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Losing faith in cast iron cookware

I bought a ten inch and 12 inch cast iron pan and a bare cast iron dutch oven based on testimony of users who rave "you can't replace cast iron!" or "you can't get that nice cornbread crust anywhere else!" or "it's the most versatile cookware ever!". I'm starting to lose faith in those claims

I used to cook almost exclusively on non-stick cookware when I was inspired by Alton Brown to buy a cast iron pan to brown my steaks properly, something which was claimed never could be done properly on a non stick pan. So I figured, considering all the testimony about cast iron, if I can buy it for that purpose and replace all my other non stick cookware, it's worth adding to the collection. A year later I already encountered a number of problems.

First, claims that cast iron is nonstick hasn't been working for me. Eggs, fish, rice (risotto), etc all were ruined or had sticking problems. I have been seasoning my pan for a year with gallons of oil and fat and though the sticking problems aren't as severe as they used to be, in the end I still resort to my non stick pan

The limitations of what you can cook in cast iron is annoying. No acidic foods, no delicate soups or stews (in fear of getting off flavors from the seasoning), no pan sauces or just sauces in general. And yes I know, you get your extra iron from those stews, but if I wanted extra iron I would have taken a multivitamin pill. So far the only uses I found for my pan is frying and the occasional baking (which I found always burns the food or makes it stick, and which I already have a baking pan for). If cast iron was just a niche cookware that really only succeeds other cookware in frying, I wouldn't have bought it in the first place and would have just stuck to regular nonstick.

Cast iron is a pain to clean and even more of a pain to handle. Not only is every part of the pan hot during cooking (I can't count the times where I've burned myself, even with a pot holder), it's extremely heavy, which makes for a dangerous combination. I also can't use any detergent on it (soapy flavors might get into seasoning apparently) and I have to clean with salt, which gets very hot from the residual heat, so I always have to wait forever until it cools down. Then I have to lug the huge thing into the sink and rinse it out, and without soap it's harder to get bits out, not to mention it's so difficult to handle while cleaning. THEN I have to reseason and heat up the whole thing again. All this for just one pan.

Then there's the heat retention. Some claim this as the best part of cast iron but again I find it makes cast iron a niche cookware only really suitable for slow cooking or high heat applications. And again, I've found myself going back to nonstick anyways. The stew, soup, or braise ends up exactly the same in a regular nonstick pot, and I've found you get tastier results with steak if you brown them with butter on medium heat. So the point of having a cast iron pan has been totally thrown out the window.

Now it might be totally stupid to complain about cookware that costs barely 10-20 bucks but considering that I don't really need cast iron as much I thought I did, it's just clutter now, really heavy clutter, and that's a shame, especially since I hear so much hype about it. In the end it seems like the limitations I encountered with cast iron seemed to outweigh any limitations I had with nonstick pans (not to mention that there are studies out there that now show seasoning is more toxic than teflon).

As a final note, copper cookware of the same thickness and weight has not only similar heat capacity as cast iron, but has vastly superior conduction, making it everything cast iron can do and more, not to mention having a non-reactive surface when lined with tin or stainless steel.

As a beginner food enthusiast who was looking to explore the wonders of different cookware, replace his nonstick cookware and have the ultimate minimalist kitchen, I ended up having more junk that I don't have anywhere to store. I feel like I failed somehow. Is there a way for me to gain back my faith in this humble ancient cookware?

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  1. If you are a beginner food enthusiast, I am surprised you are talking about buying copper... thats takes a LOT of cabbage to buy, and isn't markedly better than a nice tri-ply aluminum-core stainless pan.

    I also am surprised you bought a cast iron dutch oven. I've never really heard people clamor for that pot - I use one, in limited circumstances: in the woods, camping, when I am cooking with coals. You can find a reasonably priced enameled dutch oven at places like Target or Kohls - you don't have to drop Le Creuset dollars, and you still get a decent piece of cookware.

    I also have read a lot of cookware literature, and for things like eggs, most seem to recommend having a handy non-stick skillet. There are purists you probably have nice seasoned cast-iron skillet that's perfectly non-stick, but I appreciate the simplicity of a non-stick skillet for a fried egg, and when I am doing skillet potatoes, I like having them stick a bit to get some flavor.

    It is a bit of a niche pan, but I've found success with it - first, its hard to beat when it comes to searing.. in fact, I've never found its equal in terms of being able to totally dump massive amounts of heat energy into a steak or piece of tuna. I've also used it to make a tarte tatin and had things come out well - the conductivity means I get fewer hot spots.

    Be careful in your terminology - you speak about cast iron and non-stick. I'd never brown something in a non-stick pan - I'd use stainless, where I can get more flavor and have the fond left over for a sauce. Why did you jump straight from non-stick to cast iron, ignoring stainless?

    22 Replies
    1. re: grant.cook

      I got the impression that cast iron was superior to stainless because it heated up evenly and naturally acquired a nonstick coating. Plus it was cheaper than those all clad pans.

      I still use my cast iron to brown meats, but that's pretty much it. I rarely do it because it makes too much smoke in the house. I find non stick makes a decent crust though if you keep it on the pan for long enough and use butter

      As for buying a bare cast iron dutch oven, I really don't know what I was thinking. Perhaps I thought it had better browning properties, or perhaps I thought enamel was too fragile or couldn't handle hotter temperatures, perhaps I was being pretentiously nonconformist and took the idea of "minimalism" too far. Considering though that the dutch oven I bought was 30 bucks compared to the 200 dollars of a Le Creuset, I just went ahead and bought it. That was before I realized that you couldn't cook acidic foods in it and there were cheaper enameled dutch ovens out there.

      I've actually been looking on ebay for some copper pans, and though I've always been won out by others, the pans I bid for always end up getting sold for less than 100 dollars. I don't think I would have enough money to pay full price for one though. In the end, I just want a nice thick stainless steel line saucier type pan, so maybe I'm getting carried away with copper. But it is the ideal pan I would want someday, so I'm not exactly interested in having it right away.

      1. re: takadi

        As a beginner, don't go crazy with pots.. you can find a nice stainless set for not a lot of money. Sure, All-Clad is great, but so are BMW's.. I drive a Ford that gets me around just fine.

        I'd recommend the best first thing you can buy is a good knife, and get by with okay pots/pans. A cast iron skillet - a 12" like you bought - it is useful thing to have in a kitchen, but it serves a role (in the same way my 12" non-stick skillet does) - the centerpieces are my stainless pans and my dutch oven (I do a lot of braising). You can brown a steak in non-stick - just like a nice grilled cheese sandwich - but you don't get the "sticky" stuff - the fond, and I don't think the sear is as good. You also don't want to get non-stick stuff up to high heat - I think the teflon starts to degrade. The fond is what goes into making sauces. Sometimes "sticking" is good..

        1. re: grant.cook

          Yea, I've been trying to explore pan sauces, which require that sticking to form fond. It works okay in cast iron, but I find it kind of difficult to control the heat and some of the lighter sauces tend to discolor and acquire weird flavors (especially if I cooked something pungent in the pan before).

          What's a good set of thick stainless steel pans I can buy that isn't so expensive like all clad?

          1. re: takadi

            The Farberware Classic and Millenium series are both decent sets of stainless steel cookware that aren't too expensive, especially if you find them at an outlet store.

            1. re: maxim0512

              If you are not looking for a specific set and want to build your collection a pan at a time I always recomend stores like TJ Maxx. They have good quality cookware at steeply reduced prices. I agree that heavy bottomed aluminum or copper core stainless pots are extremely versitile. These are my go to pots and pans for cooking at home.

            2. re: takadi

              Tramontina "fully clad" from Walmart.

              1. re: takadi

                Go to Wal Mart and get Tramontina clad pans. A whole set is $150. Also, cast iron is really good for frying. Steel is your everyday pan, though.

              2. re: grant.cook

                Well far from a beginner, but I don't waste much money on pots or pans. I am definitely against most but truly believe cooking is not the equipment but the cook. I use my big cash iron for hash, stews, my big pot for braising, ribs, oso busco coq au vin, I don't use it for eggs unless I just made bacon, I use my cast iron for fried chicken and thick cuts of meats. London broil, pork loins or tenderloin or steaks I finish in the oven.

                My non sticks, inexpensive, walmart or target for the most part and they are fine for me.

                Now I do have some very nice pieces, I didn't buy them gifts and I do use them but ... not because they cook any better for me.

                But others will oppose that which is fine. I respect everyone opinions, I just don't and won't spend that much money on cookware. I have limited space and money so I use what I have and they work just fine. All Clad, I have one, never again. My one from target in 8 yrs and counting and still works amazing. I got some of mine from restaurant suppliers too. Also Walmart recently had a great deal on internet pieces for Lodge cast iron and 1/2 the price compared to amazon with free shipping.

                Farberware, have a couple of those too, just fine.

                And FYI, I don't use my cast iron for delicate fish, mine even though it is over 40 years old (my grandmothers) it sticks. I prefer my stainless or my non stick depending on what type of fish and what I am doing with it.

                It is a hard choice, but best is what works well for you. Look at what you cook most and buy the pan regardless of ... this is best or don't by this ... Get a medium priced, descent pan than will work best with what you cook most often.

                I roast whole chickens all the time in my 12" cast iron. I season it well, stuff some veggies and fruit lemons onions etc in the cavity and sit in on a bed of whole carrots and whole pieces of celery as a bed. Easy and cheap. It cooks great and no special pot or pan. Add a little broth and herbs at the end and perfect gravy. I cooked tons of semi boiled and smashed reds in the same cast iron, all in the oven in 30 minutes. Great simple no mixing and easy. There are lots of uses believe me.

                1. re: kchurchill5

                  What item of All-Clad do you have? Why don't you use it anymore?

                  1. re: krbtv

                    I think it is a 3 quart stainless, I have another 6 quart enameled. Just hard to clean for me. Rather use my cheap stainless which cleans easier, NOT sure why and my cast iron for my big pot. I have 1 small Ermeril All Clad, not pad, just a small saute and 2 calphalons, Definitely wore down and now happy with the finish. But again these were gifts so I can't complain.

                    My large pot I don't mind but I do enjoy the cast iron better. If I had a choice, but I have both.

              3. re: takadi

                Perhaps your kitchen techniques need refining.

                Burned food is not the fault of the pan, but the cook.

                I never clean a pan while it is still very hot

                I’ve never had fish stick to a cast iron or carbon steel pan. I use low to medium heat and the rule of 10 minutes cooking per inch thickness.

                I’ve never had to reaseason a pan.

                If you get burned using a pan holder, then get the glove type.

                I haven’t the faintest idea how you decided that a seasoned pan will poison you. It’s not true.

                If the weight bothers you, note that copper is also very heavy.

                And if you like non-stick best, why not just use that?


                1. re: mpalmer6c

                  If you get burned using a pan holder, then get the glove type.
                  If the above happens , the pan is TOO HOT , that would explain the tough clean up , I do eggs and fritatas in my cast iron all the time, never sticks unless it's too hot, and I have 5 cast pans plus a wok all are great

                  1. re: Dave5440

                    There are more options than what you present. I was badly burned once when pulling a pan out of a 450F oven using a glove type pot holder. It turned out that said pot holder was poorly constructed and the uninsulated stitching let all the heat right through.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      jgg13, you are absolutely correct.

                      I finally got burned one too many times (literally and figuratively) from poorly constructed glove type potholders. I invested in the $60 pair of Kool-Teks and they are nothing short of miraculous. I can handle 500 degree cast iron pots right out of the oven with no fear of burning my hands (of course, I don't linger any time I have a screaming hot pot in my hands, as the Nomex material is rated to withstand 450 degrees). In addition, it has a kevlar strip that runs down the most vulnerable parts of the glove (like the crook between your thumb and forefinger) which can withstand up to 1000 degrees.

                      They're outrageously expensive, but well worth the cost savings in blisters and burns.

                      Part numbers: KT0212, 12-inch glove; KT0215, 15-inch glove

                      Mr Taster

                2. re: takadi

                  People have cooked acidic foods in cast iron for years! Yes you can cook acidic foods in bare cast iron. But it might pick up some of the iron flavor in your dish.

                  1. re: krbtv

                    If you have seasoned the cast iron properly - even acidic dishes will be fine and no flavor transfer will occur. I always cook, spaghetti sauce or chili in my cast iron with out any issues. It does help that before I use them if take some canola oil and wipe the inside of the pan with it.

                    1. re: krbtv

                      Thank you for posting this. When I read the original "You can't cook acidic foods in cast iron" I was shocked. I do it all the time! I never heard that! I've never noticed any iron-ish flavor in my pizza sauce which spends a good lonnnng time in my old three-dollar thrift-store (pre-seasoned!) cast iron skillet which I cherish more than any other cookery item.

                    2. re: takadi

                      I know everyone's mileage varies, but now I really wonder if there is some very, very different cast iron we all are using and describing. I just recently went back to a new-but-then-rusted-and-now-derusted-and-newly-seasoned little Lodge skillet - and right out of the gate with not much fat it is cooking eggs better for me than my higher-end nonstick skillet did. It's sticking less than the nonstick.

                      1. re: Cinnamon

                        No, it's all the same. Properly seasoned and properly pre-heated, cast iron is fairly stick-resistant. I think the new Lodge is just fine, but some folks on the old stuff, especially Wagner and Griswold. (The polished surfaces of that old stuff are pretty awesome.) Glad the new Lodge is working for you -- unlike Wagner and Griswold, Lodge is still in business and cranking 'em out, right here in the USA.

                        1. re: Cinnamon

                          good morning, i have 2 old cast iron skillets: a sqare one o got from ebay, not suhe what brand, and an old Wagner round 8 in. BOTH are awesome with eggs, i just barely season them. They dont stick at all, regardless whether i use oil, shortening or lard. I have a nonstick (lol) skillet where they do stick and dont even bother with it anymore

                      2. re: grant.cook

                        Actually if you get the real french copperware which weighs a ton, it is better for some dishes. It heats more evenly and what I find amazing were the sides really heating up. The heat is not just the bottoms but some on the sides also.
                        There are "copperware" sold which are basically steel cookware with a coating of copper. These will never perform the same.
                        Then again, you can cook in just about anything.

                        1. re: grant.cook

                          Exactly it's bad health mojo to heat your non-stick over 350 F. Teflon was never meant to get that hot and actually releases fairly harmful vapors at high temps. Whenever I preheat my non-stick I always put a little water in the bottom to keep from reaching too high temps.

                        2. The price of enameled cast iron has come down so much, that I don't understand why people still cling to their raw cast iron with it's many disadvantages. It's great for searing steaks and blackening recipes, but the enameled iron is just so much easier, cleaner, and neater. Look at the Lodge Colors line on Amazon. You can get a 3 qt. oven in a gorgeous shaded blue for $27.99, and the 3 qt, cover two handled 12" frypan type pot in matching blue for $34.99 with free shipping. They also have an enameled 12" skillet in the brown only for $24.49. That will take higher heat with no worries with acidic foods.

                          One the ladies mags tested it against Le Creuset and they thought it was just as good. The enamel is great quality, and you have a solid company like Lodge to stand behind it. They have rigid standards for their iron and have someone at their factory is China to make sure it's made right! Put your iron oven on Ebay or give it away to someone who's a die hard user. You will be a lot happier ;-).

                          19 Replies
                          1. re: blondelle

                            I actually find the enamel really finicky-- it cracks easily if want to saute over high heat (Le Creuset-- had to send it back), plus it discolors.

                            1. re: Procrastibaker

                              I totally agree about the discoloration - it is quite disappointing to spend all that money on an enameled pot only to have it "brown' on the inside.

                              1. re: Stevida

                                to clean the stains off your enameled cast iron just put some water (after it's cooled) and powdered dish washer soap and let it sit. Rinse and wipe and they will look like new again. This works well for wine decanters and coffee pots too. As for cast iron put water in them and bring to a boil, let cool, dump it and wipe it out with a towel.

                                1. re: gemeril

                                  I'd be careful about this advice, I ruined the finish on my LC dutch oven this way! Now it's permanently stained and dull. I'd stick with soaking with plain dish soap, maybe heating it a couple of times. Otherwise, live with the stains, they won't affect the meal. As for cast iron, I've found the COARSE kosher salt (Morton's has one that is really too coarse for cooking but perfect for scouring) and some oil, a wad o' paper towels to protect your fingers, works really well.

                              2. re: Procrastibaker

                                I believe that you aren't supposed to use enameled cast iron over high heat, that it needs to preheat and then it's strength is to maintain an even heat. For saute it's better to use carbon steel or stainless as they can take high heat easily, although I prefer carbon steel because it heats up faster.

                                1. re: Procrastibaker

                                  My wanton ways with high heat are one big reason why I am trying to migrate to cast iron. The least destructible the better. (I'm learning to avoid the water rust risk, in exchange.)

                                  1. re: Cinnamon

                                    Watch it with the high heat, Cinn! While you are unlikely to wreck the pan, you can get frustrated with temp control. CI is slow to heat, and slow to cool. Anyhow, have fun!

                                    1. re: Cinnamon

                                      I agree with MikeB3542, you'll find if you set your burner on medium and just leave it for a few minutes, you'll be happier with the result. Also, a hot pan with cold oil will stick a LOT less! And, if you overheat it, just set it outside to cool safely to avoid warping issues.

                                      1. re: blaireso

                                        I agree with blaire on the use of medium heat for everything except searing meat. But the cold oil into the hot pan is a new technique to me. I'll have to try this.

                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                          ALWAYS heat the pan before adding the oil/fat. Stainless steel cookware also.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            There's two schools of thought. One says to add the oil to a cold pan. By carefully monitoring the behavior of the oil, with experience you can determine when the right time to add the food based upon the type of oil and at what point it starts to shimmer or smoke.

                                            The other school of thought says to preheat the pan and add the oil when the pan has reached the point where 1/8 tsp of tap water instantly "solidifies" into a mercury ball and bounces around the pan. If the water "explodes", the pan is too hot. If it spreads out, it's too cold. At the mercury ball stage, quickly add the oil and spread it around the pan. Then, quickly add your cutlets or whatever you're cooking. This has the effect of essentially rendering the pan non-stick, for various molecular reasons (the metal molecules in the pan have expanded and reached a sort of equilibrium, allowing oil to penetrate in between the molecules and render a non-stick cooking surface on top).

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              I do it both ways. If I'm frying then I add the oil to a hot pan but if I'm sauteing, I just put the oil in with the first set of ingredients. I actually learn this from an Italian chef and it seems to work. He actually put the ingredients in the cold pan then pour the oil over it and start to stir it.

                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                Good info, Mr. T. I follow the first method. I look at the oil to see if it is hot enough, and you can tell by looking. If I use an iron pan as a griddle, though I put drops of cold tap water on it, to see if it sizzles. If it does, then I pour batter.

                                                But I like the other method you describe. For sauteeing a chicken breast, for instance. I might try that. Also, this might be a good method for frying eggs in cast iron.

                                                Stuff like this is why I read posts on Chowhounds. Thanks again for the info.

                                                1. re: sueatmo

                                                  Here's a great video lesson representing the mercury ball technique.


                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    This morning I let my iron skillet get quite hot. It was slightly smoking. I added a bit of oil and popped in my eggs. Yes! No stickage. Too bad I forgot to lower the heat, but anyway, the eggs were good. That's what I love about this place. I learn so much.

                                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                                  I've seen and heard that referred to as "dancing water" hot.

                                      2. re: blondelle

                                        They are damned heavy. My mother had a beautiful enameled cast iron frypan which nearly broke her wrists (and mine) trying to use it, or move it. The sauce pan isn't much better, altho' I still use it , in a pinch. The frypan went bye-bye early on. Way heavier than it looks! Also, EVERYTHING stains it. Boo.

                                        1. re: blondelle

                                          Believe it or not, my Le Creuset casserole's enamel came off ( bits thereof) when searing meat at presumably TOO HIGH a temperature.... only much later did I read UK's Delia Smith ( a 'queen of
                                          cook' much like your Julia Child ) specifically discourages in a book of hers that I'd read, NOT to
                                          apply too high a temperature in the case of Le Creuset when on stove top use.

                                          I have, however, no problem with very high temperature application in my other heavy-duty
                                          cast iron wok of which I have several.... one reserved exclusively for preparing spicy curried
                                          dishes OR where frying of exotic spices for curry is concerned AND another where smoking of
                                          foods is required.

                                          You folks would indubitably have heard of 'Wok Hei' that comes with very high temperature
                                          application and more often associated with good Chinese restaurant food as to their stir-fried dishes
                                          in particular.

                                          1. re: chinchyesek

                                            Enamelled cast iron has an upper temperature limit, probably around 500 F. There is no realistic upper limit for pure cast iron woks, and even steel woks, although they may warp at 800 F.

                                            While Le Creuset vessels are admirable, they don't really deserve the reverence they get on food forums.

                                        2. I also have 10” and 12” cast iron skillets and use them more than any other pans I own. I don’t think too many people claim that cast iron is nonstick in the same way that a nonstick pan is. Once it’s well seasoned, it sticks very little. But that’s different from nonstick, and I do keep one truly nonstick pan around for eggs and omelets, but not much else.

                                          Once the cast iron is well seasoned (and perhaps, even though you’ve had them for a while, you’ve tried to cook too many sticky things in them too soon), you can forget the “no acidic foods” rule. Just last night I made a shellfish stew with roasted tomatoes and wine in my 12-incher and it most definitely did not have any “off” flavors. And I always make pan sauces in the skillet when I make a steak or chops. Pour in some wine, scrape up the fond, and reduce. Never any kind of problem or change in flavors.

                                          Again, once seasoned, I find it a snap to clean. And since I’m not usually doing dishes until after dinner, the pan has already cooled by the time I get around to washing it. If it’s gunky I’ll use detergent, but often I don’t. I rarely need to use more than a scrubbie to get any remaining food bits off. And putting the pan back on the burner while I’m finishing up cleaning the rest of the kitchen has just become second nature to me. I pour in a tiny bit of (usually) peanut oil, wipe it around with a paper towel, let it sit another minute or so, and turn off the heat. I then let it sit on the stove overnight just so I don’t have to deal with it while it’s still hot.

                                          As for hot, I have a silicone handle cover I switch back and forth between the two skillets. It stays there while in use, it’s easy to grip, and it doesn’t slip if I’m moving the pan from stovetop to oven, for instance.

                                          And as for weight, I’m no spring chicken and am just beginning to get a touch of arthritis in my hands. I can pick it up to pour things out of it, get it into and out of lower cupboards, and easily move it from stovetop to either an upper or lower oven. Yes, it’s heavy, but it’s not that heavy. And weight evidently isn’t a major issue for you anyway if you’re considering other materials of equal weight.

                                          If you like the results of a steak cooked in butter over medium heat, that’s fine. But short of an outdoor grill, I find I get superior results using the sear in cast iron/finish in a hot oven method and can’t imagine making steak any other way.

                                          If you really don’t like cast iron, I’m sure you can find plenty of people who’d be happy to take it off your hands. I suspect, though, that you (1) didn’t season it thoroughly, (2) tried to cook the wrongs things in it (eggs and risotto are two good examples for which nonstick and clad stainless respectively would be preferable) before it was properly seasoned, and (3) are making more of a megillah out of cleaning it than should be necessary.

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            So are you saying that once cast iron has gotten to the point of being very well seasoned, it basically is on the same level of an enameled pan? If that's true, I'm thinking the majority of my problems is that my pans aren't seasoned enough, but I've had them for over a year. Maybe they need to age a little longer.

                                            The weight isn't much of an issue unless the pan is hot, then it's a disaster waiting to happen. I find it especially hard when trying to pour liquids out from the already hot pot or skillet

                                            1. re: takadi

                                              I don't have any enameled cast iron skillets, but I do have three (or is it four?) enameled cast iron dutch ovens. I'd say my seasoned cast iron is indeed at a similar level of nonstickness; maybe a teeny bit less, but then, maybe not.

                                              It really shouldn't take a year to get your pans well seasoned. I needed to buy a new iron wok not too long ago and that didn't take much more than a month or two of no more than once-a-week cooking in it to get it pretty much where I wanted it. Try the old standby--bacon. Or make a batch of fried chicken. Or fried anything, for that matter. That should get them up to snuff in no time.

                                              And as for pouring, I do strongly recommend one of the silicone handle covers. Just make sure you get one that fits your skillet. Some cast iron pans have wider handles than a saucepan and the skinny handle covers that are easiest to find won't fit. As I said, the handle cover gives me a good grip. I may sometimes hold the side of the pan with a regular potholder while pouring, but usually I just grip the handle with two hands and it works just fine. I do burn myself like crazy all the time, but on oven racks, not on my cast iron skillets.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                Are the handle covers oven safe, or do you have to take them off?

                                                I think the problem I might have with my pan is that I tend to heat it up to very very high heat when I sear my steaks, which might ruin the seasoning.

                                                1. re: takadi

                                                  They are oven safe, but if you put them in the oven, they get hot--not as hot as the handle of the skillet, but hot. The one I have (made by Le Creuset and purchased at Zabar's) is very easy to slip on and off, so I remove it before putting the pan in the oven and slip it back on to remove the pan.

                                                  1. re: takadi

                                                    Never had problems preheating my cast iron on 17,000 BTUs for 10 minutes to sear a steak.

                                                    Never had problem cleaning either. I always deglaze regardless if I'm making a sauce or not. Dump out the liqui, wipe it down with some oil and use the remaining heat in the pan for seasoning.

                                                2. re: takadi

                                                  Try using Pampered chef mittens. The older beige ones work really well.

                                                  1. re: takadi

                                                    I think you may be cleaning it to thoroughly - if that makes sense. I do cook fried eggs in mine and it does work almost as well as a non-stick . Sometimes the eggs need a bit more prodding to move in the pan - I rarely let them just sit in there as well -i always try to shake the pan some.

                                                    As for using salt on the cast iron - ONLY if have a thought time getting something off the bottom and most of the time that happens because I screwed up the cooking.

                                                    Try wipping some canola oil in the pan right before using and after cleaning - it might help. I would not give up on your pans just yet - I LOVE mine and would be lost with out the versatility of them

                                                    1. re: takadi

                                                      All of my CI pans are quite old. I've got my mom's and aunt's pans, probably from 1930s or 1940s, a 10" I bought in the 1970s, a grill pan from around late 1990s, and a double burner griddle/grill pan from the early 2000s. Thing is, they've all had semi-frequent use by me, and probably daily use by my predecessors before teflon was invented. CI takes time to develop a patina, so be patient. You don't have to have a smoking hot pan to clean it, I didn't know about the kosher salt and oil method until a few years ago. You can use a green scrubbie and water on a warm skillet, a brass brush for the grill pan. Just make sure it's really dry before storing--reheat, then wipe with a little oil. And use your CI, it will respond with a little time.

                                                    2. re: JoanN

                                                      I'm with you JoanN. I have two cast iron fry pans,(12" and 10"), and two dutch ovens. One is just a wee thing, but as it turns out is perfect for just one person. I use my cast iron for almost everything I cook. The only thing I don't use cast iron for is anything that requires a saucepan or stock pot. I make pizzas in my larger fry pan in lieu of a stone. I reheat food in my smaller fry pan. I use the small dutch oven for frying. I also use the small dutch oven for braising or stewing. (I cook for one, so the size is perfect for me.) My fry pans have a permanent home on top of my stove. They are not perfectly non-stick, but I have never had a problem getting food off. Granted, I have had these pans for many years now, and there WAS the initial fussiness in seasoning, but I don't remember any huge problems. I love my cast iron. Also, I never clean it with salt. Just a good rub down in hot water, wipe, then back on the stove.

                                                      1. re: hilltowner

                                                        JoanN, with you too. All our frying pans are cast iron. What is funny is that they never stick for me, but our 23 year old hates them and foods stick for him and I can't tell him why. He doesn't like me to watch him cook. Boy, that says a lot.

                                                      2. re: JoanN

                                                        Completely agree and well said... re JoanN's

                                                      3. It's funny. Cast iron is actually how I found Chow.com. I had just bought my first cast iron skillet and was searching the web for the best seasoning method. I came upon this massive thread here on Chow. It just went on and on, and these people talked with real authority. If you search you can probably find it. Real experts in that conversation, and probably you'll see some of the people in this thread there.

                                                        Anyway, I took a lot of info from that thread and my experience with my skillet has been great. I rarely use my other pans now. I cook only for me and my 14 yr old daughter now and I'd say the cast iron gets used about 70% of the time. I always wanted a pan to go from stove top to oven and I just love it. Mine sits either on top my stove (which is why maybe I use it so much- its right in front of me) or inside my oven. I do the hot water and paper towel cleaning thing and have never tasted anything irony.

                                                        I want to thank the cast iron heads on Chow for there seasoning advice because maybe that's why my experience has been so great. Keep trying, it's really changed my perspective.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: SDMike

                                                          I guess as a beginner cook I'm having a difficult time because my experience with cast iron is that it's limited in it's uses and is mainly a niche type of cookware as opposed to an all purpose cookware. The funny thing is that most encounters with "cast iron heads" tell me that it should be the opposite and that cast iron is the most versatile cookware on the planet.

                                                          Maybe cast iron requires a little more heart and determination in order to appreciate it's true qualities. Perhaps I'm getting lured into the world of anodized aluminum and copper core and losing my soul

                                                          1. re: takadi

                                                            LOL...hey, I'm a beginner too. I don't know, perhaps I got lucky, but I really think it was that original seasoning, which I got from that huge thread.

                                                            I'm sorry, as I'm no expert I can't really give you advice, except to relay my own experience. I remember the first time I cook pork chops from searing stove top to oven. My goodness, the moistness! I couldn't believe I was eating those dry things all these years.

                                                            Anyway, the one thing I've kinda learned is that you really don't have to use real high heat, just let the pan get real hot (and it will on med heat) then sear. You can adjust the heat up or down after you hear the sizzle factor. Good luck.

                                                            1. re: SDMike

                                                              I actually tried the cornbread thing too and that worked out great. I love cornbread and this was the best I've made by far. It's kind of amazing in that the tools used can make a difference. Who would have thunk.

                                                        2. I use an 8" cast iron pan for a 2-egg omelette several times a week. The pan came pre-seasoned from Lodge and initially I did have some sticking problems, but not too bad. Recentlyt, while grilling a steaks on my outdoor gas grill I experimented with pan-searing because I had heard that it was superior even to grilling. I put my cast-iron pan on inside the grill, let it preheat, and cooked one of the steaks on it. Ever since then it has been much more non-stick, with eggs sliding right out of the pan onto the plate. With some bacon fat or butter it is now just as non-stick as a non-stick pan for eggs.

                                                          1. The main raves I've seen are for searing of steaks, blackened fish, etc. But I now use French-made carbon steel pans for that, since they're easier to handle. I have one non-stick pan for eggs, crepes and the like.

                                                            1. One problem that you might be having is the tendancy to move things around alot. If you want to sear or brown something, leave it alone. Things tend to un-stick themselves once the sear is made. Then you can usually move it easily. I also find that putting the oil into the pan after it's hot also helps.

                                                              The nice thing cast iron is that you can also use a metal spatula to scrape the bits off the bottom without fear of scratching the non-stick coating.

                                                              Occasionally I forget that I turned on the flame and aside from a bit of smoke, the dried cooking surface seems to be an improved 'non-stick' surface.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: waveguide33

                                                                Am I the only one here who wouldn't dream of using a metal spatula on a cast iron pan? Maybe I am. But I wouldn't, I've heard you shouldn't.

                                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                                  Of course, I cannot speak for others, but I use a stainless spatula on a cast iton (Griswold) griddle every day. The cast iron surface and its seasoning both survive just fine.

                                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                                    It depends on whether the cast iron is enameled. You don't want to drag a metal spatula across that, though I admit to taking a whisk to my Le Creuset when making besciamella or lemon curd (I clean it ASAP with either Bon Ami or Barkeeper's, can't remember which).

                                                                    If it's not enameled, I don't think there's any reason not to use something stainless, though I must say I don't do it myself. That's a function of what I cook as much as anything else, though (French toast, corn bread). I have the perfect spatula/turner made of some kind of superplastic. The issue for me is, I hate the sound of metal scraping on metal, and remember a (non-professional) cooking class in which we were urged never to scrape metal on metal, because of the sound of it. Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech.

                                                                    I don't like un-enameled cast iron, though. Just as there are some things I do well in the kitchen (either I'm surprisingly good at souffles, or they're really not that hard to make), and things I don't do that well (I hate touching meat), there are types of cookware I get (Le Creuset, All Clad) and ones I don't (all cast iron, Tupperware).

                                                                    It seemed I was always seasoning the one cast iron skillet I didn't give away, so I've banished it to some box somewhere, and I rely on All Clad or non-stick. I only keep it because once a year, a friend of mine comes over, and we cook, and he has this special way of making cornbread that involves melting Crisco in the skillet, then pouring the batter in, and it just wouldn't be the same w/o the plain cast iron skillet.

                                                                2. Searing 'properly' means applying intense heat long enough to char the outside of food, and *not* let the food get hot enough to cook to a depth of more than 2 millimeters. That's difficult to do because as soon as the food touches the pan, it draws the heat out, lowering the temperature of the pan below the point suitable for searing. I think you're misunderstanding what 'heat capacity' means. Heat capacity means it takes a cast iron pan longer to heat up than a copper or aluminum pan. It also means it takes longer to cool down. Much longer. Bacon on cast iron will continue to sizzle long after you turn the heat off. That means when you toss a steak onto a 500 degree cast iron skillet, the skillet will only cool down to about 350 when the steak is seared properly. Aluminum or copper will cool down to 250-300 in moments, and your steak still won't be seared enough, so you wind up keeping it in the pan longer, and overcooking the outside instead of searing it.

                                                                  Cast iron isn't really suited for slow cooking *except* when you want to maintain a stable temperature environment for the food. It's good in electric ovens where the air temp can vary from 325 to 375 because the thermostat 'lags' behind the actual air temp.

                                                                  For high heat, seasoned cast iron is the most non-stick surface you can have. If you're claiming you can use a Teflon pan for high heat work, you haven't been using high heat. By definition, it isn't high heat unless it'd ruin teflon and come very close to melting a tin lining.

                                                                  Don't clean your cast iron right after cooking, like your post seems to imply you do. Go eat your food instead while it cools down. Then just add hot water and let it soak a few minutes if needed, before scrubbing with a plain old green scrubbie and no soap. In my opinion, the whole scrubbing with kosher salt thing is WAY overblown. Green scrubbies work great on cast iron, as they're tough on food and don't hurt the built-up seasoning.

                                                                  You mentioned you went through 'gallons' of oil and fat, and also mentioned re-seasoning your pans after cleaning them. Something is wrong there too, because you should only really need to season your pans two or three times, at most. And a gallon of oil should be enough to season 300 10-inch skillets. Twice each. Fold up a paper towel, dampen it with oil (not dripping), and wipe down your cast iron. 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, turn the oven off and let it all cool down. Presto, you're seasoned. You shouldn't have to do that again, just cook in it normally, clean like I mentioned above, and wipe it with a light coat of oil before putting it back in the cabinet. It sounds like you're scrubing the carbon spots off of your pan, or not letting the oil you're using to season the pan carbonize correctly.

                                                                  You sound like you're putting a lot of effort into cast iron, and *you shouldn't*. That's the beauty of it. The more you ignore your cast iron (aside from that light coat of oil before you put it away), the *better* it is. Heck, last time I made eggs and hash browns on my double griddle, I scraped it down with my spatula, wiped off the excess oil with a paper towel or two, and hung it back up. No need to even get near the sink.

                                                                  Acidic foods are fine in cast iron *unless* you're boiling acidic liquids. And if I'm boiling something, I'm not using cast iron. Lemon on fish? No problem. Cast iron for risotto? No way, wrong pan. You want cast iron for things *above* boiling temperatures, so no liquids really, unless you're just deglazing. Or deep frying... cast iron is great for that as it keeps the temperature steadier. Oil is good. Starchy liquids are bad in cast iron, so no rice dishes unless you're stir-frying in your skillet.

                                                                  Each type of cookware has its place. Non-stick is great for things like risotto because it cleans up easily, and eggs so your omelettes don't stick. Copper is great when you want to take the heat from a small flame and spread it out more evenly, or get better response times when you turn the heat down. Aluminum is good at that too, but not as good as copper, but aluminum is great as bakeware in the oven. Stainless takes abuse well, and lasts nearly forever unless it gets warped or dented.

                                                                  If you're looking for a minimalist kitchen, you're *not* looking to always have the most appropriate piece of cookware for the job, just something that'll work. Like vice-grips. I can use 'em to pound a nail, loosen a nut, cut wire and bend metal. But a hammer, wrench, diagonal cutters and pliers will always be better tools for the tasks they're designed for.

                                                                  31 Replies
                                                                  1. re: ThreeGigs

                                                                    "Aluminum or copper will cool down to 250-300 in moments"

                                                                    Actually research shows that copper of the same thickness and weight has similar heat capacity (meaning it holds almost as much heat as cast iron, just slightly less). It just loses and gains heat alot faster. Basically copper is cast iron that can turn on the dime.

                                                                    When you put a steak on copper, yes it'll lose heat but it gains back heat just as fast, making for just as much net loss of heat as cast iron

                                                                    Also, I just tend to reseason my pan every time I cook. I thought I heard somewhere that you need to coat the pan in oil after use so it doesn't rust. Overkill perhaps, but I've been working on this pan for over a year, so I get paranoid

                                                                    I've attempted to cook boeuf bourguignon in my bare cast iron dutch oven and found it wears away at alot of the seasoning. I'm not sure if this gets better as it ages, but I don't really want carbonized oils getting into my food. Which really gets me frustrated because I feel the only things I can cook are things that have oil in it, or else the seasoning will just strip away again. And tomato sauces are apparently out of the question.

                                                                    Anyways you're right, I probably am just obsessing about trivial details, but when I hear all sorts of rules of what you can or cannot do with cast iron, it makes me just want to use something that doesn't have the issue of surface reactivity

                                                                    1. re: takadi

                                                                      The first step against rust is to keep the pan dry. In other words, do not store it when wet, or where moisture could collect.

                                                                      Yes, oiling the pan after drying is a good idea. But note that the uncoated outside does not rust if stored properly.


                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                        I am lucky enough to own cast iron that belonged to my grandmother and I LOVE it. Needless to say at 80+ years old it's very very well seasoned, jet black.

                                                                        I use the kettle for soups and stews and I love the skillets because I can brown things on the stove and just stick them in the oven to finish (chicken breasts, pork chops). I also make meatloaf and small roasts in them so I can then just put them on the stove to make gravy. Nothing else works for pancakes and grilled cheese.

                                                                        They ARE hard to wash, but I use dishwashing liquid and a nylon pad, and I have used steel wool. When I re-season them, I rub oil on them with a paper towel and put them on a low flame. I also DRY them by placing them on a low flame to prevent rusting, which my mother did and her mother did.

                                                                        So I think maybe it's all in the AGING. I have read elsewhere that if you really want good iron cookware, you need to search for vintage and buy it if it's REALLY black. This could be anywhere from garage sales to craigslist to ebay to Goodwill. Very cheap.

                                                                        As far as hot handles go, pick up some silicon oven mitts (or handle sleeves), they're a godsend and you'll use them for your glass and metal baking pans, too.

                                                                      2. re: takadi

                                                                        "I just tend to reseason my pan every time I cook."
                                                                        *Properly* seasoning cast iron takes about 2 hours or more. I'm thinking you may not be properly seasoning, which is why:
                                                                        "I've attempted to cook boeuf bourguignon in my bare cast iron dutch oven and found it wears away at alot of the seasoning."
                                                                        If your seasoning is flaking off, something is wrong. You *can* season a pan too much. The thickness of seasoning, even on a decades old well seasoned pan is thinner than a sheet of paper.

                                                                        "I feel the only things I can cook are things that have oil in it"
                                                                        Your feeling is almost right on the money. If whatever you are cooking doesn't contain some fat, you should be adding fat or oil to the pan before adding the food. You've got to put some butter or oil on before cooking eggs, for example. Cooking things with a lot of liquid lets the grease float away, so the non-stick properties of the seasoning are negated.

                                                                        "I don't really want carbonized oils getting into my food."
                                                                        Why not? They're tasteless and have no adverse health effects.
                                                                        *Polymerized* oils are a dfferent story. Polymerization is a precursor to carbonization, and polymerized (thick, plastic-y, sticky) oils will taste bad. Seasoning incorrectly will result in a layer of polymerized oil on your pan which can be dissolved by later cooking with hot fresh oil. Polymerized oil is only about as stiff (and durable) as plastic.

                                                                        "research shows that copper of the same thickness and weight has similar heat capacity"

                                                                        You're thinking of 'specific heat', which is a dimensionless number. Once you add thickness into the equation, you're talking about real capacity. And that brings up the 'of similar thickness' part of your argument. Compare an $18 "Camp Chef" cast iron skillet or a $100 LeCreuset with bottom thicknesses of over 10 millimeters, or a $29 Lodge skillet with a bottom thickness of 5.5mm, to a typical high-end copper skillet (costing upwards of $250) with a 2.5mm thick base. Your typical cast iron skillet has *two to four times* more heat capacity *in the base* (where it counts), than even the thicker high end copper skillets. Same thing with most cast iron cookware, because iron is cheap it's not a big deal to include a LOT of iron in a piece. Also since cast iron is relatively fragile, it needs to be a minimum thickness to hold up well to abuse. So I'm sticking by my guns on my temperature numbers.

                                                                        "but when I hear all sorts of rules of what you can or cannot do with cast iron, it makes me just want to use something that doesn't have the issue of surface reactivity"

                                                                        Buy and use whatever suits your desires, and *your* desires may lend higher weight to convenience, weight and handling, and storage space for your cookware than higher performance for a limited number of applications. I've got plenty of space for my cookware, so it makes sense for me to buy a few (quite inexpensive) pieces of cast iron for specific applications.

                                                                        1. re: ThreeGigs

                                                                          Thanks for the corrections for the cast iron and copper.

                                                                          I'm not sure where I read this, but some study pointed out how the seasoning in cast iron contains more carcinogens than teflon. I'm not sure if it's an old study where the teflon in pans were cheaper, and I'm not sure if they were just talking about the fumes and smoke that came from the seasoning or polymerized oils as a opposed to carbonized. I'll try to find it if I get the chance

                                                                          1. re: takadi

                                                                            It might have been marketing spin, because there are no carcinogens in Teflon. None, zero, zilch. But... when you get teflon hot enough to break down, *then* you've got all kinds of nastiness from carcinogens to outright poisons.

                                                                        2. re: takadi

                                                                          Thermal capacity of copper: 0.0920 BTU/lb-°F
                                                                          Copper thermal conductivity: 2660 - 2710 BTU-in/hr-ft²-°F
                                                                          Thermal capacity of cast iron: 0.121 - 0.200 BTU/lb-°F
                                                                          Cast iron thermal conductivity: 78.4 - 370 BTU-in/hr-ft²-°F
                                                                          (Source: www.matweb.com) - using basic cast iron and wrought copper.

                                                                          So yes, copper beats cast iron hands down for conductivity, and is below it in thermal capacitance.

                                                                          But you seem to ignore two key points here: 1) Cast iron is A LOT heavier. a 12" All-Clad copper pan, from Amazon (All-Clad Cop-R-Chef 12-Inch Fry Pan), has a weight of 5 lbs. A similar Lodge 12" skillet is 8 lbs. There is a lot more metal there to hold heat

                                                                          2) Copper may be able to "re-heat" a lot faster, but your burner may very well be the bottleneck. Burners at high on home stoves aren't meant to be able to take a heavy pan up 150 degrees "on a dime"

                                                                          Searing is quick.. so in essence, you are "sucking" the cast iron pan empty of its energy to sear the steak, and then letting it reheat a tad to do the other side. The copper pan has less thermal energy and the burner can't resupply it fast enough to maintain the heat.

                                                                          The above poster is right - every piece of cookware has its rules, it niches. Look, keep your 2 cast iron skillets, get rid of the cast iron dutch oven, but a cheap enameled dutch oven at Target for $50-60, and get some stainless pans, you'll be set.

                                                                          1. re: grant.cook

                                                                            I got my numbers from egullet, which are very different from yours


                                                                            According to egullet, copper and iron, per cubic centimeter, has similar heat capacity, meaning there would be enough heat left and resupplied in copper after a sear to allow it to maintain stable and hot temperatures. As three gigs stated above, the difference is that cast iron is made much thicker and has slightly more heat capacity. But if the numbers are correct, theoretically copper is the ideal material.

                                                                            1. re: takadi

                                                                              Frankly, lets step back here.. cooking is only in some part about right or wrong, its about making some amazing creations that bring you and your friends and family pleasure.

                                                                              We debate here about the best knife, the best cutting board, and while there are differences, and some research and insight should go into a purchase, in the end, this is a lot like the basketball argumentabout Michael Jordan and his shoes.. its the hand and the mind behind it that makes cooking fun, that makes something taste amazing. A pan is minor compared to the skills, the creativity, the ingredients that go into a dish.

                                                                              You are doing a lot of analysis and to be honest, is this fun? Go home and make a roux, try your hand at a loaf of no-knead bread in your dutch oven, braise a pork loin in milk, invite over some friends and sit around a table drinking chardonnay and eating something you made, and stop worrying about whether your kitchen might win some efficiency award. Heck, if you are worried about cookware, start cooking stuff "en papillote" - parchment is cheap.

                                                                              If you are spending a lot of time worrying about whether cast iron is working for you, and you still are concerned after asking for everyone's input, then it isn't working for you.

                                                                              1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                Now that's "some fresh, clear, well-seasoned perspective."

                                                                                - Ratatouille... I love that movie. Anyone? Anyone?

                                                                                1. re: can_i_try_some

                                                                                  Overrated movie, but great animation

                                                                                2. re: grant.cook

                                                                                  "You are doing a lot of analysis and to be honest, is this fun?"

                                                                                  Actually, yes. Last time I checked, you couldn't fry an egg on a laptop

                                                                                  Frankly I would love to win the most efficient kitchen award, but I apologize for any offense you might have taken by inquiring about cookware on a cookware board

                                                                                  1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                    I agree 100% Grant. I just posted in another thread how I gave up on cast iron, just didn't fit in with what and how I like to cook. I also agree with your previous posts about Stainless. My aluminum core with stainless cooking surface is my go to cookwear for just about everything. While I agree if you can't afford the All Clad, go with what you can buy. But I will offer this, good solid cookware is an investment. I am 38 and still use my All Clad frypan that I purchased when I was 16.

                                                                                    1. re: GDFLS

                                                                                      Just saw the thread...it's pretty much exactly the same way I feel. I feel like I'm doing something wrong, and I don't really understand why cast iron, which everyone raves about, isn't doing it for me. I'll occasionally cook a steak on it if it isn't raining outside, but I'm sticking with nonstick and stainless

                                                                                      1. re: takadi

                                                                                        Did not mean to offend, I just think often we talk so much about cooking that we forget that its the hands-on act of doing it that provides the pleasure. People ask about the best knife, and there is no absolute right answer - go chop up some stuff and see what's the best knife FOR YOU.

                                                                                        I think there is some mystique about cast iron - that all the high-end performance of copper or 3-ply stainless is hidden inside this cheap Lodge skillet. That by using it, we are somehow cooking more authentically, but for most, that's not the case - its easier or more efficient to use another pan. Its a useful niche pan, great for some things, not for others. For purists, I am sure you can do some amazing things.. but being a purist and being a great chef are not necessarily the same thing.

                                                                                        I kayak a lot, and people have beautiful old cedar boats and kayak using a "Greenland" paddle made of light wood. I kayak using a fiberglass paddle with a carbon fiber shaft. Is the "Greenland" paddle amazing when used well? yes.. Is it more authentic? yes.. but I am interested in exploring the bays and harbors of NE, not being pure, and my paddle does just fine getting me around.

                                                                                        1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                          I agree with the pragmatics of working with the tools that work well for you, for what you are doing. What works best for you IS best for you. But I disagree about the ease & efficiency conclusions above. For me an iron frying pan is not a niche item, and it is not of interest only to purists or those seeking some sort of artisanal authenticity or contact with basic materials. For me it's an easy, efficient, useful, workhorse of a tool that I thoughtlessly pull out many times a week & that needs almost no maintenance or special handling. Perfectly true that it is also not useful or appropriate for many purposes. Also true that I am not a great chef, I just cook. If I were trained in the nuances of technique I might understand things differently. Meanwhile in my current ignorance I use my pan a lot.

                                                                                          1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                            I don't think this has anything to do with purity, just a genuine interest in high quality cookware. I find it no different than being interested in how a car works. Granted you're not gonna be the next dale earnhardt jr overnight, but even though everybody would love a sportscar, who would let down a trusty hemi? The same sentiments apply. And like cars, sometimes a person is a pick up truck guy, and sometimes he's just a four door sedan guy.

                                                                                            I still use my cast iron now and again, but it really hasn't found its purpose as a centerpiece in my current cooking lifestyle.

                                                                                            1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                              I think you've hit on exactly what makes cast iron attractive, there is a mystique about it, I admit, I think it's more authentic and "purer" and I don't really use it!

                                                                                              To me what makes cast iron so unique is that it's possible to find a cheap cast-iron at a garage sale all rusted and with just a little elbow grease you can have a new well seasoned pan. Sure, copper and SS last but you'd never see a copper pan going for 5 bucks at a garage sale, would you?

                                                                                        2. re: grant.cook

                                                                                          Now that's interesting. I have a knife that I bought at a dollar store on my way to bringing food somewhere (picnic, I think) and it's now one of my favorite knives. It has a cheesy plastic handle, but it's comfortable and has stayed sharp for a few years.

                                                                                        3. re: takadi

                                                                                          Yes, copper would be ideal. However I've never found a copper skillet with a bottom thicker than 3mm. Give me a 7mm thick bottom and 1.5 mm thick sides and I'll gladly trade in my cast iron for copper.

                                                                                          Because of this thread, I was (again) looking into copper electoplating. If I could add another 3 or 4 mm of copper to the bottoms of some of my copper pieces, I'd be ecstatic.

                                                                                          1. re: ThreeGigs

                                                                                            Why don't you just go out and buy a commerical cooktop that has burners that can put out 20000-30000 BTU's per hour? Then the whole capacitance issues is moot.. you'll be able to ignite small pieces of paper at 30 feet..

                                                                                        4. re: grant.cook

                                                                                          Read the Cop-R-Chef description again. That line from All Clad has a light weight ALUMINUM core, its simply a copper coating on the outside so it looks pretty. A proper copper piece from Borgeat or Falk or the better lines of Mauviel will weight almost as much, if not AS much, as a similar cast iron piece. But comparing cast iron to copper is apples and oranges, really.

                                                                                          1. re: goldendawn7

                                                                                            Completely and utterly false. Look at the All-Clad website again. The copper is sandwiched between layers of aluminum. In other words, the copper is the CORE. Funny, how the copper is also visible along the exposed outer pouring rim too, which wouldn't be the case if the copper were merely a decorative ring around the outside.

                                                                                            1. re: Seitan

                                                                                              All-Clad has 2 lines with copper: Cop-R-Chef and Copper Core.

                                                                                              Cop-R-Chef has 3-ply: Copper - Aluminum - SS
                                                                                              Copper Core has 5-ply: SS - Aluminum - Copper - Aluminum - SS

                                                                                              Copper conducts heat better than aluminum which conducts heat better than SS. It's not there "so it looks pretty". Chemistry 101.

                                                                                              1. re: pabboy

                                                                                                Thanks pabboy, I misread goldendawn's first sentence. Either way (copper core or Cop-R-Chef), you are correct: the copper is not there to 'look pretty' as goldendawn claims.

                                                                                                1. re: Seitan

                                                                                                  IMHO, the copper is there solely to impress (read: mislead) the consumer enough that s/he buys it. Theoretically, the sandwiching of high-conductivity Cu or Al between SS is better than straight-gauge SS. But how thick, really, is the copper layer? How much crappy SS does the heat have to fight its way through to get to the food? How responsive is a 0.5mm layer wrapping the pan's contents?

                                                                                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                    All Clad's site doesn't give specs, but from what I can find, the copper should be about .8 or .9 mm of the total thickness, and the layers on either side of the copper are aluminum. You can actually see the thickness of the layers pretty well by looking down on the top of the edge (at least on the pieces without rolled edges). So the only "crappy" ss is the outer and inner layers, which are both pretty thin.

                                                                                                    I have a 4 qt All Clad "Copper-core" chef's pan type thing, which I bought on sale a while back. Would I pay the same kind of prices for stuff in this series as I would for Falk, Bourgeat, Mauviel, etc.? Is the All-Clad pan an amazing value? No to both questions, but I would say that there does seem to be some benefit from the relatively thick copper layer, though I haven't done extensive back to back comparisons. And, you're also saving a little bit of weight (mine is 4 lb 12 oz without the lid, vs. ~ 8 lb for a comparable sized Falk sauciére), which I think is important if you're going to be tossing stuff in the pan. There is a point where a copper pan becomes difficult to maneuver. I wouldn't probably buy this particular pan again, mostly because of the shape, but I think it heats fairly evenly and responds quickly to changes in heat.

                                                                                                    1. re: will47

                                                                                                      Hi, will47:

                                                                                                      That's a fair enough reply. Part of the problem here is that with a few exceptions (e.g., Demeyer), few manufacturer's *will* give specs. We're left to guess, mostly, and let our confirmation biases run fee. I don't like that much.

                                                                                                      The copper layer in Demeyer Atlantis is a bona fide 2mm (unless the cutaways are fraudulent, which I doubt). Their aluminum analogue (name?) looks to have 4-5 of aluminum. These sound like "relatively thick" conductive layers, but the cutaways show that the outer SS layers are also pretty thick--looks like about 1mm each. I remain a little skeptical that 0.8mm of copper sandwiched between approx. 1mm sheets of SS is any better than just going with a 4-6mm disk of aluminum on the bottom of a thin SS pan. Light *and* cheap. How thick are the aluminum layers supposed to be in AC Copper Core?

                                                                                                      Regarding weight, you make a very good point. I've always smiled at the way we think of single-handed sautes and double-handled rondeaux as different animals, when in fact a heavy, shallow rondeau is just a more manageable saute, pound for pound.


                                                                                        5. re: takadi

                                                                                          Boeuf bourguignon isn't such a good choice for cast iron: wine + tomatoes = both are acidic and will reliably wear away at your seasoning. Sorry.

                                                                                          I took a long time myself to get into the groove of using and maintaining cast iron. I'm a fan now, but if you don't grow up using it, I agree it's a pretty big shift in the way you cook and use cookware.

                                                                                          1. re: takadi

                                                                                            I don't grease mine after every use but I make sure it is dry.

                                                                                            1. re: takadi

                                                                                              You can also just put the pan on the burner on low for a few moments after drying it to evaporate any residual moisture away. You'll have to be patient and let it cool again.

                                                                                              BTW, this is what I do with my carbon steel wok too, which will rust in minutes.

                                                                                              I avoid wine sauces in my cast iron since it tends to darken the sauce, and stick to Le Creuset or Staub enameled cast iron. I mostly use my cast iron grill , and my skillets to sear or fry. I am also a proponent of soap and water. It is the only way you can really get the food gunk off and get to seasoning only. I'm not talking about using a Brillo pad here, but a green scrubber sponge with a little dishwashing liquid and a rinse. The seasoning remains behind on the pan. It could be that some of your sticking problems are due to food residue that may resemble seasoning.

                                                                                          2. I clean up and season my cast iron pans and Dutch oven as simply as possible: they soak in warm water during the meal, then later get a good cleaning with hot water and a long handled brush. Never any need for detergent, but once in awhile baking soda in the soak. Then they are dried with a cloth or paper towel, and stored. During the brushing, a slight amount of residual oil will adhere to the pan, enough for re-seasoning.

                                                                                            I use the Dutch oven, lid on, in my ovenfor slow cooking. With the lid off, it is excellent for stove top frying, such as battered food in 1.5" oil, with a thermometer. It is easy to maintain 350 degrees because of the heat retention of the iron.

                                                                                            I can easily do a three egg omelet, completely non stick, in the 12" cast pan. It has to be heated to smoking, then a small amount of high smoke point oil or ghee added, and the eggs will cook in seconds, heat off, with a bit of shaking or stirring. If hot enough, there is no sticking.

                                                                                            I have a Le Creuset 8" enameled frypan, and it is seldom used because it sticks mercilessly. It is now my niche pan!

                                                                                            1. Late to this party myself...

                                                                                              We're just back from a vacation where we had a full kitchen. Knowing the cookware in the rental would stink, but not wanting to take my entire kitchen, I tossed my cast iron skillet in the car along with a knife adn a few other essentials. I hardly use my cast iron skillet at home, mostly only for cornbread. I have some copper, some All-Clad, some Le Creuset, a Scanpan for eggs....

                                                                                              But...the cast iron CAN do almost anything I want it to do. It's about 15 years old and well seasoned. I preheat it well for anything I want to do with it but for the most part it's very versatile. here's some things I did while we were gone:

                                                                                              Turkey green chile stew with cheddar dumplings
                                                                                              Bacon with eggs over-easy(no problem with eggs sticking at all)
                                                                                              Steaks with sauteed mushrooms
                                                                                              Oven roasted chicken thighs over potatoes, onions, and carrots
                                                                                              Tomato based pasta sauce

                                                                                              I wouldn't try making a delicate sauce in it. Nor do I expect it to allow fat free cooking(mmm....butter in the bottom of the pan for those pancakes!) Also, now that I'm back home I won't use it much again because I have other pans to work with but I am glad I have it. Don't give up on yours, season it well, care for it properly and over the years it will be a trusty tool when you need it.

                                                                                              As for copper, I've collected several pieces of 2.5mm over the last few years as I have had the opportunity to buy it at a deep discount. I love my copper cookware but I'm the first to admit it's hardly a necessity in the kitchen. It does perform very well but so does a lot of other cookware for a fraction of the cost. If your budget doesn't allow it(and copper has gone up in the last 6 weeks to about 40% over what were already high prices) and if you don't love the aesthetics of copper look save your money and look for another option.

                                                                                              1. I have been using cast iron sucessfully for over 30 years. There are just a few simple steps to follow. 1) make sure you have properly seasoned the pan. I usually just clean it carefully, put it in a 325 degree oven, and wipe several times with oil. You may need to do this more than once 2) when I use the pan, I always clean it while it is still hot. If you take out your food, take the pan to the sink, get HOT water coming out of the faucet, and clean the pan. I have a wooden type scrubber (looks like it is small sticks of bamboo tied together into a stiff brush) that is used to clean a wok. 3) return the pan to the stove and place it on the hot burner (which is not on), wipe the pan clean, and then pour in a teaspoon of oil and whip the pan to constantly renew the seasoning.

                                                                                                This is quick, simple and really works well. It just requires that you handle the pan when it is hot.

                                                                                                Also, when you place the hot pan under the hot water, be careful that you are holding the pan from the side and that your hand is not over the pan. When the hot water hits the hot pan, it generates a lot of steam, and steam is hotter than boiling water. Always hold the pan by the handle and to one side when placing it under the water.

                                                                                                One more note, it is not necessary to place the pan under the hot water immediately after removing the food, but it should be done before the pan cools. (within 5 minutes).

                                                                                                When the pan is hot, and the water is hot, the food comes off immediately.

                                                                                                When you let the pan cool, the food adheres to the finish, and scubbing removes the seasoning.

                                                                                                And when cooking, always remember to get the pan hot first, then add the oil just before adding the food. Remember the chinese saying "Hot wok, cold oil, food won't stick". This is saying, don't add the oil and let the oil get hot before adding the food.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Skyking333

                                                                                                  "I have a wooden type scrubber (looks like it is small sticks of bamboo tied together into a stiff brush) that is used to clean a wok."

                                                                                                  I was just going to make this same tip! Buy 'em at the Asian market, they're cheap. You might also see some other old fashioned wok cleaners there that work well on cast iron, but this one is my favorite. I very rarely use any soap on my ci, and I never even heard of cleaning cast iron with salt. And cast iron tip #2: to make eggs nonstick, the secret is getting the eggs to room temp., and the quickest way to do that is just to put them in warm water for a couple of minutes.

                                                                                                  1. re: justjoe

                                                                                                    Here's another good trick for cleaning cast iron pans - an old credit card. Use it to scrape off the gunk first, if it's all gunked up, and then you can switch to a Chinese wok cleaning bristle brush. That way keeps the brush from getting all gunked up. After each use I either wipe the pan with an oily rag (like coconut oil), or give it a little schpritz with an a cooking oil spray can.

                                                                                                2. i used to like Teflon non-stick cookware and then some time ago i decided to try cast iron.however i didn't pick up the non-seasoned dutch oven, but instead i chose the enameled Chantal one - i alrdy had some Chantal stoneware, i like it, and it was so much cheaper than LC and Staub, and it was on sale, so i decided to give it a try :) it was a winner, now I'm upgrading to all-cast iron cookware, I'm trying to get the right skillets now...

                                                                                                  i think the key is to heat it properly, with or w/o the oil, and for the love of kittens DONT u ever use olive oil, 'cos it burns... but cheapo canola oil is the way to go. i do deglase in 95,5% of cases and i cant say the stuff sticks to the surface - just leave it alone for some time, it'll be fine, don't move your steak too soon. i can be wrong tho - when I'm browning things and my fire alarm dosn't go off i feel like I'm doing smth wrong, so mb i tend to overbrown, if there's such thing :)
                                                                                                  I've tried some stainless skillets, mostly for steaks and meat, but i think i'm getting better results with cast iron.

                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Y.T.

                                                                                                    Agreed about no olive oil. I don't use canola oil for a bunch of reasons, personally, but I'm glad to hear it works for you.

                                                                                                    I think the preferred way to go to avoid stickiness is some kind of saturated fat. That means lard, food-grade cocoa butter or Crisco. Crisco is favored by those who don't mind about TFAs (trans-fatty acids). Lard is traditional and very effective (that's what I've used) but obviously no good for vegetarians. Cocoa butter is natural, saturated, animal-free, and supposedly does not make everything you eat taste like you're eating a coconut.


                                                                                                    1. re: Mawrter

                                                                                                      "Crisco is favored by those who don't mind about TFAs (trans-fatty acids)"

                                                                                                      Is that an issue when you use Crisco to season the pan, or in other words, does the end-product (the hard black layer of seasoning) really retain any of the seasoning fat's characteristics? I guess what I'm asking is: would a pan seasoned with Crisco release TFAs into the food, or does the high-heat seasoning process convert the fat into a neutral state (carbon?) that's different from where it started (so TFA or animal fat/lard wouldn't be an issue)? I'm genuinely unsure about this; have been wondering for a while.

                                                                                                      1. re: razkolnikov

                                                                                                        Hey Raz, I don't know enough to give you a real answer, but I speculate that it depends. :-)

                                                                                                        My seat-of-pants answer: Probably some minute degree of TFA gets into the food, and that probably isn't enough for most people to get too fussed about. I If I had an old cast iron skillet that had been seasoned with Crisco, I wouldn't get rid of it. But I also wouldn't season a new one with it since I know there are the other options.

                                                                                                        1. re: Mawrter

                                                                                                          This shouldn't be an issue, as Crisco has been reformulated to not have any trans fat.

                                                                                                          1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                            From the Crisco website, the ingredients of the shortening:

                                                                                                            SOYBEAN OIL, FULLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED AND SOYBEAN OILS, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, TBHQ AND CITRIC ACID (ANTIOXIDANTS).

                                                                                                            Trust me, there are plenty of people out there who don't want to ingest that cocktail of industrial oils, whether it's a TFA or not.

                                                                                                            See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crisco

                                                                                                            1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                              Crisco may have been reformulated, but it still contains trans fats. Look past the Nutrition Info and examine the Ingredients. You will see Partially Hydrogenated Cotton Seed and Soybean Oils listed. They are the trans fats.

                                                                                                              The FDA allows companies to say they have Zero or No Trans Fats if they have less than 0.5g of trans fats per serving. The serving size for Crisco is 1 Tablespoon, or 12 grams. 4% of that tablespoon can be trans fats and it is still OK to tell you it doesn't have any in the nutrition information. I heard the FDA is also looking out for us when it comes to melamine too! We're so fortunate to have them on our side.

                                                                                                              On the topic - I'm still learning how to use my cast iron frying pan outdoors on the grill for searing scallops and cooking fish. I started using grape seed oil as it has a higher smoke point. (not that I can get the pan as hot as I would like...) For cleanup, I let the pan cool and use a spongie thing with the green back to clean the pan with a very,very small mount of detergent and hot water. Then dry by hand and apply a thin coat of vegetable oil with a paper towel.

                                                                                                          2. re: razkolnikov

                                                                                                            Who here remembers the butter scare of the 70's??? Well, I was raised on dairy products and KNEW right from the get go that whoever these "scaremonger" pundits were, they were completely wrong about butter and I didn't need "Popular Science" to back me up. Fast forward through about 17 similar scares in the last few decades and I'm about at my wits end with folks. The latest is TFA's. Well how do you square TFA's with MTC's? And who'd of thunk that today's cutting edge exercise nutritionists are touting the benefits of palm and coconut fats, eh? Bottom line is this: Even assuming that TFA's are somehow detrimental to your well being, (and I doubt they are.) then the amount of TFA's you're going to be ingesting from using lard or shortening to season cast iron cookware is beyond (BEYOND) miniscule!.
                                                                                                            Now, a few words about cast iron: I'm pushing 65 years and have spent a good part of my life living in wall tents in the Rocky Mountains and guess what that means? Yup, I'm a dutch oven nut. I own at least 20 of them. I will flat out unequivocally state that you should never use oil to season a dutch oven. Heresy? Bear with me, please. Try seasoning an oven with oil and then putting it away for the winter. Come springtime you'll find that it has gone rancid and you'll need to re-season the oven. Now, season an oven with lard or shortening and put it away for the winter, voile, no rancid smell after sitting in the garage for 4 months. I don't claim to understand the chemistry, nor do i care. I ONLY use shortening to season any cast iron cookware. Try it, and for heaven's sake quit worrying about the amount of TFA's in the shortening. As for cleaning, others have hit it in previous posts, forgert the salt, never use any type of soap or detergent, get the hottest water your tap will provide into the pan as soon after cooking as possible, except WAIT long enough so that the pan DOESN'T send off clouds of steam. The pan is too hot and you risk cracking the iron. Let it sit a few minutes with water, then use one of the plastic scrubby things, (I use the brand name orangy yellow one.) Scrub it out good, wipe it down insidew and out with a paper towel, its own heat will continue to drive the rest of the moisture out and it won't rust, put it on the stove and using another paper towel, give it a once ovber with a very light coat of shortening and you are good to go. I use cast iron pans and griddles exclusively for high heat searing of meats, vegis, etc. Needless to say, sourjacks and cast iron were made for each other. Cast iron can be made reasonably non stick in a pretty short time, but the shiny black patina that has come to be the trademark of cast iron cookware will only come after many years of constant use. But then, so long as it doesn't get broken, your great grand kids should still be using them a century from now.

                                                                                                            1. re: elmbow

                                                                                                              You a packer? ...ever think of posting some good campfire cast iron recipes? We used to have an outfit who'd set up a series of dutch ovens and serve weekend breakfasts at a highway interchange (out int he country) till the health dep't shut them down. sheesh.

                                                                                                      2. Good cast iron pans work, the problem is all the new cast iron cookware that's coming out is formed from low quality ore.

                                                                                                        Compare the smoothness of the cast iron in this blog to that of your cast iron. I think you'll see a huge difference. http://blackirondude.blogspot.com/200...

                                                                                                        Enamel coated pans are great, but they are much more delicate that really good pure cast iron.

                                                                                                        14 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: mr. rowshan

                                                                                                          It's not the ore so much as the manufacturing process. New pieces are sand cast and then "polished" with steel balls being shot at them. This results in a roughish surface in comparison to the older pieces which were machined after the casting. I have several 1920-30's Griswold pieces and several newer Lodge pieces. I prefer the older smoother skillets for eggs everything else is about equal, though CI had an article about heavier skillets giving a better sear.

                                                                                                          1. re: rockfish42

                                                                                                            Just want to second your thoughts. I've got a Lodge skillet that's about 5 years old; a Lodge griddle that I bought maybe...25 years ago, and a newly acquired, but not new, Wagner skillet that I rescued from my late FIL's basement. Word is he obtained that one in Australia during WWII. That thing is as smooth as the ice on a pond, despite having been left in a humid cellar on the shore for decades, and so is my 25 y.o. griddle. The newer skillet has required a LOT of seasoning to be practical. That's fine, since I often season the pans between uses (great way to make the kitchen cozy on a cold winter's day), but the newer pan is just now becoming bearable to use, rather than simply a pain in the neck. I love that Wagner pan, though. I personally have absolutely *no*use for non-stick--can't stand the stuff--but I don't need it with my two older CI pans.

                                                                                                            I always wash mine in soapy water, though (and, of course, rinse it very well and dry it immediately). I talked to a chef once who told me that the health department would shut him down if he didn't use soap, and that was good enough for me. I've never noticed any residue in taste or texture. But of course these pans are well seasoned by now.

                                                                                                            1. re: rockfish42

                                                                                                              Will the new "rougher" pans eventually smooth down over time? I don't get why lodge would roughen the surface up with a steel ball treatment...if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? I don't know why they would go through the extra process - lower quality ore makes more sense

                                                                                                              1. re: takadi

                                                                                                                The surface isn't further roughened up by this treatment, the balls are meant to knock off any excess sand that isn't removed earlier. If you watch Good Eats the episode Fry Hard II : The Chicken shows the whole process.

                                                                                                            2. re: mr. rowshan

                                                                                                              I agree with this, completely... my experience with cast iron was the same as Takadi's, until my mother in law sent me a set of gorgeous vintage skillets from an estate auction in Connecticut. Those pans are as slick as any non stick I have ever used, in fact I just (accidentally) cooked an egg without using ANY oil or butter in my 12" skillet this morning and didn't even notice until I saw that the texture of the egg itself was a little off. But it didn't stick even a little bit. I have tried new, pre-seasoned and raw pans (Lodge brand) and had nothing but headaches. In fact, my new pre-seasoned double-sided griddle is sitting on my kitchen table waiting to have rust scoured off of it so I can use the darn thing. And, trust me, I seasoned it using bacon, kobe beef hamburger, and fatty salmon. Food has always stuck to it, and I feel like it always will. And now I get to deal with the rust on it. Yey. If I were you, I would get rid of the new pieces and get over to a thrift store, garage sale, or antique store and find a nice, slick, old school machined piece that will make you realize you aren't crazy -- and that good, tight cast iron is a fabulous tool in the kitchen. You'll be so glad you did.
                                                                                                              P.S. I don't ever use soap on my vintage pieces, though mostly out of laziness. I also don't ever hesitate to cook whatever I want in them -- tomatoes, wine reductions, lemon-caper sauce -- because the old cast iron is so completely superior to what is being made today.

                                                                                                              1. re: maymayrays

                                                                                                                Man I haven't visited this thread in a while. I must say I'm still experimenting with my pan, but I've heard rumors for quite a while that Lodge or any other company for that matter doesn't make their cast iron products as well as they used to, which explains alot of testimony from people who claim their vintage products are extremely nonstick and slick but their recent lodge pans aren't.

                                                                                                                I've owned my pan for too long to get rid of it, but I might consider going out to some sale and purchasing a vintage piece, if I can find one at least.

                                                                                                                By the way, I wonder why vintage cast iron is so much better than "new" cast iron? I always thought all cast iron was equal

                                                                                                                1. re: takadi

                                                                                                                  i have both - a newer lodge and some vintage wagners - I love them both. I am telling you - it is all about the seasoning of the pan. Of course nice vintage works wonderful - because they have 20 + years worth of seasoning on them! :-)

                                                                                                                  1. re: Stevida

                                                                                                                    Well, actually, nearly all the pre-1960 cast iron pans were also machine-finished to a much smoother, slicker finish. And many believe the quality of the iron ore was higher, thereby allowing for a lighter, thinner product which still had great strength.

                                                                                                                    There's just NO comparison between, say, an early Griswold ERIE #9 skillet and an off-the-shelf Lodge, of today. For one thing, the newer cast iron is remarkably heavier. And the surface is rough and "scratchy."

                                                                                                                    You cannot attribute these differences to just "years of seasoning" as I've seen MINT CONDITION (aka, virtually never used; you can still see the finishing whorls) Griswolds (from my friends at the Wagner and Griswold Society, who are serious collectors. I just buy stuff ;-) and they're still vastly smoother and slicker than even a well-seasoned modern Lodge, for instance.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                      Yes, CI cookware can vary a lot—and I have used them all. I mainly use my French carbon steel skillets nowadays, but I do have some Lodge skillets that are very well seasoned and as non-stick as my Griswold. Yes, they are bumpier iron, even with heavy seasoning filling in a lot of it in the interior, and they are MUCH heavier, but the Lodge's still work just fine. I do think they are stick-prone when new, and need to be seasoned beyond their "pre-seasoned" state.

                                                                                                                      Lotsa work, okay, but when you get good seasoning and see how much it affects flavor, you really learn as a good cook that CI or carbon steel cookware is so superior for so many uses...! the right tools for the right job—for making chicken breasts with a pan sauce or making Bolognese sauce, I go right to my Copper Core All-Clad pot and pans, no need for CI or CS for these recipes...

                                                                                                                      1. re: toddster63

                                                                                                                        I'd like to squash the notion that cast iron is hard work to take care of. It's not.

                                                                                                                        It takes a certain amount of work to get your seasoning (see flax seed oil treatment elsewhere in this thread), but once that is done the pan is virtually worry free and nigh indestructible.

                                                                                                                        The biggest hurdle is simply educating people who have never experienced (or who have failed attempting to make) a well seasoned pan.

                                                                                                                        Repeat after me. Flaxseed oil at high temp, six times, and you'll never have to worry about your seasoning again.

                                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                          >>I'd like to squash the notion that cast iron is hard work to take care of. It's not.<<

                                                                                                                          I hated dealing with cast iron (newish Lodge). I was doing it all the time. I gave it all away except for one skillet which I never use. The seasoning has probably got a nice superseasoning of dust where the pan that sits on top of it doesn't reach.

                                                                                                                2. re: maymayrays

                                                                                                                  Gotta agree about the vintage pans - I have several that are vintage from 2 grandmothers and those babies are SLICK on the bottom . . . I think they were originally machined very smooth to begin with, and then with the years of use I see a big difference from a newer pan I have which has some rougher texture to the cooking surface of the pan. I just got on this thread and it reminds me I have a huge, but a little rusty, cast iron pan out in my garage. I think it is an older one and now need to get out there and check it out to see about getting it back in action.

                                                                                                                  1. re: vday

                                                                                                                    My wife was just commenting yesterday about how smooth one of our cast iron fry pans is and asked where we got it from and I replied "from up in the attic". Very smooth and relatively light. My 30 year old Norwegian Hoyang (with a mahogony handle) pan is very heavy, but very smooth. A big old Lodge, that I inherited from one of my sons, is big, heavy, and rough, but still cooks well.

                                                                                                                    I just got back from a 3 day sea kayak camping trip and cooked for 11 poeple using only cast iron cook ware; bean hole beans, chili, bacon, eggs, pancakes (strawberry ployes), tortillas, the whole 10 meters (world version of 9 yards).
                                                                                                                    In addition, my wife suffers from less PMS when I cook only on cast iron.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                      "my wife suffers from less PMS when I cook only on cast iron"

                                                                                                                      *chuckle* because YOU'RE doing the cooking, silly! (keep on spoiling her)

                                                                                                              2. I have to say, I've owned very expensive non-stick, stainless, and cast iron. I now use two cast iron pans. They sit on the stove all day, every day. They are both Lodge pre-seasoned pans; however, they are not truly seasoned until you use them regularly and frequently. My All Clad is in a drawer and my Circulon is gone. I can't get rid of the All Clad because my wife would kill me (just because of the cost). After spending a great deal of time using cast iron (also using cast iron dutch ovens over fire/coals), including my cast iron pans, cast iron dutch ovens and a new enameled Creuset, the best advice I can give is start with lower heat. It seems to me most (and I mean A LOT) of the cooking difficulties people have is too high of heat. I love cooking, and eating, but the biggest thing I've learned cooking with cast iron is to slow down. Cooking slower, with lower heat makes for a much better product, and the cast iron lends itself to lower heat (it conducts it so well that heating the pan over high heat defeats the purpose, you'll burn your food, or get it to stick because you'll get the pan smoking and it won't cool down quick enough). My cast iron pans and dutch ovens are truly non-stick at this point, and cooking requires a spray of non-stick cooking spray and sometimes nothing at all (I cooked a fried egg yesterday with no oil at all, after a batch of pancakes, with NO sticking). I've watched other cooks use too high of heat and too much oil only to find their food did not turn out the way they wanted. Slow and low, cast iron does the work for you.

                                                                                                                I'm sorry you've had issues, but try again, at no higher than medium heat (even frying) and use it everyday for a week, with a spray of Pam before and after you cook (wipe it out with a paper towel after cooking) and after that time I bet things will start to come together for you. You don't need much oil to season it, use a vegetable oil, not animal based at first.

                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: acesandeights

                                                                                                                  I'd agree that cast iron works best for "low and slow" cooking not because it conducts heat well (it doesn't; that's why it takes so long to heat up compared to say copper) but because it retains heat (it also takes a long time to cool off). If all you do is low and slow cooking, that's great, but if you saute, not so much. While a properly seasoned cast iron pan has wonderful non-stick properties, to which i can attest, sometimes the point is precisely to have some food matter stick during high heat (it's called fond), for making sauces when you deglaze with wine or stock. If you're content with only one style of cooking, good for you, but some people like fast and hot as well as low and slow -- it all depends on what you're cooking and how. Extolling the virtues of one doesn't require diminishing the qualities of the other.

                                                                                                                  1. re: chuckl

                                                                                                                    I've been reading some older cook books and have found them, when they state time, to be much longer cooking for sauteing, browning and other things. I've found if I saute more slowly I get better results. As a matter of fact, sauteing onions for example takes approximately 30 minutes. I had been burning things in cast iron that now I don't (i.e., caramelized onions). I'm not sure what you meant about "extolling the virtues of one doesn't require diminishing the qualities of the other", as I don't think I was doing that. But, to the original poster, or anyone else having difficulties with cast iron, I would suggest not giving up, and *possibly* trying slower cooking with lower temps.

                                                                                                                    I realize some people like fast and hot, or slow and low, but it doesn't mean they have to be limited in one style of cooking, as I'm not sure of anything cast iron doesn't do well (maybe boil water quickly). Cast iron works well for both (slow or fast); however, again, if a person is having trouble as the OP states, instead of losing faith, possibly trying a different style will bring the results sought. Also, there are different brands, with different qualities. Not all cast iron, as all copper, aluminum, or stainless pans are equal.

                                                                                                                    1. re: acesandeights

                                                                                                                      I have, probably, a dozen cast iron skillets, 6" through 15". I also have a 12"x4" chicken fryer and a dutch oven. I use the 15" all the time, great for breakfast. I use the 6" for toasting spices, onions and garlic. The others, as needed.

                                                                                                                      Do not be intimidated by cast iron, you do not need to baby it. If something is stuck to it, hold it under running water and use a metal scratch pad to clean it. If it is really stuck on, heat it up good and hot, pour in a small amount of water, and use a metal spatula to scrape it off.

                                                                                                                      To season cast iron, please remember that you are not trying to create a coating but to treat the metal. Begin by heating the skillet on your hottest burner to smoking hot, the hotter the better. This will expand the metal and open the pores of the iron. While the skillet is smoking hot, pour in a couple of tablespoons of canola oil, I would not use an animal based fat since it can turn rancid. Use tongs and a wadded-up paper towel to distribute the oil over the cooking surface, then over the handle and outside of the skillet. Allow this to cool to room temperature. Repeat this until you are satisfied with the cooking surface. If you get a buildup, hold the skillet under hot running water and use a metal scratch pad to clean it, use soap in necessary. Remember to bring your skillet up to cooking temp before adding oil and food. You can use your cast-iron to sear a steak at high heat on the stovetop then pop it into the oven to to bring it to a delicious medium-rare. Or make a pan pizza baked at 500 degrees with the cheese and toppings of you choice. This should allow you to get started with your castiron cooking. Should your skillets begin to look a little gray, just heat it up and re-season it.

                                                                                                                    2. re: chuckl

                                                                                                                      I can not disagree more Chuckl - I saute and sear all the time with my cast iron - fast and hot works very well. I use it to make fajitas all the time on my cast iron

                                                                                                                      1. re: Stevida

                                                                                                                        Ditto, I own no other type of fry pans and have 2 Dutch Ovens (barley, lamb mushroom soup cooking in one right now) and a few other cast iron pots. After Teflon, I wary of any clad cookery.

                                                                                                                  2. Don't confuse low or medium burner settings with low temperatures! Given a bit of time, an empty cast iron pan will get pretty darn hot under modest burner settings. Unless you are doing a sear, keep the temps around medium and you will be much happier with the results. (I will turner the burner to high just as I put in food like veggies to keep the pan temp from dropping too low -- as the pan recovers, I will dial the burner back).

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: MikeB3542

                                                                                                                      would this apply to veggie omelets? You would do this when adding vegetables to an omelet?

                                                                                                                    2. Intersting thread- I love cast iron but I also grew up using it and mine are passed down so I haven't encounterd any of the problems I've been reading about. But it's definitely not for everyone-I would think long and hard before purchasing new cookery. Don't get caught up in raves and hype, (I know it's hard if you're kitchen-obsessed like I am because everything on CH sounds so cool) figure out what works for you and what will fit into your lifestyle.

                                                                                                                      1. I don't think anyone is going to argue that copper is superior to cast iron! I've experienced all the same frustrations with cast irons as well.

                                                                                                                        I've burned myself as well a few times and I just find it very hard to wash a pan without soap! There is something very satisfying about getting a pot squeaky clean in hot sudsy water.

                                                                                                                        15 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: gdaerin

                                                                                                                          I don't get this aversion against a bit of soap for cleaning cast iron.

                                                                                                                          The way I see it is, did you ever try to clean an oven with a bit of dishwashing soap? There's a reason you need extremely high heat or noxious lye(!)-based cleaners to clean the grease that's burned into an oven -- it doesn't simply release when it contacts soap. Cast iron seasoning is similar: it's fat that's polymerized into the surface at around the same temperature as grease gets baked onto the oven walls. No quick contact with soap will get that stuff of.

                                                                                                                          I don't soak mine in sudsy water, but I use the same soapy nylon scrub I use for most dishes. Never had any problems.

                                                                                                                          1. re: razkolnikov

                                                                                                                            Same here razkolnikov.

                                                                                                                            And Cast Iron is the Shizzle. Anybody losing faith in it needs to go to coffession and do some Hail Mary's and Our Father's.

                                                                                                                            1. re: razkolnikov

                                                                                                                              Why is that the manufacturers of cast iron say not to use soap?


                                                                                                                              Your analogy to the oven is also wrong. Are you comparing cleaning the oven with removing the seasoning from a cast iron pan or are you comparing cleaning the oven with removing cooking grease from a seasoned cast iron pan? No one said that soap, scrubbing and high heat was not necessary to remove seasoning from a cast iron pan. But that's not the goal of every day cleaning.

                                                                                                                              1. re: taos

                                                                                                                                Wrong link.

                                                                                                                                re: analogy - neither. What I'm saying is that the cast iron seasoning is similar in chemical structure/process as the fat baked into an oven that's so hard to remove (I'm not 100% on the chemistry here, but it makes intuitive sense, given how CI is seasoned). If you can't get the oven clean with a bit of soap, a bit of soap also won't hurt the CI seasoning.

                                                                                                                                1. re: razkolnikov

                                                                                                                                  Sorry. I was posting in another thread earlier. Here's the correct link:


                                                                                                                                  1. re: taos

                                                                                                                                    I just discovered this website and this thread--this is great! First, I'd like to say that I have been cooking with cast iron for over 30 years. I have a Griswold dutch oven and a Wagner skillet. I use them constantly and never have any problems--I think of them as being Stradivarius-like--they just keep getting better with age. These babies are old--and were old when I bought them. They could be 50-70 years old. I got both at the Goodwill.

                                                                                                                                    I loved the specific disscussion about cast iron versus copper. Just a question to throw into this argument. Are you talking about shiny bright copper (which a lot of people prefer for the aesthetics), or are you talking about blackened copper? The latter I have read is better. And I keep my vintage Revere Ware that way, although I rarely use. I can make anything in my CI dutch oven, and for other things I have some (also vintage) Rena Ware. I have a Norwegian CI waffle maker and some other things, a CI cornbread pan.

                                                                                                                                    Got a question: Has anyone ever heard of an Ohsawa pot? I discovered this on a macrobiotic website when I was researching a better way to make rice. This is a "pot-within-pot" technique, using your pressure cooker. It is supposed to be like rice used to be made, in ceramic pots or cast iron. Slowly, I assume. Anyway, I bring this up here because I have a "science project" coming up. I have a special small cast iron pot that will fit into the pressure cooker and I am going to try that and see what happens. I don't want to spend that kind of money on those "Ohsawa" pots. I figure the worse thing that could happen would be 1-2 hour rice. !! Anybody have any experience with this?

                                                                                                                                    PS--I vote on the side of no detergent on cast iron EVER EVER EVER. I think we have just become too germ-phobic. I have been fermenting my own pickles, kim chi, and saurkraut as per the Wild Fermentation surge. There are good bacteria out there, ya' know.

                                                                                                                                    PSS--Two superior things about cast iron. 1. Camping, over a fire. 2. Solar oven, you know, for those possible looming days when the grid goes down just a wee bit.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: taos

                                                                                                                                      They're taking the safe route: better to say not to use soap at all if it keeps someone from putting the pan into a dishwasher or soaking it overnight. But as far as a quick rinse with some soap (followed by drying and applying a thin layer of fat/oil/shortening to the hot pan) goes, I just don't see (chemically) how it can do anything to a good seasoning layer.

                                                                                                                                      But I guess it comes down to doing what works best for the individual. I find that a bit of soap that's quickly rinsed off does nothing to the seasoning; others feel more comfortable without soap. If it keeps cooking well, it's all good.

                                                                                                                              2. re: gdaerin

                                                                                                                                The no soap dictum is because homemade soap previously made with lye and whatever fat might be around is a lot more caustic if not made properly. I agree that a little bit of soap once in a while won't hurt a properly seasoned pan, the issue arises however that new pans seasoned at a low temperature don't have fully polymerized fat which can in fact be removed with soap and mild scrubbing.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: rockfish42

                                                                                                                                    Actually I think it's the other way around. in the century or two between homemade soap with lye and today's extra strength-super duper grease cutting concoctions, there was good old fashioned soap. Like the kind our mothers or grandmothers (depending on our age) grew up washing dishes with. You probably can't strip a seasoned cast iron pan with this. But the advent of new grease-cutting concoctions has made the no soap instructions necessary.

                                                                                                                                    And, no, cast iron does not love to be treated badly (see below). Ask anyone who has put a piece in the dishwasher, put it away wet, allowed it to rust, put a piece of hot cast iron under cold water. Like every piece of cookware, it has its pros and cons and asks to be treated with appropriate care.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: taos

                                                                                                                                      I always use soap. I dry on the stove. I think the Lodge people don't use their own products. And I have beat the garbage out of mine and it still loves me.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                                                        Same here Whosyerkitty. I soak em overnight in the sink, put water in them directly off the stove hot, put it away wet, scrubbed it with soap, with nary a peep of rust and a great seasoning going strong.

                                                                                                                                        Sometimes I leave it outside for days to feed the dogs.


                                                                                                                                  2. re: gdaerin

                                                                                                                                    Yes, I LOVE washing my Copper Core stuff in heavy soapy water and getting it laboratory squeaky clean (even polishing the exposed Copper core strip separately with a toothbrush).

                                                                                                                                    But having cast iron (or my beloved more delicate carbon steel) cookware (from muffin pans to skillets to woks) that you just use and burn and oil and GO, almost an abusive attitude delivered—without ever really thoroughly cleaning much at all (which can be hard when you love a new piece of cookware, such as my 15 pound Lodge wok that gets hot as all hell), well... this dedicated abuse of quality, but affordable, pota and pans is a great and loving interaction with cookware too...! But, yes, quite the opposite of soapy and shiny clean.

                                                                                                                                    People who have a distain for the "guck" that can come with CI or CS, and the soap-less care, usually have much less "taste" issues than I; they cook in and fawn over their EXPENSIVE non-stick, and are delighted cooking with packages of seasonings that might be old, (and definitely have way too much sodium), or maybe a sugary heavy syrupy teriyaki. I don't like this kind of mid-America soggy cooking. I like the smoke and Ooomph that seasoned metal cookware can provide; or that fresh ginger brings; or fresh chicken stock as a light simple sauce with only a splash of soy and a pinch of cornstarch added, a sauce that vigorously boils bubbles over the veggies at 550F, the veggies searing and loudly sizzling (maybe even burning a little here and there), all at the bottom of a very thick and heavy CI wok over high heat...

                                                                                                                                  3. This post has been very informative. Last night i did a version of chicken franchaise in my 12" cast iron. The trick of using medium heat worked like a charm. Cooking in EVOO nothing stuck to the pan. Also cooked the extra egg batter and is released easily. Thanks for the advice.

                                                                                                                                    1. It takes many many many years to have good seasoned cast iron. The good thing about cast iron is that it will be around 100 year from now - your non-stick cookware will not last that long. There are also health concerns with non stick.

                                                                                                                                      If you are new to cooking and want something good but not too expensive then try Tramontina 8 piece cookware set. It is fully clad (aluminum all the way up the sides). It can be purchased at Walmart for about $150. Make sure you get the set that is "fully clad", and not disk bottom. They also make a 12 inch fry pan and a 12 inch jumbo cooker.

                                                                                                                                      You might like enameled cast iron better than raw cast iron but a good enameled version like Le Creuset is expensive.

                                                                                                                                      Yes copper cooks better than cast iron but cost 15 to 20 times more. If you must have copper then look at Falk at www.copperpans.com .

                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: krbtv

                                                                                                                                        kbrtv: "It takes many many many years to have good seasoned cast iron."

                                                                                                                                        Have you tried Annabelle's (acmorris's) technique, set out in minute detail here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4338...

                                                                                                                                        In that same thread, a couple of posts lower, she says, "You can't duplicate years of use, BUT you also don't have to wait ten years either. Bottom line, you can wait 10 years like you have done for a piece that is 'beginning to get a very nice surface' or you can season it and have a rock hard non-stick surface which requires very little if any oil. The benefit of doing so is that the peice is protected and durable. Waiting 10 years for a finish to develop is also allowing 10 years of the elements to work on the metal."

                                                                                                                                        And she attached photos to prove it!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Politeness

                                                                                                                                          I agree, Politeness, if you follow the proper procedure, you can season cast iron very very well in weeks, not years.

                                                                                                                                      2. I read all the posts with great interest because I love cast iron and have never had any of the problems described. Maybe the secret is growing up with cooks who just used it everyday and I just do the things they did without thought. My mother would once in a great while put her cast iron in a fire in the fireplace and then season it again. I don't know why she did that? I have also read that you can do that with the new preseasoned cast iron. About acid foods - I recently read an article [where?] they made the point that we are getting less iron in our diets because less cooking is done in cast iron. I use mine all the time for acid foods. It does turn tomatoes brown but in a stew, etc dish I don't really mind. One question: Has anyone used peanut oil to season or wipe down their pans after use? It has a very high smoking point and I thought it might be better???

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bethcooks

                                                                                                                                          Bethcooks: "One question: Has anyone used peanut oil to season or wipe down their pans after use? It has a very high smoking point and I thought it might be better???"

                                                                                                                                          We had the very same thought, and tried to follow through on it, with our unseasonable Lodge cast iron skillet. The problem was that we had failed to follow the thought through to the logical conclusion. A high smoke point means that the oil is not carbonizing, because when an oil carbonizes it produces smoke. But seasoning IS carbonizing oil onto the surface. Peanut oil WILL work to season a cast iron pan, but you have to use higher temperatures to get it above its smoke point. We have had better success seasoning cast iron with bacon grease and virgin (Mitoku brand) sesame oil, neither of which has a very high smoke point.

                                                                                                                                          (And, as I mentioned in another thread, I suspect a component of your lack of problems is that you have cast iron that was machined fairly smooth when it was originally fabricated; in recent years, Lodge brand cast iron, which is the most readily available cast iron to purchase new in the United States, has not been machined, and comes with a surface that is difficult if not impossible to season properly. Also, see vday's May 25, 2009, comment above.)

                                                                                                                                        2. Thanks - I had obviously not thought this through to its logical conclusion. I agree with you that the older cast iron was much smoother. Not only am I using my mother's cast iron, I am beginning to sound like her as in, "They just don't make things the way they use to do!"

                                                                                                                                          1. I was turned on to old cast iron through reading Chowhound. I have begun collecting some skillets. I too do not find the finish on my old skillets to be non stick the way modern non-stick finishes are. I do find that I have to be conscientious about keeping the insides scrubbed and oiled, but don't find this onerous. I don't fry in them, because I don't fry any more. I do bake in them with excellent results, I brown meat in them and I like two of them going at once as griddles for pancakes. The Griswolds are really nice pans with well-designed spouts and nice balance. I have bought an older no name skillet which is almost as good. Try a frittata using an iron skillet!

                                                                                                                                            But I use stainless for everything else because it dishwashes so well. Mine have copper disks in the bottoms. And I use one or two non stick skillets for eggs and sauteing aromatics. Each material has its own uses.

                                                                                                                                            1. Today I went to my Dads (in town) and a neighbor was throwing lots of cookware out. I went by as I drove out the complex and saw cast iron on the ground. I looked. It was lodge. Beautiful. A 2 qt I believe maybe 3 and a small 6" small pot and a 10" skillet. Well I went up to the door and asked if I could take them ... she said sure. Excellent condition, in fact, not used enough. I will be glad to use them. What a find!! I have a large 6 qt I think, I do have a 14" I think, maybe 12, and a small skillet 6 or 8 and another 1 qt pot. So these will be a great addition.

                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                              1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                                                                                I go to yard sales looking for cheap La Cruset.
                                                                                                                                                All I own for fry pans are cast iron. Full stop.

                                                                                                                                              2. I have a large cast iron skillet that I love, but don't use often... Even though I don't use it often, it is one of my favorite pieces of cookware.

                                                                                                                                                This piece was a hand-me-down... It's at least 30 years old. So obviously it's had decades to season, and the patina build-up has contributed to its "natural" non-stick properties and rustic look.

                                                                                                                                                While it seems that my pan is naturally non-stick now, I must say that when it comes to eggs, you have to be careful. Eggs MUST we warmed up to room temperature before plopping them in the skillet. If you take the eggs out of the fridge and immediately break the shell and put the eggs in a hot skillet, they will ALWAYS stick and it can get quite messy. So always let your eggs warm-up to room temperature and make sure the skillet is preheated on medium heat. Also make sure there is a little oil or butter in the pan, too.

                                                                                                                                                When it comes to rice, here is what I do and it works like a charm and provides non-stick cooking. Warm up the skillet to medium-high heat, add in a tblsp of oil or butter... Add in the rice (say one cup jasmine rice), stir the rice in the oil or butter, and saute over medium high heat until some of the rice begins to brown (most of the rice will not develop color at all), usually about 4-5 minues. Add in 1 2/3 cup of water, let boil, and then turn heat down to a very LOW simmer heat, and cover with foil & let simmer for about 20-25 mins. Do NOT peek!!! I usually turn the heat off at 20 mins, and let the rice continue to sit covered for about 5-10 more minute.

                                                                                                                                                Now, the water content in rice is important when it comes to sticking. Many recipes recommend cooking rice at a 2:1 ration, meaning 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice. When I have followed those recipes, I learned that the rice always develops a crust at the bottom and seems to stick to the skillet. And the rice was always too "mushy" as it was high in water content. It took me a while of trial and error to perfect my rice recipe, and it works well cast iron skillets, and the rice even is not as sticky as it would be if you followed the instructions on the packaging. This rice cooking technique also works using any cookware over the stove top, and you can also substitute the rice with beef or chicken broth for added flavor.

                                                                                                                                                My last recommendation is to always keep your pan seasoned. What I do is this... After I cook, I wash the pan (no soap of course). Then I dry it with a paper towel, and place the dry pan back on the stove. I turn the heat up to medium high, scoop out some vegetable shortening and rub it all in the interior of the pan... Just enough to lightly coat the interior. Once the pan starts to get really hot, I take the pan off the heat just before it gets smoky. I let it sit to cool down.... And voila - the pan is seasoned! Periodically I also rub shortening on the whole pan (inside and out) and place in a hot oven at 375 for 30 mins, when I feel that the exterior needs to be seasoned again. After the 30 mins, turn the heat off and continue to keep pan in the oven until it becomes completely cool again.

                                                                                                                                                Hope these techniques help you!

                                                                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: Popcorn76

                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for the tip about eggs being at room temperature!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Popcorn76

                                                                                                                                                    Popcorn76: "I must say that when it comes to eggs, you have to be careful. Eggs MUST we warmed up to room temperature before plopping them in the skillet. If you take the eggs out of the fridge and immediately break the shell and put the eggs in a hot skillet, they will ALWAYS stick and it can get quite messy. So always let your eggs warm-up to room temperature and make sure the skillet is preheated on medium heat."

                                                                                                                                                    P76, your experience is your experience, and I do not doubt it; but it differs completely from ours. Four or five mornings per week we fry eggs for breakfast on a cast iron skillet, and we take the eggs straight from the refrigerator to the skillet. (We do always preheat the skillet before frying eggs.) The fried eggs never stick, ever.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Politeness

                                                                                                                                                      I agree, Politeness. I do eggs in a small CI skillet 4-5 times a week and they come straight out of the fridge and into the pan -- they slide (yes, they really do!) right out of the pan :)

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mateo21

                                                                                                                                                        Wow, I have never had that experience with my Lodge frying pan. The eggs stick every time. Does the cooking surface of your pan actually have a slick, nonstick feel to it? Mine has a tacky, sticky feeling.

                                                                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                          It should be very slick. Sounds like you need to scrub w/ soap and hot water to get the sticky off, then re-season the pan in the oven.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                            Re-season at a hot enough temperature to EXCEED the smoke point of whichever oil you are using, as well. You *must* burn off the oil and turn it to carbon in order to avoid the tacky-sticky oil finish.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                            Holy thread revival, Batman! The surface of our skillet is slick as a greased frog. Nothing tacky in our kitchen. [grin}

                                                                                                                                                    2. i don't believe in a pot or pan of all trades but cast iron comes close. some might say it's travesty but for fast and high heat to sear meat, i get better results from a visions cookware pyrex type skillet. it transfers heat much faster than any cast iron i have. you have to watch closely when searing with it though and it also lets go of the heat so much faster too.

                                                                                                                                                      1. It sounds to me like you have learned to cook on light weight non-stick and you are not use to cooking on a heavy metal.I wouldn't diss cast like that being that you only just started using it.I have been using cast since I started cooking and will tell you that a nice #8 skillet will cook just about anything.I have no fear of cooking with heavy tomatoe sauces or baking anything.If you are burning while baking then it's the oven or temp your cooking at and not the cast!I use it as a skillet,a baking dish and a dutch oven.Proper seasoning wil let you cook anything.After I use my iron I ussually just clean it with a sharp metal spatula then wipe everything out with a paper towel then put some butter in it and heat it up on med till the butter melts and burns out all the water then wipe it down with a paper towel again.If I cook with a heavy tomatoe sauce or cook rice then I will sometimes wash with a mild soap and wipe with a rough sponge and rinse with hot water then oil it.Basically you should oil your pan after every use.You only get pitting from cooking with highly acidic foods if you burn them in the pan witch would be setting of fire alarms or leaving the acidic food in there for storage.I think cast is the best and would like to try cast enamelware for a dutch oven and casserole.Good luck anyways!

                                                                                                                                                        1. Cast iron is indestructible, amazing, and non-stick, but the bad news is that it does require a learning curve. The good news is that while learning, the cast iron won't be destroyed.

                                                                                                                                                          It should be cleaned of food residue after use. (lots of tools, lots of methods. Pick the one that works best for you. I use either a plastic scraper or wire brush)

                                                                                                                                                          Pre-heat pan on low heat before cooking. Depending on pan, can take up to 5 minutes which can seem like an eternity when you are hungry.

                                                                                                                                                          A few drops of oil is always a good thing but unless you are actually frying, the less oil the better.

                                                                                                                                                          Eggs should be cooked on low heat.

                                                                                                                                                          A properly seasoned pan (used for several months at least) can cook tomato sauce and even be rinsed in soapy water....just rinse in plain water and wipe dry immediately to remove any residue.

                                                                                                                                                          Don't give up on cast iron.

                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ambimom

                                                                                                                                                            good advice, Ambimom. I've had some success cleaning cast iron with kosher salt, just sprinkling a small amount in the dirty pan and cleaning it with a scrubbie. Seems to work pretty well without diminishing the seasoning.

                                                                                                                                                          2. I'm wondering why you have to scrub your pans. If you're cooking on low to medium flame (and once cast iron is up to temperature, that is what you should be using) AND allowing the food to caramelize, there is no sticking. In fact, if the food is properly browned in any kind of pan, there is going to be minimal or no sticking.
                                                                                                                                                            NOTE: Every time you scrub cast iron, you remove the seasoning. Ditto for using soap (does not leave a soapy taste unless you're not rinsing well).
                                                                                                                                                            It's ironic that people buy non-stick cookware because the coating actually prevents proper caramelization (to get it up to temperature, you need to heat the pan to the point where the coating deteriorates and gives off toxic fumes), so, 90% of the time, you need to spray or oil the pan to prevent sticking. Crazy.

                                                                                                                                                            If you're done with cast iron and want to try stainless, remember to heat the pan, THEN lay the meat in the bare pan, or add a thin layer of oil for veg/other foods. For meat/poultry/fish, let it brown whereupon it will release from the pan.
                                                                                                                                                            For the veg/other, pay attention to your food; it will tell you through sight or sound whether it needs stirring, et c.

                                                                                                                                                            I suggest you're ranting against an item you haven't been using properly. Perhaps you might try the tips and suggestions in these replies before you condemn your purchases. But buying a whole "wardrobe" of cast iron without any experience, and now, considering a very expensive new copper "wardrobe", leads me to believe you're more likely to keep jumping from one quick fix to another.

                                                                                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: meowzebub

                                                                                                                                                              I never heat my clad frying pan without oil.... the oil tells you when the pan is the right temperature. Sometimes the pan is ready when the oil shimmers, and sometimes when it just begins to smoke. Depends on the oil and what you're cooking. If you add cold oil to a hot pan, it's a guessing game.

                                                                                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: meowzebub

                                                                                                                                                                New here and still trying to figure out how the posts work. I will challenge anyone who uses dutch ovens to use any processed oil to season their oven, put it away in storage for 4-5 months and then take a whiff in the springtime when you pop the top, It will be rancid. A previous poster commented that animal fats will go rancid. 'Tis the other way around. Oils turn rancid over time in cast iron. Now do the same thing with shortening or lard, Not rancid after long term storage. I don't understand the chemistry, My uncle was a founder of IDOS and I learned this from him 35 years ago. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself and see. Yes, cast iron cookware can be reasonably seasoned in a very short time and the process continues to build over time. But anyone who declares that the shiny, black, smooth as teflon patina that cast iron is known for will develop in anything less than years of continuous use has never seen such a pan. I have a 14" oven inherited from my mother, it is at least 60 years old and so shiny black you can see to shave in it. I have ovens that have been in constant use for 20 years and are (still) only approaching the patina of that older one. Use soap and detergents at your peril! The non stick qualities of an old black iron skillet are far superior to any any non stick coating. Sourjacks, hashbrowns, meats, doesn't matter.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: elmbow

                                                                                                                                                                  You said: But anyone who declares that the shiny, black, smooth as teflon patina that cast iron is known for will develop in anything less than years of continuous use has never seen such a pan"

                                                                                                                                                                  Hmmm...I have a #8 large block logo Griswold skillet that I STRIPPED down to the bare metal with lye, and re-seasoned only once (but at very high temps, wiping occasionally) and the surface is like black glass. I did this in March of this year.

                                                                                                                                                                  (and that's just one example....I've seasoned about 20 other skillets since then, and many are just as nice. A lot depends on the age and finish of the cast iron in the first place; older skillets and cast iron were machine polished by hand before leaving the factory.)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                                                                    I'm curious, how long did you soak in the lye solution? I've always used high heat to burn out old build up. The old smoother pans and ovens will certainly patina up faster than the new rough stuff, but .....it still takes a long time to get the patina I'm talking about.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: elmbow

                                                                                                                                                                      When the solution was new (early this summer) I could get really thick crud (so thick it obscured the Griswold logo on the bottom, for instance) off in just a few days. Lately, I've been having to leave things in for up to a week...the cooler temps (my set up is in an unheated shed) slow down the action of the lye, as well.

                                                                                                                                                                      Some people have told me that they've forgotten to fish out their cast iron before winter and found things the next spring that still were just fine. As long as the pieces are completely submerged, they don't rust. And apparently lye does NOT corrode cast iron at all. Woe to she who puts in aluminum or many other metals, though...or enamel!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: elmbow

                                                                                                                                                                        Oh! Forgot to add: I always leave the iron in long enough so that every bit of the burnt on carbon and whatever washes off in the sink with just a little scrubbing. I end up with bare iron that has to be oiled immediately, if I'm not seasoning it right away, so that it doesn't rust.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: elmbow

                                                                                                                                                                      If your castiron smells bad after a 4-5 month storage, it wasn.t clean when you put it away.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: powillie

                                                                                                                                                                        Not necessarily. A perfectly clean cast iron piece will still need a thin coat of oil to prevent rusting if stored -- that oil can and will go rancid.

                                                                                                                                                                        I haven't had a problem with skillets and my stove top dutch oven, since they are used every day, but it is a struggle with my camp ovens which don't get much use in the winter unless I make a point of it. I find that storing with the lids off helps.

                                                                                                                                                                        There are oils like Camp Chef's cast iron conditioner that help, too.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MikeB3542

                                                                                                                                                                          You only need the oil if you have a decent level of humidity, also it helps if you use mineral oil for storage, it won't go rancid or sticky on you.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: rockfish42

                                                                                                                                                                            Yep. My friends in, say, Houston, have to use a lot more protective oil than do those in Santa Fe.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Just want to say something "smart ass". In my experience, cast iron and carbon steel are incredible cookware material. So for the last 2400 years+, we did not really improve our cooking material? Sure, we refine them, but there is not dramatic improvement.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Threw out all "non-stick" surfaced utensils years ago. domestic cast iron, domestic Revere Ware and Corning Ware are about all that is kept here now. Problem with sticking, sorry but many "rush" for perfection these days. Our mothers & gr. mothers used their C/I 3 meals a day. My health won't permit it either.
                                                                                                                                                                      SEASONING MORE TOXIC THAN NON-STICK? My Granny's old skillet had about 3/8" build up on it when she died at 98 and it NEVER made a bad meal.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. As an avid user of cast iron for 20 years I have often wondered about some of the more expensive All Clad products and Calphalon skillets. After reading what some are saying about the difficulty with cleaning them I am no longer curious. I typically don't have much of a problem cleaning my cast iron and as far as sticking goes I have found that it occurs by 1. your heat being too high or 2. Your searing and once it is seared it will release. I use them for all my frying needs from scrambling eggs to frying bacon and I make my conbread in them. The only drawback with mine is they are heavy and I know some day I might not want to have something that hefty but my 80 year old mother in law still uses them and I will probably be just like her. In my humble opinion nothing cooks better than my seasoned cast iron.

                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Zanzabar55

                                                                                                                                                                          Amazed by 1st poster and all who don't like C/I. I use it for almost everything I cook, and even some baking. I have skillets from 6"-18", 2 Dutch Ovens and 2 stove top griddles.
                                                                                                                                                                          I make omelets on the smooth side of the griddles; I bake Dutch pancakes and omelets in the skillets, soups, stews, chili in the Dutch ovens... I don't know what I would do without it. I have a skillet that is over a hundred years old and it’s still non-stick. Try making a roux for gumbo without it.
                                                                                                                                                                          The Dutch ovens are a one pot deal, no other pots/pans to clean, just the knives, spoons and cutting board from preparation.

                                                                                                                                                                          All are well seasoned, easy to clean; a little heavy to handle, and yes, hot, get an oven mitt or two.

                                                                                                                                                                          What other cookware can go from the stove, to the oven to the outside grill to the camp fire or fire place?

                                                                                                                                                                          Take two skillets that will just fit one into the other, put them on medium heat till they come to temp, (a drop of water should dance around) spray with cooking spray, drop a seasoned steak in the larger, set the smaller right in on top and press till the sizzle stops, remove the top one and put the steak in a 350 degree oven till it's done to your liking. Seared and tender. Perfect every time.

                                                                                                                                                                          It seems to me that most who don't like it are trying to get it to hot, bring it to temp, add a little Olive oil or spray with cooking spray, add the food. If you have stuck bits when you’re done, pour in a little hot tap water, or if you want a sauce, use some wine, it will deglaze the chunks. Let it cool some, rinse with hot water, if you can't get it clean like that, buy a brush and brush it clean, if that doesn't get it, a little very mild soap and hot water, a little elbow grease with a rag, rinse, put it on the stove to get it hot, cooking spray, wipe to thin film with a paper towel, cool it, put it away. Repeat for breakfast.

                                                                                                                                                                          Learn to use it and you will learn to love it, I am betting my children’s children will use mine.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Tbar41

                                                                                                                                                                            P.S If you really, really hate your C/I, give it to me :)

                                                                                                                                                                        2. I am by no means a cast iron expert (I have a friend who rarely cooks with anything else, I frequently go to her for advice), but I can tell you a few things.

                                                                                                                                                                          First, eggs and risotto are not things that should be cooked in really new cast iron, if they are sticking badly, your pan is not well enough seasoned. Anything that prone to sticking should only be cooked in well seasoned cast iron (the bottom of the pan on really well seasoned stuff feels almost like glass).

                                                                                                                                                                          Second, cast iron should not be difficult to clean. I never use anything other than water to clean mine (never heard of using salt, and the problem with soap is it removes the seasoning, maybe salt is doing the same thing to yours since you have sticking issues), and mine are not well seasoned at all yet. The way I clean mine is to wipe out the pan with a paper towel, put water in the pan and bring it to a boil and use a spatula to scrape up anything that is sticking to the pan. Dump out the water and repeat if necessary (usually it is not, and I cook eggs with cheese). When the pan is clean, dry it off and apply a thin coat of a neutral oil. If you just used your oven, place the pan in the oven while the oven is cooling. I have accidentally left my (still kinda new) dutch ovens with the remains of cornbread in them for a year (stored in my freezing cold in the winter/broiling hot in the summer barn) and was able to bring them back to good condition while camping - scrapped out the remains, boiled and scrapped, boiled again, wiped out with paper towel and coated with oil while still warm. Another friend (not the expert) buys nasty, rusty, poorly cared for cast iron at tag sales, strips them with soap and steel wool, seasons them and either uses them or gives them as gifts.

                                                                                                                                                                          I've never used my dutch ovens at home, they mostly get used for camping, but that is because I don't tend to make roast and stews much and that is the best way to use them at home. When camping I use them for baking cakes (using a trivet and cake pans, I make chocolate b-day cakes for several people that have birthdays while we are on our annual trip), making cornbread (right in the dutch oven, gets a beautiful crust) or making stuffing (gonna try it right in the pan next time, last time used foil and it didn't get crispy on the outside like I like it), all with coals.

                                                                                                                                                                          When I was growing up, the cast iron were the only small fry pans in our house. If I can't cook a hot dog on a real fire (wood or charcoal), a cast iron fry pan is my second choice. Anything that you want crusty on the outside, cast iron is the best way to cook it. Well seasoned cast iron is what I learned to scramble eggs in.

                                                                                                                                                                          I don't tend to do fancy stove-top cooking much, since I am usually cooking for one (no fun doing something fancy for just me) or 100 (need to use regular ovens and huge stock-pots for that), so I can't give you tips on pan sauces and such, but I would hate to see you give up on cast iron. Give the cast iron another chance. Be gentle with it and it will become your friend. Get it well seasoned and keep it well seasoned. Get your hands on some cookbooks with early American recipes (cast iron was very common throughout much of our history) and learn through these how to best work with cast iron, or cookbooks especially for working with cast iron - even the cast iron book from the "...for Dummies" series.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. It's odd, but I get really good fried eggs with my cast iron. A well seasoned pan, that is preheated, and slightly oiled (less than I would use in a nonstick) would give me perfect fried eggs with no sticking (I usually only move it to flip it once for over easy). Fried eggs was something I was never able to do right with non-stick. Of course my non-stick pans were older hand-me-downs that have probably been put in the dishwasher, but I have no intention of getting an egg pan that I would have to dispose of in a few years now that I know my cast iron can do it so well.

                                                                                                                                                                            I cook lots of bacon in mine. To clean I just wipe it out if it was something that didn't stick (such as the egg), or I use a wet washcloth, or if it's really grimy I wipe out with a mild non-detergent soap (such as dr. bronners) and warm water before wiping the inside with oil and putting it back on the stove to dry. Preheating the pan before putting food in, and always using a light coating of oil or clarified butter (regular butter is more likely to burn at the higher heat I use for cast iron cooking), and not moving around the food too much does really help getting the cast iron to not stick.

                                                                                                                                                                            In the end I find it to be a lot less maintenance than a non-stick pan I have to soak in the sink and wash by hand.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. Wow, I am sorry you have encountered such a terrible moment with Cast Iron. For me, Cast Iron taught me the ability to be patient, a true challenge for a Go Get ALL kind of Virgo. First, I wanted to learn how to cook and I wanted to learn how to cook with style and on top of my list of concern was health. So, how I managed to be in love with cast iron was very simple just like you need to take on everything in life. Be in the moment, stop being in a hurry, appreciate the process, enjoy the waiting time, cook with nothing else in mind and Boom you will have an incredible experience. It took me a while, believe me, I have been so frustrated that I stopped cooking for an entire 2 years. Then my son asked me why I stopped cooking and I couldn't honestly answer to his question. Then I seasoned all my cast iron and just like that I began to cook again. Began with recipes that are manageable and my 19 years old son is so happy, he comes from college to find meals in the oven. He loves my food. Takadi, be patient you will come to term with your cast iron, it is truly challenging and you have not failed the cooking with cast iron what you still need to come to terms is how can you do this reducing frustrations while being patient, you will get it, I know you will. I did and I truly believe no one else in the world is more inpatient than myself. If you want we could help each other out. I would love that. Be in touch and remember cooking with cast iron is the same as dating a high maintainable person, cast iron needs more attention, care and love. It is truly an incredible meditation tool. At least it has taught me to slow down which I am truly glad as I am always on the run and do not appreciate the moment much.

                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: castironqueen

                                                                                                                                                                                :) Cooking with cast iron is not the same as dating a high maintenance person. A cast iron cookware is humble, unpolished, unpretentious. It adapts to your style as you adapt to its. Love it, it will love you back.

                                                                                                                                                                                Let me quote from Marley and Me:

                                                                                                                                                                                "A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his." A cast iron cookware is more like a dog than a high maintenance person.


                                                                                                                                                                              2. 1st, I can't believe I'm responding to a 2 yr old thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                2nd, it sounds like the OP just needs to "stick" to non-stick. Use what you're comfortable with.

                                                                                                                                                                                3rd, I can't believe ANYONE is complaining about how "difficult" it is to clean cast iron. LOL. I personally don't buy into all the "clean it with salt" suggestions. In the south, where cast iron has been used for generations and would NEVER be considered a "niche" piece of cooking equipment, we just use water. You're right in not using detergent, but wrong in thinking that the reason is because it will leave a soapy taste in the seasoning. Actually, it's because soap (and hot water for that matter) will take the seasoning off the iron. You only need to scrub the pan with cool water. No salt needed. Sorry.

                                                                                                                                                                                If you don't like cast, don't use it. Unless you purchased an over priced piece of enameled cast you shouldn't be out much $$$. Ditch it and stick with what you're comfortable & confident with.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. Modern cast iron pans come too rough from the foundry. They need further sanding to make them workable. And as you've noted, supple heat change is not their strong suit. Their uses are indeed limited. High carbon steel pans season up similarly, are more responsive to changes in heat, and are infinitely smoother out of the box.

                                                                                                                                                                                  That said, tinned copper is the standard by which all other cookware is measured. If you aspire to something beyond cornbread then you can dump all the CI you have and you'll never miss it, IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. In the Lodge news archives there is an article where a professional chef is interviewed and he says that no health department would let him get away with just using hot water to clean cast iron and that "scouring" with salt allows them to use cast iron and retain it's seasoning. I have found that Kosher salt and oil works great on the gummy oil that can occasional occur. The salt is tough enough to remove any sticky bits but leaves the seasoning intact.

                                                                                                                                                                                    For new preseasoned cast iron that hasn't hit the great patina stage I found that the best spatula to use was what is commonly sold as a fish turner. It's the slotted, curved at the end, flexible, stainless steel spatula that you may have seen chefs use on tv. Mine has a beveled edge and it is thin enough to get between eggs and the cast iron regardless of the stage of seasoning. If you are ever considering giving a cast iron skillet as a gift to the uninitiated, including one of these spatulas will make cooking more enjoyable for the person.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: SanityRemoved

                                                                                                                                                                                      I finally figured out what I was doing wrong with my cast iron.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I never used mine because it was never nonstick-- always had a gummy, tacky film.

                                                                                                                                                                                      The reason? I was guilty of seasoning with too much oil. I decided to try and start over from scratch

                                                                                                                                                                                      I scoured my pan as hard as I could, to try and scrape out all the uneven, blotchy seasoning. I was about 85% successful. I then poured about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil into the pan and let it bake in a 250 degree oven overnight. I drained the oil and wiped out the pan with paper towels. This is when I finally realized the mistakes I was making... I never wiped out the pan well enough. In order to avoid the tacky buildup and get that elusive nonstick that everyone raves about, you have to wipe out as much oil as possible. That mans multiple wipedowns with fresh paper towels each time. (Once the paper towels get loaded with oil, you're just smearing, not absorbing). All that should remain is a shiny pan, with an imperceptibly thin layer of oil-- just enough to fill in the gaps between the iron molecules that food likes to get stuck in (if those gaps are filled with oil, they slide right over the gaps). And now, I am proud to say that I can indeed fry scrambled eggs in my cast iron pan with hardly any sticking.

                                                                                                                                                                                      So, there you are. I'm finally a believer. Just took a little understanding of the science behind the cookware, and caretaking essentials.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. takadi: What kind of cast iron do you have? What brands and sizes? If you want to sell it, I would be interested in buying it. Where are you located? Get back to me at ottofranc@gmail.com Let's visit.....castironforever......aka.....Rob Abarr

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. It takes a long long time to properly season a pan so it is your non stick surface sometimes the best are years and years old My mom gave hers to my daughter and it is a pan to be envied EVERYONE wants it

                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: gulfcoastgal

                                                                                                                                                                                          Your mother gave her pan to your daughter. :) Skipping you. What did you do to your mother? :P

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I have browsed through this string of replies and have not seen one reply that mentions anything about the possiblity that you may have some bad cast iron. I have both Lodge (some from 1989 and some new) and Heuck (made in china) and the Heuck seems to cook hot.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Back when I first moved out on my own in 1982 I bought some cast iron at K-Mart that was made in Tiwain. It allways burned everything I cooked in it. I thought that it was because it wasn't properly seasoned. But on matter how many times I reseasoned it, it never cooked well. I put it in storage and forgot it. I recently found it again an it had rusted.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Then I learned what the trouble was. While most of the pans had turned a muddy orange there were spots that rusted white, revealing that there was metal other than iron in it. that meant that it would allways heat unevenly and tend to burn in one spot while not cooking in another at the same time

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. For all those who don't fully understand the appeal of cast iron (and I was one of them until a week ago...)

                                                                                                                                                                                            I FINALLY GET IT!!!


                                                                                                                                                                                            I recently visited someone who had a 50 year old cast iron pan. (I have a recently purchased Lodge Logic pan)

                                                                                                                                                                                            I was immediately suspicious. Somehow I assumed that in order for cast iron to be nonstick, it should be shiny. His pan was dull, with a matte finish. Not a trace of oil.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Then I ran my fingers across the pan.... Amazing!! They glided across like magic, with hardly a trace of friction!

                                                                                                                                                                                            The surface texture of my modern Lodge pan is rough and bumpy, sort of shiny from the oil. It looks nothing like this 50 year old marvel. I'm left wondering if in 50 years my Lodge pan will perform the same way, or if the modern manufacturing process is simply inferior now.

                                                                                                                                                                                            So for those who don't get cast iron--- I'm convinced you haven't seen a great pan.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                            P.S. My friend washes it with water and a scouring pad, then dries it on the stove. Very rarely oils it.

                                                                                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                              That contrast in texture between the old and new has more to do with machining than age and seasoning. Then, as now, cast iron comes out of the mold (a sand casting) with pebbly texture. Back when skilled labor was cheaper, they machined the inside of the pan smooth. I have a generic 8" skillet from the late 1970s with such a texture.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Lodge apparently believes that with adequate seasoning, it doesn't matter whether the surface has been machined or not. The jury may still be out on that matter.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Carbon steel pans (whether French, Mexican or Chinese) are as smooth as machined cast iron. They still require seasoning and care to have an optimal surface.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                A note to Mr T -- it took a while, but my "pebbly" 12-inch Lodge skillet has acquired that same sort of finish. How long -- not sure, because the change snuck up on me, but I woud say 18 months of regular use did the trick. Besides the first week or two, the pan performed well, pebbles and all. My points: that the new pans will work themselves out if you use them; and they can be a pleasure to use in the interim.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MikeB3542


                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't have a Lodge skillet. Instead I have a Calphalon cast iron skillet which also had a very rough surface. In ~2 years of cooking, it has developed a dull dark-gray surface. I am convinced it is a layered of burnt carbon. The surface is fairly smooth and is fairly nonstick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I also believe the surface get seasoned faster when cooked at high temperature settings. I first bought it for cast iron corn muffin, but it wasn't seasoning very well. Then, I started using it for blacken fish, and quickly the pan developed that layer of carbon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yeah the conclusion of the IDOS folks in Salt Lake is that the recommendations for seasoning temperature (usually 300F) are WAY out of date and don't make sense. (I blame the folks at Wagner -- they stamped those seasoning instructions right on the piece). Maybe that worked when the fats of choice were rendered animal fat, but veg oils are the norm nowadays, and the ones most of us use for cooking have high smoke points. Most of the IDOS (Internat'l Dutch Oven Society) guys season their ovens at 450-500F. (Better yet, just do it on a grill outside to avoid smoke and heat issues in the house).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MikeB3542

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks Mike. This explains why baking a lot of corn bread did not help improve the season on my cast iron skillet, while making blacken tuna did. Best.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                The use of oil is required on new cast iron to prevent the free flow of oxygen against the iron during heating, which would result in rusting. With oil slowing the oxygen, a porous iron oxide that is much harder than rust forms in lieu of rust. oil and food ash fills pores, and the lubrication of the non-stick surface is provided by the trapped oils. More food ash and oil builds up on the surface, and is flattened by spatulas, but the surface is essential an iron oxide with trapped oils. Even if new oil isn't added after cleaning before heating, the trapped oils from cooking still prevent rust.

                                                                                                                                                                                              3. you said you bought cast iron. was it the new made in china stuff?
                                                                                                                                                                                                i bet it was. if it was old, i doubt you would be having many of these problems.
                                                                                                                                                                                                i have only old pieces. like 70-100 years old, old. it is pretty much non stick, no matter what i cook in it. easy to clean. yes it does get hot- that is what kitchen mitts are for.
                                                                                                                                                                                                before you spend more money, maybe you have a friend who will let you cook on an old skillet? see what you think?
                                                                                                                                                                                                i use old cast iron almost to the exclusion of any other cookware. hope you find your stride , whatever it is: keep cooking and enjoy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jackie57

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I use my cast iron skillets for ALMOST everything, but even I wouldn't dare to try to make a fried egg in one, no matter how well-seasoned. The trick is to USE IT! Over and over again! I never scrub mine with anything other than a sponge. I rinse it in hot water immediately when I'm done with it, WHILE IT'S STILL HOT! The stuck-on bits come right off that way. Whatever doesn't come right off right away will come off when you soak it. I never soak my cast iron in the sink, I just fill it with hot water and leave it on the stove or the counter for a few hours. I never bother using salt to clean it with, it hasn't really done anything for me. I do avoid soaps on my cast iron, but if it's well-seasoned, you can rinse it with soapy water without any ill effects to the pan, but I wouldn't recommend doing that unless you've had the pan for at least 2 or 3 years and have used it regularly.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  I started using cast iron during my several-year-long experiment with Macrobiotics, and since I wasn't eating any animal products during that period, I relied on the cast iron for my iron intake. It would be very hard to overdose on iron from using cast iron cookware even if you're a strict carnivore, however.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have never noticed any sort of off-taste or smell using cast iron. The restrictions on acidic foods only come into play if you're doing slow-cooked foods like stews or soups, and in those cases I use my enameled cast-iron pots. I have made stews in my cast-iron dutch oven, however, and they come out fine, as long as you don't add tomatoes or other acids. I have found that I can get away with more acidic foods in my cast iron dutch-oven the more I use it, and the more seasoned it gets, but it's still not my pot of choice for stews. I do however cook a lot of Indian food, which can be quite acidic, in my cast iron skillets, and the results are amazing. The Indians have been cooking in cast iron for millenia and it is still their cookware of choice. The trick is that most Indian foods are cooked fairly rapidly, within 30-60 minutes max. I do prefer to sear meats on enamel or stainless, but have done an excellent job on cast-iron as well, and have made wonderful fond sauces and pan gravies in cast iron. I am a big fan of robustly-seasoned food, however, so I can't comment too much on what effect cast iron has on the most delicate and subtle dishes.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  And yes, the non-stick surface that develops on cast-iron is indeed pure carbon, which is very slick indeed (carbon powder is used as a lubricant in some precision machinery).

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jerryd916

                                                                                                                                                                                                    jerryd916: Go ahead and fry your eggs! I do every morning. Slides off. The trick is to preheat the pan; add a teaspoon (or less) of oil or butter. When the oil is shimmering, crack the egg into the pan. When the egg is cooked it will release from the pan with no residue. The egg should slide off but a thin spatula will certainly help it along.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    As for soaking the pan, why? It's not necessary. Get one of those nylon scraper tools or pads. Rinse the pan with water and scrape with the nylon tool or pad. Food comes right off.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jerryd916

                                                                                                                                                                                                      HI Jerry,

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I agree with ambimom. You should able to fry an egg on a cast iron pan. Ok, it is not going to be like Teflon pan, but the egg should slide on the cast iron pan as long as you have a bit of oil and you give a little push.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The 50 year old pan I described in my post above was easily as slick as teflon.


                                                                                                                                                                                                        Since my epiphany, I'm now completely convinced that most of us just don't know what a well-seasoned cast iron pan looks or feels like.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                          :) Thanks. Does your cast iron pan requires oil to be nonstick? A Telfon pan remains nonstick with no oil.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Please note, my cast iron pan is a 2 year old lodge logic and is NOT well seasoned. I thought it was, but it's not. My pan is shiny and glossy with a slightly sticky/tacky surface.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The pan I referred to in my hyperlink was a friend's 50 year old cast iron skillet. His pan is amazingly slick without oil, and the finish is not shiny/glossy at all. He washes it out with only water and very rarely seasons it with oil. His regular cooking takes care of any seasoning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Mr., if you pan is sticky then it was improperly seasoned. A well-seasoned pan (or any cast iron) should get hot enough in the oven to BURN OFF the oil (thus it's not a job for a day when you can't open the windows ;-) and thus you have to exceed the smoke point for whichever oil you're using.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I started collecting and restoring vintage cast iron about 18 months ago, and now have over 50 pieces (skillets, lids, waffle irons, griddles, muffin tins, dutch ovens, etc.) and IF they're old (and thus machined) I usually can get that wonderful, glossy, non-oily, smooth finish on every pan I restore.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Admittedly, some are just higher quality than others (I have a set of ERIES made by the Griswold Company, that are 120 years old. They're gorgeous. And there are some from the Piqua company--made in the 20s--that are smooth as glass, was well) because they were made more carefully, they were finished more completely, etc., but none of the modern iron available today is, to my knowledge, polished and smoothed like the old stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              If you want to learn more about vintage iron, restoration, seasoning, etc., go take a look at the Wagner and Griswold Society's forum. I've become a walking encyclopedia <g> since joining their group: http://www.griswoldandwagner.com/cgi-...

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Also, the blog that piqued my interest in the first place, with wonderful photos, comparisons of the old iron vs. modern stuff, and step-by-step instructions on seasoning your skillet, can be found here: http://blackirondude.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Takida, our newer cook who started this stream, wanted that one magic cast iron pan. As many have pointed out, there are reasons other cookware has replaced cast iron in the modern kitchen. However, what she is looking for does exist; she just does not have the correct cast iron pan. New cast iron will not achieve the enchanted non-stick status. She needs an antique pan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                New pans and antique pans are not the same cookware. Run your finger over a new cast iron pan. It has a “textured” type of finish. Not rough, but certainly not smooth. Now look at a Griswold, or any of private label pans (Puritan for example) that they made up until around 1950 or so. As smooth as your computer monitor screen. Back in the day, they took a pan from casting then polished them smooth. That is why your grandmothers or great grandmothers’ pan does not stick once seasoned. It came from the factory smooth!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                So my recommendation is to not give up on cast iron, go out and get a great piece. They are expensive, however will last the rest of her life. (And have already outlived one or two previous cooks.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: russmead

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I bought two new 'textured' pans earlier this year, and they have developed a non stick surface. I was skeptical, but they turned out to be OK. I still prefer the old Griswold's and McLary"s, but they are hard to find.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  For the new pans, I did not use any pre-conditioning. I simply scrubbed with hot water after each use. The surface developed after a month.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                                                                            no, it is not like teflon, it is better!
                                                                                                                                                                                                            cast iron was the original non-stick and nothing yet can match it. plus, it makes your food taste better.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            tonight, i cooked an egg in a copper skillet. came out real pretty. but it did not taste anywhere as good as an egg in my OLD cast iron skillet.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            OLD cast iron is simply the best. ask your grandma.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jackie57

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Having grown up cooking on "old" cast iron, I disagree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The OP nailed it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Apparently there are some few among us who have magic cast iron, or at least some kind of internal magic is at work when they are using their cast iron.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The rest of us, mere mortals that we are, find it to be a curse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              It doesn't even conduct heat all that well. Aluminum - good heavy aluminum anyway - does a better job, weighs less, and is more attractive (at least by the time they cover it up, lots of good pans have aluminum cores).

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Nope. No cast iron for me. You can have my share!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Just physics. Proper preparation and cast iron is wonderful. Not for the automatic dishwasher crowd.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Cast iron is Zen

                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: jerryd916

                                                                                                                                                                                                            All I own is cast iron. Eggs are fine.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Just picked up a cast iron corn bread pan, divided up into little wedges, at a yard sale today, for a buck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. did you buy new cast iron? the made in china ones? those are not good- oh, while i am thinking of it- do not buy paula deans bare cast iron anything- they break, crack and even explode... made in china cheap junk. so much for that "suthen" gal, huh?
                                                                                                                                                                                                          anyway, get old cast iron. the older the better, like 1930s and older. it will not do you wrong and you will have it for your lifetime and probably your childrens, too!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jackie57

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I came in here to chime in on Jackie's post. I grew up on old seasoned cast iron pre 1972 seasoned. Over my 30 year cooking experience, I have used Le Creuset, All clad SS, Tools of the trade SS & Nonstick, and Calphalon and countless others here and there. I can say that NOTHING on that I've encountered will ever beat out old seasoned cast iron when looking for cast iron to cook with, especially for frying.. My parents grew up in the South where cast iron was as common as ice trays. My Mom obtained all of her cast iron pieces via all hand me downs, or people getting rid of them that had no idea how wonderful they could be. The new unseasoned and "seasoned" pans still have to be broken in and seasoned on some level.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            The thing about cast iron is, the more you use it the more seasoned it becomes, the more you'll love cooking with it. My Mom gave me a brand new cast iron fry pan set when I moved into my 1st apartment (even though i begged for one of her old seasoned ones instead but no dice) - I've hated those pans from day 1 and they will not stay seasoned. Literally the seasoned areas fell off the pan! So they sit in the back of my cabinet - awaiting some unsuspecting soul to be in need or ask for them..... :)
                                                                                                                                                                                                            I would check ebay and maybe craigslist to see if anyone may be getting rid of old cast iron cookware. They are true gems! JMO but HTH!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. When my father died in 2004, I inherited his cast iron skillets. The ones that have worked the best for me are ones that he purchased at Cracker Barrel about 6 years before he died!
                                                                                                                                                                                                            One of the things I do is use the "Hot pan, cold oil, food won't stick" rule. I heat up the pan first, then add the butter or oil or whatever, and then add the food. Every now and then I have to run a little water over it because some eggs stuck in it; otherwise, it's been like a dream.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Before I got these skillets, I was in total agreement with you, Takadi, about cast iron. I thought it was way overrated and only used one piece--a large cast-iron skillet that I inherited from my husband's grandma; and I only use that to deep fry in.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Maybe try buying a cast iron skillet from Cracker Barrel!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jolynn

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Cracker Barrel iron is made by LODGE.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. This is why I cook with enameled cast iron - all of the benefits of cast iron & none of the stickiness. Beautiful searing + I find it really handy to take soups, stews, and casseroles from the stove top to the oven (I'd never do this with non-stick) and love being able to bake bread in them too. I bought several Le Creuset 2nds at the Foley, Alabama store a few years back and find myself reaching for those pots & pans waaaaay more than my stainless. (The 2nds are slightly cosmetically flawed but cook exactly the same as first quality, and are loads cheaper.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              In my experience enameled cast iron cleans up as well as or better than non-stick - I burned cane sugar in the bottom of one a couple of years ago and thought the pan was a goner, but a scrub with hot baking soda whisked it right away. Couldn't believe it!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The only thing I *don't* cook in them is eggs - I think this is one area where non-stick is superior.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I've cooked with stainless & all permutations of non-stick (no copper yet, but I'm paranoid I'd poison myself) and prefer the heat retention/ability of enameled cast iron to everything else. I even had a self-seasoned cast iron skillet that I wanted to love, I really did, but I just could not get over the stick (even with ample seasoning) or the smoke.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Have you tried some of the enameled Lodge pieces? They're a great & affordable way to wet your feet if you're looking to get away from the constant seasoning/sticking/scrubbing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Add one more application where cast iron is certain to fail, likely to disappoint...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tonight I'm making Thomas Keller's 5-hour French Onion Soup. Chose to make it in my LC round Dutch Oven (CI, "ever so versatile," right?). The recipe calls for a slow carmelization of the onions, around 4 hours, before flouring and adding stock. It specifically calls for the onions to work at a low bubble, and be stirred every 15 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                What do you get when you do that? Hot spots (even at the lowest has setting!), semi-carbonized onions left to be stirred back into limp, nearly raw onions! As Keller rightly points out, the simpler the recipe (like this one), the more critical all the details are to a good outcome. I fail to see how anyone can follow his recipe and have it turn out right in CI.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I will duplicate the recipe in a copper DO this coming week to compare.`

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I do my onions in the oven per JuneN's instructions here:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But it's a time thing for me. This takes almost no intervention, just a good stir once every 30 mins. or so. I use a 10x13 pyrex baking dish and I can do about 6 lbs at a time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ZS: Makes total sense. Adopting that practice for a heavy CI DO within an oven is yet ANOTHER reason to eschew the CI in the first place. As you and JuneN practice, pretty much ANYTHING in an oven comes to and stays at temperature, but your Pyrex pan weighs maybe 2 pounds, and my LC DO weighs maybe 20. 16X in and out of the oven for stirring? That's 16x2x20=640 pounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ultimately you have to moisten the onions in a larger vessel and simmer awhile, too, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Totally aside from the hot spot problem (some onions in my FOS were al dente, others mush), I'm of the belief that if you stir more often to avoid the hotspots intrinsic to CI, you're also disintegrating the onions. Makes it a different--and lesser--recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. RE: Dutch Ovens... I needed a BIG dutch oven and after visiting my Le Creuset outlet store where I do buy some stuff, I opted for an enameled cast iron 10 quart dutch oven from ROSS or Marshalls (can't remember) $69 (as opposed to the very similar Le Creuset pot ($300) and I have to say I am very pleased with it, it performs and looks just as good as my 5 quart Le Creuset small oven. I consider a big dutch oven at $300 a substantial purchase, so it is good to know you don't HAVE to spend that much for a nice pot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Now if they would just come out with a similar lidded Terrine....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Everybody has different needs - and different stoves. Unfortunately, I am stuck with electric (coil). I have a lot of pots/pans but I seem to always go to the same few ones. The 2 seasoned cast Irons that I use constantly are a large skillet (for many things) and a sm/med skillet that I use ONLY FOR EGGS. I've had eggs stick to everything else I've ever used except non-stick, and this skillet ...I can only think that having a dedicated pan for "eggs only" is why it works so well. What I like about cooking eggs in this cast iron skillet is that I can get the heat just right, and even. My other dedicated pan is an old small Le Creuset 9" skillet - crepes only.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Seasoning cast iron isn't hard, but it does take patience - seems to take forever to get it seasoned right, but once it's right, in my experience, they stay seasoned. It also seems that cast iron that gets used daily sticks a lot less. It's really true about no soap - my cast iron skillets get scrubbed with HOT water and a plastic scrub brush - that's it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I use those little fabric quilted (potholder material) handle covers to keep the handles safe - they're cheap, washable and they work for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't use any of my cast iron or enameled cast iron to cook on HIGH. I don't have a fan good enough to pull the smoke out, cooking steaks in cast iron, on high, for example.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The other 2 pots I use the most are the 10 Q enamel Cast Iron (Le Creuset knock-off) and a vintage lidded Le Creuset 2 Q saucepan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I had a nice ScanPan from Viking, which was great while it lasted (about 2 years?). I have not replaced it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If I were to buy another pot, I'd probably look for a larger lidded saucepan, and a a nice tri-ply aluminum-core stainless sounds nice. Do you have a brand you like?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If anyone has any recommendations for bakeware, I need to buy some. Mine all looks really sad. I don't like non-stick bakeware and I would like to get away from bare aluminum. I use insulated baking sheets, ceramic lasagna pan, a couple of glass casseroles. All very ugly - I hate them all. Any suggestions are appreciated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Just another thought on cast iron - I really do think it's worth the effort to have and season a cast iron skillet perfectly. I realize from this thread that I'm lucky to have a couple of old ones, but I thought the idea of sanding a newer one (or thrift store find) to prep it for seasoning was brilliant (and worth the effort). With that idea in mind, I think back on all the yard sale cast iron pieces that very well might have been old - but badly seasoned or gunked up - so I passed them up. These may indeed have been worth sanding and reviving! One thing for sure is that if you get the pan seasoned right, and use it your whole life, your kids or friends are likely to fight each other for it when you die!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      One thing for the newer cooks - when you do get ready to buy your first cast iron skillet DO get one that fits you - that's not too heavy, that you can comfortably handle. A pan that is too big or heavy for you to safely empty is intimidating and unpleasant to handle and clean. If you are not super strong try a 8" cast iron skillet (or smaller!) for a 1st time cast iron piece, and see if you like that. I do think that a heavy pan too big and unwieldy can contribute to a new cook being turned off by cast iron.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This thread has been so informative, even though I love cast iron, i have learned here so much that I did not know, about the oil, the heat, etc!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DpBluSea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I enjoyed this thread too. While there is something to be said for old cast iron, I find my new ones a joy too. The biggest thing I like about the newer cast iron skillets is the extra handle on the opposite side of the skillet. I use to have a terrible time trying to handle those skillets with just one handle. But with the "helper" handle, I have no trouble. In fact I never use my older skillet because it does not have the extra handle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As for frying eggs in a cast iron skillet. Of course it can be done and quite beautifully. But it does take practice. After all, how do you think eggs were fried before the non stick skillets?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I have watched my mom (and dad for that matter) fry 1,000's of eggs in her CI skillet and I learned to to it when I was very young. However, I am a bit out of practice now, because I prefer my eggs scrambled, my children have all moved out and I just don't fry eggs like I once did.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think the problem folks are having with the CI is they are trying to use them like they would their non stick cookware. That doesn't work.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I also cannot imagine using plastic and nylon utinsils on cast iron. First of all, you could very well melt it and I sometimes need the stability and strength of metel to get under what ever I am frying. I like to scrape the bottom of my pan to break the food loose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Also the use of metal spatulas scraping the bottom, helps to smooth out the metal over time. All that scrubbing is how those old cast iron pans got so smooth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Not only do I use metal utinsels, I occasionally will gove a qiocl scrub with a stainless steel scrub pad to remove some baked on stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Though I am enjoying my enameld dutch oven, it will never replace my bare cast iron. I just think the food taste better. My enamled dutch oven is only for soups and stews and speg sauce. I don't really like to cook tomato based stuff in my cast iron. It doesn't hurt it, but I do feel like I need to give it a quick reseasoning when I am done. If it the soup or sauce is very tomatoey and left to cook for a long time, you can taste the iron it it. And I usually cook my dried beans in my enameled pot. Beans leave a coating on the pot that is best taken off with vinegar. I don't like doing that to my cast iron pot. It takes of the bean residue as well as a little of my seasoning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I did recently make a stew that had very little tomatoes in it in my bare cast iron dutch oven, and it was wonderful. So much better than the stainless steel pot that I used previously.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: dixiegal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I grew up cooking with cast iron and revere ware. My grandmother's extra cast iron skillets became mine when I married, and now that she has died, my older son has the rest of them. we use them regularly, and I've cooked everything in them- some things admittedly do better than others. And, I've been careless a few times and my pans lost their seasoning and I had to start over and re- season. but the best seasoning i've found, believe it or not, is frying bacon in them. works like a charm. sometimes the bacon sticks a little, but after a couple of weekend breakfasts for the family, non stick is back and eggs are fantastic in the skillets. I think that cooking well with any pot takes time to learn what the pan likes and doesn't like and to learn the particular quirks of each one; once you "become friends with the pan" cast iron just works.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: dixiegal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Even after needing to clean my cast iron pan, I get perfect scrambled eggs if I heat it dry (after having cleaned it...no soap of course..) turn the heat down a little after it is dry, then hit it with butter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Soon as the butter is melted and spread around in the pan I put in the beaten eggs, immediately scramble until cooked and then remove. When I do this I couldn't get the eggs to stick if I tried. I've even burnt on cheese and been able to peel it off.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This technique (preheat then lower heat to desired level before cooking) works for scrambling eggs on stainless tri ply pans also. I've noticed that some tend to turn on the flame and immediately add fat and eggs - this is a bad idea for stainless and a horrible idea for newish cast iron.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Also, FWIW, you could make a perfect steak on a nonstick pan - however you'd exceed the manufacturer's recommended heat level in the process :D

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DukeOfSuffolk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I only do eggs in tinned copper, but I agree with you, cast iron, if seasoned properly and taken care of correctly is as non stick as any high tech coating. I only season with shortening, my experience with 40+ years of "doin' dutch" is that oils will turn rancid. You may not see this in the kitchen, but dutch ovens can be left in the garage during the winter months and after storage of several months or longer, I used to always find that my ovens seasoned with oil would turn rancid on me. An old timer told me that shortening would not, I tried his advice and voila, no more rancid ovens. I cook with lard too, so no lectures on the hydrogenated fat thing. Nobody gets out of here alive, and the thought of refried beans without lard? Yuck!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I always clean my iron with a plastic scrubbie under hot water, my iron will NEVER see detergent, neither does my tinned copper, it also cleans under hot water with a plastic scrubbie, then they paper towel dry, heat on the stove, a touch of shortening spread in the iron and non stick for next go around. My tinned copper only gets butter in it, and it too is nearly non stick, not quite like iron, but close.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Wow this thread lasts forever! I almost forgot that I posted this

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3 years later I still have my ten inch cast iron pan. I replaced the dutch oven with a le creuset however. I still have a little trouble with starchy items, but eggs do pretty well in it now. I find that this pan is also the only way you can get scrapple to be nice and crusty without burning it :). I found the trick to a much smoother and longer lasting seasoning is to use saturated fats. So whenever I do a seasoning, I use lard.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I still only use the pan for browning and frying though. I find it's too cumbersome for liquid items and I prefer flipping things around when sauteing or stir-frying (I know it's not necessary but I just like doing it, lol)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. To all the C/I experts: If I leave my left-over soup/stew in a newer C/I pot, will they kill each other?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: viiilx


                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The soup may taste a bit of iron, and the cleaned pot may show some bare metal. Dry it, rub it with oil, and don't expect any non-stick miracles for a while.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks. Does that also mean that left-overs should be cleared off cast iron cookwares?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. The advantage with cast iron is the weight of the lid to build up some pressure that makes the food more tender. You are right about acidic foods, so I went out and got enameled cast iron for most of the cooking now and just use the old cast iron for very high hear searing or frying. Food will stick even with non-stick cookware, it's just easier to remove.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I don't blame you. I lost faith in my cast iron when I read this blog post from Dave Arnold and Nils Noren at the French Culinary Institute. Especially the photos that show how uneven heat distribution is on the cast iron when faced with direct heat.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Great blog too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                16 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: acooknamedmike


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  What a fantastic blog entry!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  They address so many of the really interesting issues with cast iron that are rarely addressed, or rarely addressed all in the same context. Most notably:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. The difference in manufacturing of new (i,e. the Lodge you can pick up at Target) vs. old cast iron (old cast iron was polished, which the seasoning grabs on to much better).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Seasoning - HIGH HEAT ONLY with UNSATURATED (or near unsaturated) FATS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  There is so much specious info regarding the care and cooking properties of cast iron-- even ordinarily reliable sources like Cooks Illustrated don't spend the time to really explain why yesterday's cast iron is different from today's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's refreshing to read a comprehensive, thoughtful, well researched article that's backed up by more than just circumstantial evidence. Thank you so much for calling my attention to this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hi, Mr. Taster:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Welcome to the choir. Practice begins Thursdays at 7PM.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Actually CI just did a comparison between new and old cast iron, they also just published a note on using flax seed oil for seasoning based off of this woman's blog

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rockfish42

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Interesting article.. I noticed that she stripped the pan with oven cleaner first.. Question is would the pan look the same as the newly seasoned if she had used the old method? The CI does get a buildup with constant use, which is what is being shown in the first pot. She should do a followup after a few years. She has the nice old polished cookware, not the lodge. Too bad the company went out of business.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Do you have the CI comparison site? Would love to see it..
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As far as seasoning, I just wash the non-enamel cookware, dry it over the flame and wipe it with some olive oil. I leave the CI on the flame on high until it more or less burns off leaving a slightly hard coat.. Not scientific but seems to work for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Lodge from 60-80 years ago could compete with any on the market as far as quality. They have been in business for 100+ years in Tennessee.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The reason most folks strip old cast iron is because they don't know how it was used or what was in it. I would never strip a family heirloom.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: dg tx

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I actually have old and new Lodge, plus I have a Wagner (no longer exist) and must say the Wagner is much better. The inside is polished smooth while the Lodge is not. I never use harsh chemicals on any cookware, just soap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Lodge I speak of was the "One Notch" Lodge which was cast before WW II. It is light, polished and desirable by collectors these days

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I can't find the exact article for some reason, here's someone else giving a summary

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: acooknamedmike

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh yeah, I remember that blog too. I think there was a famous parchment paper test on cast iron skillet as well. Similar results. That said, I still like a cast iron skillet because it semi-nonstick nature. I do agree with the less than uniform heat evenness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: acooknamedmike

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I posted an egullet thread somewhere on here....somewhere o_o....that said that copper actually has greater heat capacity per gram than cast iron. If that is true, that essentially makes copper the superior material for cookware, as it has both heat capacity AND high conductivity. So a cast iron pan, with even heat and can adjust temperature on the dime.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: takadi

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I totally agree on the copper part.. CI takes much longer to get up to the same heat but I would not attempt to sear on a copper-ware, CI is the only way to go for searing. The beauty about cooking with copper-ware is it responds almost immediately to variations in temperature unlike CI which takes a while to cool down (due to the thickness)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: takadi

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hi, tadaki:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              o_o was wrong, but not by much. CI has a specific heat capacity of 0.46 (kJ/kg K); copper is less but very close at 0.39 (kJ/kg K).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Aluminum, on the other hand has almost twice the heat capacity of cast iron at 0.91 (kJ/kg K).


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: kaleokahu


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ahh okay here's the link. You're right kaleo. I think what I meant to say is that copper has the greatest heat capacity per VOLUME, not weight, as the numbers there indicate that while aluminum has the highest heat capacity per gram, it also has the lowest density.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: takadi

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hi, tadaki:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  No problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sometimes the fans of CI tend to forget the volume thing, and therefore ascribe higher heat capacity to it than to Cu or Al. They also forget how much thicker CI pots and pans tend to be than their copper equivalents. But the truth is, if they A-B compared a 4mm thick copper pan with a 4mm CI pan, they'd pick copper every time for heat holding (if they could lift it).


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Regardless of the thickness.. I have to admit that the copperware, regardless of thickness, reacts almost instantly to heat adjustment. Probably why people like them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Hi, Mikecq:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      One reason among many.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I'm of Polish origin. When my babcia died, being the only cook in the house, I inherited her cast iron pans. She bought them when she came to Canada in the 1950's, so they are about 60 years old. One is used exclusively for potato pancakes; the rest are used for fried fish (the best) and other recipes needing a nice crunchy exterior.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As a cook, we have to choose our weapons; cast iron cannot do tomato sauce, non-stick cannot do steak, and stainless cannot do soufflé. I do not think that there exists a 'unified field theory' in terms of cookware.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            All I know, I would never part with my grandmother's cast iron, nor strip it (GASP!). I actually became violent when I saw someone wanting to wash it with dish soap!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There...my 2 cents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            78 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hypomyces

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "I do not think that there exists a 'unified field theory' in terms of cookware."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I don't think there is a unified theory of anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "I actually became violent when I saw someone wanting to wash it with dish soap!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                How violent? Did you turn into a werewolf?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I guess OP has moved on. PTFE nonstick is really good for some stuff. Cast iron has its uses. Tri-Ply ss/alu is good, Copper-core pans are good. Old-tech carbon steel is good. Enameled cast iron is good. Anodized alu is good is good, my grandma had a thick non-anodized alu skillet, niice. It depends on what you want to accomplish. Different dishes benefit from different materials to prepare them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MarkKS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Replying to the original poster: I don't know what kind of cast iron you bought but I stick with Lodge. All of my cookware, with only 2 exceptions, is cast iron; either Lodge 8 pieces, or LeCreuset, 12 pieces. I LOVE my Lodge cookware and have to say that if you dont' use it right, don't season it properly or don't clean it the way it's recommended you WILL have problems. I have never had a sticking problem with any of my black cast iron. Eggs slide right out of the pan and nothing, but nothing sticks. Seasoned properly and with a lot of use with oil, lard or any other fat these pans will serve you well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    NEVER EVER use detergent or soap on cast iron. While we're eating dinner, my pan is waiting to be cleaned right after dinner, A stiff brush and very hot water will clean the pan to like new appearance. I then place the pan on a burner, put a little Crisco on a paper towel. swish it around the bottom of the pan and let it sit on the burner for about 1 or 2 minutes. Off the heat and let it sit over night. This whole thing takes about 30 seconds to do not counting the heating. My pans and skillets have a great looking satiny patina, nothing sticks and everything cleans in a breeze. Wonder what you're doing wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DQ, I certainly don't deny your personal experience with a satiny, totally nonstick patina on your Lodge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The problem is, there are enough of us out there who have not had that experience that it is hard for us to believe that this is possible (and I'm included in that group). I have not yet tried the flax oil technique-- I will give that a shot and report back in the future.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        For example, I suspect there are an incredibly large number of enthusiastic people out there on the World Wide Web who have never experienced the greatness of a truly nonstick cast iron skillet, and so they think shoddy, semi non-stick seasoning is as good as it gets with cast iron. The thing is, they don't realize their experience is shoddy, because they didn't inherit their grandma's pan, and therefore don't have a high water mark to compare their experience to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As I've said before, I used to be one of those people who though "semi-nonstick" was as good as it got, until I cooked with a 50-year-old polish-bottomed cast iron skillet in Panama. The finish was as slick as Teflon. It was only at *that moment* that I realized how great cast iron could be... and that's after struggling with and wanting to love my 12" Lodge skillet for upwards of three years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The upshot of this is that I suddenly realized that my "success" at home with my Lodge pan was, in fact, a total and utter failure. Having never worked with a truly well-seasoned cast iron pan, I never knew what I was missing. I suspect there are volumes of people in similar circumstances, who did not inherit their grandmothers pans, who are trying to make do with Lodge pans, and are looking to the internet for any and all advice. And that's where the problem lies. What I mean is that the credible sources (like you, who actually have experienced perfectly seasoned cast iron) are given equal billing with the people who really don't know what they're talking about, but speak confidently as if they do. It's the greatness of the Internet, as well as its Achilles heel. Filtering the wheat from the chaff, especially when determining the truth about cast iron cooking, is a long and laborious process.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        So, DQ, can I ask-- has your pebbly-surfaced Lodge developed a glass-like smoothness on the cooking surface? (Literally, as smooth as glass- if you ran your fingers across, there would be no textural sensation) I'm still trying to determine if this is possible with a well-seasoned modern Lodge pan (without resorting to sanding or polishing the cooking surface) or if a fully nonstick surface can develop with the bumps still in place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My simple take on the last few posts. Foods fried in a Pebbly surfaced cast iron pan have a tendency to stick. Foods fried with a smooth cast iron pan (and a little oil) do not stick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          So if you want a "non stick" cast iron pan, find one that is smooth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Here's a quick comparison video of an older pan vs. a brand new out of the box lodge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: rockfish42

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Interesting... I think I saw that video once before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              While interesting to watch, it's ultimately unhelpful, adding to the confusing brew of information about cast iron.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The only good advice that one can take away from this video is "get an old pan". But these efforts are totally undermined by the blogger's comment that the Lodge pan did "fairly well for brand new". I'm here to tell any cast iron newbies reading this that It didn't do fairly well-- it failed. The problem is, the failure is not apparent to those of us inexperienced with cast iron, who have never used an old, properly seasoned pan. Those people are likely to have achieved the same poor semi-nonstick results themselves, and to them the blogger's tacit approval is a stamp of affirmation that your semi-nonstick efforts are indeed a success. I was under this impression with my own cast iron cooking for a long time, and it's patently untrue. Coming from a supposed position of authority (as the author of a cast iron cooking blog), this info is misleading and, dare I say, irresponsible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Other fiddly criticisms:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - While this video certainly helps advance the idea that "older is better", it does nothing to educate why this is the case. This is particularly frustrating for those of us trying to learn how to season modern cast iron properly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Low resolution means you can't really sense the texture of the cooking service. I know from experience that the Lodge pan likely had a textured surface and the older pan did not, but that would be not at all apparent to newbies looking to learn about cast iron.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - The video doesn't address whether it's possible for a modern pan with modern manufacturing techniques to achieve the results of the older pan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The more you use cast iron the better it gets if seasoned properly and kept seasoned. Using it over and over again seals the pores permanently and lends itself to being non-stick. It also creates a satin patina, a smooth finishI bought my first piece of pre-seasoned Lodge and I don't like it. I prefer to season my own. Only time will tell whether this pan will be as good as the original. Trust Lodge in any case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: rockfish42

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I rest my case regarding the non-stick properties of well seasoned cast iron cookware. Nice job rockfish. Now how about breakfast tomorrow?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Take a power sander and abrasive paper made for sanding metal and sand it smooth .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: gemeril

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think I'm about to give that a shot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If you sand, . Take it down first with a coarser grit so you are not spending too much time. Make sure you use a very fine wet sand paper (600 or 800grit) with water after, to give it that polished look.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Good luck. Otherwise try and get your hands on an old Wagner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "Get your hands on an old Wagner". That would be your best bet! I bought a # 8 Wagner skillet just last Sunday for $5! With a little cleaning it will be slick and ready to go. There is still a LOT of the old iron out there. You just have to be patient and LOOK!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The old "one notch" Lodge was just as good as the Wagner

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I am NOT into sanding any piece of cast iron cookware!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: dg tx

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Consider yourself super lucky.. I have been checking the prices and they usually go for over $50.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: gemeril

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In theory though, wouldn't sanding the surface like that change the thickness of the pan slightly and render it not as effective in holding heat? One of the beauties of cast iron is its ability to delivery constant, non-fluctuating heat. --Perhaps some might consider this difference to be minor-- but physics is physics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BoneChill

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Mr Bone Chill, you are not going to change the thickness of the pan that much, if you do, you should get a new pan, because the one you have might melt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Mr Taster, make sure you season the right way next time. I have always have used lard but the flax oil sounds good. Cook some rake of lamb at 500, use butter ( always think about our American dairy farmers ) and the pan will stay good. The more natural fats you use the better. I think cleaning is most important. After you are done cooking, put the pan back on the heat and throw in a cup of water, it should be hot enough to boil right up then scrape the heavier crud with a steel spatula then walk it over to the sink and dump and rinse, then give it a quick scrub with a scrub pad, no soap, dump all the water out, put it back on the heat for a minute, wipe it with a paper towel, turn off the heat, and go have a drink.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: gemeril

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Dear gemeril, I'd prefer Dr. BoneChill (sounds better!), but thank you for the considerate response. I wonder what combo/sequence of sandpaper would work well on a relatively new lodge. 60, 120, 320, 600, 800, steelwool?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: BoneChill

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Dr. Bonechill:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          IMHO, too big a step between 120 and 320. I suggest 80-120-180-200-320-600. Then I'd buff with a cutting rouge on a sisal wheel and see where you are.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An old knifemaker's trick might also help you if you're doing it by hand: Sand in one direction only, and whenever you change grits, sand at a 90-degree angle until the coarser marks disappear.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            kaleokahu, thanks for the tip! I'm going to try it perhaps this Sunday evening!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              By hand, this project would be a winter project. It would be very long.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hi, Mikecq:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A winter project? I've taken 10" chef's knives from 80 grit to mirror polish by hand in a couple of days. Maybe the skillet won't be done in an evening, though.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'd like to know how long it takes.. Seems it would be a long time to get it polished like a Wagner. I have a CI griddle which could benefit from that even though it performs great now. My Wagner skillet and large dutch are polished interior, my Lodge is not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Mr. Taster to answer your question, one of my skillets had developed a very smooth finish. It's the one I use the most. The others are smooth but not like this one. It's a 10 skillet and if it's possible to love a pan, I love this one. LOL.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      BTW, all of my black Lodge pans and skillets with only one exception, are the original finish not the new-fangled pre seasoned stuff. Did I really say new-fangled??

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have been using soap for quite a few years and it has not harmed the CI cookware.. Sometimes you cook fish in it and want to get the smell out. I've owned these CIs for over 30 years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sorry Mike, but soap DOES harm the cookware. The reason seasoning is required is that when the iron is cast it is covered with tiny open pores. The fat (in most cases Crisco) being heated to at least 350 degrees for an hour seals the pores making the skillet or pan non-stick. It also keeps acids such as tomatoes or lemon juice from seeping into the pores. Using it in the oven with fatty foods such as bacon will seal the pores even further. I roast whole chicken in mine and the chicken fat does wonders.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        When you use soap it doesn't actually hurt the pan it just removes the sealing fat and now you're back to square one. Your food sticks and the pan is no longer sealed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        germeril before you has the right idea. Never tried having the drink before but sure sounds like a good idea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hi, Drama Queen:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm just curious, on what do you base your statement that the surface of cast iron pans is porous?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This subject has come up several times now in several different threads, and no one has offered any real proof.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I base the statement that cast iron pans are porous from talking to the people at Lodge, who make these pans. I figured they should know. Right? They gave me the "cook's tour" of the process and the reason for the season. Oh don'tcha just love it??? LOL

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I would base it on science, or just look at it under a basic microscope .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: gemeril

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I would base it on the fact that you get oil build up which melts every time you cook and the tastes just sort of blend (if you don't use soap). Don't believe me? Sear or fry some fish in it and just soak it. My wife complains about the smell and she a has VERY sensitive nose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hi, Drama Queen:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The reason I ask is that a lot of folks say CI is porous, and there seems to be no evidence of that from a metallurgical standpoint. Another poster here on CH has challenged anyone to post a microscope photo. So far no takers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm OK with the idea that there are surface *irregularities* or roughness that might (or might not) make for better seasoning. That much makes sense. However, if you're talking about true *pores* in the material, I remain skeptical.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I have a number of old CI pans. I LOVE them. After cooking in them, I just wipe them clean with a paper towel. If something sticks, I use a metal spatula - also my tool of choice when cooking in them. If it is particularly messy after use, I will rub it under the faucet and then dry it thoroughly with paper towels. The only time I've EVER had to add oil/fat to re-season after cleaning it is when someone has accidently overheated the pan naked (some people in my house like to dry the pan on a warm burner instead of with a paper towel).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              How to use it without sticking?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Heat the pan naked. Not too much. Then add the oil/butter and heat that. THEN add the food. If I am using a CI pan to do something like frying potatoes, I usually start at a higher temperature and slowly lower it - this works well with my somewhat new electric stove.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The final non-stick tip is to NEVER try to move the food until it has browned. This is true for all cooking anyway - when we roast veggies on trays in the oven with a bit of olive oil, they always stick until they're brown and ready to release.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The one thing that I struggle with is when we get bacon with too much sugar added and then cook it at too high of a temperature - sugar is killer to scrape off.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We usuallly bake our bacon, anyway. Much easier and leaves our attention free for the rest of breakfast on the stovetop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I took your advice and heated the pan naked but wondered why I couldn't just do the same thing with my clothes on. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hee-hee. And I I keep wondering why my husband likes to watch me cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree that fish can smell it up. Personally, I would have a separate pan for seafood.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: BoneChill

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Great idea BoneChill. Wonder why I never thought to use a pan just for fish and seafood. I will now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: BoneChill

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you don't clean the pan properly, the oils build up, so does he smell and can affect the next meal. This is not part of seasoning. Not washing the pans could be an old wife's tale being perpetuated by the people at Lodge. Maybe if Lodge started polishing their pans like Wagner did, I would tend to believe them, but they don't to cut cost.. The grainy bumps you see is from "sand castings", then you would have to spend extra time sanding it to a polished finish.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Regardless, I wash my cookware with soap to reduce these oil build ups, not scrub them (there is a difference). The seasoning still remains. If you wipe it with a paper towel and it sticks, time to wash it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I will use a soapy dish cloth on mine occasionally if soft grease builds up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I would expect a wipe with a soapy dish cloth to be as effective in removing seasoning from a CI fry pan as it is at removing baked on grease from oven walls; that is not very.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Awww come on Mikecq, you can't be serious about the people at Lodge perpetuating an old wives' tale just to cut costs. Can you fry sunnyside up eggs without a trace of the egg left behind? Does it slide right out of the pan without the use of a spatula?. Mine do. As far as I'm concerned, if you want to wash your cookware with soap that's okay with me. As for me I'm going with the hot water, scrub brush technique. My cookware remains totally non-stick and absolutely beautiful.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This discussion has been on every food board I've been on for years and it will continue. It's like the ongoing debate between which is best, gas ranges or electric?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I did not say they are perpetuating old wives tale to cut cost.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          They are cutting cost by not polishing the CI.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I bet if Wagner (they polish the inside very smooth) was still around their sales would far exceed Lodge (they don''t have much competition).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Anyway, start searing fish on it..
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I bet you would love the seared Tuna or salmon or maybe try blackening them. The CI is great for this.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The electric burners I've seen heat up then cool down. This is a continuous process and I know some people actually have problems when deep frying.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Don't get too engrossed with the utensils, it is just a tool.. Just concentrate on the recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Mikecq, take a look at the new thread I started in the cookware board re favortie foods to cook in cast iron. You're right about the salmon; awesome!! I forgot about the blackened catfish, rubbed with Emeril's Essence kicked up a notch, and seared to blackened perfection. No other cookware could do this justice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You can polish rough cast iron with a hand-sander and progressive rough to fine paper. Cast iron is a soft metal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            On gas v. induction, induction boils water fast, and is easy to clean. But you can't get high temps, because induction, which can melt metal if unregulated, has temp regulators in home models. Get an electrical guy to bypass the restraining circuit, you can do restaurant pro stuff, of melt your pans and/or burn down your domicile.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MarkKS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I would be leery about modifying the electric circuitry which is probably an electronics board. And you may be correct about burning down the house.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If you have a gas stove you can modify iy by enlarging the orifice. Do not attempt to drill this yourself, instead try and buy one. I did this to a cheapo range and it made a huge difference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I bought a lodge pan. The other day however, I decided to see something and bought a vintage #8 wagner from ebay. The difference was stunning. The Wagner was so light compared to the lodge and so smooth. It also held onto the seasoning like a champ. No flaking whatsoever. The non-stick properties were much more enhanced.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So my conclusion is that Lodge, at least the newer pans, just really sucks in general.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: takadi

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Wagner was the premium CI. They probably could not compete with the "low cost" Lodge back in time. Wagner finished their CI wares by going another step which is to polish the inside of their wares. Lodge chose the cheaper way out and just distribute the wares straight off the line with no polishing. The rough surface of the Lodge is due to the sand mold used. If you are frying, you will probably notice a difference. A pot with a lot of liquid (stews) will show no difference. After a certain point, the thickness probably makes no difference, just that the thicker (heavier) one will take longer to heat up. Maybe the polishing of the Wagner took off enough material to make a difference in the weight. Someone on this Blog is experimenting with polishing the Lodge and I'm curious as to the results. If he is successful, I may try it on a Lodge grill.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm the polisher... got my friend's power sander geared up and ready to use, but ultimately I decided to buy a vintage Griswold from ebay. I'm in the process of seasoning it with the flax oil method. Since each seasoning layer takes about 4-5 hours to do from start to finish, I've been adding one layer every few days, when I have the time. I've got about 4 layers baked on now, and it's looking quite beautiful, smooth and slick. Not as Teflon-slick as that 50 year old pan I used in Panama, but I'm hoping that a few more layers will make it that way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Even unseasoned (I stripped it with oven cleaner), the smooth, polished finish of the Griswold is markedly different from my fully seasoned Lodge pan. In fact, I just saw a brand new Lodge pan at REI last night and realized how my seasoned Lodge had definitely smoothed out compared to an off-the-rack model- but it's still no comparison even to an unseasoned vintage Griswold.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Darn, I was hoping you would do it.. I have a Lodge grill that would benefit from a polishing.. The pan cakes would come out better, I think. You may have smoothed out your pan from using metal spatulas over the years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              OK, a week and a half later and I finally finished seasoning my Griswold #9 with the high heat flax oil technique, and attempted to cook scrambled eggs for the first time this morning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It was an INCREDIBLE success, with not even the slightest bit of sticking!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              What can I say. I'm speechless. My faith in cast iron is fully restored!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Congrats... And I believe the Griswald is polished inside?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So your conclusion between the Lodge and the Griswald, how big a difference would you say the end quality of the pans are?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Mikecq

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, the Griswold is polished.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The difference between the two in terms of non-stick properties is night and day. However, to do a proper comparison I'll need to strip my Lodge pan and do the flax oil treatment. I'll do that and report back here in a few weeks once it's done.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We await the the outcome. My gut feeling will be the Griswald comes out on top.. Griswald and Wagner polishes the interior, Lodge does not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: takadi

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, the Lodges are heavy! I might be wrong, but I think the older skillets have a better balance and that is part of the difference in how the pans feel in your hands.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And the older skillets have nicely made spouts for pouring.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Awww you buncha lightweights!! This 70 yr. old granny has no problem lifting a 12 inch skillet filled with whatever. No problem either with my 7 qt. L.C. filled with chili. Wussies!!! ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yep, I'm a Wuss. I really need to build up my strength again. At this point, if I have something I need to pour out of my CI skillet - or even bringing my KA Stand Mixer into the kitchen, I call for my boyfriend. With the skillet, I'm just afraid it's all going to fly all over the place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I can one hand my old CI skillets. As I said I think the balance, as well as the weight is good. But my Lodge grill pan is awful to one hand, esp. with a potholder.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Does anyone have any idea why cast iron pans have such short, stubby handles to begin with? Particularly in the badly balanced Lodge pans, I'm a strong guy and yet I definitely have problems holding (and especially pouring) from that heavy, lopsided thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If you have any more problems Mr Taster, call me. I'll do it for you. ;-)