I got a new cast iron pan, and it's incredibly aggravating

By John, 13 January, 2024

Last summer I got a cast iron pan new in box for 5 dollars at a yard sale. Maybe my wife picked it up for me? I don't remember.

It's the most ridiculously rough, stereotypical bad "Made in China" quality cast iron a person could imagine. It is not pre-seasoned or seasoned in any capacity. Light grey, straight from the factory cast iron.

I was going to rehab it and try to think of ways to make it better. I had a plan to sand it down and make it super smooth, I even bought some flap discs and an angle grinder to make that happen. But then when I got the actual angle grinder and the flap disks I looked at the angles I would have to use to make it work. And the angles were weird, and I wasn't convinced I wasn't going to just burn a gouge in the bottom of the pan.

And then I started thinking. One thought I had was remembering a forum post where someone said a rough cast iron pan builds up to smooth over time as the seasoning fills in the rough pockets of the cast iron. And the other thought I had was, I mean, I wonder: do I even need to season this thing. What if I just cook with it?

So I cooked some burgers over a fire. Cleaned it up to "pretty good" and threw it in the box with the rest of the camping gear. That was 6-8 months ago. I remember being rather satisfied with the performance of the pan over the campfire.

Today I hauled it out of the basement. And in the clear light of day, it was clear there was a lot of mess still stuck on the bottom of the pan.

I scrubbed. I scrubbed with hot water. And I even boiled water on the stove and scrubbed some more. And the result was.... not great. I am sorry I can't put a picture up here because I broke pictures on my own website but yeah it's got some crusty bits and it's very clearly not seasoned.

I mean, fire baked on hamburgers on a non-seasoned cast iron pan. I didn't even oil the pan before I threw it on the fire.

But I'm still curious. Can I make it work? I am not going to sand the pan down or grind it or make it smooth, and am instead just going to cook with it. I'm not going to season it. I'm just going to follow the main rules of cast iron:

  • No soap
  • No dishwasher
  • No tomatoes or acidic foods
  • Don't heat it up TOO hot
  • Scrub it out, dry it off, put a light coat of oil on it

I want to be YEAH I THINK THIS WILL WORK but I am super not confident it's going to work in any capacity. Because I just spent 20 minutes blasting crusted off gunk and it looks super patchy and rough.

To be clear, I already have another cheap cast iron pan that I have re-habbed and made a mess of mistakes on over the years, but now it's just about perfect and I love it. I have to remind myself, I can stop this experiment and use my good cast iron any time I want. So yeah, I am not going to commit to a time frame, I'm just going to be using this super shitty pan, for as much as I can, and we'll see what happens.

Now I am going to throw some rice and leftover curry in it and heat it up on the stove. Or maybe I'll make an omelette. And I'll keep you updated!