Cast iron pan advice?
I am looking to buy a durable, quality cast iron pan that I can use to cook meats on. Any suggestions as to which brands are the best? Also, I am not sure about the process involved in maintaining them, cleaning, etc and would prefer something that is technically low maintenance. I saw one on the cooking network today that looked nice but wasn't sure what the brand was! Any advice would be appreciated.
Providing you mean a frying pan, there are two different tyoes.
The overwhelming favorite among plain CI is Lodge.
Among enameled pans, there's Le Creuset, Staub, Lodge, and other less expensive ones sold at big-box stores.
In any case, just follow the manufacturer's directions on care. Some posters here have some rather, ahem, unorthodox ideas. No need to sandblast or submerge in boiling lard.
ha, had to laugh out loud at the "unothodox" statement.
It is hard to purposely find anything other than lodge. I have one lodge, and one "found at the discount store" pan. Both are visually of the same quality, and both have fared about the same, and i do not "baby" my cast iron.
Lodge isn't the only game in town, but the only domestic. To the best of my knowledge, the rest are made in the PRC. Among the better looking quality-wise were in no particular order: Martha Stewart, Calphalon, Camp Chef and Coleman. Texsport seemed to be an inferior casting and minimal finishing.
Basically, it hardly matters since cast iron is so dang cheap, pick out the best available. The pan should be heavy, and the thickness of the pan should be even -- not wavy or uneven.
Most cast iron available right now is pre-seasoned. This is a good thing. Don't scrape, sandblast, incinerate or otherwise remove if you can help it. Sure you can re-season (just apply a THIN layer of crisco to the pan inside and out, and heat for an hour or so in your grill outside), but really, there is no reason.
Cast iron is not high maintenance, but it does require care. Basically, don't leave food in it overnight, and make sure that it is good and dry before putting away. Ideally, give the pan a quick schmear of oil and heat the pan up until just shy of smoking. Absolutely never in the dishwasher machine, though your pan will survive a little dish soap, despite what the old crocks will tell you.
If you do get rust (or food tastes metallic), scour out with steel wool and re-season.
Too thick a layer of seasoning oil and you will end up with a gummy layer of oil that will go rancid and make your food taste funky. Scrub out the gook with dish soap, hot water, and a Scotch Brite, and re-season.
Oh yeah, MOST IMPORTANT! Leave the pan on the stove and use at least once a day.
Here's an excellent article that will answer your all your questions:
It seems as though everyone who has one (and I've had three for more than 30 years now) will have something different to say about what kind of oil/fat to use, whether to season on the stovetop or in the oven, whether or not to use dish soap, and whether or not a pan can sit overnight before cleaning (I sometimes do that, not often, and have no problem with it whatsoever). But this article will get you started, and once you have a beautifully seasoned pan you'll find out what works best for you.
Most likely, if you buy a new pan, it will be pre-seasoned. You can use it straight away, though my experience is that you need to use some oil for at least the first few times before you get a pan that will willingly release food.
A spritz or two of PAM should do it -- no need to have your food swimming in grease. As Jeff Smith would remind us, "Hot pan, cold oil, food won't stick."
Ignore those who talk about eggs sliding right out of ungreased pans -- they are most likely working with pieces that are generations old and have decades of seasoning.
Best cast iron pans can be found at some of your local thrift stores, flea markets or at your neighborhood yard sale.
Just make sure NEVER to buy any cast iron pan with a wooden handle.
I use my Lodge skillet almost daily. It's the one pan I couldn't live without. Even though it was "pre-seasoned," I seasoned it myself before using it the first time. I rinsed it with plain water, dried it, then coated it with Crisco. Then it went into a 250 degree oven for about 4 hours.
After cooking with it, I never wash it with dish detergent. Usually, all it needs is the soft side of a scrubbing sponge, and hot water. I dry it immediately and use a paper towel to spread a bit of oil all over the inside. Corn, safflower, olive, peanut...doesn't matter what kind of oil.
Every few months, I do the whole Crisco-in-the-oven thing again, to give it a really deep seasoning. I think if you do a lot of high-fat frying, that step is probably not necessary.
I also have a black steel pan I love. That one tends to get rusty very easily, but if I keep it coated with oil, it's fine. I guess it's like cleaning and oiling a gun.