Cast iron pans heat differently, and more evenly, than other types of cookware. They require proper care and maintenance to perform correctly. Additionally, it takes practice to learn the skills necessary for cooking with cast iron. Cast iron pans should not smoke when they are used properly. Smoking generally occurs due to overheating, improper seasoning, incorrect cleaning or damage to the pan.
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One of the most common causes of cast iron pans smoking is due to heat. When cast iron pans get too hot, they start smoking, especially if there is oil in them. Cast iron pans take longer to heat up, but get hotter at a lower stove temperature than other types of metal.
Brand-new cast iron pans come with a factory-applied seasoning that causes the pan to smoke the first time it is used as the factory coating burns off. Older pans that are improperly seasoned may also smoke, especially if there is leftover oil on the bottom of the pan. An empty pan that is not seasoned well may also smoke when it is heated.
Damaged cast iron pans can smoke when food or liquids seep through damaged areas onto the burner element. Do not use pans that are damaged, such as those with cracks or pinholes. Additionally, improperly cleaned and dirty pans can smoke as the food particles burn to the pan. You can prevent damage to cast iron pans by properly cleaning and seasoning them.
Learning how to properly use, clean and season cast iron pans will help prevent them from smoking during use and keep them in good condition. Before using brand-new cast iron pans for the first time, wash them with hot soapy water and place them in a hot oven to burn off the factory coating. Before each use, apply a thin coat of cooking oil on the inside of the pan. Cast iron requires regular seasoning as well. Do not wash uncoated cast iron pans after use. Instead, wipe them clean with a cloth or paper towel and allow them to cool before putting them away. Always preheat cast iron pans before adding food to the pan. Start the heat lower than you would normally use for other pans, and allow the pan to preheat for three to five minutes before turning the temperature up. If the pan starts to smoke, immediately remove it from the stove burner, allow it to cool and turn down the temperature.