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John Setzler

Improving a Cheap Lodge Cast Iron Pan

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I have been having a look at some new options for me in Cast Iron pans.  I have considered a few higher end pans.  I did a little research and found that, with a little attitude and a few dollars worth of tools, I might be able to turn my cheap Lodge cast iron pans into heirloom quality pans.  I stopped by Harbor Freight and picked up a few things I needed and hit Target to buy a new 8" Lodge cast iron pan for $12 to run this test on...

 

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The objective here is to take this $12 pan with the rough texture cooking surface and turn it into a FANTASTIC cast iron cooking pan.  The one thing I like about Lodge is the price.  The one thing I hate about Lodge is the rough textured surface.  There is a LOT OF MONEY that separates nice smooth textured cooking surfaces from the cheap rough texture.

 

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I picked up this $4 abrasive wheel that will fit on my 3/8" drill.  I went to work on the cooking surface in this pan with it...

 

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It did a pretty good job.  I probably can spend a little more time with this tool at this stage and get it even better.

 

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Once I have it ground down with the wheel, I used some 80 grit sanding disks on my small hand held orbital sander to go even further with it...

 

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A coarser grit sandpaper here, like a 60 or even a 40, would probably work even better and will be my target with round 2 of this experiment.  

 

After this stage, I wiped out the pan as best I could with a rag and then scrubbed it with hot water and soap and a stiff bristle brush.  This is an important step.  Don't skip it.  You will see why when you start scrubbing with the brush.  There is a lot of blackness / iron dust that will scrub out of the pan at this point.

 

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The next thing I wanted to do was completely remove all the seasoning from the pan, inside and out.  I put the pan in my oven and ran a self cleaning cycle on it.  After it cooled I scrubbed once more with hot water and soap.

 

To properly dry the pan after washing it, I put it in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes.  

 

Then I took it out and while it was still nice and warm, I rubbed on a liberal coating of grape seed oil and let the pan cool completely with that oil on it.  Once the pan was cooled, I took a clean paper towel and wiped off all the oil that I could.  

 

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Then I put the pan face down in the oven and ran it at 500°F for an hour.

 

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I let the pan cool and removed it from the oven.  I re-warmed the pan, applied another liberal coat of grape seed oil.  I wiped that off as best I could again and put it back in at 500°F.  I plan to run the seasoning cook on the pan a total of 3 or 4 times before I cook on it....

 

 

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I have been using grape seed oil for about a year...high flash point, mild flavor. Use on my cast iron but also cook with it. A gallon bottle is around $10 at costco. I bought a pump up

atomizing oil spray bottle and use it instead of paying a fortune for the aerosol can. Works great.

 

Also, for high temp steak sear cooks I use ghee...here is a link on how make it : https://wellnessmama.com/24267/make-ghee/

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I've done this with all our cast iron--four pieces now--and the results are fantastic. After a time the surface is virtually non-stick. Which means that all you have to do to clean a pan like this is use one of those soft plastic scrub pads (not the ones with grit embedded in them) and hot water, no soap, and it's clean. Another thing I do...and I got this tip from a website or a book or heck I don't know but it works...is, after cleaning put the pan on the stove top (we have gas, if it makes a difference[?]) and oil it as I'm heating it on high. When the oil starts smoking a little bit I turn the gas off and wipe the pan down. Doing this "polymerizes"(?) the oil, and little by little the seasoning builds up.

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1 hour ago, adam319 said:

I like where you are going with that. I am interested how that holds up vs. the factory coating. 

 

It will hold up as well as the factory coating as long as it isn't abused.  The factory coating can't hold up to what it might experience on a grill. THIS pan will not be a pan that I use on the grill. It will be for stovetop applications only.  It might find its way to the grill if what I am doing is over indirect heat.  Grills ruin the seasoning on cast iron.  It doesn't take much to burn it off.  This seasoning process I do with grape seed oil holds up much better to high heat that other oils do. I put it in the oven at 500 degrees for an hour with grapeseed oil on it.  I just put this pan in for it's third run though the process.  After the second run the pan looked and felt fantastic.  I'm looking forward to cooking some eggs in it in the morning...

 

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7 minutes ago, Panchango said:

@John Setzler Thanks for doing this.  I picked up a 10" Lodge pan on black friday sales for $10 shipped with plans to use the same process.  I saw it in a couple videos on youtube.  I look forward to your long term results using this pan.

 

I found some videos on this technique as well.  I think everything is looking really good on this one so far.  I will cook on it tomorrow.  I may fry an egg in it tonight just to check it out.  If it looks promising I may strip down my 10" and 12" pans and get them going.  I may buy a couple new ones because Im not likely to use these on the grill after I have spent the time on new surface and new seasoning.

 

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My experience is that "resurfacing" these Lodge pans is pretty much unnecessary. Once seasoned properly the OEM rough surface releases food just fine and that rougher surface wears down fairly quickly with regular use/cleaning. We use CI the majority of the time both on the stove top and on the grill.

I actually use the 14" CI Academy Sports griddles for all my kamado pizzas and for my philly steak sandwiches. I use the Lodge 10.5" low profile round griddle on the kamado for bread stick and dessert pizzas.

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18 minutes ago, EZ smoke said:

My experience is that "resurfacing" these Lodge pans is pretty much unnecessary. Once seasoned properly the OEM rough surface releases food just fine and that rougher surface wears down fairly quickly with regular use/cleaning. We use CI the majority of the time both on the stove top and on the grill.

I actually use the 14" CI Academy Sports griddles for all my kamado pizzas and for my philly steak sandwiches. I use the Lodge 10.5" low profile round griddle on the kamado for bread stick and dessert pizzas.

 

I agree completely. I've never bothered sanding out any of my Lodge pans but I have helped a couple friends do a few of theirs (mainly because I have lots of tools). Was kinda fun but mostly a dirty messy job. Even after doing that you are still left with a heavy, thick-walled skillet. Not really at all like the smooth, thin-walled vintage stuff that frequently had milled surfaces or the newer stuff that also have machined surfaces.

 

Looking at the photos above you can clearly see that while most of the surface is smoother there are still a lot of pitted areas so it's not really a glass smooth surface. Glass smooth isn't really that useful anyway as there needs to be some surface "roughness" to really give the seasoning something to stick to.

 

New Lodge pans may not have the aesthetic appeal of the older (or contemporary) smooth stuff but performance wise there really isn't much difference a year after purchase.

 

 

 

 

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I question whether the formula for iron has changed?  I have a couple of older pans, one is a Wagner, the other is from a foundry in Nova Scotia, a Findlay.  The cast is so smooth in the Findlay you can almost see yourself in it.  The Wagner is not as fine but certainly better than the current Lodge. I've also read the moulds are not the same as years ago and of course the finishing.

I don't have an issue with Lodge especially now when I see what is coming our of the Asian foundries, it's even more course than Lodge.

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