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Big cast iron pan, small gas burner

Hey everyone.

I got a big (12" I think) cast iron pan, but a very small gas burner. The kind of range that you find in a rental apartment.

The heat does not spread evenly to the edges of the pan. I thought cast iron would conduct better than this. It renders the outer 1"-1 1/2" of the pan useless (e.g. for chicken breasts).

I'm trying to marry a rich woman, and then buy a viking stove with a bigger burner, and to make my other rich friends jealous.

In the meantime, are there such things are flame spreaders (not for simmering, etc)? Can these flame spreaders also help me attract a rich woman?


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  1. If only the middle 9" of the pan is heating up, I'd guess that you have a burner that lacks not only size but output. If that's the case, spreading the (insufficient) heat around isn't going to fix the problem.

    Until that rich woman comes along, you can pre-heat the pan in a 500F stove, then sear the meat and allow the residual heat, coupled with whatever the burner can deliver, to finish things up. Or you can go to an asian market and buy a burner that will kick a Viking's butt for under $50. Not pretty, and probably not certified for use indoors, but plenty big and plenty hot. Not only for cast iron cookery, but for making a stir fry with real wok hei. Which, as everyone knows, will in fact help you attract a rich woman.

    1. Depending on the model of the stove it might be possible to adjust the gas output higher.

      1. This is possible with cast iron -- the center will heat up on a small burner. Rather than risk a burner not certified for indoor use, why don't you consider one of those small portable electric burners? The coils on them will heat up pretty nicely and should be better than the gas burner you have now, assuming you have a place to put this burner when you are using it.

        1. The oven is the best tool for heating a large pan all the way to the edges. Preheat it, and then add the chicken. Check back a couple of minutes later, and turn the chicken.

          Cast iron is not that great of a heat conductor; however, because of its thickness, it does have a high heat capacity. So it does not cool down excessively when you add the meat.

          1. I know someone in a similar situation. (Their very, very, very old Westinghouse ceramic stovetop cracked over 3 burners after he let a Farberware stainless steel pot melt on it after it evaporated all liquid in it.)

            Copper and aluminum are the best conductors of heat, but with a small burner left, it will always be hotter in the middle. The recommendation earlier to use cast iron preheated in the oven at a high heat, then used on the stovetop will work best. The only other choice is to use a good aluminum or copper clad cookware that will spread the heat best, but still be hottest in the middle.

            Happy Cooking!

            1. Wow, how the years fly by. I actually got married to a kind-of rich woman, recently, and also bought a copper-lined pan at TJ Maxx.

              Both things have drastically changed my life for the better. Sparing the details of the former, I highly encourage anybody who is using cast iron as their main pan to ditch it and get a lined pan! It is soooooo worth the minor expense!

              Cast iron is really a specialty thing; I got so obsessed with trying to season it to the point where "eggs would slide off", to avoid all the chemicals of non-stick pans, etc. Ach, what an ocd waste of time! Next thing you know, you'll be a civil war re-enactor.

              A slippery slope, my friends.

              13 Replies
              1. re: sevitzky

                <It is soooooo worth the minor expense! ...I highly encourage anybody who is using cast iron as their main pan>

                Dude, it is not minor. You just said you got married to a rich woman. A cast iron pan is $20. A tinned copper pan is easily $200. A ten fold difference is not minor. It is like a Ford/Honda vs a Ferrari. This is like telling people to ditch their Ford/Honda for a Ferrari. On top of that, there are properties which cast iron cookware have that a lined copper cookware cannot provide.

                <Cast iron is really a specialty thing; I got so obsessed with trying to season it.....>

                It really isn't that difficult. Many people have done it. We are not talking about rocket science here.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  The TJX(Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Homegoods) stores have been having the 2 mm tin lined Baumalu pans for about 10-15 cents on the dollar. 3qt sauce pan for $35. In my area they have gone begging and some have gone to clearance. I bought as many different sizes as I could find.
                  They also will occasionally have Mauviel, but not at such a discount.

                  1. re: wekick

                    Most of the copper cookware I saw in my HomeGoods and TJ Maxx are on par of $100. I am sure one may able to find a copper cookware for $50, but then I can also probably find a cast iron pan for $5 too -- which I really can. Lodge cast iron cookware are actually the more expensive brand of cast iron cookware. I can find much cheaper ones in my local restaurant supply stores.


                    Copper cookware are great by their own right, but I don't think "a minor price difference" is one of them.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      I would normally think that too but my guess is he is referring to something like I found. I have seen these pans in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri over the last few months. Some are only the 1 mm. There were a large amount of jelly pans in one store. It is one of the best buys I have gotten from TJX stores.

                      1. re: wekick

                        :) Good to hear. I miss Georgia though.

                  1. re: rasputina

                    Hi, rasputina:

                    Working on my chain-mail malo...


                  2. re: sevitzky

                    Hey, RipVansevitsky:

                    Not much has changed since 2008. Obama won, the economy cratered--that's about all...

                    But seriously, a 12" CI pan on a dinky hob is asking for trouble, then and now, before and always. Did you actually *believe* the lies about CI providing "even" heat? Many are taken in by them, but few have the courage to admit it. While you've been in Winkle Land, LC has doubled down with their 15" skillet, so there must still be rubes out there.

                    As for seasoning, anal retentiveness is not a necessary and sufficient cause for success or failure. IMO, paying a modicum of attention and then not worrying about it *is*. But as you note, it is mediocre cookware for all but a few applications.

                    When's Sugar Mama getting you the Viking?


                    1. re: sevitzky

                      Ooops, duplicate post edited away. My bad.

                      1. re: sevitzky

                        I guess anything could become an obsession for anyone. I cook eggs in my CI pan every morning. The eggs do not stick and I don't obsess about my CI. (Except maybe brand new CI that I am trying to get like I want it).

                        I think any type pan could be seen as a 'specialty' pan. Because no single type of pan is good for all types of cooking. I also find there is a learning curb to any new kind of pan or bakeware. Such as, I have a clay pot, that I have not quite figured out the best way to use it.
                        I also remember the learning curb of going from CI pan use to non-stick Teflon. Very different cooking style...... and care.

                        1. re: dixiegal

                          <I also find there is a learning curb to any new kind of pan or bakeware>

                          99% agree. Except I have to say that there is no learning curve for the Teflon cookware -- which is why they are so popular. Anyone can use it without a single day of training, whereas all other cookware have their little "tricks" if you will.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            >Except I have to say that there is no learning curve for the Teflon cookware -- which is why they are so popular.<

                            Teflon was too simple for me at first. I was coming from CI. I had to remember to cook at low temps and not grab the metal utensils to use. Had to remember to use the 'plastic' ones. LOL. Also had to get use to the idea that nothing was going to brown in them. And get use to the idea that I needed to view them as disposable because even with care, that coating was going to come off. I also remembered once, grabbing the skillet quickly and thinking it was heavy, nearly flipped everything out of it. I sure did like the convenience, but eventualy went back to the CI, because I thought everything tasted better. Also needed to remember not to leave one of the utensils on the edge of the pan, because it would melt. Back then, the non metel cooking utensils, were not very heat resistant. I also remember constantly stirring the milk gravey and the utensil began to get very soft from the heat. Should have used wooden ones, but didn't have any at the time.
                            My mother in law to this day uses metal utensils on her non stick pans. She still treats them like her CI pans. Hight heat and all. None of them last very long. LOL

                            1. re: dixiegal

                              < I had to remember to cook at low temps and not grab the metal utensils to use>

                              Hmm, good points. So you are correct. I guess there are some learning curves for every cookware. Some more than the others.

                      2. I just saw someone make chicken fried steak in a 20" cast iron skillet, on Man Fire Food (CookingChannel) - over coals, so the heat was even over the whole bottom.

                        Paella is traditionally made in large diameter carbon steel pans - but again over a wood (grape vine trimmings) fire that covers the whole bottom.

                        1. When I broke down and bought my copper-lined pan at TJ Maxx, I paid about $25. But thank you for the reducto ad absurdum, I'll take two straw-men, and an ad hominum on the side!!

                          The point of this whole post is not to tell people what to cook with, or to start a flame war, or to start a flame-diffuser war, but just to relate my story, and confess that I thought cast iron would be a great all-around tool to cook with. A 'natural solution', old as ages, etc...

                          And it really turned out NOT to be for me, emphatically so, due to its weight and heat distribution properties. I tried working with it for many years, to 'learn' it. I was deeply attracted to the notion of its simplicity and, ugh, dare I say it, authenticity. I thought it would be interesting to follow up my original post from 4 years ago with an anecdotal update. Essentially, everyone who originally replied was right, for my experience.

                          I was also really interested in the idea that you could properly season it to the point that one could cook an egg, without a lot of oil, and it would perform similarly to non-stick surfaces. I don't like the idea of teflon. After a lot of reading online forums, and experimentation with, and dutiful execution of seasoning techniques, I never got to this point. Many stories talk about a pan inherited from 'a grandmother' that had been slathered in oil for years of loving cooking, but alas my pan never reached that point. (for the record, it's is actually fascinating to read about the chemistry of pan seasoning... I think it qualifies as science of some sort!)

                          So for someone starting out with their collection, who isn't familiar with cast iron, or cooking in general, I'd say buy something that heats evenly for your every-day cooking. It really improved the quality and the enjoyment of my cooking. Honestly to goodness, I am writing this to add to the collective stories and knowledge of ChowHound so that someone will have some more opinions to consider when they do a keyword search.

                          The woman I married is actually rich in kindness and joy. I have friends who are civil-war re-enactors. Both were wry asides, sorry if it ruffled feathers -- may it roll off your back like drops of water!

                          Mahalo, y'all!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sevitzky

                            Hi, sevitsky:

                            Glad you came back; don't stay away so long next time!

                            Kindness and joy beat the filthy lucre every time, in my book.