Your new pan has been seasoned, but it is NOT non-stick!
Every time you use the pan, you are adding a teensy bit to the season. This is what makes the surface improve over time.
Here are some tips for best performance:
- Always cook with some form of oil, butter, or lard to keep food from sticking.
- Cooking fatty foodsis great for the pan. Avoid things with sugar - it tends to burn and stick.
- Heat the pan slowly. Make sure the pan is hot before adding the oil and the oil is fully hot before adding food.
- Use a smooth-edged spatula that has no sharp corners (metal is just fine).
- Avoid highly acidic foods like tomatoes, lemons, or vinegar - the acid can damage the season.
- Wash it with hot water and a washcloth or sponge. Try to avoid soap, but use it if you need it to remove burnt food.
- Dry immediately and thoroughly! You can heat it up on the stove a little to help dry it completely.
Do I need to season my pan?
Your new pan has been seasoned in the oven with oil to prevent rust. However, you should season the pan in the oven a few more times before you begin using it. This is not required, but now is the best time. You should re-season the pan occasionally.
Here is the process I use for oven seasoning:
1. Place the pan in a cold oven and turn the temperature to 500 degrees.
2. After 5-6 minutes, carefully remove the pan and let the oven keep heating up (the pan should be about 300°)
3. Rub the hot pan with a thin layer of cooking oil or pure lard.
4. Wipe out the inside of the pan with a lint-free cloth until it is dry. It will seem like you wiped out all the oil that you just put there. This is important! Excess oil will pool up and may create sticky spots. (no need to wipe the outside, though)
5. Place the pan upside down in the oven for one hour.
6. After 70 minutes, turn off the oven, leaving it closed with the pan inside until the oven has cooled down.
This is the basic method for seasoning. There is a better way - see below.
Can I season the pan on the stove?
Yes, and stovetop seasoning is actually far more effective than the oven method. However, it does take a little more work and creates quite a bit of smoke.
You should apply only two, maybe three, layers of season at a time with this method. If you keep going until the surface is black and glossy (and yes, you can make it look like a Steinway), you'll fill your house with smoke and, for reasons I do not fully understand, the season will flake off after several uses.
Here is the process I use for stovetop seasoning:
1. Slowly heat the clean pan on the stove until it just starts to smoke. This is pretty hot, so don't go much past the first point of smoking.
2. Open a window or turn on a fan.
3. Using a paper towel, wipe the inside of the pan with a thin layer of cooking oil (I like to use grapeseed oil). It will smoke.
4. When the smoke mostly clears, wipe the surface with oil again.
5. When the smoke mostly clears, wipe the surface with a dry paper towel to remove any excess oil.
6. Turn the burner off and let the pan cool.
You can do this as often as you like. Hardcore enthusiasts do it after every use. I do it only when I feel like the pan needs a little rejuvenation. This method will yield fantastic results.
Also, a (slightly expensive) product that works great for this method of seasoning is the Crisbee Stik. I don't really get what the wax does for the pan, but it works like a charm.
Will my pan look so beautiful after I use it?
Once you start using your pan, it probably won't look as beautiful and shiny as it did when you got it. The season may look spotty or dull. This is completely normal, and part of the process of developing a deep season on your pan. Just keep using it.
Wipe it clean when you're done, making sure to remove any stuck-on food. A nylon pan scraper is great for removing burnt food, and use soap if you need to. Failing to remove burnt food is probably the most common mistake people make. Carbonized (burnt) food does not become part of the season, and food will continue to stick to it until it's removed. Once the pan feels smooth and clean, follow the instructions above for regular care.
Why do some pans have dark spots, faint scratches, or pits?
Every pan is unique. The grinding and seasoning processes don't always produce exactly the same results. Also, some pans come from the factory with extremely deep pits that I can't get out. So darker areas, light scratches, and a few pits can happen, but they do not affect the performance of the pan.
Any pits you see are actually the very bottoms of the deepest pits that were in the pan originally. In fact, those tiny pits are your proof that I did not grind too deeply.
How can read or leave feedback?
Everyone wants to buy with confidence. We all want to know a product is what it claims, and that we'll actually receive it.
To read reviews, visit my Etsy shop or find my store on Google (if that link doesn't work, run a search for the store name).
If you are a customer looking to leave a review, there are three things you can do (four, if you bought through Etsy).
Second, tell all your friends and relations how much you love your pan and send them here! Better yet, invite them over for a delicious meal prepared in your smooth cast iron pan.
Finally, you can like our Facebook page. If you're feeling really energetic, you can even read/like posts and leave comments. Like word-of-mouth, it gives us some added cred, especially with your friends.
Of course, though not a public statement, a kind email is always welcomed.
Why are the prices lower here than at other sites?
The answer is very simple: seller fees.
Ordering through this website offers the most efficient exchange for both buyer and seller.
Can you smooth the sides or outside of the pan?
It's actually quite difficult to get the sides of the pan to grind nicely.The tools I use are designed for flat surfaces, so the curved shape of the sides makes it tough.
More importantly, though, you wouldn't get any real benefit from having the sides ground.If the bottom surface is smooth, that's all you really need.
I do not grind the outside of the pan because the factory coating from Lodge is great for rust prevention. It's best to leave it alone.
Can I send you my pan for you to smooth?
You'll have to take care of shipping it to me, but it saves the cost of buying a new pan.
Pans 12" and larger are a little tricky to ship, so you might not save much, depending on the shipping costs. If your pan is 10.5" or smaller, you will likely save some money.
The biggest benefit, I think, is giving new life to an old pan, instead of adding another new product to our world.
Send me an email; we'll work out the details and I'll give you some tips on shipping.
I live in Colorado Springs - can I buy a pan from you in person?
Absolutely! Use the coupon code LOCALPICKUP to get a discount. I will contact you to arrange the hand-off.
You can also send me an email before you order if you want to discuss it first.
I've heard grinding a pan leaves it vulnerable to warping. Is this true?
Grinding a pan as I do it will not hurt the pan.
I remove only about a millimeter of material from the pan. This is not nearly enough to affect the integrity of a Lodge skillet.
Lodge pans are very thick. They have even been accused of being too thick, because it makes them heavy. So there is no shortage of iron left when I'm done smoothing.
Also, I watch carefully for pits that are too deep to remove. I doubt removing these pits would make the pan dangerously thin, but it would produce noticeable low spots in the cooking surface. These pits won't hinder the pan's performance, so I leave them alone to be completely safe and to keep the surface as flat as possible.
Then why do some say grinding is a bad idea?
At risk of being cynical, I'll mention that many of those who say a pan should not be ground smooth are also trying to sell very expensive cast iron. So their motives are suspect. Those who are being sincere do have some good reasons.
1. They've seen people using the wrong tools, making the pan too smooth (see below), or trying to fix a warped pan (this cannot be done; also see below).
2. They are thinking of antique pans. Antique pans are generally much thinner than modern Lodge skillets, so it is possible to remove too much material when smoothing. Also, antique pans are usually pretty smooth already, so do not benefit much from grinding.
You do not have to be concerned with either of the above with Rock Island.
Can a pan be ground too smooth?
In order for polymerized oil (that's what layers of season are), to adhere properly to cast iron, there needs to be a certain degree of roughness on the surface of the iron. This roughness is less than what you can feel with your finger, but more than, say, polished chrome. If the surface is too smooth, the oil just can't grab onto it.
Do you use an actual grinder?
No - never!
While I do describe what I do as grinding, I do not use an actual grinder. Grinders are in fact terrible tools for smoothing a skillet.
Grinder wheels are hard and you can use only the edge, so they make deep scratches and gouges, leaving the surface uneven. If you find something that seems similar to a Rock Island pan, look closely to see how the pan was smoothed.
Here's how to tell the difference:
A pan done with a grinder will have short, deep scratches that look sort of like the threads on a bolt. These will usually be in lines radiating out from the center, or maybe in a messy cross-hatch pattern. You'll be able to feel this with your finger.
A pan done correctly will have long, swirly scratches that remind you of a Spirograph, except for looking random. The scratches will be too light to feel with a finger.
The scratches on a Rock Island pan fill in very quickly with seasoning, and will be barely visible when you get your pan.
Is there really no way to damage a cast iron pan?
Well, with proper use and care, yes.
However, there is such a thing as improper use and care. Cast iron rusts, which is the most common problem people encounter. There are also two ways cast iron can be damaged beyond repair: warping and cracking. Thankfully, all these things can be avoided.
Rust - iron rusts pretty quickly, but only if it is in contact with water or moisture in the air. Don't let cast iron soak. Wash it and dry it immediately and thoroughly. Then coat it with oil. If you have time, heat it on the stove to make sure it's totally dry. The easiest way to avoid rust is just to use the pan every day!
Warping - warping (and in rare cases cracking) is caused by uneven expansion. Always heat the pan slowly, and only to medium-high heat. Although iron can safely withstand temps of 500 degrees in the oven, a stove-top burner does not apply its heat evenly to the entire pan. A burner on the highest setting could apply too much heat to the middle of the pan, making it expand too much or too quickly. So use the largest burner you can for the pan, and don't go past medium-high.
Cracking - cast iron is brittle. Don't drop the pan on a hard surface.
If you follow these guidelines, there is no reason your skillets will ever rust, warp, or crack.
Can a rusted pan be restored?
In most cases, yes.
Rust can usually be removed with a sander or a powered wire brush. It can be labor-intensive, so it's more costly than smoothing a new pan or an old pan with no rust. But once all the rust is gone, the pan can be re-seasoned and should be as good as before. This is a great way of reviving used goods, instead of producing new ones.
If the pan is completely covered with rust or the rust has gotten deep into the iron, the pan might not be worth saving.
Why can't a warped or cracked pan be fixed?
Cast iron is not malleable; it's brittle. This means it cannot be hammered back into the right shape, nor can it be heated to make it workable. Flattening the warped surface by grinding will create extremely thin areas which will then warp or crack when heated.
Welding cast iron is extremely difficult and is useful only for cosmetic repairs to ornamental pieces.
I suppose a pan could be melted and re-cast, but that would be a completely different pan. The original is gone.