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Here's my cast iron frying pan. I had seasoned it before but wasn't sure if I'd got it right so I figured I'd start again. I'm not clear on what state it needs to be in before I do that.

I sanded a little bit to remove the bumpy black residue but it was an extremely slow process. What is the black on my pan and do I need to remove it all to be silver again before I season?

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  • That "bumpy black residue" is the surface of the cast iron and you WANT IT! Eventually it may return with seasoning and cleaning as per the link in the previous comment. It is also possible that you have ruined the pan in your attempts to clean it. – Steve Chambers Dec 27 '20 at 17:01
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    @SteveChambers - the bumpy black residue is precisely bumpy black residue & you want rid of it to start over. The nearly shiny bit it where you should start. The bumpy bits are where over time it has got over-seasoned & it will start to come off in chunks. Clean start = clean bright iron. Optionally get it as smooth as possible. Old cast pans were surface polished before the customer got them. Modern ones they can't be bothered so you get them straight out of the mould, complete with rough surface. – Tetsujin Dec 27 '20 at 18:44
  • Tom - I'd go with the recommended duplicate question (plenty of good answers there) but first I'd start by sanding off the existing coating, especially in the thickets parts. That aspect doesn't need to be perfect, but this is your opportunity to get rid of the heavy bumpy coating round the edges & up the sides & start from somewhere closer to the original iron surface. tbh, until it gets so think it starts to come off in chunks, cosmetic appearance of a seasoned pan is not your main consideration, but this is a good time to even it all up. – Tetsujin Dec 27 '20 at 18:50
  • @Ecnerwal that's a good answer on how to season a cast iron pan, but it doesn't tell me how to get to the starting point or whether my pan is already in the right condition – Tom Dec 27 '20 at 19:09
  • For the condition that the pan is in, I would've recommended cooking.stackexchange.com/q/91173/67 (although many of the answers are "you don't need to strip it), or cooking.stackexchange.com/q/11592/67 – Joe Dec 29 '20 at 19:27
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Whilst the re-seasoning part could be considered a duplicate, that's not actually what this question asks. It's "What do I do with the existing surface?"

You sand it off, or you get it sandblasted professionally (or you get all chemistry class with lye baths & other potentially dangerous stuff;).

The cosmetic appearance is not vital, but your pan has built up a coating so thick that it can start to come off in chunks.

This is your opportunity to start afresh, so I'd try to get it as close to bare metal as you reasonably can, without being over-fussy about the last vestiges. As your start-point for the new seasoning you want an even surface, rather than a 'perfectly clean' one. New seasoning will stick just as well to remaining coating as it will to bare iron, so long as you re-season properly.
For that part I'd see some of the previous answers on this stack - but note, there appears to be no true consensus as to temperature, duration, oil type...

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  • Is anything that's black 'seasoning', or is there a difference between the shiny seasoned cast iron I see in pictures and the dull black that's in mine? – Tom Dec 27 '20 at 19:08
  • In effect, everything except shiny bare metal is some part of the seasoning, from the smooth to the mountainous ;) Hence the idea that you sand it back to 'smooth' rather than 'perfectly shiny'. – Tetsujin Dec 27 '20 at 19:10
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    Heh, "no true consensus" on seasoning cast iron sounds like a last-minute entry for understatement of the year... – BThompson Dec 28 '20 at 16:14

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