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May 2, 2008 06:16 AM

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 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.