Zinho wrote:Herein lies the rift between the soap and no-soap cast iron users. Cast iron in its natural state is porous, and will trap soap and flavor your food with soap similar to those unsealed ceramic baking stones that were a fad a while back. People who take their cast iron camping and clean it by turning it upside down over their fire won't use soap because their seasoning takes a pretty bad hit due to the rough treatment, assuming that it gets properly seasoned at all. Foodies using it in the kitchen can keep it sealed well with a layer of polymerized oil, and have no problem with their food tasting like soap after a quick wash.
There is a widespread urban legend that soap damages the seasoning layer. Probably because it is good against plain oils, which are what you start the seasoning process with. But once it's been polymerized into long chains bound to the surface, soap does almost nothing to it.
I avoided using soap on my cast iron for decades before hearing this one debunked.
Acidic things (like tomato sauce) can damage the seasoning, although the dangers are frequently exaggerated. Still, if you do make something like spaghetti sauce in cast iron, it's probably a good idea to wash and oil it again as soon as possible.
Zinho wrote:If I get a line on good stainless steel or copper I may swap out, though; the seasoning trick works just as well on pretty much any surface, and lasts decently as long as you aren't taking a brillo pad to it.
I don't believe that's true. (And yes, I've tried.) As you mentioned above, one of the distinctive features of cast iron is that the surface is more porous than a lot of other metals. This is one of the reason that unseasoned cast iron has such a deservedly horrible reputation, but it's also the reason that it takes to seasoning so well. It's easy for the long chains of polymerized oil to bind to the surface. (Or the food to do so, if you haven't seasoned it.) I have never managed to persuade stainless or copper to achieve the sort of non-stick surface that cast iron gains so easily. It might be possible, but it's certainly not as easy.
orthogon wrote:I assume that cast iron pans are some kind of fresh hipster hell
I've been hearing people debating/arguing the pros and cons of cast iron since before the Beatles broke up. It may be a hipster thing, but it's hardly "fresh".
(My mom was pro, and made sure I learned the proper care and maintenance before I reached puberty.)