Food Sticking to Cast Iron

I have two cast iron skillets. I do not use them often, but when I do everything sticks to them no matter what it is or even if I cook something with oil or grease in it. Bacon sticks to them for heaven's sake! Please, how do I stop this from happening? Thank You!

Debbie from Garden City, MI

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it's best to cure and season (thats what my grandpaw allways called it) your cast iron items, especially after you first buy them and before there first use. But you can do the same thing periodically and they will do better. He would do this before its first use or at intervienal times. Rub pure lard around the whole inside really good coating it and rubbing the lard into the skillets inside sides and bottom so that it's a thin layer worked in well, then he would heat the oven to 300 degrees and cook it for an hour, then just remove the skillet and hang up or store to use. If doing that you'll see that it cooks better with no sticking, washes easier and does not rust. And always wipe your skillet dry after you wash it do not let it air dry that will promote rust set up sooner. You also use less oil to cook with if you cure it this way. I have alot of cast iron items that were my grandparents and mine were all treated this way and ones i buy in yard sales that are rusted i treat the same way and they do fine. hope that helps.

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I was told to never wash them; only wipe out with a dishcloth. I have washed anyway and I have "cured" over and over again and ALL my food still continues to stick. My mother never had this problem and neither does my brother. The only thing I can figure out why their food never sticks is because they are cooking with gas heat whereas I cook with electricity. I have tried turned down the heat and that doesn't work.

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Another thing, I always cure using canola oil. Is lard the answer?

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Once your cast iron is seasoned and after you use it, do not wash it in soap water, just use water. Soap will remove your seasoning. After I bake pancakes, fry potatoes, etc., I just get a clean rag or paper towel and wipe it clean. I have no trouble with things sticking. Every time I use my skillet I get the skillet hot first, then I put in my cold oil, shortening, or whatever I'm using. The hot skillet combined with the cold fat will help keep it from sticking too.

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I have owned cast iron cookware ever since i got marred 44 years ago. this has always worked for me. after you wash and dry them put them on a burner on the stove. add a palm full of table salt shake the pan to distribute te salt. turn the burner on (DON'T FORGET IT) leave the stove on until the salt turns brown. Turn the stove off let the pan cool then wipe out the salt with a paper towel. Then use another paper towel to put a lite coating of cooking oil on the inside of the skillet.

You can also bake the skillet with the salt in it on high until the salt is brown. then coat it after it cools. my mother used to call this curing the cast iron.

Try it.

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You probably need to reseason your cast iron pan. :)

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Sometimes when I go camping, I bring my cast iron pans with me and throw them in the the camp fire. Anything that is burnt on the bottom of the pan will burn right off and you are left with a clean pan. Leave it in the fire till the following morning. Wash it well once cooled and then season it with lard.

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It may be that you have a poor quality iron skillet...and seasoning just won't take, or the surface is too rough to season. Check out this information..there are many other great reference websites out there too. Consider getting a griswold skillet.

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Canola oil won't season it the way shortening or lard will. Solid fats are what you need. And while it is new, don't cook liquids in it or boil anything in it, like pasta or whatnot... it's not a saucepan. That weakens seasoning on any skillet. Making skillet cornbread, where I heat the bacon grease in the skillet in a 400 degree oven til barely smoking, then pour in the cornbread batter all at once and bake in the skillet, is the best way I know of to boost the nonstick performance. But as someone else said, a crappy skillet won't ever do you right, and an antique one is worth the money. Also, like others said, don't use soap or detergent, never submerge it in water. Some people even refuse to rinse theirs with water, and instead scrub it with a natural brush and wipe clean.

Oh, and if you want to get rid of everything caked on an antique skillet, or say something gets burned on and you need to take it down to the bare iron and start from scratch making a brand-new seasoning? clean and dry it, and put it in a self-cleaning oven while the cleaning cycle goes. Hours later, your oven will unlock, and your skillet will have everything except bare iron burned to ash. You can then start the process of seasoning it from scratch, which will turn your gray iron a gleaming deep black when you are through.

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I've been cooking with cast iron pans for well over 40 years now (I just LOVE them!) & here's the secret; you have to CONDITION them either with lard or with Crisco if you're a vegetarian. You slather the Lard or the Crisco on to the pan EVERYWHERE, top, bottom, inside & out & even the handle. Then you bake this grease into the pan at about 250 degrees for overnight, or at least an hour or two or even three or 4 hours at 200 deg, then leave the pan to sit in the oven overnight after you've turned it off. This bakes the oil in to the pan. Also whenever you clean cast iron pans, don't use dish soap unless you absolutely have to!

Just wipe them off with a paper towel or if they are really dirty, then scrub them a bit with a nylon scrubber brush or sponge, then dry them off by setting the damp pan on the kitchen stove & turning a burner on low for several minutes (never leave the burner unattended!) After you've dried them off on the burner you'll need to either spray them with Pam any kind of oil (everywhere) I like olive oil, but any oil or Crisco will do. Then to store them, stack the oiled pans together with a paper towel over, under & between each pan. You'll want to make sure they are totally dry & protected before you put them away.

* You can't cook everything in cast iron, because some things will cook the conditioning right off the pan. If you make anything with tomato sauce (Like spaghetti sauce) it will remove your pan's conditioning & you'll have to recondition it (but on the good side, this will also put iron in your food!) The best things to cook in your cast iron pans are things with oil or fat in them like stir fried veggies, hamburgers & fried meat, tortillas & quesadillas (you can melt the cheese by placing another pan the same size or a ceramic plate over the top as a lid , then turn the burner off).

Also pancakes cook nicely in cast iron pans & the very best thing to cook is corn bread. Bake it right in the pan & place it in the oven. I also like to bake quiches, omelets & Frittata's, fried onions & mushrooms. Just stay away from anything that's cooked with water... (water will remove the "conditioning") But I have made fettuccine in cast iron. But be ready to re-condition your pan if you try it.

---> The older your pan is the better (If it's been well taken care of) & usually an older inexpensive pan will work better than a new, top of the line brand. It's all about the conditioning & taking care of the pans... mostly by drying them on a burner, then wiping them with a bit of oil & stacking them with a paper towel on top & under them. If you do this, they can easily out-live you & last many decades. My best Cast iron pans have come from swap-meats & thrift stores. I've found old rusty ones & just cleaned them up with a bit of steel wool, them greased them up & baked them (to condition them) & even though they looked old & rusty, they can become as good as new with just a wee bit of TLC. But basically a pan that's good to cook with is Black in color, & a new pan will be a pewter color & an old, uncared for pan will be rust-colored.

*** Also, don't ever throw out a cast iron pan when you are cleaning up an old basement or garage as some are worth a small fortune to collectors (Do some research)

Most people don't want to hassle with the care it takes to keep a pan dry & oiled, so they will buy a Teflon pan, but there's nothing that cooks as evenly as cast iron & as I said, they will last forever as long as you know what to cook in them & what not to cook in them. If you run them through the dishwasher, you'll have to recondition them. So I'll usually take a dirty greasy pan & scrub it in the sink with a nylon brush & just a wee bit of dish soap, then rinse it off, & dry it on a burner, then spray with Pam & store in the cupboard or hang it on the wall. One last thing, Cast Iron pans stay hot & can continue to cook after they've been taken off the burner. The more you use your cast iron the better!

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I have broken all of the rules cited above and still have great luck with my cast iron pans. I wash them in soap and water and I let them air dry, too. (NEVER wash in the dishwasher). It's been so long since I seasoned them that I have forgotten what I used, but it was probably Crisco.

This is what I do: I'm continually conditioning the pan. If it starts to look like things are going to stick, I put a dab of oil (like 1/2 tsp.) in the pan, wipe it dry with a paper napkin or towel, and store for the next use. The bottom of the pan will gleam, but it won't be greasy. I always preheat the pan on the stove and spray with nonstick spray (such as Pam) before using. I used electric ranges for the first 30 years and gas for the last 10, and I haven't seen any difference.

My pans are about 40 years old (except for one that is 68 years old) and are mostly Wagner.I have noticed that the newer Lodge pans have a stippled finish and aren't as non-stick. My son has one, but it took him a LONG time to get it so food didn't stick.

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Perhaps another problem is learning the way your pan heats up. Cast iron will keep heating beyond the temp of another pan on the same setting. The heavy metal gathers and releases the heat to the food. I remember it took me several frustrating months before I could finally turn out bacon and eggs with the yolks whole. Go slowly and wait for the pan to reach the heat needed. If the element and pan become too hot, even turning it back down will probably leave you with burnt food. Keep the pan oiled as advised and perhaps try practicing with one food until you know you have 'the touch'. It is worth it.

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I grew up with cast iron & I don't have a problem. I have 3 different skillets & the one I inherited from my brother is bowed in the center from being used on high, gas stoves, but it doesn't stick , I just don't like it because I have a smoothtop electric range & it slides. I don't wash my cast iron unless I make refried beans usually just leave the left over oil in the pan & store it in your oven. I clean mine once a year in my self cleaning oven, then reseason it. I use bacon grease & put it in the oven on 170, overnight. I have a small one I do tortilla's in It gets dry from all the flower dusting & sfter each use I rub it with bacon grease & turn the burner on low & leave it until it starts smoking then turn it off & let it cool down, hope this helps.

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In This Article
A pot with food stuck to the lid.
Preventing Food from Sticking
Food and Recipes Food Tips Cooking TipsJuly 14, 2008
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