial feedlots and forced to eat grain, making their fat low in omega-3s.

Since lard is traditional but no longer readily available, many people substitute bacon drippings, but this is a bad idea. If it’s conventional bacon, you’re baking in carcinogenic nitrates. But even organic bacon is not good for an initial seasoning because it’s filled with salt.

The reason that Pam seems to work well in seasoning is that its main ingredient is canola oil, which is relatively high in ALA (10%), making it a “semi-drying oil”. Flaxseed oil, a drying oil, is 57% ALA. But it’s not a good idea to use a spray oil, no matter what oil it’s made with, because of its additives. You’re doing chemistry here. If you want good results, use pure ingredients.

Fat polymerization can be triggered or accelerated in a variety of ways. As best I can tell from my reading, the cast iron seasoning process is an example of “radical polymerization”. The process is initiated when something causes the release of free radicals in the oil. The free radicals then “crosslink” to form the tough, hard film you see in a well-seasoned pan.

So what is the “something” that initiates the release of free radicals in fat? Iron, for one thing. High heat, light, and oxygen, for some others. To prevent cooking oils from going rancid – i.e., breaking down and releasing free radicals – you need to store them in dark, tightly sealed containers in a cool location. To initiate or accelerate the release of free radicals, put the oil in contact with bare iron and heat it above its smoke point, which will cause even non-drying oils to release free radicals.

I haven’t defined “free radical” or “crosslink” because that gets into details of chemistry that you don’t need to understand to season a cast iron pan. All you need to know is that the molecular structure of the oil changes and becomes something else, something tough and solid. The process is initiated with the release of free radicals, which then become crosslinked, creating a hard surface.

Free radicals are carcinogenic inside your body, and also a cause of aging. So don’t ever heat oil you’re going to eat above its smoke point. If the oil starts to smoke, toss it out and start again. When you’re seasoning a pan, you’re not cooking food. By the time the seasoned pan comes out of the oven, there are no more free radicals.

The Recipe for Perfect Cast Iron Seasoning
The basic idea is this: Smear a food-grade drying oil onto a cast iron pan, and then bake it above the oil’s smoke point. This will initiate the release of free radicals and polymerization. The more drying the oil, the harder the polymer. So start with the right oil.

Go to your local health food store or organic grocery and buy a bottle of flaxseed oil. It’s sold as an omega-3 supplement and it’s in the refrigeration section because it goes rancid so easily. Check the expiration date to make sure it’s not already rancid. Buy an organic flaxseed oil. You don’t want to burn toxic chemicals into your cookware to leach out forever more. It’s a fairly expensive oil. I paid $17 for a 17 ounce bottle of cold-pressed, unrefined, organic flaxseed oil. As it says on the bottle, shake it before you use it.

Strip your pan down to the iron using the techniques I describe in my popover post. Heat the pan in a 200°F oven to be sure it’s bone dry and to open the pores of the iron a little. Then put it on a paper towel, pour a little flaxseed oil on it (don’t forget to shake the bottle), and rub the oil all over the pan with your hands, making sure to get into every nook and cranny. Your hands and the pan will be nice and oily.

Now rub it all off. Yup – all. All. Rub it off with paper towels or a cotton cloth until it looks like there is nothing left on the surface. There actually is oil left on the surface, it’s just very thin. The pan should look dry, not glistening with oil. Put the pan upside down in a cold oven. Most instructions say to put aluminum foil under it to catch any drips, but if your oil coating is as thin as it should be, there won’t be any drips.

Turn the oven to a baking temperature of 500°F (or as high as your oven goes – mine only goes to 450°F) and let the pan preheat with the oven. When it reaches temperature, set the timer for an hour. After an hour, turn off the oven but do not open the oven door. Let it cool off with the pan inside for two hours, at which point it’s cool enough to handle.

The pan will come out of the oven a little darker, but matte in texture – not the semi-gloss you’re aiming for. It needs more coats. In fact, it needs at least six coats. So again rub on the oil, wipe it off, put it in the cold oven, let it preheat, bake for an hour, and let it cool in the oven for two hours. The picture above was taken after six coats of seasoning. At that point it starts to develop a bit of a sheen and the pan is ready for use.

If you try this, you will be tempted to use a thicker coat of oil to speed up the process. Don’t do it. It just gets you an uneven surface – or worse, baked on drips. Been there, done that. You can’t speed up the process. If you try, you’ll mess up the pan and have to start over.

The reason for the very hot oven is to be sure the temperature is above the oil’s smoke point, and to maximally accelerate the release of free radicals. Unrefined flaxseed oil actually has the lowest smoke point of any oil (see this table). But the higher the temperature the more it will smoke, and that’s good for seasoning (though bad for eating – do not let oils smoke during cooking).

I mentioned earlier there’s a myth floating around that vegetable oils leave a sticky residue. If the pan comes out of the oven sticky, the cause is one of three things:

You put the oil on too thick.
Your oven temperature was too low.
Your baking time was too short.
It’s possible to use a suboptimal oil for seasoning, like Crisco or bacon drippings, and still end up with a usable pan. Many (most) people do this. But the seasoning will be relatively soft, not as nonstick, and will tend to wear off. If you want the hardest, slickest seasoning possible, use the right oil: flaxseed oil.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Jun 28, 2014 5:33 pm

Fred Sipe wrote:. But here's a copy/paste. Robin, if this is not ok I apologize and please remove it. This is from "Sheryl's Blog" at sherylcanter.com from January 2010.

Fine with me, Fred! You gave full credit and sought to provide a link. Posting the plain text after encountering a tech issue with their site seems entirely fair to me, and if anybody complains, I'll take the shot. 8)
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby MichaelB » Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:27 am

Fred, thanks for posting this link. Sheryl Canter not only debunks a lot of myths about seasoning but offers clear directions on how to season and responds reasonably to questions. She also offers in clickable links advice on how to remove finish on Lodge pans so as to start over with her process. I was lucky enough to inherit four pre-1950 Griswold and Wagner pans. I don’t know the process my forebears used, but it still works—my GF didn’t believe it till she saw it, but I turn the pan upside-down and the cornbread just falls out intact. Using Canter’s oven method, though, will have to wait until next winter! It’s in the 90’s here at 4000’.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Bob Henrick » Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:29 am

Thanks for posting her blog Fred. As of yesterday the cast iron forum is down with server problems, but I will run what ms. Canter has to say past the forum when it returns. I am sure there has been conversations on WAGS (Wagner and Griswold Society) about her seasoning instructions, but I don't remember what was said. What she said about flax seed seem (to me) to make some sense, but I seem to remember that was a point of contention over there. I will say that her basic instruction are "right on" what with wiping the oil out leaving the thinnest coat of oil before putting the pan into the oven. It seems to me that the argument on WAGS was that the flax seed seasoning over a few month will begin to flake off.

As I said, I will run this by the WAGS forum and will report back here with their reasoning. IMO properly seasoned cast iron is the best cookware money can buy, but I would also say that it is best to buy cast iron from the first half of the 20th century. Some names to look for are Wagner Ware, Griswold, Piqua ware, Wapak, Erie, and older Lodge, Modern Day Lodge is the only cast iron (to my knowledge) that is still made in the USA, but it is not the same as that made from 1850 - 1950. then it was made from ore, and now it is mostly made from scrap iron. Then it was made by hand, and now it is machine made. then the cookware was much thinner, especially skillets, and pots/pans. All cookware then was much smoother cast and was lighter, easier to lift. Older cast iron cookware is often available from a Goodwill store, or perhaps from a scrap iron dealer, or an antique store (Highest prices) or from Ebay. Anyone looking for cast iron skillets etc, and having questions can pm or email me and I will try to help with honest answers.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Howie Hart » Tue Jul 15, 2014 12:24 pm

Last week I rinsed my 10" cast iron frying pan, and set it on a burner to dry it and forgot to turn off the burner. The seasoning was destroyed, so I re-seasoned it. To clean it, I used my mother's technique. I placed the piece in the oven during a self-cleaning cycle and it came out very clean, with just a light bit of rust dust. I scrubbed with a SS scrubbie and reseasoned with a few coats of Crisco. Looks great! The oven needed cleaning anyways, so 2 birds...
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Fred Sipe » Tue Jul 15, 2014 1:58 pm

I've also read, but not tried, that a great way to "clean" cast iron for re-seasoning is just to toss it into a bonfire. Remove when all cool. Interesting.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Fred Sipe » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:04 pm

Howie Hart wrote:Last week I rinsed my 10" cast iron frying pan, and set it on a burner to dry it and forgot to turn off the burner. The seasoning was destroyed, so I re-seasoned it. To clean it, I used my mother's technique. I placed the piece in the oven during a self-cleaning cycle and it came out very clean, with just a light bit of rust dust. I scrubbed with a SS scrubbie and reseasoned with a few coats of Crisco. Looks great! The oven needed cleaning anyways, so 2 birds...


I've used the self-cleaning oven trick too.

I may be overly anal but after I use mine I wipe out with paper towels reheating a bit first if necessary. Then I simmer some water in and stir/scrape with a silicone spatula if needed, rinse, wipe out and put it back on the burner to dry. Then when dry, add small amount of crisco and wipe it around with a paper towel then leave it on the burner on med low heat until it starts smoking... then turn the burner off and give a final wipe with a paper towel and leave to cool on the burner.

Good idea? Bad process? Overthought and unnecessary?
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Robin Garr » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:43 pm

Fred Sipe wrote:Good idea? Bad process? Overthought and unnecessary?

I wouldn't want to judge, but it's a lot more than Mary or I do. 8)
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Bob Henrick » Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:16 pm

Fred Sipe wrote:I've used the self-cleaning oven trick too.

I may be overly anal but after I use mine I wipe out with paper towels reheating a bit first if necessary. Then I simmer some water in and stir/scrape with a silicone spatula if needed, rinse, wipe out and put it back on the burner to dry. Then when dry, add small amount of crisco and wipe it around with a paper towel then leave it on the burner on med low heat until it starts smoking... then turn the burner off and give a final wipe with a paper towel and leave to cool on the burner.

Good idea? Bad process? Overthought and unnecessary?


Fred,

I would say that your system is the proper way to clean or prepare your cast iron. This is also what I do with mine. My only problem is that I can't seem to get my son to use this system no matter how hard I try, no matter how many times he sees me do it.

As to cleaning it in the bonfire, that is absolutely the most guaranteed way to destroy cast iron. It will give the metal a rusty look that is not rust, and will never come clean again. It will also never hold a seasoning again as well. Checkout the link below. The Panman is a recognized cast iron cookware expert and has published or co-published several books on the subject of cast iron. I own two of his co-published books.

http://www.panman.com/cleaning.html
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Doug Surplus » Wed Jul 16, 2014 12:21 am

Fred Sipe wrote:I've also read, but not tried, that a great way to "clean" cast iron for re-seasoning is just to toss it into a bonfire. Remove when all cool. Interesting.


I tried that once on a dutch oven that was severely rusted. It took off the rust, but the pot cracked before I got it out of the fire.
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Re: The "scientific" way to season cast iron

Postby Fred Sipe » Wed Jul 16, 2014 12:17 pm

Good to know Bob and Doug. I guess you can't believe everything you read on the internet, huh? ;)
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