The bane of my existence (at the current moment)

I always wanted a cast iron skillet. I feel a kinship with them because they are so basic and necessary and heavy. I’m basic and necessary and heavy. Well, I’m basic and heavy, anyway. Necessary is debatable, depending on the mood of my immediate family. Don’t ask them today.

I’d watch cast iron skillets being used constantly on the Food Network by people who know what they’re doing and I’d think if only I had a cast iron skillet, I too could know what I’m doing and be a great cook. Or chef. Whatever. A cast iron skillet is the only thing keeping me from getting my own cooking show. That, and the fact that I rarely cook anything but pasta and chicken.

But you know what? When it comes right down to it, I don’t want my own cooking show. I don’t want to be on TV and have ten extra pounds added to my face. I do that just fine in the privacy of my own home. All I really want to do is make the perfect home fries. In my 41 years on this earth, I have yet to master that dish and I thought a cast iron skillet would be the answer to all my problems. Problems of a potato nature, to be specific. Because I don’t think cast iron will help my adult onset acne or hormonal surges or razor burn. But if I can make perfect home fries, I can deal with a hormonal wig out or two and some stubbly bumps and lead a relatively happy life.

There’s something to be said for setting the bar really low.

I’ve wanted a cast iron skillet forever and two months ago, I broke down and actually bought one. It’s made by Emeril Lagasse. Was that my first mistake? Should I have gotten another brand? I just thought that if Emeril had his face on it, it was bound to be good because he doesn’t strike me as the type that would sell out. Then again, I do periodically vacation at the Land of Denial where I am always a size six.

I did my research about how to cook in, and clean up, a cast iron skillet because I always do research before spending any money on anything. Why I always wind up with crap is beyond me but I think it has something to do with the universe hating me. Not that I’m paranoid. Because I’m not. But even if I was, it wouldn’t matter because being paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Keep that in mind that next time the universe decides to get a burr up its ass and smack you upside the head when no one is looking.

I dragged the skillet down the aisle to the register, happily paid for it and then dragged it to my car and heaved it into the trunk and drove straight home, excited to get to work on it. I wrenched my back wrestling it out of my trunk and lugged it into my kitchen and hoisted it onto my counter at which point I had to sit down and wait for the bright lights to stop blurring my vision and the sweat to evaporate off my body because I didn’t want to break my own rule of never doing anything when I am blind or sweaty.

Once I was dry and could see, I went about seasoning my skillet. I lighted rinsed it with water with no soap because all the websites declare that true aficionados of cast iron skillets do not use soap and I wanted to be an aficionado because I’d never been one before and it sounded important. But let me tell you, being an aficionado didn’t come easy to me because I really had to work quite hard to get over my mental thing about not using dish soap on stuff that not only touches my food but cooks it as well. I really don’t like to even think about not using dish soap unless I’m in my happy place because otherwise it makes me twitch and throw up a little in my mouth and unfortunately, my happy place is closed for repairs at the moment.

***shudder, heave, twitch, twitch, twitch, pass out***

Let’s move on.

Then I wiped it dry with a dish towel and stuck it in a 200° oven for thirty minutes to ensure it was completely dry. I broke my back after I bent over and lifted it out of my oven with huge awkward oven mitts in such a way so as not to burn myself. Did I mention that I have the arm strength of Gumby? It was all I could do not to drop it and crush my foot and thank God I didn’t because I had just had a pedicure and what a waste of money that would have been, to pay to have both my feet look pretty when only one would have been sufficient. I’m all about not wasting money. Well, I was. Before I went all Martha and bought a cast iron skillet.

While it was still hot, I took a paper towel and wiped the inside with vegetable oil because that’s what all the websites told me to do. Then I shouted every epitaph known to man when I realized those stupid websites were screwing with me because the paper towel snagged on the cast iron and left paper residue all over it.

See what I mean? Universe? Hating me? Paranoid? I don’t think so.

I cleaned out the skillet again, let it dry in the oven again, then used a washcloth to wipe it down with vegetable oil again and stuck it back in the oven again. Then Nate asked if I was aware that I kept forgetting to put dinner in the skillet before baking it. Then I asked Nate if he was aware that he kept forgetting to put thought into his words before speaking them. And if he continued to do so, I would not be held responsible for any cast iron skillet that found itself flung across the room. As far as a 200 pound skillet can be flung. So don’t go blaming me if you’re standing two inches in front of me and you get a mouth full of skillet.

Then I heated up the skillet and threw a couple of hundred water droplets on it, peering at them intently to ensure they were sizzling and dancing because to sizzle without dancing, or dance without sizzling, was UNACCEPTABLE according to the websites. So I stared at those droplets forever, trying to determine if they were actually sizzling or just bubbling without purpose. Were they actually dancing or just moving back and forth because they had no rhythm?

Hello, trees? Which way to the forest? Thank you.

When I determined that the droplets were doing a pretty good foxtrot, I added my butter, potatoes, onions and spices and shouted to Nate that he was going to eat his words right before eating the most mouth watering home fries on the entire east coast. Then I stood back to watch the magic.

And I watched that magic as it came swooping into my kitchen, laughed in my face, kicked me in the shins and drifted out the window on its way to Martha’s, leaving me scraping an inch of burnt potatoes, onions and hopes and dreams from the bottom of the skillet while my family ate cereal and toast in silence. Stupid ass magic.

This scenario repeated itself more times than I have space to blog about it, so you can breathe a sigh of relief.

After each time, I scraped the skillet of all the burnt food and my right arm now resembles that of Michael Phelps which makes me walk lopsided.

Lots of times I have to heat some water in the bottom of the skillet to make the burned crap scrape off easier. Then I sometimes have to use one of those Dobie pads to scrub the skillet but I only do it lightly because God forbid I do something to hurt the surface because then maybe my food wouldn’t burn and stick as nicely and evenly anymore and if there’s anything worse than burnt and stuck food, it’s uneven burnt and stuck food. From an obsessive compulsive point of view, anyway.

And I admit it … I resorted to using a tiny little bit of dish soap because I just couldn’t take the taste of my own vomit any longer. Don’t tell the other aficionados, okay?

I have seasoned that thing more times than I can remember because I have mentally blocked it out. I even followed Alli’s advice. Hi Alli! ((waving)) She suggested I heat a bunch of table salt in the bottom of my skillet for about twenty minutes. She warned me it would get a bit smokey so I warned Nate not to panic if the fire alarm went off and that a little oxygen deprivation was a small price to pay for a well seasoned cast iron skillet. And he asked if a well seasoned cast iron skillet was worth a $2500 deductible on our fire insurance policy, not to mention a two week stay in a mental health facility before the month was up. I ignored him.

Despite all of my best efforts, I can’t cook anything in this skillet without burning the sheer hell out of it. Exhibit 1: a simple dish of scrambled eggs and cheese:

burnt food on cast iron skillet

I’ve had it.

UNCLE. UNCLE. UNCLE.

I have no more fight in me. My right arm is now hanging down to my foot and it’s kind of floppy.

I want to run over it with the Durango. The skillet, not my arm. I still like my arm but I hate that skillet and I want to destroy it. I’m just a little concerned that it’s possessed and would blow out a tire or two out of spite and I’m not sure how I’d explain that one to Nate since he doesn’t place any stock in my belief that inanimate objects have personal agendas.

Maybe I’ll just blow it up. Does Home Depot sell C-4? If not, who’s got directions to the nearest black market?

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29 thoughts on “The bane of my existence (at the current moment)”

  1. Frankly, I think cast iron skillets are vastly overrated. For one thing, it doesn’t help that you can’t lift it while you’re trying to get it from the stove to the sink. Even if the food is burnt on gunk, some of it still manages to fall out while it’s being dragged from here to there. For another, I think the seasoned skillet has had resounding success only in the minds of someone who doesn’t think burnt on gunk is a big deal. Some people don’t, you know. I know there is vast merit in eating all one’s food, but do I have to eat it every time I use the pan, over and over in some hellish asymptotic burnt on gunk fashion?

    Martha, I am not. =)

    Yours in antiskillethood, with accompanying giggles,
    Heather
    =)

  2. I, too, wanted to be a part of the magic of the cast iron skillet. I also have that thing about not being able to use soap. It’s just not worth it! I have this:

    http://www.bekahkates.com/modules/cart/products.php/nav_id/25/page/1/id/1748/name/AllCladMC2SautewithLid2quart

    and I’ll tell you what – perfect home fries EVERY TIME. You use it properly, nothing sticks. Who needs Teflon? I’ve had it for ten years and it’s just as nice now as when I bought it.

  3. Don’t feel bad, I’m a pastry chef and a pretty darn great cook if I do say so myself and I have my grandmother’s cast iron pan that my mom gave me. Its years old and very well seasoned by some one who knew how to use it and I can’t cook in it either.

  4. I don’t cook.
    About three years ago, I stopped pretending that if I had the perfect kitchen and all the perfect utensils I would.

    And your story just thoroughly convinced me I am on the right track! I’ve given up on cooking and I feel good about it!

  5. I get so jealous when I read the Pioneer Woman (Pdub) and see how beautifully her stuff comes out when she cooks in it. It never worked out for me, I went thru the same thing. I gave up, bought the Rachel Ray Limegreen kitchen set and have been happy ever since. I mainly bought them because they were lime green–but they cook amazingly well, so I’m happy.

  6. Girl when you are raised in the south and those type of skillets are the only thing you cook with, you learn the hard way. Those things have to be really hot with oil in the bottom, or they stick to high heaven. Keep trying and don’t give up!!!!!!!

  7. hee hee hee… I really enjoyed reading this today!!!
    It totally sounds like me… the best of intentions and lots of pots that end up looking like that…
    I really do believe that whatever works is the best… and NOT what the “professionals” say….I’ve learned my lesson the hard way too!
    and anyways… eggs look like that on any pan… even teflon…
    maybe it will do well for french toast…or some other less scrapable dish?? lol
    It is a beautiful pan though!
    good luck
    and please I would love a recipe for your home fries… cast iron skillet or not!

  8. OMG! I can so relate. Except that I have a coated cast iron skillet and I’ve never even used it. Just having it there in the cabinet makes me feel a little better. I think I’ll just learn from you and leave it where it is!

    Thanks for the laughs – love your blog!

    Tracy

  9. Well, I have to tell you that I have my great grandmother’s cast iron skillet. I do use soap on it because I am not dying of anything that might grow in there if I don’t. I forget to season it. And I make a mean cornbread and also hash browns with it.

  10. I have my great grandma’s cast iron skillet. I love it, except while healing from shoulder surgery. Somehow, I managed to season it just right and it’s fantastic, nothing ever sticks to it. And I don’t EVER use soap! 😀

  11. BBAAWWWAA!! This was so funny! I can completely relate! I bought one of those Cast iron skillets too and after attempting to season it in the oven with lard (which left a huge burnt lard mess in the bottom of my oven) and cooking in it and having my food taste like metal I got rid of it! I have wondered about the new pre-seasoned iron skillets though….but I’m not brave enough to try again! BTW, I love reading your blog! So funny and true!

  12. My Mom had one and always used it. I remember cooking in it, was nothing out of the oridinary to me and I absolutely hated cleaning that thing! I do not own one and don’t ever care to own one…hehehe. Great blog!

  13. I went through the same thing because my grandma always used cast iron skillets. I could never get mine seasoned, and my food always burned too. So what did I do? When grandma died, I said “I get the cast iron!” Hers I can cook in. I even use soap to clean it a bit now and then. I figure it’s the new cast iron that doesn’t have decades of Crisco residue on it that burns stuff.

  14. NOOOOOOOOOO don’t give up..LMAO

    do it again.. and use soap, hello it is cast iron you think anything but a hand grenade is going to do any damage.And use a scrubber, I use the copper ones, they don’t scratch.. and again it is cast iron!

    I have a big le creuset pan, I felt the same way as you do until one day it just worked…

    season it again… for me go on..

  15. HAHAH!! That’s just sad. My mom wants to get a whole set of cast iron skillets for the new place and I was allowing her to talk me into it… until today. I have enough problems cooking (I’m like you, pasta and chicken… and an occasional box of macaroni and cheese which isn’t technically pasta) without worrying about my skillets going on strike.

  16. I got a set of Lodge cast iron skillets when I was married and tried to use them but had the same results as you. Unfamiliar cooking apparatii plus an inexperienced cook does not mix! I use the small one to make cornbread in but that’s it. And I’ve got a smooth top stove so I don’t even think I could use one if I wanted to!

  17. Just wanted to say thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday…100 things and being saucy was a lot of fun!! My boy loves school…again I worry needlessly…one day I will learn that my fears are NOT his fears, and just accept that he will be fine…so no more worries for me…until High school that is…LOL>

  18. Oh my gosh! I can totally relate, as I have one and did all the seasoning stuff that “they” say to do. I still burn food in it too.

    I was laughing so hard I was crying!

  19. That was hilarious! I haven’t read any other posts yet, but I am sure they will be just as funny. I did read some about the conversation with your Mom and Dad on the phone. I look forward to reading more. Since you brought up the adult acne thing, I would love to treat you to some aloe based skincare. It’s called L’Bri and it’s wonderful. I can send you 6 pieces. If you are intersted, send me an email at Jealder7@aol.com. If not, I will just enjoy your daily humor!

    Judy
    http://www.judyalders.lbri.com

  20. Well I wouldn’t say I am a professional, but I do use cast iron over an open fire. (www.revwar.blogspot.com)

    I haven’t read any tips anyone else gave you, but I can give you some of my advice.

    Number one, until your skillet is old, do not cook anything liquid in it. I would suggest only cooking bacon or anything that is cooked in oil in it.

    Number two, if you feel the need to use soap, you may not want an iron skillet. The beauty of the skillet is that it absorbs the oil from food and becomes naturally non-stick. Soap pulls the oil out defeating the whole purpose of the skillet. If you have stuck on stuff like the eggs, get some coarse salt and a hard brush and brush the salt around coarsely to get the bits and pieces up. Immediately follow with a coat of oil and a heat up in the oven.

    Number three, if you cook bacon in it, wipe it out well with a paper towel and do nothing else! Save the grease from the bacon in a cup in the fridge, use this to cook other things or to grease it up after use. Bacon fat is so much better for the skillet then vegetable oil.

    Number Four, do not cook it on high heat. A cast iron skillet retains heat extremely well (another good benefit), so once it’s up to temperature, turn the heat on your stove down or stuff will burn to the bottom.

    Number Five, do not attempt eggs or rice until your skillet is well seasoned (as in you have cooked a lot with oily stuff without putting soap or salt in it in between)

    Number six, cast iron isn’t all it’s cracked up to be over a stove, if you want to see real beauty of cast iron, build a fire pit out back and cook over that 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Good Luck!
    Rachel

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