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Old 08-21-2012, 11:47 AM   #46
Nailhead
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Quote:
Originally Posted by P B G View Post
New chinese stuff does respond nicely to being refinished prior to cooking.
I've wanted to try my hand at refinishing one for a while, but I have enough finished ones, so it's not high on my priority list. But then, why bother even buying a Chinese one when better made, U.S. manufactured ones are so easy to obtain?
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:16 PM   #47
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My three #5's, and an even smaller LL Bean porcelain (sorry about calling it ceramic earlier) coated pan that is just about too small for a single guy to use (I'd appreciate any recipes or suggestions of uses for it - seems like it's better for cooking a dainty little breakfast... actual flat cooking area of it is only 5 inches).

The one in the upper left may be the same make as the one "The Cyclops" said he was using just a few posts ago - I have no clue who made it, nor how old it is, all it has on it is that number '5.'





I know it will add a lot of weight, but perhaps the smaller LL Bean pan will become a motorcycling pan to take with me if I ever get a small hiking stove.

Mambo Dave screwed with this post 08-21-2012 at 09:13 PM
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:42 PM   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mambo Dave View Post
My three #5's, and an even smaller LL Bean ceramic coated pan that is just about too small for a single guy to use (I'd appreciate any recipes or suggestions of uses for it - seems like it's better for cooking a dainty little breakfast... actual flat cooking area of it is only 5 inches).

The one in the upper left may be the same make as the one "The Cyclops" said he was using just a few posts ago - I have no clue who made it, nor how old it is, all it has on it is that number '5.'





I know it will add a lot of weight, but perhaps the smaller LL Bean pan will become a motorcycling pan to take with me if I ever get a small hiking stove.
Can you tell any difference between the one we have in common and the Griswold? I have been thinking about trying to procure one of those.
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Old 08-21-2012, 01:13 PM   #49
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for me All-clad all the way..! ;)
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Old 08-21-2012, 01:31 PM   #50
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for me All-clad all the way..! ;)
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Old 08-21-2012, 01:59 PM   #51
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Can you tell any difference between the one we have in common and the Griswold? I have been thinking about trying to procure one of those.
I'm glad you brought that up, but I don't know how much help I can be.

First: What we have in that picture are two size-5 Griswolds, neither with a heat ring, and then our classic ol' #5 with a heat ring.

Info on the small-logo and large-logo:

1865-1883 Selden & Griswold
1865-1909 ERIE or "ERIE"
1874-1905 Spider and Web
1884-1912 GRISWOLD'S ERIE
1884-1909 Diamond (with ERIE inside the diamond)
1897-1920 Griswold Manufacturing Company (italic lettering, large cross logo)
1919-1940 Griswold Manufacturing Company (block lettering, large cross logo)
1937-1957 Griswold (block lettering, small cross logo)


Weighed with a scale that I zeroed by eye, but not sure of the true reading, we have:

Small Logo Griswold:


(on the left, there, you'll see my mason jar of Wright-bacon bacon grease that I use just like lard. Sure, it isn't pure white lard, but it's fine for me and my pans... with the possibility of not really ever being the best seasoning oil since it has inherent sugars and additives from Wright Bourbon BBQ flavored bacon)

Larger Logo, and thus older based on what I know now*, Griswold:


* for some reason I was always thinking that this larger logo was the newest Griswold I owned, but either I messed up understanding that list, above, of dates and logos, or they changed the list to read the way it does now.

Unnamed #5 with heat ring:



So now you'll have to be the judge on if the addition of that heat ring, and differences in handle castings, account for the weights. The unnamed number 5's handle seems 1/8 of an inch narrower than the oldest small-logo Griswold, but that oldest Griswold has a scalloped handle from end to end, so ... I'm thinking that the weights of all three handles are probably pretty close to each other - I'd suggest we ignore them and use the differences in weights as respective of the actual cooking-area of the pans themselves.



(on the top non-Griswold note the 'broken' heat ring ... it's broken in three places, and the dot on the underside of the flat surface that is lined up with the handle. I've can only find one other CI pan with the broken ring, a dot and no logo - this number 3 with three dots http://www.ebay.com/itm/Cast-Iron-Pa...item3a78aa1492 . Still no clue who made them.)

So by the feel in my hand, I'm saying/guessing/feeling-like the actual cooking-pan part of the Unnamed pan is overall thicker.

Unfortunately, I received my pans with varying degrees of cooking surfaces. The Small-logo was easily the best, most mirror-like. The Large-logo had circular scratches in it from the seller's mother who used to cook corn pone in it (amongst other thing I'd guess). The Unnamed 5's condition had everyone who saw it voting that it was beyond saving - deep rust and such. It was being thrown out after a friend passed away. We're not talking surface rust here... we're talking questions of if the thing was rusted through (upon initially seeing it... after clean-up and reconditioning its surface was just frickin' fine ... though perhaps I should use some oven cleaner and truly clean all three to see what their surfaces were really like some day?).

I don't think I have any way to convincingly photograph the somewhat-seasoned surfaces (mottled - just re-doing them again after messing them up) that would show the true surface quality of them, but I'd say that based on what I see and feel now, the Unnamed 5, save for what I'm guessing are very few pits from being rusted (far fewer than I'd have ever guessed it would be having pulled the pan out of the garbage pile), has a pretty damned flat surface. We're certainly way ahead of the game, here, with our old 5's than any modern Lodge pan would give us, but I'll also say that from all the studying I've done on cast iron pans since choosing to get one, the surface flatness doesn't matter at all when newer and older pans are expertly seasoned; both become as non-stick as the other. The only difference is the starting point and amount of time to develop an enjoyable-to-cook-with polymerized surface.

I would say that the small-logo Griswold seemed to show the extra-lengths they went to back then to really machine the surface flat compared to modern Lodge cookware.

So... what's my verdict based on the only information I have? It would be that our Unnamed #5's are better for cooking on the stove-top for a family since it takes the most energy to heat up, but has the most mass to keep that heat. Maybe if you were searing steaks at super-high temps it would be better, too, but I really don't think it would matter much. If you're cooking for just yourself, like one or two eggs and then you're done, if you owned one then the Griswold will heat up quicker. Though maybe there's some extra efficiency in catching the heat from a gas-stove's flame with that heat-ring?

And, beyond that the Griswolds have larger/better(?) pour-spouts on either side of them, that's all I can tell ya about them.

I think I'd suggest that if you have a pan that is happily non-stick for most things due to the seasoning it has, then to not go out and buy another number 5 unless you want one to cook something else in while the first is busy, or unless you want a second as a lid for biscuits or breads (instead of buying a cast iron Dutch Oven).

------------

Re: flap-disiking a CI pan

I read or listened to someone tell a story of trying to do that, and what they finally found was that it would have taken far too long to make the surface of a Lodge anywhere equal to the surface of a machined-flat Griswold. If I ever did it, I would take the modern piece of CI cookware to a machine shop and get a quote from them, if they could do it, to get a it machined flat. Maybe you had different or satisfactory results, but it probably still isn't the same as an actual machined -after-casting surface.

I'd suggest not taking a flap-disk to classic CI cookware if they are in any way usable.

Mambo Dave screwed with this post 08-21-2012 at 09:20 PM Reason: I screwed up with naming 'oldest' and 'newer'
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Old 08-21-2012, 02:07 PM   #52
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To me this is like someone posting a picture of their BMW F650GS in the main Suzuki DR650 thread.


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for me All-clad all the way..! ;)

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Old 08-21-2012, 03:48 PM   #53
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I love my cast iron

the only problem is that I set off the smoke detectors every time I cook with it. It's well seasoned and amazing as can be, but from all the good stuff built up on the pan it always smokes when heated

So I removed all the smoke detectors
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Old 08-21-2012, 04:22 PM   #54
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Originally Posted by Mambo Dave View Post
actual flat cooking area of it is only 5 inches).
i have a 5 inch pan, i make sausage in it, then use that oil to fry some potatoes, chop up the sausage and add 3 eggs to the whole deal, spice to taste. once the eggs start to cook a little, pull it off the fire, and flip it once. makes for a good breakfast!
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Old 08-21-2012, 04:52 PM   #55
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MD, your groove-handle Gris is actually the youngest of the two Griswold skillets you have: late '30's comes to mind.
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Old 08-21-2012, 05:22 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by Mambo Dave View Post


To me this is like someone posting a picture of their BMW F650GS in the main Suzuki DR650 thread.
Na, I look at it like this, Benelli makes some really fine shotguns, but I wouldn't take a half dozen of them for my grandpas old Belgium made Light Twelve Browning or my dads Model 12 Winchester. There is just something about the history that I love. Sure we have some newer and great cookware that my wife had when we married that we use, but it doesn't make me warm and fuzzy like it does when I use dads old skillet. And it doesn't have to be my families, I can't help but wonder all the meals that have been prepared by sweet little old women on Sunday afternoon in some of the old stuff I had.
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Old 08-21-2012, 05:54 PM   #57
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cleaning skillets

I let everyone in the family know when I'm going to "clean up the skillets". I'll set up the fish fryer and set a skillet on it till its way hot. Hit it with a wire brush and get all the ash off and set it to the side and work on the next one. After the skillets cool to the point where you can just rub some shortening in them with a paper towel I rub the shortening inside and out and let them sit some more. You wind up with clean seasoned cast iron.
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Old 08-21-2012, 09:05 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by Nailhead View Post
MD, your groove-handle Gris is actually the youngest of the two Griswold skillets you have: late '30's comes to mind.
Thank you. I initially wrote it all wrong, then edited it so much that I got lost, lol.

I spent about an hour more trying to research the "5" with the dimple/dot and the heat ring broken in three places, but so far can only find a picture of a "3" that seems to be the same make, and a written question of someone else who seems to own the same make of "5" ... but theirs has a cast "Y" where I have a dot.

I know we may never know, but I'd like to know. Apparently the word was that many a blacksmith created runs of cast iron cookware as standard production runs between the unique jobs they had to do.

With the Griswolds, since we can sorta date them, I'm in awe of how many families or people they have served in the past. Obviously the unnamed 5 is old, too, but I don't quite have a feel for it since I really don't know how old it may be. Still, it was my friend's pan... and could have been in her family for many years.
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Old 08-21-2012, 09:26 PM   #59
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Originally Posted by nwdub View Post
I love my cast iron

the only problem is that I set off the smoke detectors every time I cook with it. It's well seasoned and amazing as can be, but from all the good stuff built up on the pan it always smokes when heated

So I removed all the smoke detectors
Are you sure you're using a type of grease or cooking oil that is safe at the temperatures you cook at?

I'm thinking a cast iron pan that is seasoned with a better oil, and that is used in conjunction with a high-temp cooking oil (one that you won't surpass the smoke point of), shouldn't really smoke any more than any other pan.

Also, speaking of seasoning them well and smoke-points, I found this article pretty interesting:

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/20...ing-cast-iron/

Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To

January 28, 2010, 6:31 pm
The post after this one on “black rust” describes why you should heat the pan before applying oil for seasoning. This helps the seasoning to adhere and makes the pan pleasantly black.
http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/20...ron-seasoning/

In a previous post, I illustrated how I cleaned and reseasoned an antique cast iron popover pan. This was my first attempt, and my seasoning technique was somewhat haphazard because I couldn’t find consistent, science-based advice. I used a combination of organic avocado oil and strained drippings from organic bacon. This worked pretty well on the popover pan, which doesn’t have a polished surface. But the smooth inner surface of a skillet showed an unevenness of color and texture, and the seasoning wasn’t hard enough. It was too easily marred by cooking utensils or scraping against oven racks.
I wanted to understand the chemistry behind seasoning so I’d know how to fix this, but there is nothing that addresses this issue directly. A Web page on cast iron posted by someone similarly obsessed with the science gave me two crucial clues, the phrases “polymerized fat” and “drying oil”. From there I was able to find the relevant scientific literature and put the pieces together.
The pictures below are both of the same antique cast iron skillet. The “before” close-up on the left is from a picture of the skillet in my previous blog post on making German Pancakes. I stripped the pan with oven cleaner and reseasoned it based on my new understanding. The “after” close-up on the right shows the result.
Griswold skillet closeups: old seasoning on left, new seasoning on right


Start With the Right Oil (It’s Not What You Think)

I’ve read dozens of Web pages on how to season cast iron, and there is no consensus in the advice. Some say vegetable oils leave a sticky surface and to only use lard. Some say animal fat gives a surface that is too soft and to only use vegetable oils. Some say corn oil is the only fat to use, or Crisco, or olive oil. Some recommend bacon drippings since lard is no longer readily available. Some say you must use a saturated fat – that is, a fat that is solid at room temperature, whether it’s animal or vegetable (palm oil, coconut oil, Crisco, lard). Some say never use butter. Some say butter is fine. Some swear by Pam (spray-on canola oil with additives). Some say the additives in Pam leave a residue at high temperatures and pure canola oil is best. Some say it doesn’t matter what oil you use.
They are all wrong. It does matter what oil you use, and the oil that gives the best results is not in this list. So what is it? Here are some hints: What oil do artists mix with pigment for a high quality oil paint that dries hard and glassy on the canvas? What oil is commonly used by woodturners to give their sculptures a protective, soft-sheen finish? It’s the same oil. Now what is the food-grade equivalent of this oil?
The oil used by artists and woodturners is linseed oil. The food-grade equivalent is called flaxseed oil. This oil is ideal for seasoning cast iron for the same reason it’s an ideal base for oil paint and wood finishes. It’s a “drying oil”, which means it can transform into a hard, tough film. This doesn’t happen through “drying” in the sense of losing moisture through evaporation. The term is actually a misnomer. The transformation is through a chemical process called “polymerization”.
The seasoning on cast iron is formed by fat polymerization, fat polymerization is maximized with a drying oil, and flaxseed oil is the only drying oil that’s edible. From that I deduced that flaxseed oil would be the ideal oil for seasoning cast iron.
As a reality check of this theory, I googled “season cast iron with flaxseed oil” to see what came up. The very first hit is a page written by a guy who seasons his cast iron cookware with linseed oil from the hardware store because it gives the hardest surface of anything he’s tried. (I’m not sure how safe that is; I don’t recommend it.) Below that were several sites selling traditional cast iron cookware from China, which they advertise as being “preseasoned with high quality flax oil”. I don’t know whether they really use food-grade flaxseed oil (which is expensive) or linseed oil from a hardware store. What’s significant is the claim. Seasoning with high quality flaxseed oil is something to brag about.
With this encouragement, I stripped one of my skillets and reseasoned it with flaxseed oil. As you can see in the picture above, the result was a dramatic improvement. The finish is smooth, hard, and evenly colored.
Seasoning Is Not Cooking: Different Principles Apply

The first time I seasoned a pan I chose avocado oil because it’s monounsaturated and doesn’t easily go rancid. It also has the highest smoke point of any edible oil, 520°F, so I could heat it in a 450°F oven without passing the smoke point. I knew that when cooking, you should never heat an oil past its smoke point because that causes the release of “free radicals”, which are carcinogenic. I was careful not to choose a polyunsaturated oil – and especially not an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – because these are especially vulnerable to breakdown with heat and the release of free radicals.
Ironically, it’s for exactly these reasons that the best oil for seasoning cast iron is an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – in particular, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Free radicals are actually what enable the polymerization. Drying oils, which produce the hardest polymers, are characterized by high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acid ALA.
The lard that was traditionally used for seasoning 100 years ago was much higher in ALA than fat from pigs today, because back then pigs ate their natural diet. Today they are raised on industrial feedlots and forced to eat grain, making their fat low in omega-3s.
Since lard is traditional but no longer readily available, many people substitute bacon drippings, but this is a bad idea. If it’s conventional bacon, you’re baking in carcinogenic nitrates. But even organic bacon is not good for an initial seasoning because it’s filled with salt.
The reason that Pam seems to work well in seasoning is that its main ingredient is canola oil, which is relatively high in ALA (10%), making it a “semi-drying oil”. Flaxseed oil, a drying oil, is 57% ALA. But it’s not a good idea to use a spray oil, no matter what oil it’s made with, because of its additives. You’re doing chemistry here. If you want good results, use pure ingredients.
Fat polymerization can be triggered or accelerated in a variety of ways. As best I can tell from my reading, the cast iron seasoning process is an example of “radical polymerization”. The process is initiated when something causes the release of free radicals in the oil. The free radicals then “crosslink” to form the tough, hard film you see in a well-seasoned pan.
So what is the “something” that initiates the release of free radicals in fat? Iron, for one thing. High heat, light, and oxygen, for some others. To prevent cooking oils from going rancid – i.e., breaking down and releasing free radicals – you need to store them in dark, tightly sealed containers in a cool location. To initiate or accelerate the release of free radicals, put the oil in contact with bare iron and heat it above its smoke point, which will cause even non-drying oils to release free radicals.
I haven’t defined “free radical” or “crosslink” because that gets into details of chemistry that you don’t need to understand to season a cast iron pan. All you need to know is that the molecular structure of the oil changes and becomes something else, something tough and solid. The process is initiated with the release of free radicals, which then become crosslinked, creating a hard surface.
Free radicals are carcinogenic inside your body, and also a cause of aging. So don’t ever heat oil you’re going to eat above its smoke point. If the oil starts to smoke, toss it out and start again. When you’re seasoning a pan, you’re not cooking food. By the time the seasoned pan comes out of the oven, there are no more free radicals.
The Recipe for Perfect Cast Iron Seasoning

The basic idea is this: Smear a food-grade drying oil onto a cast iron pan, and then bake it above the oil’s smoke point. This will initiate the release of free radicals and polymerization. The more drying the oil, the harder the polymer. So start with the right oil.
Go to your local health food store or organic grocery and buy a bottle of flaxseed oil. It’s sold as an omega-3 supplement and it’s in the refrigeration section because it goes rancid so easily. Check the expiration date to make sure it’s not already rancid. Buy an organic flaxseed oil. You don’t want to burn toxic chemicals into your cookware to leach out forever more. It’s a fairly expensive oil. I paid $17 for a 17 ounce bottle of cold-pressed, unrefined, organic flaxseed oil. As it says on the bottle, shake it before you use it.
Strip your pan down to the iron using the techniques I describe in my popover post. Heat the pan in a 200°F oven to be sure it’s bone dry and to open the pores of the iron a little. Then put it on a paper towel, pour a little flaxseed oil on it (don’t forget to shake the bottle), and rub the oil all over the pan with your hands, making sure to get into every nook and cranny. Your hands and the pan will be nice and oily.
Now rub it all off. Yup – all. All. Rub it off with paper towels or a cotton cloth until it looks like there is nothing left on the surface. There actually is oil left on the surface, it’s just very thin. The pan should look dry, not glistening with oil. Put the pan upside down in a cold oven. Most instructions say to put aluminum foil under it to catch any drips, but if your oil coating is as thin as it should be, there won’t be any drips.
Turn the oven to a baking temperature of 500°F (or as high as your oven goes – mine only goes to 450°F) and let the pan preheat with the oven. When it reaches temperature, set the timer for an hour. After an hour, turn off the oven but do not open the oven door. Let it cool off with the pan inside for two hours, at which point it’s cool enough to handle.
The pan will come out of the oven a little darker, but matte in texture – not the semi-gloss you’re aiming for. It needs more coats. In fact, it needs at least six coats. So again rub on the oil, wipe it off, put it in the cold oven, let it preheat, bake for an hour, and let it cool in the oven for two hours. The picture above was taken after six coats of seasoning. At that point it starts to develop a bit of a sheen and the pan is ready for use.
If you try this, you will be tempted to use a thicker coat of oil to speed up the process. Don’t do it. It just gets you an uneven surface – or worse, baked on drips. Been there, done that. You can’t speed up the process. If you try, you’ll mess up the pan and have to start over.
The reason for the very hot oven is to be sure the temperature is above the oil’s smoke point, and to maximally accelerate the release of free radicals. Unrefined flaxseed oil actually has the lowest smoke point of any oil (see this table). But the higher the temperature the more it will smoke, and that’s good for seasoning (though bad for eating – do not let oils smoke during cooking).
I mentioned earlier there’s a myth floating around that vegetable oils leave a sticky residue. If the pan comes out of the oven sticky, the cause is one of three things:
  • You put the oil on too thick.
  • Your oven temperature was too low.
  • Your baking time was too short.
It’s possible to use a suboptimal oil for seasoning, like Crisco or bacon drippings, and still end up with a usable pan. Many (most) people do this. But the seasoning will be relatively soft, not as nonstick, and will tend to wear off. If you want the hardest, slickest seasoning possible, use the right oil: flaxseed oil.
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Old 08-22-2012, 04:26 AM   #60
The Cyclops OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mambo Dave View Post
Are you sure you're using a type of grease or cooking oil that is safe at the temperatures you cook at?

I'm thinking a cast iron pan that is seasoned with a better oil, and that is used in conjunction with a high-temp cooking oil (one that you won't surpass the smoke point of), shouldn't really smoke any more than any other pan.

Also, speaking of seasoning them well and smoke-points, I found this article pretty interesting:

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/20...ing-cast-iron/

Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To

January 28, 2010, 6:31 pm
The post after this one on “black rust” describes why you should heat the pan before applying oil for seasoning. This helps the seasoning to adhere and makes the pan pleasantly black.
http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/20...ron-seasoning/

In a previous post, I illustrated how I cleaned and reseasoned an antique cast iron popover pan. This was my first attempt, and my seasoning technique was somewhat haphazard because I couldn’t find consistent, science-based advice. I used a combination of organic avocado oil and strained drippings from organic bacon. This worked pretty well on the popover pan, which doesn’t have a polished surface. But the smooth inner surface of a skillet showed an unevenness of color and texture, and the seasoning wasn’t hard enough. It was too easily marred by cooking utensils or scraping against oven racks.
I wanted to understand the chemistry behind seasoning so I’d know how to fix this, but there is nothing that addresses this issue directly. A Web page on cast iron posted by someone similarly obsessed with the science gave me two crucial clues, the phrases “polymerized fat” and “drying oil”. From there I was able to find the relevant scientific literature and put the pieces together.
The pictures below are both of the same antique cast iron skillet. The “before” close-up on the left is from a picture of the skillet in my previous blog post on making German Pancakes. I stripped the pan with oven cleaner and reseasoned it based on my new understanding. The “after” close-up on the right shows the result.
Griswold skillet closeups: old seasoning on left, new seasoning on right


Start With the Right Oil (It’s Not What You Think)

I’ve read dozens of Web pages on how to season cast iron, and there is no consensus in the advice. Some say vegetable oils leave a sticky surface and to only use lard. Some say animal fat gives a surface that is too soft and to only use vegetable oils. Some say corn oil is the only fat to use, or Crisco, or olive oil. Some recommend bacon drippings since lard is no longer readily available. Some say you must use a saturated fat – that is, a fat that is solid at room temperature, whether it’s animal or vegetable (palm oil, coconut oil, Crisco, lard). Some say never use butter. Some say butter is fine. Some swear by Pam (spray-on canola oil with additives). Some say the additives in Pam leave a residue at high temperatures and pure canola oil is best. Some say it doesn’t matter what oil you use.
They are all wrong. It does matter what oil you use, and the oil that gives the best results is not in this list. So what is it? Here are some hints: What oil do artists mix with pigment for a high quality oil paint that dries hard and glassy on the canvas? What oil is commonly used by woodturners to give their sculptures a protective, soft-sheen finish? It’s the same oil. Now what is the food-grade equivalent of this oil?
The oil used by artists and woodturners is linseed oil. The food-grade equivalent is called flaxseed oil. This oil is ideal for seasoning cast iron for the same reason it’s an ideal base for oil paint and wood finishes. It’s a “drying oil”, which means it can transform into a hard, tough film. This doesn’t happen through “drying” in the sense of losing moisture through evaporation. The term is actually a misnomer. The transformation is through a chemical process called “polymerization”.
The seasoning on cast iron is formed by fat polymerization, fat polymerization is maximized with a drying oil, and flaxseed oil is the only drying oil that’s edible. From that I deduced that flaxseed oil would be the ideal oil for seasoning cast iron.
As a reality check of this theory, I googled “season cast iron with flaxseed oil” to see what came up. The very first hit is a page written by a guy who seasons his cast iron cookware with linseed oil from the hardware store because it gives the hardest surface of anything he’s tried. (I’m not sure how safe that is; I don’t recommend it.) Below that were several sites selling traditional cast iron cookware from China, which they advertise as being “preseasoned with high quality flax oil”. I don’t know whether they really use food-grade flaxseed oil (which is expensive) or linseed oil from a hardware store. What’s significant is the claim. Seasoning with high quality flaxseed oil is something to brag about.
With this encouragement, I stripped one of my skillets and reseasoned it with flaxseed oil. As you can see in the picture above, the result was a dramatic improvement. The finish is smooth, hard, and evenly colored.
Seasoning Is Not Cooking: Different Principles Apply

The first time I seasoned a pan I chose avocado oil because it’s monounsaturated and doesn’t easily go rancid. It also has the highest smoke point of any edible oil, 520°F, so I could heat it in a 450°F oven without passing the smoke point. I knew that when cooking, you should never heat an oil past its smoke point because that causes the release of “free radicals”, which are carcinogenic. I was careful not to choose a polyunsaturated oil – and especially not an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – because these are especially vulnerable to breakdown with heat and the release of free radicals.
Ironically, it’s for exactly these reasons that the best oil for seasoning cast iron is an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids – in particular, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Free radicals are actually what enable the polymerization. Drying oils, which produce the hardest polymers, are characterized by high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acid ALA.
The lard that was traditionally used for seasoning 100 years ago was much higher in ALA than fat from pigs today, because back then pigs ate their natural diet. Today they are raised on industrial feedlots and forced to eat grain, making their fat low in omega-3s.
Since lard is traditional but no longer readily available, many people substitute bacon drippings, but this is a bad idea. If it’s conventional bacon, you’re baking in carcinogenic nitrates. But even organic bacon is not good for an initial seasoning because it’s filled with salt.
The reason that Pam seems to work well in seasoning is that its main ingredient is canola oil, which is relatively high in ALA (10%), making it a “semi-drying oil”. Flaxseed oil, a drying oil, is 57% ALA. But it’s not a good idea to use a spray oil, no matter what oil it’s made with, because of its additives. You’re doing chemistry here. If you want good results, use pure ingredients.
Fat polymerization can be triggered or accelerated in a variety of ways. As best I can tell from my reading, the cast iron seasoning process is an example of “radical polymerization”. The process is initiated when something causes the release of free radicals in the oil. The free radicals then “crosslink” to form the tough, hard film you see in a well-seasoned pan.
So what is the “something” that initiates the release of free radicals in fat? Iron, for one thing. High heat, light, and oxygen, for some others. To prevent cooking oils from going rancid – i.e., breaking down and releasing free radicals – you need to store them in dark, tightly sealed containers in a cool location. To initiate or accelerate the release of free radicals, put the oil in contact with bare iron and heat it above its smoke point, which will cause even non-drying oils to release free radicals.
I haven’t defined “free radical” or “crosslink” because that gets into details of chemistry that you don’t need to understand to season a cast iron pan. All you need to know is that the molecular structure of the oil changes and becomes something else, something tough and solid. The process is initiated with the release of free radicals, which then become crosslinked, creating a hard surface.
Free radicals are carcinogenic inside your body, and also a cause of aging. So don’t ever heat oil you’re going to eat above its smoke point. If the oil starts to smoke, toss it out and start again. When you’re seasoning a pan, you’re not cooking food. By the time the seasoned pan comes out of the oven, there are no more free radicals.
The Recipe for Perfect Cast Iron Seasoning

The basic idea is this: Smear a food-grade drying oil onto a cast iron pan, and then bake it above the oil’s smoke point. This will initiate the release of free radicals and polymerization. The more drying the oil, the harder the polymer. So start with the right oil.
Go to your local health food store or organic grocery and buy a bottle of flaxseed oil. It’s sold as an omega-3 supplement and it’s in the refrigeration section because it goes rancid so easily. Check the expiration date to make sure it’s not already rancid. Buy an organic flaxseed oil. You don’t want to burn toxic chemicals into your cookware to leach out forever more. It’s a fairly expensive oil. I paid $17 for a 17 ounce bottle of cold-pressed, unrefined, organic flaxseed oil. As it says on the bottle, shake it before you use it.
Strip your pan down to the iron using the techniques I describe in my popover post. Heat the pan in a 200°F oven to be sure it’s bone dry and to open the pores of the iron a little. Then put it on a paper towel, pour a little flaxseed oil on it (don’t forget to shake the bottle), and rub the oil all over the pan with your hands, making sure to get into every nook and cranny. Your hands and the pan will be nice and oily.
Now rub it all off. Yup – all. All. Rub it off with paper towels or a cotton cloth until it looks like there is nothing left on the surface. There actually is oil left on the surface, it’s just very thin. The pan should look dry, not glistening with oil. Put the pan upside down in a cold oven. Most instructions say to put aluminum foil under it to catch any drips, but if your oil coating is as thin as it should be, there won’t be any drips.
Turn the oven to a baking temperature of 500°F (or as high as your oven goes – mine only goes to 450°F) and let the pan preheat with the oven. When it reaches temperature, set the timer for an hour. After an hour, turn off the oven but do not open the oven door. Let it cool off with the pan inside for two hours, at which point it’s cool enough to handle.
The pan will come out of the oven a little darker, but matte in texture – not the semi-gloss you’re aiming for. It needs more coats. In fact, it needs at least six coats. So again rub on the oil, wipe it off, put it in the cold oven, let it preheat, bake for an hour, and let it cool in the oven for two hours. The picture above was taken after six coats of seasoning. At that point it starts to develop a bit of a sheen and the pan is ready for use.
If you try this, you will be tempted to use a thicker coat of oil to speed up the process. Don’t do it. It just gets you an uneven surface – or worse, baked on drips. Been there, done that. You can’t speed up the process. If you try, you’ll mess up the pan and have to start over.
The reason for the very hot oven is to be sure the temperature is above the oil’s smoke point, and to maximally accelerate the release of free radicals. Unrefined flaxseed oil actually has the lowest smoke point of any oil (see this table). But the higher the temperature the more it will smoke, and that’s good for seasoning (though bad for eating – do not let oils smoke during cooking).
I mentioned earlier there’s a myth floating around that vegetable oils leave a sticky residue. If the pan comes out of the oven sticky, the cause is one of three things:
  • You put the oil on too thick.
  • Your oven temperature was too low.
  • Your baking time was too short.
It’s possible to use a suboptimal oil for seasoning, like Crisco or bacon drippings, and still end up with a usable pan. Many (most) people do this. But the seasoning will be relatively soft, not as nonstick, and will tend to wear off. If you want the hardest, slickest seasoning possible, use the right oil: flaxseed oil.
Good read, thanks! Will be on the hunt for flaxseed oil.
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