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Discussion Starter #1
Hi there

We recently bought 2 cast iron frying pans very cheap, about 8UK pounds each. The idea was to throw away the non-stick ones whose coating can be hazardous. However we are not sure if these new pans are not pained over with some kind of black paint, like the black powder paint they used to paint wrought iron gates, or whether they might contain other stuff. Is there a way to tell?

Thanks
 

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Take a screwdriver and scrape them on the bottom a little bit. You should be able to tell if what comes off is seasoning or paint. Do you have any pictures you could post?
 

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Baked on crap.

I would use electrolysis and get rid of it all and start the seasoning process all over.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
they are very heavy definitely not aluminium.

Here are some pictures. if they are painted/baked on with some (toxic) black paint, why? What is the natural colour of cast iron?
 

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It looks like normal factory applied "seasoning". They sprayed with some kind of food safe oil and baked it at high heat to create a protective coating. This is normal practice to keep the pans from rusting before they get sold to consumers.

Raw unoxidized iron has a silvery color. I can see a little bit of it in picture#4 and on the handle.

If you really want to you can scrub with steel wool to remove the factory coating and apply a new one, but it probably isn't worth the effort.

The pan looks fine to me.
 

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Well-seasoned cast iron IS black. If in doubt, you could do as FTG-05 suggests, remove the seasoning and start again. I've used a cabinet sandblaster at work to get back down to the cast before, much quicker and easier than steel wool and soapy water, but the latter will work as well. Typically I'll only do that if I've gotten lazy and let a pan or skillet get some surface rust. General cleaning is either just water, water and salt, water and sand (if cooking shore lunches on the beach), or the occasional soapy water scrub, followed immediately by a good drying and a light coating of oil or lard. To me, though, those just look well used.

Personally, I'd just give them a good wash with soap and water, then brush/wipe them with cooking oil. Be advised, though, that my kitchen hygiene isn't at the same level as a lot of people. I believe in keeping the immune system strong and responsive.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I am still unsure, is this toxic black paint or is it some sort of burnt oil and nothing to worry about? My wife has wiped the surface and occasionally some black something does come off so we are naturally worried.
 

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It is probably the coating that naturally develops with use flaking off. With a piece of steel wool and some elbow grease (ok, maybe lots of elbow grease), that will come right off. Oh yeah, if your wife is into manicures, you might want to be the one that scrubs them up. Scrubbing cast iron is not kind to fingernails.
 

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It really doesn't look like paint to me, but it's hard to tell from the pics. They look like nice pans though! Good find. The scratches on the handle look like seasoning to me, not paint.

Unseasoned cast iron is a dull gray color and will begin to rust immediately. With one coat of seasoning, it's a brownish gray. Deeply seasoned (multiple coats) it's a deep shiny black. Here are two of my Dutch ovens:


The top one has had multiple coats of seasoning applied. The bottom one has only one coat. Both are ready to cook.

If you have a self-cleaning oven you can burn old seasoning off by putting the pans in the oven and running the cleaning cycle. I would definitely not do that though, if I really thought they were painted. And if the old seasoning is thick and glossy, you don't want to remove that unless you absolutely have to! New seasoning will be need to be applied within a day or so if you do strip it, as the pans will begin to rust right away. Seasoning is a smoky business so you might not want to do this in the winter when you can't open windows. Some people use a gas grill and season outside.

Here's a pic of a frying pan intended for use in making diet pancakes.

As you can see, some of the seasoning peeled off. That's because of how it was placed in the oven when I seasoned it and what it was sitting on. The oil drained off the bottom of the pan as it sat upside down in the oven, and stuck to whatever the rim of the pan was resting on. It does resemble paint but it's seasoning, not paint. Don't know if that helps or not.

Here's a pic of a brand new Combo Cooker I recently acquired. The little spots are damaged seasoning. Again, not paint, but it does look like paint.

I also damaged the seasoning really badly in the bottom pan by not cleaning it after a Dutch oven cooking demo I did last summer. My back was wrecked by the time I got home that night and I let the DOs sit overnight instead of cleaning them immediately. The bars I made in the pan took the seasoning right off. No big deal, I'll just re-season it sometime, but I'm waiting for summer so as not to smoke up the house. Now it looks like the top inside half of the pan is painted and the bottom isn't, but it's just the contrast between damaged and undamaged seasoning.

I don't really think your pans are painted. I looked at picture 5 again and the scratch marks definitely show seasoning. Good seasoning, too. Paint would have filled in the pebble finish in the raw iron a lot more than that, IMO. Also, standard paint would stink and burn and flake off badly, and stove paint or grill paint I think only comes in a matte finish black, which is not shiny like seasoning is.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thank you all for your replies.

The close up picture of the handle is where I took an ordinary table knife and tried to scratch with all my might to see what would come off. You can see the scratch marks.

When you say "seasoning" what do you mean? I can see flakes have come off yours and I do not understand what it is.
 

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Well-seasoned cast iron IS black. If in doubt, you could do as FTG-05 suggests, remove the seasoning and start again. I've used a cabinet sandblaster at work to get back down to the cast before, much quicker and easier than steel wool and soapy water, but the latter will work as well. Typically I'll only do that if I've gotten lazy and let a pan or skillet get some surface rust. General cleaning is either just water, water and salt, water and sand (if cooking shore lunches on the beach), or the occasional soapy water scrub, followed immediately by a good drying and a light coating of oil or lard. To me, though, those just look well used.

Personally, I'd just give them a good wash with soap and water, then brush/wipe them with cooking oil. Be advised, though, that my kitchen hygiene isn't at the same level as a lot of people. I believe in keeping the immune system strong and responsive.
Tried using the steel wool side of a kitchen sponge, but the surface is not smooth it is very gravelly so you cannot take off whatever is in the pits. Even though some has come off.
 

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Seasoning is the carbonized oil that has been burned into the surface of the pan. It's what you've been trying to scrub off the pan. You don't want to remove that! Don't scrub cast iron, just wipe it with a dish cloth or other soft item to clean it.

Personally, I like that pebbled finish on the newer pans. That's caused by the pans being cast in sand molds. In the past, pans were often milled and had very smooth surfaces. I have a hard time keeping my vintage stuff seasoned as well as I would like, whereas the seasoning tends to stay on the newer pebbled surfaces much better.

To season a piece of cast iron, you apply a very thin, very light coating of some sort of food-safe grease. Some people like Crisco, some like a liquid oil, some use bacon grease, etc. The key is to get it very thin, very light or it'll be gummy after it's baked on. Then you fire it in your stove oven or in a grill outside or over a campfire at a temp of about 400 degrees for an hour or two. The grease you applied smokes and burns and hardens onto the surface of the pan. This is exactly what you want to happen. The carbonized oil creates a protective surface that, over time, becomes thick and slick so food doesn't stick. (Sorry, channeling Dr. Seuss there for a moment! :D) You do not want to scrub that off! You want to baby the surface so it not only doesn't get washed away, the layers build up over time. Pans with a very thick, slick, shiny surface are highly prized.

The seasoning, to put it simply, is burned, hardened, food-safe oil. If you add a coat or two, it's easy to tell when the oil has carbonized. The smoke stops rolling out of the stove oven, the smoke detectors stop going off, and the cats stop yelling about the noise from the smoke detectors. Every layer you put on your pans protects them even more and makes their surfaces more and more non-stick.

You NEVER put cast iron in a dishwasher as it'll kill the seasoning right now. Wash it gently by hand. There is a big controversy as to the use of soap or no soap. If you do use soap, use a mild version that doesn't cut grease. Never use steel wool on it. You can use a plastic scraper, or let a pan soak for a few minutes in plain hot water to loosen any sticky food. Cast iron is usually easiest to wash when it's still warm, but be sure you run your faucet till the water is hot before putting water in a hot pan. Contrasts between water temp and pan temp can warp or crack cast iron.

The water should bead up on the surface of the pan, just like on a freshly-waxed car. If the surface feels slightly greasy, that's fine. Any leftover grease helps build up the seasoning over time, and good seasoning feels a bit greasy even when it isn't. I generally rinse my pans in very hot water and then let them air dry, but if you use a dishtowel you may want to use one that you don't care if it gets dark marks on it, because sometimes it will. Then again in my case that's often due to cooking with charcoal or on a campfire.

It sounds more complex than it is. Just remember not to scrub too much.
 

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Yeah, my steel wool suggestion was to completely remove the seasoning to re-season. Spirit Deer has it all there for you. I'm assuming that you are a relative newbie when it comes to cast iron cookware? The seasoning sometimes flakes off. I'm 99.9% certain that's what you're seeing. I can't think of 1 good reason why anyone would paint a cast iron pan. The "grit" could either be from casting, as SD suggests, or it could be the "baked-in goodness" of years of frying bacon, cooking steaks, etc. SD has explained the process of seasoning. That black coating is exactly what you want to happen with cast iron.

I prefer to clean with just water and a dishcloth, however if there is some really tough baked on food that won't wipe off, mild dishsoap is ok, as long as you put a thin coat of oil on it afterwards.
 

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My cast iron that is well seasoned just gets rinse out with hot water and wiped down with a bar rag after it is used. I then dry it with another bar rag. Bar rags are my substite for paper towels since my household is paperless. I usually coat it with bacon grease (my prefered grease) after it is dry.
 

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I wasn't referring to grit when I was talking about casting. I was talking about the bumpy finish most new CI has now. The old pieces usually are smooth. There shouldn't be any grit from the sand casting as that's all cleaned off after the pans are cast, then they're either seasoned at the factory so they're ready to cook with out of the box, or they're sprayed with a food-safe wax coating to prevent rust, in which case they have to be seasoned before cooking with them. Lodge and Camp Chef which are the two leading brands in the US are all pre-seasoned now. Other brands may or may not be.

I've seen painted cast iron cookware. I even own a piece. Usually it's painted because people want to use it for something decorative. I've seen people try to use old cast iron pots for planters outside, so they paint them in hopes of keeping them from rusting. It never works.

The painted piece I have is a tortilla press. It's painted a nice shiny silver. Of course, that never gets heated up or even comes in contact with food. It never really gets washed either, just wiped with a damp cloth, so rusting and sticking isn't a real issue in its case.
 

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I wasn't referring to grit when I was talking about casting. I was talking about the bumpy finish most new CI has now.
I know that, the original poster mentioned "gravelly", so I suggested it could either be cooked-on grit, as it kind of appears to be in some of the original pictures posted, or the rough finish that you mentioned.
 

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there is an old way to clean a old or new ci pan or pot -build a good log fire in fireplace or outside and before lighting fire put ci on top inside down and let fire burn till it goes out then wait till it cool then scrub with water only then dry and coat with seasoning and bake in oven at 250 for an hour or more -long process but it always worked for my mom and grand mom-ps nice finds
 

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Discussion Starter #20
SO if my pan is covered with some sort of paint and not the seasoning as you have described, I can put it over a hot fire until it reaches 400 C and leave it there for a few hours and that should remove the paint and anything else?

The only way to achieve 400 C is to leave it on the gas stove I think, my electric oven goes up to 250 C.
 
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