**Please note: To see the photos contained within a post, you must click on the title of the post to open it separately. Why? I don't know. I just know that it needs to be done to see the pics. :)
Michael D. from MA wrote to Ask The Pan Handler with several inquiries. In part, he said:
“I totally screwed up a beautiful pan my wife got me a while back. See the photos…It was totally smooth before I messed it up. I had scrubbed some of the same type of stuff off the inside walls prior to “seasoning it.” Now it’s everywhere. Any assist you can give me to bring it back would be much appreciated.”
Here are the photos that Michael sent:
From my several emails with Michael, it sounds as though he spent hours and a lot of elbow grease cleaning his pan to bare iron – or as close to bare iron as he could get with elbow grease alone. He then used some methodology to season the pan, but ended up with the blotchy spiderwebs that you see in the photos.
Michael, I can assure you that just about everyone who has seasoned vintage cast iron cookware has seen these same blotches in their first efforts. The blotches that you see are from uneven layers / too much of the seasoning oil that you applied, which then cooked on to the surface of the pan.
As I understand it (I am no scientist!), in simple layperson’s terms, when the oil you are using for seasoning heats beyond its smoke point, it changes composition, polymerizes, and forms a thin hard elasticized layer on the iron which protects the surface. That hard layer is what we call the “seasoning.” Here is an article from Serious Eats which explains the smoke points of various oils, and why it matters. In addition to the chart on Serious Eats, you can find charts all over the web that list the smoke points of various oils.
You can see on your pan that you had too much of your seasoning oil, which then resulted in the blotchiness upon heating. I bet your house smoked to high heaven while seasoning it – am I right?
I use Crisco vegetable shortening when I season my pans (plain Crisco; not the butter flavor). Crisco works best for me to season pans. I do not use flax seed oil. I have tried it, and in my experience (and the experience of many others), after some period of time it flakes off. There is a lot of controversy in the cast iron world about what oil is best to season your pan. I am not saying that my method is best or the only way; I am just saying that I use Crisco. Do some research on the web – you will see a jillion different oils and ways that people season their pans.
In your case, you can go ahead and use your pan, if you like. The seasoning will continue to build up with use and heat. If the aesthetics bother you (and I can see why it would – if you go through all that effort to clean the pan, you want it to look clean), strip the seasoning which you just applied from the pan, re-clean and re-season.
People all over the place have their own favorite methods of cleaning and seasoning. Mine is not the only way; it is just the way that works for me. That said, here’s what I would suggest for your pan:
To strip the seasoning (see also the FAQs section – there is an article there about cleaning vintage cast iron pans).
One easy method to strip the seasoning from a pan is to apply a thick coat of Easy-Off Oven Cleaner all over the pan, then place the pan in a large zip lock bag. Let it sit for a few days, to allow the Easy-Off to do the work for you. Be sure to follow the cautionary instructions on the can – use gloves and protective skin covering!
Once you have a nice bubbling mess inside the bag, remove the pan from the bag. Again, follow the cautionary instructions and protect yourself in doing so. Rinse it under hot water. Use stainless steel scrubbie balls and Dawn blue or Dawn Platinum dishwashing detergent to scrub the pan to bare iron. If you still have built up crud, apply more Easy-Off and put it back into the bag. Repeat until the pan is cleaned to bare iron.
To re-season (see also the FAQs section – there is an article there about seasoning and caring for vintage cast iron pans).
Thoroughly dry the pan using paper towels. Place it in the oven. Turn the heat to 450 degrees. Let the pan cook in the oven for an hour.
Turn off the oven, let the pan cool. Remove the pan from the oven when it is still warm – use potholders/towels/mitts/whatever is necessary to protect your hands from the heat.
Using a clean terrycloth rag (or shop towel), apply a THIN layer of Crisco vegetable shortening all over the pan, including any nooks and crannies. It is easiest to apply a very thin layer if the pan is hot. Use oven mitts – be sure to protect your skin!
Wipe the Crisco off the pan with a separate towel. It should appear as though there is no Crisco remaining on the pan – you should not have a “wet” looking surface.
Place the pan upside down into the oven. If you wish, you can place aluminum foil under the pan to catch any drips. I do not find this necessary. When you first start seasoning pans, though, it is common to use more Crisco than you really need (hence the spiderweb pattern that you see on your pan), so you might want to err on the side of caution and use the aluminum foil.
Turn the oven to 500 degrees. Let the pan cook for an hour. You may notice some smoke and an odor coming from the oven. Presuming you have a very thin layer of your seasoning oil on the pan, it should not be a tremendous amount. Be sure to turn on your vent fan.
Once the pan has cooked for an hour, turn off the oven. Let the pan cool. While still warm but not too hot to handle, remove the pan. Using the terry towel, wipe another very thin layer of Crisco all over the pan.
Let the pan cool.
Use that pan! I typically recommend that people begin with liberal use of their preferred oil and/or cook fatty foods such as hamburger to start. The seasoning will continue to build up with use.
After Use of the Pan:
After each use of the pan, be sure to clean it thoroughly, removing all food residue. It is easiest to clean while still warm. I use a plastic brush, stainless scrubbie balls, and/or a chain mail scrubber, depending on what I feel is necessary. I use a small amount of soap when I want to use soap. You can see my routine cleaning process on my youtube channel – see here and here.
Once the pan is cleaned, dry it thoroughly with paper towels. You may wish to heat it on your cooktop or in your oven to ensure it is completely dry. Wipe it with a THIN layer of your preferred oil (I use a spray of Pam on a paper towel) before storing. If you store your pans stacked in a drawer or cupboard, put paper towel between each pan. I keep some of my personal cast iron in my oven drawer, and I display my oft-used #5 and #8 on my counter in a rack.
Thanks very much for your inquiry and your patience in awaiting a reply, Michael. Now…go cook up some delights in your pan!
And Just For Fun…
Here are two photos that show how the Griswold Manufacturing Company recommended seasoning cast iron pans upon purchase (obtained via the wild, wild web).
Dean R, from Massachusetts, wrote to “Ask The Pan Handler” and sent along two photographs of a pretty square skillet.
Dean asked for help with identification of the pan. He said, “This skillet has a gate mark, is marked with L7 on the bottom, and has four small legs. It has a very detailed handle and a unique shape. Thank you!”
Here are photos of Dean’s pans:
I have written a blog post that might help some of you with identifying your old cast iron pieces; you can find it here.
Dean, you have a pretty skillet! I like the detail on the handle, in particular. Some of the very old skillets and griddles have very interesting and beautiful designs on the handle.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you which foundry produced your pan. I can tell you that is is a very old pan; most foundries stopped producing gate-marked pieces by around the 1880s, and certainly by around 1900. There were many, many foundries that produced American-made iron, however. Given the dearth of photographs and advertisements for cookware of that era, it is not possible for me to tell you with certainty or accuracy who made your pan.
I can say it is a beautiful old pan; just a bit of rust removal and re-seasoning, and it will be a fine cooker!
Readers, if an of you do know with certainty who manufactured Dean’s pan, do write to me and let me know (and provide your reference materials). If someone does come up with a definitive answer, I’ll update this post so we can all be educated!
Thanks for your inquiry, Dean.
…on my glass top cooktop. Wow, this was delicious! Another admission – while I love pot pie, I have never before made one. I don’t even think I have ever purchased one at the store, so I am not sure when I have had them and how I know I love them…I just know I do. I am quite sure I have never had one topped with biscuits; this was a nice twist on the standard.
Again, this is a Blue Apron recipe and meal meal. I am really having fun with the service. No, I am not a paid spokesperson for Blue Apron. I should be!Chicken and Sage Biscuit Pot Pie w Cremini Mushrooms and Purple-Top Turnip
Per Blue Apron, this serves 2. I found it served more like 3 hearty meals or 4 reasonably-sized servings.Ingredients: 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts 1 c Buttermilk Biscuit Mix 4 oz Cremini Mushrooms 1 Carrot 1 Stalk Celery ½ lb Purple Top Turnip 1 bunch Sage 3 T All-Purpose Flour 2 T Chicken Demi-Glace 2 T Crème Fraîche Olive Oil Salt & Pepper Directions:
Poach & shred the chicken:
In a medium pot, combine the chicken, a big pinch of salt and enough water to cover the chicken by 2 inches; heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, remove from heat and cover with a lid or foil. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Thoroughly drain the poached chicken and transfer to a cutting board. Using 2 forks, shred into bite-sized pieces.
Prepare the ingredients:
While the chicken poaches, preheat the oven to 450°F. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and medium dice the turnip. Cut the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the celery crosswise. Peel the carrot and thinly slice into rounds. Pick the sage leaves off the stems; discard the stems and thinly slice the leaves.
Cook the vegetables:
While the chicken continues to poach, in a number 8 cast iron skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until browned. Add the carrot, celery and turnip; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender.
Make the filling:
Add the flour and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan of vegetables; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the flour is golden. Add the crème fraîche, demi-glace, half the sage and 1½ cups of water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened. Stir in the shredded chicken; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, or until thoroughly combined and heated through.Make the biscuit batter:
While the filling cooks, in a medium bowl, combine the biscuit mix and remaining sage (just until combined – for tender biscuits you don’t want to mix too much!); season with salt and pepper. Gradually stir in 1/2 cup of cold water until just combined.
Using a spoon, top the skillet full of filling with about-equal-sized scoops of the biscuit batter, leaving some space between the scoops. Place the skillet into the oven and bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven. Let stand for at least 2 minutes. Serve directly at the table – be careful when transferring the skillet to the table; it will be hot!
One of the great things about making this in a cast iron pan is that the pot pie will stay plenty warm in the skillet while serving, so if people want more than one serving, they can scoop up another and it will still be warm.
I will need to get these pieces cleaned and seasoned, but I am excited to share with you these photos which show a sampling of some of the 50+ baking and kitchenware pieces we will have coming soon.
Aren’t they wonderful? We have several Wagner bundt pans, Wagner single and double-bread pans, Griswold sundial (which will take a little while to list – a previous owner painted it and I will remove that paint before listing it), deep Favorite Piqua Ware muffin pan, doughnut molds, wafer pans, candy molds, beautiful old gate marked muffin and French roll pans, G.F. Filley gem pan, turk’s head pans, Griswold lamb and Santa molds, Vienna bread pans…and so much more!
Just wanted to share a few photos – I am very excited about these pieces and can’t wait to get them cleaned up, seasoned, and back into circulation!
Glenn M. from Virginia wrote to Ask The Pan Handler and said:
“I recently acquired a very small, 3” dia. cast iron Toy scotch bowl with Bail handle, Marked “ERIE” on the bottom. Great condition. Just wondered when it was made and the approx. value. I am a member of the GCICA collectors club. Thanks for your assistance, Glenn.”
Glenn told me that his piece had nickel plating over cast iron. He sent me some photos of his toy scotch bowl. Here it is:
Glenn, I am sorry but I do not provide opinions as to value; it is far too subjective. You can find several resources where you can do your own research, however, on this issue. I wrote an Ask The Pan Handler article about that – you can find it here.
I can tell you that some people prefer to not have nickel plating on a piece, but yours appears to be in very nice condition. Often when you see nickel-plated pieces the finish is worn; yours does not appear to be so. It’s definitely a “niche” piece, however: The person who would purchase your piece (since you are apparently looking to sell it) would probably be either a collector of Griswold and other toy pieces, or a collector of nickel-plated Griswold toy pieces. The value would be to the person who collects the toy pieces. Your piece is obviously one for display and not for use; unless someone wanted to give their child an extravagant piece of toy cookware.
The reference books I reviewed did not show a nickel-plated toy scotch bowl. According to the Blue Book, the iron toy scotch bowl, which appears the same as yours but absent the plating, was manufactured between 1890 and 1910. I would expect that yours would have also been manufactured during that time frame.
Hope you find this information, and the links contained herein, helpful!