1905: Cast Iron Pan

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 08:10, 14 April 2023 by ClassicalGames (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
Cast Iron Pan
If you want to evenly space them, it's easiest to alternate between the Arctic and Antarctic. Some people just go to the Arctic twice, near the equinoxes so the visits are almost 6 months apart, but it's not the same.
Title text: If you want to evenly space them, it's easiest to alternate between the Arctic and Antarctic. Some people just go to the Arctic twice, near the equinoxes so the visits are almost 6 months apart, but it's not the same.


White Hat is discussing tips for maintaining Cast-iron cookware. Cast-iron cookware is well-loved and often promoted by cooking aficionados, but requires more effort and care to maintain than many other modern forms of cookware. This strip satirizes both the amount of effort involved, and the attitude of connoisseurs who look down on people who are unwilling to put in such effort. In typical xkcd fashion, the comic starts off somewhat realistic and escalates to absurdity.

1st Panel[edit]

White Hat tells the old myth (debunking articles: Lifehacker, The Kitchn, Serious Eats), that "you shouldn't wash your cast iron pan with soap since it destroys the seasoning", to Cueball. Seasoning is the process of treating the surface of a pan with a stick-resistant coating formed from polymerized fat and oil on the surface. Although it may not be a problem to use soap on your seasoned cast iron pan, you should still proceed with care with how you treat it.

2nd Panel[edit]

White Hat starts to exaggerate; he tells him that if he ever as much as let soap touch the pan he should just throw it away, as that fact alone would prove that he would not be up to taking care of such a precious possession. This is a kind of scare tactic that might make Cueball believe this and anything else he tells him.

3rd Panel[edit]

White Hat continues to give dubious advice to the point of absurdity, and Cueball becomes more and more wary of it.

His next word of advice is to apply moisturizer to the pan daily to keep it fresh. Cueball asks why and is told that it is to avoid the pan getting wrinkles. This implies that the pan would age like a human and get wrinkles. This is, of course, nonsense, but Cueball is not yet ready to dismiss White Hat's advice.

4th Panel[edit]

The final piece of advice is that twice a year Cueball should fill the pan with iron filings and leave it in direct sunlight for 24 hours. Both details are intended to be absurd. For one, neither the iron filings nor the sunlight appear to serve any actual purpose. Second, 24 continuous hours of direct sunlight is impossible to achieve in most places. North of the Arctic Circle (often shortened to simply "the Arctic") there will be at least one day a year where the sun does not set. While one might assume that a combined total of 24 hours over couple of days would be sufficient, White Hat implies that it's necessary to travel to very remote locations in very specific parts of the year to meet an extreme requirement. He further casts an unwillingness to meet this unreasonable standard as rendering a person unworthy of cast iron.

White Hat's strict tone "If you're not willing to travel to the Arctic, you don't deserve cast iron" might also suggest that cast iron is a special almost-legendary metal similar to Damascus steel or its fictional counterpart Valyrian steel and requires distant travel to obtain/maintain. This is likely a parody of the level of reverence cast iron cookware tends to receive in certain circles. Despite there being alternatives that are much easier to maintain, a significant number of cooks insist that cast iron has qualities that make it worth the amount of effort involved.

Title text[edit]

In the title text, White Hat mentions that, if you wish to evenly space the two 24 hours of sun each year, it is easiest to alternate between the Arctic and the Antarctic regions. But this will mean that you have to travel a long distance at least once a year; even if you already lived inside one of the Polar Circles, you would have to travel to the other at least once a year.

It is implied that you do not have to space them evenly. As he mentions, some people just go to the Arctic twice a year near the equinoxes. However, according to White Hat, this is not the same, probably because it doesn't lead to an exact six-month spacing and the sun would stay very low on the horizon and the sunlight would not be as intense.

In order to accomplish this other scheme, it also means that they would actually have to go very close to the North Pole (or South Pole), as this is the only place with midnight sun around the equinoxes. So, in principle, this would be much more cumbersome than just going inside the southernmost part of the Arctic region at the summer solstice, and similarly the northernmost part of the Antarctic region at the northern hemisphere's winter solstice (which will be the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere).

When looking at it like this, it may seem that White Hat actually means that you should always go to the poles, rather than just to a place with 24 hours of sunlight, in order to have the sun high in the sky as well.


[White Hat is holding a pan by the handle pointing to the frying surface as he shows it to Cueball.]
White Hat: Never clean a cast-iron pan with soap. It destroys the seasoning.
Cueball: Got it.
[White Hat shift the pan to his right hand and lowers it to his side holding a finger up in front of Cueball.]
White Hat: If you ever let soap touch the pan, throw it away. You're clearly not up to taking care of it.
Cueball: Wow, okay.
[In a frame-less panel White Hat has taken the pan back to the first hand holding on the edge while he holds his other hand close to the frying surface.]
White Hat: Apply moisturizer to the pan daily to keep it fresh.
Cueball: ...Moisturizer?
White Hat: Do you want it to get all wrinkly?
Cueball: ...I...guess not.
[White Hat has shifted the pan to the second hand again holding it by the handle away from Cueball, while pointing at Cueball with the other hand.]
White Hat: Twice a year, fill the pan with iron filings and leave it in direct sunlight for 24 hours.
Cueball: Wait. 24 hours of sun?
White Hat: If you're not willing to travel to the Arctic, you don't deserve cast iron.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


I think one can argue that White Hat never said 24 hours of CONTINUOUS sunlight. R3TRI8UTI0N (talk) 03:59, 27 April 2022 (UTC)

Wouldn't you mean solstices instead of equinoxes? Why travel to the Arctic during an equinox? The day is 12 hours long there during an equinox just the same as anywhere in the world. 04:55, 20 October 2017 (UTC) An Arctic Inhabitant

There is only one solstice (the summer one) that has 24-hour sunlight (a.k.a. midnight sun) in the Arctic circle. However, near the North pole, you have close to 6 months of daylight (a.k.a. polar day), bounded by the equinoxes. So, you could theoretically visit the North Pole in late March and mid-September to have two days of 24-hour sunlight nearly 6 months apart. Nialpxe, 2017. (Arguments welcome) (From the subtropics)
It is also for this reason it says close to the equinoxes. At the equinoxes the sun sets for the first time in 6 months at one of the poles (rises at the other), splitting that 24 hour cycle in two times 12 hours of sun/no sun. And then it either stays up of stays down the next half a year. So if you come just after the sun rose and then again just before the sun sets on the North Pole you could get 24 hours sun shine with about a half year apart, but not completely. So this is White Hat's objection, although the title text also states that it doesn't have to be equally spaced. But in White Hat's opinion (of his teasing Cueball) it should be exactly half a year apart, and probably preferably on the two poles when the sun is highest at the Summer/Winter Solstices... ;-) --Kynde (talk) 09:29, 20 October 2017 (UTC)
Two details:
a) The equinoxes are not exactly 6 months apart. The earths orbit is not circular. A daylight "day" at the south pole is about 9 days longer than at the north pole. There is a narrow window to pull off 24 hours of daylight six months apart using only the south pole, whether "6 months" is 6 calendar months or exactly half a year.
b) Because sunrise and sunset (and direct sunlight) are defined by the upper limb of the sun and because of refraction polar, polar sunrise is about 3 days before the equinox and polar sunset is about 3 days after the next equinox. This widens the window at the south pole and just about makes it possible to do at the north pole. 18:01, 20 October 2017 (UTC)

Just to make sure, the "iron filings" part has no real use. Isn't it? --Lou Crazy (talk) 09:21, 20 October 2017 (UTC)

Yes the two last advice has no meaning and also has no myth they are based on. The soap myth may be a problem if the coating is just oil based and could in principle be a problem with some old pans --Kynde (talk) 09:29, 20 October 2017 (UTC)

You don't need to throw away pans if the seasoning gets messed up, just reseason them, in case of rust or extreme gunk attack it with an angle grinder until it is shiny. Use safety equipment! Then reseason it. BlakeFelix (talk) 12:23, 20 October 2017 (UTC)

It is my understanding that you don't want to use soap on a cast iron pan because the soap will get into the pores and cause any food you cook on it after that to taste like soap. 14:26, 20 October 2017 (UTC)

Nope. After the soap quickly comes rust, and to remove the rust, you have to scrub away the seasoning. If you did use soap, wipe the pan with an oily cloth afterwards. Or just use hot water and a brush. -- 17:29, 20 October 2017 (UTC)

So what is this a metaphor for? There's something you can't own unless other people believe you are taking good care of it, even if the care is nonsensical... The first thing I thought of was a baby, but that doesn't really seem likely to me. Any other ideas? Maplestrip (talk) 14:34, 20 October 2017 (UTC)

It’s not a metaphor. There are people who are actually super fanatical (or pretentious) about cast iron pans. 15:06, 20 October 2017 (UTC)
Oh yes. And then there are people who very nearly faint every time someone with a butter knive comes close to their teflon pans. ;-) -- 17:35, 20 October 2017 (UTC)
Don't you dare get anything other than wood near my beloved teflon pans, or said anything will make you walk uncomfortable soon :-) -- 18:32, 25 October 2017 (UTC)

Swords obviously, possibly specifically Katanas. You need to care a lot to keep sword in optimal condition, AND there is definitely the angle of "not being worthy for sword". Note that pan can be used as weapon in anime or cartoons, which makes it more funny. -- Hkmaly (talk) 04:28, 21 October 2017 (UTC)
I just realized it could definitely be a metaphor for pets, which take a lot of work to properly take care for. It seems unlike Randal to make fun of people who are advocating for people to take care of their pets better, though. Another thing that comes to mind now is books, but surely anyone who damages books in any way is a heretic. Maplestrip (talk) 12:33, 23 October 2017 (UTC)
No, no metaphor, REALLY talking about cast iron cookware. For example, a story went around that this girl made an idiot-proof cookbook for her brother, and the insulting first page was so popular that people wanted the whole thing. That starts with similar instructions for seasonng and care of a cast-iron pan: Check this article about it which includes a link to the full Google Doc NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:16, 24 October 2017 (UTC)

The ambiguity in the transcript of which hand White Hat is holding his pan suggests a 50% chance he mutated a third arm. 06:31, 21 October 2017 (UTC)

The first sentence of the explanation claims that the do-not-soap-thing is a myth and gives three sources from "the internet". The first source only refers to the third (actually using the same image), so it's only two sources. Secondly, this website recommends to re-season the pan after each use (and cleaning), which is kind of contradicting to the statement, that the seasoning is not harmed. Not at all convincing to me - but I do believe there is some dissent on the issue. mb (who does not believe in every blog post)

Don't forget being in motion during the time, you could easily get 24 hours of sunlight 6 months apart you only gotta travel one timezone per day to make 23 hours of sunlight turn into 24. --19:24, 6 April 2018 (UTC) Eric Aksomitis

An easy solution would to charter a private jet, and tie the pan to the roof somehow. Then you would just need to have some sort of magnet to prevent the iron fillings from falling out. Then take your jet on a great circle path, you could easily get 24 hours of sunlight, assuming you found somewhere to refuel.