I've read the forums, I've checked on line... I can't seem to find an answer to some of my questions...
1. Do you rinse the pan after each use? For example, I rendered bacon fat the other day in one of my pans. I figured I didn't want to rinse that fat off, so I scraped it with a metal spatula and used a cloth napkin to get the black bits out as best I could. I made eggs in it a day or so later and they were black on the bottom from the grit left in the pan.
2. The center of my pan will NOT get nonstick. I don't know if the pan is ever so slightly convex and so the fat drains towards the edges but without fail things will stick in the middle. Not anywhere else, just the middle. This is even when I put in enough fat that I honestly think there is a layer covering the whole pan. I've tried seasoning it in the oven, I cook with it usually every other day with either rendered bacon fat or coconut oil... it just doesn't seem to get as nonstick as other people describe their cast iron cookware.
3. Are there any brands of cast iron that are really smooth? I made eggs in a 100ish year old pan the other day at my in-laws and the cooking surface was completely smooth - unlike my Lodge skillets which have tiny little bumps like sandpaper. It seems like this kind of surface would help with the nonstick issue...?
4. How much oil/fat do you need to use? I have one of the small skillets (6.5") and even 1 tbsp doesn't seem to be enough. My eggs stick with that. Without getting into the CICO argument, I'd prefer not to have an extra 200 calories of oil with each meal that I cook with the pan.
Rinse it with just water if I need to? Or scrub it with metal? I have a stainless steel scrubber that I use with no soap - since usually the residue is burnt on.
And yes, I only use a metal spatula on it. I'll start scraping it more...
Plastic bristled scrubbers are fine.
I have a problematic pan with a messed up center. If I rinse it excessively, all of the seasoning comes off and I can see that the center has a build-up of carbon or rust and to really get rid of it and get down to a smooth metal surface, I'd need steel wool or sand paper. One of these days, I will scrub it with one of those things and re-season it with flax seed oil. You may need to do this too. I have another pan that, for whatever reason, has seasoned just fine with regular use and minimal cleaning.
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Thanks for the tips. I scraped it for a few minutes today. I'll try my eggs again tomorrow morning.
I'm the oddball out. Quelle surprise! I scrub my pan with cheap table salt after any meal that requires scrubbing. Rub a little fat on it after washing and dry it on the stove. Think benign neglect. I've only had mine for a few months, but I can do tomatoes in it now without anything turning black or icky. I also bake in it (primal breads only, of course). Don't baby your cast iron - it will be useful on the planet long after you've passed.
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I have had similar problems regarding the non-stickness (??) of my Lodge skillet. As Rich said, they used to mill or sand down skillets prior to sale, which is why old skillets have that great smooth surface. I like my Lodge but I don't love it, even after following all the instructions regarding use, cleaning, and seasoning it still isn't as non-stick as I would like. I think my next step is to find some old used ones on Ebay. From what I have read Wagner or Griswold are the brands to look for in antique cast iron.
did you properly season the pan prior to use?
No need to sand down your skillet to get a smooth surface unless it was uncared for for a long time (ie rusted heavy or pitted). Over time as you continue to season it as long as you don't continually remove the seasoning soapy water etc... it will build up to an almost glass like smoothness.
I have a Lodge dutch oven that I use for campfire cooking and it was rough to the touch at first after a season of camping and cooking with it it is now glass like smooth at the bottom and nothing sticks.
For the center of the pan it likely need re-seasoned then turn down the heat a little bit. Likely there was a hot spot their from temps too high and something you were cooking burned in the center, then stuff will continue to stick to it.