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New to the world of cast iron cooking.....oh, where to begin!

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bigdogs Mar 12, 2010 08:57 AM

I just splurged and bought a cast iron pot at a thrift store.

It was a huge undertaking for me to buy it but not because of it's purchase price (it was from, afterall, a thrift store) but I was very hesitant to buy it because of the intimidation factor of cooking on "CAST IRON".

So after much searching online, I've identified my new pot as a "dutch oven camping pot". It's a relatively small round pot with 3 tiny little legs, a lid, and a round wire handle. I have no idea what brand, how old, whether it was well cared for at it's former home (homes), etc. It had a little surface rust which I easily cleaned off and, as we speak, it's in my oven, covered in a light layer of Crisco, smokin' up house.

What I've also come across in my online travels is *considerable* contradictory information about the care for cast iron.

I bought this pot to use while camping (the 5-10 times a year that we go) but I had also planned on using it at home. I have a glass top electric stove. Can I, or can I not, use it on the stove top. It has the little legs that will prevent it from making full contact on the burner but I have read conflicting opinions about whether it can be use.

Also, does brand matter? Buying second hand, I can't find any markings on the pot that would help me - or someone that knows about cast iron, to identify the brand. Before I buy anymore, does brand matter? Or is cast iron cast iron, regardless of it's original price.

Any information would SO be appreciated. Thanks in advance!!

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    Beckyleach RE: bigdogs Mar 12, 2010 09:32 AM

    I'm afraid that the legs on the "camp oven" (to distinguish it from other dutch ovens) will not allow you to cook on the stove top with this piece...but it's still a nice purchase and great for camping!

    If you can describe any markings it may have, to me (numbers, symbols, etc.) I'll try and ID it for you...

    Does brand matter? Well, if you want American made products, Lodge is the only remaining company still making cast iron here in the U.S. For me, it's AGE that's the determining factor, as nearly ANYTHING made prior to 1960--1950 is even better--will be smoother--they were machine polished in the olden days--and lighter---the quality of the iron and casting allowed for much lighter weight cookware, than today. I have a 120 year old 12 inch ERIE (pre-Griswold) cast iron skillet that is about HALF the weight of a comparable modern day Lodge. With my arthritic wrists, that's a very valuable distinction!

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      lisafaz RE: bigdogs Mar 12, 2010 09:35 AM

      I have one with three legs, and I use it on my gas stove at home with no problems. I also use it in the oven... GREAT for no-knead bread. Also, if you get a skillet, make steaks: http://www.nolafoodie.com/id36.html
      you'll NEVER want steak any other way again.
      Don't put acidic things like tomatoes in a cast iron pot, never wash with soap (I use a scraper, scrub with salt & hot water, the dry immediately), and you can just go to town with it! A well-seasoned cast iron pot or skillet is a joy!

      1 Reply
      1. re: lisafaz
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        chuckl RE: lisafaz Mar 12, 2010 10:43 AM

        I think the difference in your scenarios is the flat glass cooking surface vs gas. You can probably get your pot hot with the gas flames, but those little feet are going to prevent the surface of the poster's pot from coming into full contact with the heat source, so it's probably not going to heat properly on the glass electric stove. That said, cooking with cast iron is very cool and not nearly as difficult as all the competing posts make it seem.

      2. Politeness RE: bigdogs Mar 12, 2010 10:41 AM

        bigdogs: "Buying second hand, I can't find any markings on the pot that would help me - or someone that knows about cast iron, to identify the brand."

        Chowhound allows posting of photos. If you have a digital camera, posting a pic of the pot here may help others to identify it.

        1. Ambimom RE: bigdogs Mar 12, 2010 01:58 PM

          The secret to cast iron, is to use it!

          The advice offered by lisafaz is excellent. The more you use it, the better it becomes.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Ambimom
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            bigdogs RE: Ambimom Mar 12, 2010 03:59 PM

            Everyone, thank you so much for your help so far!! I took several pictures, especially of the couple of possible identifying marks. I would appreciate any information that anyone could pass along.

            The only true marking is in photo #2 of the underside of the lid. (And being a thrift store find, there's no guarantee that the lid is original to this pot.) The only other markings would be bumps in a circular pattern on the underside of the pot itself .

            I'm not particular that it be American made. I just want good quality. Although that said, my husband has put the paranoid little bug in my head that, not knowing it's history or origin, it may be made out of a undesirable metal/material and may not be food safe. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

            And a quick question about not being able to cook anything acidic in the pots. I saw on another cast iron website a recipe for chili. Would that not be considered acidic being that it has tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc. in it?

            Please forgive my poor "seasoning" job as seen in the pictures. I guess I need to redo it, specifically on the lid. It came out shiny and when I was rubbing away; the excess shortening, the thick layer scraped off leaving it dull. Think I need to do it again or will the dullness cook itself away over time. Thanks so much. Marci

             
             
             
             
            1. re: bigdogs
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              Beckyleach RE: bigdogs Mar 12, 2010 04:40 PM

              Well, you've stumped me, so I linked your photos over on the Wagner and Griswold Society forum. If those cast iron fans can't ID your pot, probably nobody can. ;-) I'll let you know asap...

              1. re: Beckyleach
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                Beckyleach RE: Beckyleach Mar 12, 2010 08:01 PM

                AND we have an answer! : "The lid is from a Franklin Bean Pot. This was made by BS&R for Atlanta Stoves." The weren't sure if the bottom was a perfect match, or not.

                The BS & R stands for Birmingham Stove and Range, and the company did business under the Atlanta Stove Works name from 1889 to 1957.

          2. MikeB3542 RE: bigdogs Mar 12, 2010 09:31 PM

            Wondering what size it is. Most camp oven recipes are set up for 10-inch (4 qt) and 12-inch (6 qt) ovens. Smaller ovens are available, and are suited for solo campers and couples.

            My best advice is to just use it. Bread, rolls, biscuits cobblers and the like are a snap. Pizza, yup. And stews and chili. I have a "deep" 12-inch oven (8-qt) that I can do roasts in. Even a small one would do a nice job with a game hen.

            Check out www.idos.org.

            For messy dishes, strongly recommend lining with aluminum foil, or better yet, dutch oven or slow cooker liners.

            Heat control: for 350F, estimate quantity of charcoal briquettes thusly:
            -multiply diameter of the lid by 2 and add one. This will be the total quantity of coals. (e.g. a 12-inch oven needs 25 briquettes
            )-put one third of the coals under the oven. Arrange the briquettes in a circle, towards the outside of the oven bottom. The rest of the briquettes are distributed evenly on the top of the lid.
            -every 10 minutes, turn the pot 1/4 turn clockwise and then turn the lid 1/4 turn counter-clockwise.
            -If cooking time more than say 1/2 hour, make sure you have a fresh batch of coals started.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MikeB3542
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              bigdogs RE: MikeB3542 Mar 13, 2010 02:16 PM

              Thank you Beckyleach for passing the pictures on to what is seemingly a collection of Cast Iron Experts!! Now I wish I knew for sure that the lid was original to the pot. The fits on top perfectly but it does seem to be an ever so slightly different material than the lid so I'm not thinking it is a true match.

              After posting the photos, I realized that the pictures made it very tough to tell the true size of the pot. I've attached 2 more pictures that should help. It's not a big one. Maybe 3 quarts.

              And for my biggest concern before I use it - not knowing it's history, is there ever a time when the pots are made out of toxic/less than desireable materials? I've read about some pots being manufactured in China and I've thrown out enough of my children's recalled or potentially riddles with lead toys to be sufficiently paranoid.

              Does anyone have any knowledge of this?

              Thanks.
              Marci

               
               
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