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Cast Iron Rocks!!!

StriperGuy May 25, 2009 03:04 PM

I have lots of foofy cookware which I won't get into. I used to use non-stick, my only comments on non-stick now is: ICK.

Over the years I have slowly focused most of my cooking on my two cast iron skillets. a 10 inch and a 12, both that my dad picked up at a church yardsale for $2-3.

Just yesterday my GF picked up a slightly rusty one at Todd Farm Antiques & Flea Market in Rowley, MA. I scrubbed it with a scouring pad for 10 min or so, and seasoned it 2-3 times REAL HOT, with some canola oil and it is as good as new, er... as good as old. Figure we can get another 200-300 years out of it.

I use cast iron for:

Seared fish - crispy outside, slightly rare inside
corn bread
steaks - first seared, then finished in the oven
stir fry (cause I don't have a restaurant grade gas circle hot enough to do real justice to a steel wok)
seared veggies
caramelized onions
pancakes
potatoes with cheese and onions in the oven
fried eggs
scrambled eggs
crispy --- anything
fried chicken
8 hour, slow baked, pork shoulder, Boston butt
And on, and on...

Basically, I cook a lot, and 90% of what I cook is prepared using one of the two skillets. They never fail me. If you don't have one, Amazon sells them for small money. I would start with a 10 inch:

http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Logic-4-I...

But even more fun, pick up a 100 year old one at a yard sale and give it another 50 years or so.

Do keep in mind that cooking, cleaning, and caring for one is a little different then a regular pan. This site looks pretty respectable with regard to care and use:

http://whatscookingamerica.net/Inform...

Have fun, your food will never taste better.

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  1. v
    Val RE: StriperGuy May 25, 2009 03:42 PM

    I am definitely a FAN of cast iron...scored a 10" frying pan and outrageously heavy dutch oven (both Wagner Ware yet...yay!) from someone who gave up her camping gear a few years ago in the classifieds for $10 <weeping>...one of the *BEST* purchases I have ever made in my life! Love the stuff! For cornbread, you just cannot beat it...heat it up in oven with some bacon fat...when it's hot, pour in your batter, return to oven and then prepare to enjoy a crusty awesome cornbread! Takes you to another dimension altogether!!

    1. l
      lexpatti RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 04:29 AM

      I too love love love cast iron and use it mostly! I have a nice cast iron dutch oven in which chili is the best. my 12 in fryer is for everything. I'm always on the look out for more at 2nd hnd stores, yard sales etc. cast iron muffin tins are the best too - my parents have an antique one that looks like little corn on the cobs.

      1. StriperGuy RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 06:35 AM

        Forgot to mention that the pan my GF picked up was in the $1 bin at one of the antiques dealers.

        1. pointybird RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 10:16 AM

          I totally agree. I now use the nonstick skillets only when both of my cast irons are filled. I have nice big muscles on the backs of my arms from lifting the cast irons and scraping out food, but I've been amazed and delighted by the way both of my pans (10" and 12" as you say, StriperGuy) are so beautifully nonstick from use -- even scrambled eggs scrapes out easily, pancakes release, I get beautiful crusts on my meat and fried potatoes. I love the way they cook so evenly too. One of our pans was my husband's grandmother's and by the time it got to me it was all rusted out. I scoured, seasoned, and then cooked in it a lot. Good as new, well, probably better with its beautiful seasoning.

          1. pointybird RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 10:17 AM

            Oh, and IMO, nothing works for seasoning better than bacon grease. You make one pound of bacon and have enough grease for a whole year or two of keeping the pan seasoned -- assuming you don't start cooking everything in bacon grease as I have.

            1. Infomaniac RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 10:23 AM

              I was at Todd Farm Flea Market this weekend also and picked up a Cast Iron Aebleskiver Pan. I never made or even heard of Aebleskier's but I'm looking forward to trying them.
              Any Aebleskiver suggestions are welcome.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Infomaniac
                StriperGuy RE: Infomaniac May 26, 2009 11:56 AM

                Too funny, you must have beat me to the Aebleskiver Pan. I will confess I saw a cast iron muffin pan, but I NEVER make muffins. And for cornbread, the pans rule.

                To Pointybird above, I agree that pork fat really is awesome for seasoning a skillet. I had some leftover pork shoulder that I was crisping up in the skillet and the fat from it made my pan noticeable happier.

              2. chef chicklet RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 11:31 AM

                Congratulations on your new, erh ah, old and appriciated cookward.
                You want to really have some fun? Get the griddle/grill. I picked one up at hardward store (Lodge is the brand???) and anyway, after a few weeks the piece was perfect. I use it from grilling fish, pancakes, bread/pizza vegetables, frying eggs and bacon & sausage at the same time, and so many other things. I love my large fryer for chicken, period. Nothing beats that pan for fried chicken, and I make a wonerful milk gravy. I use the grill for charring vegetables of all kinds, in a matter of minutes its as though they were on an outside bbq grill. These are just the best, and they stand up to a lot of abuse.

                All my expensive calphalon no matter how careful I was, is scratched. I don't want to even think about where that stuff is. It can't be good for you.
                I've made chicken caccetori, and parm in it. I know people say not to use tomato sauce but I'm diligent to clean it out right away. I love the way it sears a piece of steak, second to the bbq you can't do better.

                1. b
                  Bethcooks RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 01:27 PM

                  Cast iron is the best! I have two of the "little corn on the cob" pans that I got from my mother. She used them for cornbread sticks. They make wonderful crunchy cornbread sticks that look like little ears of corn and are great with chili. Have you ever used them for muffins? I haven't tried them for muffins but if it works, I will.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Bethcooks
                    chef chicklet RE: Bethcooks May 26, 2009 02:51 PM

                    i love those little muffin pans, I really haven't seen them lately. Are they a piece that you can get new or are they strictly something from the past? i love those and always wondered how the cornbread came out. Thanks for sharing!

                  2. j
                    Jibe RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 03:11 PM

                    I agree on the cast iron. I have a cast iron wok that works great, as well as a few frying pans. My mother gave me herdutch oven w/lid a while back because the seasoning was failing. I put it in a fire I made, burned off theold seasoning, and re-seasoned it - It cooks great! I really love having this, since I have a lot of memories of my Mom cooking in it as I gre up. She told me it was her mother's originally, so I figure at a minimum, its 80 years old. Not too may kitchen untensils that are still going strong after 80 years. Don't know how old it was when my Grandmother got it.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: Jibe
                      w
                      wallyz RE: Jibe May 26, 2009 08:20 PM

                      Wow- cast iron wok- those are hard to find in the states, where'd you pick it up? I worked as a server in a Chinese restaurant (in the early 90's small town int he midwest) where the cook was always yelling at the owner about not having cast iron woks. The owner said he could only get hammered steel woks at a reasonable price.

                      1. re: wallyz
                        j
                        Jibe RE: wallyz May 29, 2009 01:45 PM

                        We got our wok about 10 years ago. I believe that its a Lodge. But I just went to their website & couldn''t find it. Probably been discontinued. Shame. Its a great piece of cookware.

                        1. re: Jibe
                          StriperGuy RE: Jibe May 29, 2009 01:56 PM

                          They are VERY hard to find in the U.S.

                          1. re: StriperGuy
                            Politeness RE: StriperGuy May 29, 2009 05:42 PM

                            StriperGuy, anent cast iron woks: "They are VERY hard to find in the U.S."

                            Au contraire, mon cher ami: http://www.kitchensupplydirect.com/TH...
                            http://www.naturalimport.com/castiron
                            http://www.kushistore.com/acatalog/Fr...

                            1. re: Politeness
                              StriperGuy RE: Politeness May 29, 2009 06:25 PM

                              Merci buckets, I think only the last is a cast iron wok.

                              Some googling and I found one other:

                              http://www.simply-natural.biz/Iron_Wo...

                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                Politeness RE: StriperGuy May 29, 2009 06:52 PM

                                StriperGuy: Simply Natural (the link that you provide) and Natural Import (the link that I provided) seem to carry the same Nambu Tetsu* (or Nambu Tekki*) products from Iwachu, often at the same price; sometimes one undersells the other. Competition is good. Simply Natural is incorrect, however, when it suggests that Iwachu is located in Kyoto (western Japan, near Osaka); Iwachu is located in northern Honshu, Morioka.

                                * For what it's worth, in Japanese, "iron" is "tetsu"; "tekki" means "made by" or "source of origin."

                                1. re: Politeness
                                  StriperGuy RE: Politeness May 29, 2009 07:47 PM

                                  Arigato, hai

                                  1. re: Politeness
                                    j
                                    Jibe RE: Politeness May 29, 2009 07:49 PM

                                    Googl - Lodge, cast iron wok. Some results will pop up. Stiil making it, but mine has a single handle. These have 2 smaller side handels. Still......Awsome cookware.

                          2. re: wallyz
                            n
                            Nancy Berry RE: wallyz May 30, 2009 07:11 PM

                            Here's a link to a very good store here in San Francisco that sells cast iron woks in three different sizes. These woks all have two small handles:

                            http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products/...

                            1. re: Nancy Berry
                              StriperGuy RE: Nancy Berry May 31, 2009 07:38 AM

                              Way cool.

                          3. re: Jibe
                            Eleanor Hoh RE: Jibe Jul 2, 2009 02:37 PM

                            I am thrilled to find a community of cast iron enthusiasts because I am one too. Quickly scanning through the comments, I notice most have the heavy skillets or woks. I also inherited a wok from my mom until my hubby dropped it and it broke. But it doesn't take long to start up the patina on a new one, I took a photo of 2 new woks I've been using for just a week and they're already looking good. What most don't realize is that just because a wok is thin walled and lightweight doesn't mean it's not good quality or as good as the big, heavy ones, or shiny designer woks that don't function as well. They think it's inferior or an ugly duckling but for small people like myself, I cannot pick up a 15 pound Lodge wok on a nightly basis! In fact, many complain it's the weight that makes people dread using it! I've been on many of the boards here and just want to disclose I teach wok cooking and market my cast iron wok because it was so difficult to find this particular one in America. I stress that woks are so versatile, you can use it for cooking everything, not just Asian stir frys. It's like an adjustable size pan, so you only need one because you can cook a little or a lot. So, I encourage them to use it as much as possible because it will build up the patina faster.

                            1. re: Eleanor Hoh
                              StriperGuy RE: Eleanor Hoh Jul 2, 2009 07:04 PM

                              I'm a big fan of traditional thin steel woks. But very different then cast iron pan. For searing a steak or baking corn muffins I'll go with cast iron pan. For stir fry give me a good thin wok and heaven forbid the gas burner from a restaurant...

                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                Eleanor Hoh RE: StriperGuy Jul 6, 2009 08:26 PM

                                My thin walled cast iron wok is also traditional and have been used in Asian homes for decades. Carbon steel are mostly used in restaurants because they bang them around and don't break as easily as CI. You don't need a 40K gas stove when cooking homestyle because we don't use a ton of oil in a big wok like a restaurant. Most Asian markets don't stock this particular thin walled, lightweight CI wok anymore because restaurants want carbon steel. I have terrible problems sourcing distributors of this wok and even the spatula. Many folks really appreciate the fact I've put so much thought in getting all the right utensils so they will have success when they start. Unfortunately, not all online retailers are honest and claim they are selling lightweight CI when they are NOT! It's really a disservice to people who don't realize what they are getting into. I've had numerous complain carbon steel rusts easily and food sticks. I have used it myself when I was doing R&D and hate the smell of steel when cooking. Also, it doesn't perform as well as CI when stir frying and end up making my veggies soupy and not crispy, crunchy like CI.

                                1. re: Eleanor Hoh
                                  StriperGuy RE: Eleanor Hoh Jul 6, 2009 08:48 PM

                                  Did not even know a thin CI wok existed... do you have a web site?

                          4. b
                            Bethcooks RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 05:27 PM

                            I think my sister got the cornbread stick pans at Amazon. Alas, I think they are pre seasoned but she has been very happy with them. In addition to lots of other pieces, I own the grill and the griddle - love them both. The square grill pan is great for cooking steak using the restaurant method. [I am new to Chowhound - Is it ok to mention a store or online store in your post? Thanks.]

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Bethcooks
                              l
                              lexpatti RE: Bethcooks May 27, 2009 05:11 AM

                              it's usually ok Beth, they'll let you know if you do something wrong and pull your post. Off subject is usually the case.

                            2. operagirl RE: StriperGuy May 26, 2009 08:42 PM

                              I love cooking in cast-iron, too! I made a spanish tortilla a couple weeks ago that came out perfectly, no sticking whatsoever. That was my first time making something quite that harrowing in cast-iron, and I was very proud of the effort!

                              I was using an antique pan at a friend's house, and it was very smooth on the inside, unlike my pre-seasoned, bumpy Lodge skillet at home. Is there a company that still makes these smooth-on-the-inside cast iron pans?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: operagirl
                                StriperGuy RE: operagirl May 27, 2009 12:34 AM

                                I do think the smooth ones are superior. I have one that is just so amazingly smooth.

                                1. re: operagirl
                                  Politeness RE: operagirl May 27, 2009 11:27 AM

                                  operagirl: "Is there a company that still makes these smooth-on-the-inside cast iron pans?"

                                  Yes. Iwachu. http://naturalimport.com/inc/sdetail/...

                                  Cast iron has been made in the Nambu region (around present-day Morioka) for about 900 years, and has been recognized as the best Japanese ironwork since the Momoyama period (late 16th century). http://wabisabi-world.com/index.php?m...

                                  But it will cost you more than Griswold scored from eBay.

                                  1. re: Politeness
                                    operagirl RE: Politeness May 27, 2009 09:53 PM

                                    Cool, thanks for the link! That pan looks lovely, such nice proportions.

                                2. h
                                  HLing RE: StriperGuy May 27, 2009 12:46 AM

                                  I can't imagine make the stove-top to oven Tarte Tatin without a good cast iron pan.
                                  Recently though, it's been amazing for roasting green coffee beans, as long as there's a good solid lid to match, and the pouring lips on each side. The pan also seem to like the oil from the coffee...at least, that's my preliminary observation.

                                  1. b
                                    Bethcooks RE: StriperGuy May 27, 2009 06:04 PM

                                    Thanks lexpatti. I don't want to begin with an etiquette faux pas. I was trying to decide which cast iron pan/pot/grill/whatever I would keep if I could only have one - decided it would be my 10" skillet. That old pan is so smooth nothing sticks. I purchased some silicone lids in different sizes - perfect for my cast iron. My mother used flat tin lids but I have never been able to find them. What do others use as lids?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Bethcooks
                                      h
                                      HLing RE: Bethcooks May 27, 2009 08:54 PM

                                      The 2 All Clad and a cuisinart pans all have the same size lid that fits my 8 inch Cast Iron.

                                      1. re: Bethcooks
                                        StriperGuy RE: Bethcooks May 28, 2009 12:20 AM

                                        I have a couple of dinky old enameled steel lids that fit well enough.

                                      2. b
                                        Bethcooks RE: StriperGuy May 27, 2009 06:21 PM

                                        Forgot to say - I think that cast iron gets smooth from use and seasoning. My newer cast iron is not nearly as smooth as my old cast iron. Everybody has their own method of caring for cast iron. Mine is to scrub with a copper choreboy and salt, then rub inside with crisco, heat on low heat till warm, wipe out any excess fat and store. Over time this produces a smooth surface.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Bethcooks
                                          Politeness RE: Bethcooks May 27, 2009 06:43 PM

                                          Bethcooks: "I think that cast iron gets smooth from use and seasoning. My newer cast iron is not nearly as smooth as my old cast iron. "

                                          Your second sentence undoubtedly is correct, but the first sentence is far too generous. This year, we finally gave up on a Lodge cast iron skillet that we purhased new in 1980. After TWENTY-NINE (29) years' worth of hard use and purposeful seasoning, it never did get smooth. After getting an old Griswold skillet off eBay, and reacquainting ourselves with how well cast iron COULD cook, we gave the Lodge skillet away.

                                        2. b
                                          Bethcooks RE: StriperGuy May 27, 2009 07:47 PM

                                          Glad you didn't give up on cast iron even after such a rotten experience. I hope yours is an unusual experience. The older stuff is certainly better. Where I live old cast iron is not cheap and is hard to find. I have looked but have never found a bargain on Wagner or Griswold or even old Lodge.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: Bethcooks
                                            MikeB3542 RE: Bethcooks May 31, 2009 12:15 AM

                                            Here's the deal: Griswold and Wagner are OUT OF BUSINESS. That means that more and more people are chasing fewer and fewer pans. If you have one, or can get one (a real one and not some fake of which there are plenty) at a reasonable price, awesome. A thing of beauty, they say, is a joy forever.

                                            Based on my very positive experiences with a 12" skillet I picked up a year ago, I have to say that there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with new Lodge. Love the convenience of the pre-seasoning. And they are making new ones every day.

                                            It took maybe a month before the seasoning was established well enough, and it has been great ever since.

                                            Not entirely comfortable with the assertion that smooth = non-stick. It sure isn't the case with aluminum and stainless! The real key to cast iron happiness is managing the temperature -- nothing will save you if you put your food in a pan that has not had a chance to heat up properly. A spritz or two of PAM and a nice stiff stainless spatula takes care of the rest.

                                            And please check out the Internat'l Dutch Oven Society forums (www.idos.com) -- those folks know their cast iron better than just about anybody.

                                            1. re: MikeB3542
                                              Politeness RE: MikeB3542 May 31, 2009 10:15 AM

                                              MikeB3542: "Not entirely comfortable with the assertion that smooth = non-stick. It sure isn't the case with aluminum and stainless!"

                                              I have been trying to remember my long-ago courses in formal logic, whether you have stated the reverse, the converse, the inverse, the obverse, or the contrapositive of the observations made in this about newer Lodge cast iron. Without reverting to the dusty books, I will just say that the observations have not been that smooth = nonstick but that grainy surface /= nonstick, not QUITE the same proposition. (The software here will not allow me to superimpose the virgule over the equals sign, but you get the idea.)

                                              New grainy surfaced Lodge skillet, purchased new in 1980, and carefully seasoned and used frequently, almost always at moderate heat, for 29 years in our household: never ever came close to becoming non-stick. Old (circa 1940) Erie Griswold skillet purchased in January 2009 on eBay ($16 including shipping), put through the self-cleaning oven cycle twice to take it down to bare metal, than seasoned anew: became slipperier than Teflon on the third or fourth use.

                                              Anecdotal; your mileage may vary; but that was our experience.

                                              1. re: Politeness
                                                StriperGuy RE: Politeness May 31, 2009 10:35 AM

                                                All my pans are old, way, way smooth and amazingly non-stick. I have not used any of the granier lodge pans but have certainly seen them for sale.

                                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                                  d
                                                  Dogpatch RE: StriperGuy Jun 27, 2009 09:49 PM

                                                  Hi, New Member here..Can't turn down the opportunity to talk about cast iron! Just baked a (homegrown grassfed) lamb pot pie in a 12" Dutch over the coals. I'm determined to do everything I can do indoors, outdoors on cast iron and coals. Part of the reason? Big power outage last winter, freezing cold. Haha, thinks I, cook on the old campstove! Not! Propane tank froze up! Have done at least one of just about everything, from spaghetti sauce to raised bread. Not a champion cook, just rustic fare. All my high $ Calphalon warped on the bottom, making it useless on glasstop range (that went to the dump last week, fooey on electronic stoves that burn out when you bake anything over 450 degrees.) There is virtually nothing that can be cooked on a modern range, can't be whipped up on cast iron. Just takes practice! And who doesn't love to practice! Ourdoor kitchen is a Weber kettle and a Dutch oven table, little glass dining table on a covered porch festooned with grapes, overlooking pasture and forest. After dinner lounging on the porch swing with a bottle of cheap Aussie wine. As for that pebbly surface on Lodge, I thought it was just me! Have a grinder with a Scotchbrite pad that will blend anything down to a mirror finish. Pot meets pad tomorrow. Thanks!

                                                  1. re: Dogpatch
                                                    StriperGuy RE: Dogpatch Jun 28, 2009 01:10 AM

                                                    Cool, welcome, I used my 10" pan for corbread this week. Good luck with the grinder.

                                                    1. re: Dogpatch
                                                      pointybird RE: Dogpatch Jun 29, 2009 12:06 PM

                                                      Wow, Dogpatch, that outdoor kitchen sounds pretty idyllic -- invite us over!

                                                      1. re: pointybird
                                                        d
                                                        Dogpatch RE: pointybird Jul 2, 2009 09:07 PM

                                                        Pointybird,
                                                        Come help us with our first-ever pit barbecue this August! Have two freshly harvested grassfed lambs quartered and frozen, ready for the Big Experiment! I should break out the Cast Iron dutch oven and do some sort of cobbler, over the fire! :o) That will test my cast iron IQ! Oh, gosh, why didn't I think of a pot of beans! Buried in the coals with the lamb! We'll be having some bluegrass musicians, and maybe some wagon rides behind some big gorgeous Percheron horses!

                                                        1. re: Dogpatch
                                                          MikeB3542 RE: Dogpatch Jul 2, 2009 10:23 PM

                                                          Nothing wrong with cobbler, but I've cooked some heavenly brownies (cooked in foil pan supported on a trivet) and pineapple upside down cake cooked in a dutch oven. Anyhow, looks like might need one or two more dutch ovens.

                                            2. Ambimom RE: StriperGuy Jun 30, 2009 09:31 AM

                                              I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my cast iron. I gave away every single piece of T-fal and Teflon two weeks ago. I admit it took me a while to learn proper seasoning and cleaning routines for my cast iron and until I did, I wasn't totally convinced, but now....I wouldn't cook on anything else. It has made my cooking 100 times better. Alas, I've tried and tried but I never seem to find those elusive Griswold and Wagner treasures at thrift stores and garage sales. My cast iron is mostly Lodge from Walmart and Target and a cheap three pan set I got at Boscovs for $3 apiece. The more they are used, the more non-stick they become. My first Lodge skillet has the most beautiful patina now, utterly non-stick.. Who knew?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Ambimom
                                                b
                                                BruceMcK RE: Ambimom Jul 2, 2009 07:23 PM

                                                I also like the fact that CI is so versatile. I can use it on a campfire or grill when camping, then just bring it home, wash the soot off the outside and use it again on the stove. I wonder how much All-Clad or Le Creuset gets taken on camping trips. ;-)

                                              2. c
                                                crt RE: StriperGuy Jun 30, 2009 10:36 AM

                                                Here's my collection. I cook just about everything in mine. A properly seasoned cast iron skillet and proper cooking technique & heat for the type of food, nothing will stick.

                                                1. c
                                                  crt RE: StriperGuy Jun 30, 2009 10:38 AM

                                                  Oops clicked the wrong button. My collection below.

                                                   
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