After years of cooking with a variety of carcinogenic non-stick cookware, I've finally found my way to good ol' cast iron - the original non-stick cookware. Seems grandma knew best - no surprise there.
Before purchasing a pair of skillets and a reversible griddle/grill, I scoured the net (though not the cast iron - don't worry!) for information pertaining to the use and care of cast iron cookware, and familiarized myself with the seasoning process. I read articles by Mark Bittman, dozens of posts here on Chowhound, and all sorts of other bits and pieces of information I came across online.
Now, I know the tried-and-true cleaning standard for cast iron cookware is to run it under hot water and to give it a few good scrubs with a stiff brush (with nylon bristles, preferably). I've no problem with that. I'm not one of those who frets over the possibility of germs and bacteria and such being left behind - as most people now know, heating the pan (and the cooking process itself) kills anything that might be wiggling about on the cookware.
That said, what does worry me is that, even after a good scrub under hot water (and I mean HOT water - the water temperature at my kitchen sink gets to a screaming, scalding hot), there's still a black, charry residue (albeit a thin one) that gets picked up by the paper towels I use when I re-coat the skillet or griddle with a bit of oil to keep it seasoned.
Now, here's the thing: after washing and drying the skillet or griddle, I can see that it looks and feels clean. I can wipe my finger over it - nothing sticks (like a black residue) to my finger. But when I use a paper towel with a bit of oil to re-coat the cookware, that's when the blackness appears, in the form of charry looking smudges all over the paper towel. Not a lot, but certainly a few.
Is that normal..?
I have to say that puts me off a bit more than the possibility of germs or what have you, becuase I don't like the thought of ingesting black, charry residue. I'm thinking it must get absorbed by whatever I cook.. though I can't say I notice black smudges on the food (on pancakes, for instance) I prepare using my cast-iron cookware.
What's your experience like?
One final question: I think I may have over-seasoned one of my skillets, as the outer surface (not the interior cooking surface) now has a few gummy spots. This makes the outer surface a bit difficult to re-coat with oil: the paper towel gets stuck on the gummy parts, and leaves behind little bits of paper towel lint everywhere. Following the advice of a few here on Chowhound, I originally seasoned the skillet with melted Crisco - not once, but twice. Meaning, upon bringing the skillet home, I seasoned it in the oven (using a thin layer of melted Crisco) twice in a row.
Will the gumminess eventually go away with repeated cooking (meaning, will it melt or burn off in time)? Should I just scrub those gummy spots really well using the stiff brush? Should I scour the whole darn thing and start over? Your insights would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance..