Debunking myths about cast iron cookware

The use and care of cast iron cookware is almost a religion in many kitchens in America – not to mention outdoor cooking aficionados.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that one should never use soap on cast iron cookware (“It’ll destroy the seasoning!”), or use metal cooking utensils with it (“It’ll scratch the surface!”), or another warning against the heinous crime of disrespecting one’s cast iron.

Thanks to a recent social media post, I was led to a page on Lodge Manufacturing’s Web site.  Lodge makes most of the cast iron cookware produced in the USA, and has been doing so for well over a century.  They offer useful information under the title “10 Myths About Cast Iron Cookware, Busted!”  It turns out that soap won’t ruin the seasoning, and metal utensils won’t scratch the surface if they’re used properly, and you can use cast iron cookware on induction or glass stove tops.

Go read Lodge’s advice to separate the myth from the reality of cast iron cookware.  It’s useful information – and, armed with the facts, you can tell those who give you bad advice on the subject that they’re full of it.

Peter

16 comments

  1. Soap is okay.

    Letting soapy water sit in a cast iron dutch oven that’s been used for over 100 years?

    Yeah. No.

    I, fortunately, did not strip all the seasoning out. Got close.

    Unlike an idiot acquaintance of mine, who scrubbed someone’s prized cast iron down to the bare metal, to get rid of all that icky oil stuff. That did not go over well.

  2. I know a college student who has his own Lodge skillet, and he abused it last semester. While home on break, he sanded it down to bare metal (on purpose) and repeatedly oiled, baked, oiled, baked, re-establishing the seasoning.

    He tested by frying eggs over easy with almost no oil.

    It’s beautiful.

  3. It’s getting hard to find, but the very best cast iron pans you can find are in thrift stores, where kids have turned them in after cleaning out Grandma’s house. They are worlds better than the current production from Lodge (and others).

    Years ago, the final step in manufacture was to grind the inside surface smooth. That is why an old pan (like Grandma’s 80 year old Griswold) is glass-smooth inside. Lodge skips that step to save money, so what you get is the sand-cast surface, slightly rough. It makes a world of difference. You can clean up a Lodge pan – I have done it, but it takes a hell of a lot of work. Like I say, if you see one of the old ones grab it.

  4. Huh. I’ve been cooking with cast iron all my life, and I’ve done all three of those things many times. My seasoning holds. I have an extensive collection, and have been increasing it to give small starters to the kids as they move out.

  5. I found a rusty 18″ fry pan at a flea market for $5. I sandblasted it to bare metal and re-seasoned it. It has a back carbon coating that with the proper amount of butter is non-stick for frying eggs. I donated it to the local Boy Scout chapter. They love it as it can cook a pound of bacon in one use.

  6. Just last week I took an abrasive disc to a relatively new Lodge skillet, then gave it a good washing and a few oil/heat cycles.
    It has much improved nonstick properties now! I expect it’d be even better if I’d put in the extra effort to get it all the way smooth, not just smoother than it was.
    Eventually, I’ll get around to doing the others, maybe using a more suitable tool for the job.

    But what’s that myth about not using metal utensils with cast iron? What the heck other kind of utensils would people have been using for most of the Iron Age? Wood? Bone? Seashells? Amber reinforced with hemp fiber?

  7. If you are going to store cast iron cookware for more than a week or so wash it wth soap and water to remove any animal or vegetable oil/grease (it turns rancid in warm weather) and coat liberally with food grade mineral oil (found at pharmacies and veterinary suppliers). This keeps your cast iron ware from rusting. It will not go rancid, but needs washed for prior to use or the food will taste a little off.
    Flaxseed oil is my preference for seasoning due to its high smoking temp.

  8. Same here for smoothing a new cast iron pan, but I used my the rough side of my carbide sharpening stone to hone the service smooth. Not necessarily as fast as an abrasive disk but it only took a few minutes to get the majority of the grain cut down.

  9. I’d never heard that cast iron was bad on IH and I’m glad Lodge debunks that because it is utter rubbish. What doesn’t work on IH is light aluminum.

    Iron works wonderfully, we use our Le Creuset dishes to slow cook stews and tagines on IH all the time and I suspect it does better than any other indirect heat source to get the heat distributed evenly.

  10. I’ve been known to remove excess “seasoning” from a skillet with a hammer and wooden stake. Still cooks, or maybe I’m just a barbarian.

  11. I’ve done everything, followed all the advice, seasoned with various oils and fats–and everything sticks. I have good Griswold and Wagnerware pans, but they’re collecting dust, because I’m done with cast iron.

    Make me an offer.

  12. I inherited my mother’s old Griswold skillets, but need to remove heavy layers of carbon scale from the outside. ‘Seasoning’ was misunderstood. Glad to hear any ideas or experience.

  13. Um, I bought metal utensils specifically for my cast iron and other metal pans because I’d replaced them all with plastic when I got the teflon coated pots…

    I use my big frying pan on my glass top stove without problems. I don’t bang it into the top, or slide it back and forth though.

    All my cast iron is salvage bought cheap, cleaned up and re-seasoned. The only one I haven’t been able to do is my cast aluminum version, it’s ‘seasoned’ so well the sanding disk won’t even touch it.

    z

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