Food for Thought

I hate my cast iron skillet

Am I Allowed To Say That I Hate This?

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and sometimes it chucks a cast iron skillet at your head and knocks you on your ass. But apart from being able to inflict some serious damage on someone, I am not really sure what the point of a cast iron skillet is.  I know not loving your cast iron is culinary heresy, but I just have to put it out there that CAST IRON SKILLETS ARE THE WORST – They’re heavy, they’re incredibly high maintenance, everything sticks to them, they’re a nightmare to clean, and everyone makes a lot of promises about them that never come to fruition. They are an impatient foodie’s worst nightmare when it comes to kitchen equipment.  [peekaboo_content]

The allure of a cast iron started for me when a chef told me that hers was so well seasoned that some magical thing (that I can’t even remember) happened to her food when she cooked with it.  Well, for over two years now, I have been cooking with my skillet, giving it nightly oil massages, and singing it a lullaby before going to bed and NOTHING IS HAPPENING. In fact, my cast iron just seems to demand more from me the more I give to it. I sometimes find myself giving it the stink eye. I never knew you could be annoyed by and feel resentment for an inanimate object.

I am totally perplexed by the love for the cast irons that I hear everywhere and read on the Internet. In a comment forum on the NYTimes, a woman cheerily states that her cast iron made her French toast taste like stir fry from the night before — IS THIS A GOOD THING? You know what my food tastes like? IRON – because the iron off the pan melts into my food and I have to eat it.

Granted, cast irons do have two things going for them: They’re inexpensive and they’ll last you forever. But I swear to God, as you are standing over a sink giving your cast iron its biweekly salt scrub massage you’ll realize that you’ll never get this time in your life back, and that maybe an extra $20 is not such a big deal. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it does last forever, but mine will be lasting forever in a drawer far from my sight and not driving me out of my mind.

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Join the conversation

  • JK

    Maybe you’re just trying too hard… Don’t clean and scrub it so much – no wonder everything is sticking to it and you don’t get your magical seasoning!
    And if you do really feel like giving up, just read an article about the nasty side effects of all those other supposedly non-sticky pans out there…
    Come to think of it, it really is like a relationship: trying harder doesn’t always do the trick…
    But then again, I do suffer from iron deficiency so maybe I’m biased!

    • Hey JK! Thanks for your reply 🙂 I have tried the lower maintenance route and the cast iron still manages to drive me nuts 🙁 It seems everyone has a “special secret” for how to care for their cast iron, but non of them work for me. I agree that the non-stick stuff is toxic, and I try to use untreated pans. Thanks again for your reply and hope you are well! – Elettra

  • Mark

    Sounds like your pan is not seasoned well. There is a lot of great advice on the web and a lot of bad.

    First you want to strip whatever seasoning is on the pan. I’ve found the easiest is to use lye based oven cleaner and a plastic bag. Put the pan in a plastic bag (no holes). Spray the pan all over with oven cleaner. Wear gloves and do it outdoors. Fold the bag closed to keep the cleaner from drying. If you can put the bag in the sun the heat will speed up the process. The pan will be stripped down to the bare gray iron but can take up to 24 hours. When you think its done wash with soap and water. Repeat the oven cleaner if needed.

    With the pan stripped pre-heat your oven to about 200 F. Put the pan in there to thoroughly dry for 10 to 15 minutes. Take out (potholder time) and rub cooking oil all over the pan with a paper towel. I like cooking spray since you can really control the amount delivered but liquid canola or sunflower oil work fine too. Now take a clean paper towel and wipe the oil off. Do this wipe off a couple of times until the paper towel looks clean. You’ve left just enough oil to season. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half at 450 – 500 F. Use an outdoor propane or gas grill to keep the inevitable smoke and smell outdoors. When time is up, turn off the heat and let the grill sand iron cool naturally. Repeat the oiling and baking two or three more times. Proper seasoning will not be sticky.

    I like a little spray cooking oil wiped over my cast iron when storing it.

    I find my cast iron cleans far easier than any other pan. And if I ruin the seasoning, I just re-season. Short of cracking cast iron you can’ destroy it. Try that with a Teflon coated pan.

    Go ahead clean the cast iron with soap after using it! Our modern dish soaps are tough on grease but not baked on seasoning. The heat has turned the seasoning oil into — essentially — a high temperature plastic. The myth about not using soap comes from the days when people made their own soap with lye and left a lot of unreacted lye in the soap. That is what ate seasoning. A normal sink cleaning (no dishwasher) and a light oil coat after normal drying will eliminate taste transfer.

    If after cooking you’re left with a sticky spot, just make make sure to coat that area lightly with oil. It will soak into the sticky stuff and after you warm the cast iron to cook, you’ll be able to wipe most of the sticky off. When cooking make sure to pre-heat three to five minutes. Cast iron is a lousy conductor of heat. Takes a few minutes to warm up evenly. But it won’t flash cool when you toss a cold steak in it.

    Really the only extra step I do as compared to my non cast iron cookware is the light coat of oil when storing it. That gives me a chance to check the condition of the seasoning. If you cook a lot of acidic things (like tomatoes) the seasoning will get roughed up and need a stripping and re-seasoning.

    Hope this helps. I think you’re going to start appreciating your cast iron.

  • How could I hate a skillet that was passed down from my little French grandfather who was an amazing cook? Oftentimes before I use it (which is almost everyday) I stop and do some bicep curls while thanking him for teaching me how to cook/love food, over six decades ago. Oh Joy!

  • SuperChef

    Cast iron is not “fast iron.” You don’t just take it out of the bag, plop it on the stove and start cooking. It’s destined to become a revered member of the family and must be understood and treated with the utmost respect. It will outlast and outlive you and every one of your antecedents & descendants for all of eternity. It will soak up the very soul of the household that loves it and give back ten fold, but you must season it with care from the get-go. Once it’s done, it’s done. Clearly, you did not grow up with this time-honored piece of kitchen royalty and have no need for it. You’d be happier with teflon. You were made for each other.

    • admin

      I actually don’t use Teflon anything, but I agree that your cast iron skillet sounds way more magical than mine. And mine is definitely not a revered member of my family, it’s just a thing we cook in occasionally. I think the fact that is not a “fast iron” is actually the point here? ICYMI, this site is called IMPATIENT foodie, so I am not sure what’s so disappointing about the fact that I don’t worship a piece of kitchen equipment that requires a lot of extra TLC. That being said, I can appreciate that something in this post rubbed you the wrong way and I apologize for that. Most of my writing is tongue and cheek, so I hope you did not take it too literally! I hope that I can grow to be a better cast iron owner, like yourself 🙂 Take care and hope you are enjoying the weekend!

  • Sounds to me like you give it far too much care. Or you’ve just bought a bad product.

    Here’s how I care for mine: I cook with it, then it usually stays there for a day or so. Next I scrub it with dish scrubber under hot water. Then I dry it and either use it again or put some oil in it and put it away. That’s all the care it needs. And it works perfectly. No sticky food, no metallic taste.

  • This is an old post, and I don’t know if you’ve changed your mind since you wrote it, but I just found it by googling “I hate using cast iron” because I desperately needed to know I wasn’t alone. You have said everything I thought.