Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Cast Iron Pan Seasoning failure #1

I flung myself headlong into seasoning my nice old Griswold cast-iron frying pan (see previous post). After settling on palm oil as a likely seasoning agent, I smeared a heavy layer on, looked up the oil's smoke point on the internet, and cranked the oven up to 450 degrees.

After a few moments, the magic carpet of smell swept me back to a time 20 years earlier...suddenly I was at the Mann Esplanade 3 Movie Theaters in my blue polyester uniform, standing in front of a huge popcorn machine, adding about 2 pounds of kernels to the popper. (I used to sometimes pop 50 pounds of kernels a night. I wonder how many cubic feet of popped popcorn that is.)

If there had been a doubt in my mind that we used palm oil to pop in at the Mann Theaters, it is gone now. I am willing to testify in a court of law that I popped huge amounts of popcorn in heart-clogging palm oil. The smell was unmistakable.

Smoke began wafting from the oven and I shut it off. More wafting. Fan on. Fan on high. Even though the oven was off, the pan kept smoking for a good half hour. I left it in the oven overnight.

The next day I got a comment on my blog saying "Don't use palm oil! It will leave a sticky surface. Try Crisco instead."

It turns out the smoke point of white palm oil is 450 degrees. Who knows what it is for the red palm oil I used.

Ok. Now I have a disgusting, sticky pan. I guess I will have to scrub it down to remove the gunk, then start all over again. I will keep you posted.

The upside is that Greg says the red palm oil helps his dry elbows. Always look for the silver lining.


caryn said...

Suebob, i have a cast iron skillet that I try to use for just about everything! I use Crisco to reseason mine (the shortening) and just so you know, it will smoke for a little while. You're basically burning the oil onto the pan. I open all the windows, put the fan on and pray that my neighbors don't hate me. But it turns out well. :) Oh, you might also want to use foil below to catch drippings.

Lo D Doe said...

My/your Aunt Helen stripped that very pan in a cleaning frenzy, and Mom oiled it with Crisco and hung it in the incinerator we used pre-recycling...
Got a firepit or grill?

Suebob said...

Aunt Helen! She must have had some strong arms to scrub the seasoning off that pan!

No incinerator, no grill. I don't suppose the rice cooker would work...The oven was ok, really - I put down foil. Now I just have to invest in Crisco.

I am glad the palm oil is good for skin care, even though I will feel like I am at Mann Theaters every time I use it.

Professor Salt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Professor Salt said...

Hi Suebob,

Enjoy your blog, thanks for letting me know about it.

My technique for seasoning cast iron works well for me, but requires multiple light coatings rather than one heavy coat.

I use grapeseed oil, hand rub it into every surface, then use a paper towel to leave only the lightest suggestion of oil. Place upside down in a cold oven, then heat to 400 for an hour. Shut the oven off and let everything cool undisturbed. Repeat this every day for a week. I know, I need to get my OCD in check...

Each layer "dries" completely then polymerizes into a hard, varnish-like layer before the next thin coat adheres to it. When using a thick layer of any oil or fat, that gummy, partially polymerized residue is guaranteed to happen, and it'll never cure right. I've done it, I speak from experience.

Though this takes time, it's a durable way to seal and cure iron and plain steel pans.