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Apr 26, 2010 05:07 PM

Please help me choose my first pieces of cast iron cookware to replace teflon/nonstick pans

My husband and I are trying to minimizing platic, teflon etc. in our cooking. We're hoping we can use cast iron instead of nonstick/teflon cookware that can have a toxic lining.

We will be cooking mainly for two but do sometimes cook large portions for later freezing, for guests, etc. so we don't want something too small. We are looking to start with one pan that can replace our George Foreman girll and one that can replace a nonstick skillet we have. We are vegetarian if that makes any difference in the decision.

I'm thinking to get one of the grill pans and one skillet but have no idea what size to get and if these two choices are good ones. Do I want a deeper skillet (fryer?), or a shallower one, do I need lids also? If so is glass better or cast iron?

I am fairly ignorant when it comes to kitchen equipment and terms so any advice here would be much appreciated both in terms of cast iron products and in terms of using less toxic cookware and kitchen equipment in general.

Thank you!

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  1. Are you the same person who posted on this:

    Look like you two are asking exactly the same thing if you are two different person.

    Either way, I won't say Telfon is toxic-toxic. However, a cast iron skillet will perform quiet nicely when compared to a nonstick pan for many applications. Because a cast iron pan can be very heavy, you should not get any larger than necessary. I think 10" diameter is a fairly good start, but you can go for 12" if you think you will need it. I don't think you need a cover for a fry pan or skillet. For a dutch oven, sure.

    Another material you can look for is carbon steel. Carbon steel cookware are generally thinner and therefore lighter in comparison. Both cast iron and carbon steel cookware will require you to season the cooking surface and maintain this "patina" surface. I don't think being a vegetarian would make any difference. Though I have to say vegetables tend to not stick to the cookware as much, so the requirement for seasoning the cookware is less demanding. Best.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I agree with the above regarding the size, 10" is a great size to start with. Lodge Cast iron is affordable and great way to get into cast iron. Le Creuset is the standard but Lodge is durable and great brand to start with. A cast iron skillet and a dutch oven will be great, flexible pieces.

      1. re: foofur

        I agree on the 10" size, yet since Lodge pans are sand cast (allowing for their affordability), their surface is covered with little bumps. These do not present much of a problem except in some cases of egg and fish cookery, where I have experienced a bit of sticking.

        I finally broke down and invested in a Le Creuset pan, which is hammered or forged (I'm not a blacksmith believe it or not so I don't know the exact term) making these pans much more expensive, yet smoother. I have found that this pan is well worth the investment, since I plan (hope) that my grandchildren will still be using it.

        And the Le Creuset pans come in fun colors :)

        1. re: benoit48

          I checked those out, but the price... Might also break down at some point in the future but for now it's not in my budget. The Lodge products look good to me. Thanks for the feedback.

        2. re: foofur

          What is the Dutch oven used for that the skillet couldnt do? Thank you!

          1. re: notquitethereyet


            I wrote two examples below, see if you agree.

        3. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Thank you. No I am not that same person. This is my first post here.

          I've never heard of carbon steel, will definitely look into it.

          I wondered about a Dutch over too and wonder what it can be used for that a skillet wouldn't be able to do.

          Anyway thanks for your info. I'm not sure how toxic teflon is or isn't but rather just be on the safe side. Thanks.

          1. re: notquitethereyet


            Just curious. Well, Lodge offers three lines of cast iron, something to think about:




            Well, I think it almost goes the other way, a Dutch oven can cook every a skillet can, even poorly, while a skillet cannot cook everything a Dutch Oven can. Think cooking a whole chicken in a Dutch Oven or a Dutch Oven full of gumbo.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              And as a vegetarian, would hte Dutch oven be equally helpful, since I won't be cooking chicken, fish etc? If so maybe I should just get that then for now and skip the skillet?

              Also the link posted above to a similar thread, the conversation there seemed to lean toward a grill pan being unnecessary. Most seemed to think a skillet could do the same that a grill pan could do. Is this true?

              And if I get a skiller should I get a deep one, I think it was called a fryer or a more shallow?

              Thanks so much for your links and info above.

              1. re: notquitethereyet


                I see your points. A flat skillet is a lot more versatile than a grilled pan. A grilled pan is a more specialized tool in comparison, but I won't say a flat skillet can do everything a grilled pan can. So if you have to get only one, definite a cast iron plain skillet. A Dutch Oven can be useful depending on your cooking style. For example, in making gumbo, I can shallow fry and grill the chopping onion before before the liquid. In short, you can nicely brown your foods first. This is especially useful for meats, but not limited to them.

                Since you are new to cast iron cookware, maybe you should start with one and add addtional ones as you see fit.

                Come to think of it? Have you considered a stainless steel fry pan? A lot of people like stainless steel cookware. The great thing about stainless steel is that they are nonreactive, so they are easy to care for. Carbon steel is another option. DeBuyer is a famous brand, but there are cheaper carbon steel cookware.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Thanks so much for the advice. I think I probably will start with a skillet. Then add more if that one works out well. I heard so many good things about cast iron but will definitely look into stainless steel too. I'd read that some of the metal could leach out if if gets stracthed and such but don't really know much about it.

                  Sorry to keep asking this but when I get a skillet does it matter if it's shallow or a deeper one, a fryer? I'm not sure if it matters or if one is more versatile than the other. Thank you!

                  1. re: notquitethereyet

                    No problem. I would start with a shallow typical skillet. I think of a chicken fryer or the deep skillet as something in between a Dutch Oven and a skillet. Consequently, it allows you to cook a small potful of foods, whereas a skillet cannot. However, the additional height makes it a poorer skillet. It makes it difficult to use utensils and it slows down evaporation.

                    The fryer is too much in between a skillet and a Dutch Oven. Let's say you turn out to like your cast iron fryer, then you will want to buy a regular skillet for pan frying and a Dutch Oven for slow cooking, and the chicken frying will be relatively useless. And if you turn out to dislike the cast iron fryer, then it is also more difficult to sell or give away than a skillet. It just isn't as popular as the other two cookware.

                    Let's look at Amazon . com for the Lodge Logic cookware. Sorting by Bestselling, you can see many skillets and Dutch Oven on the first page. You don't get to the fryer until the second page.


                    This is not to say a deep skillet is useless. Some people find it very useful, but most people find a shallow skillet more useful.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Thank you so much. I think I'll start with a shallow skillet then maybe later a Dutch over. I also like the advice others gave of using an older model or a thrift store fine but am concerned about meat having been in the pans. Thanks for all your help!

        4. Go to your local thrift shop, dollars to donuts they'll have a nice collection of cast iron cookware on hand. Like others have said, try to pick up a 10 or 12" skillet to start with.

          Once you've got your skillet, come back and we'll all tell you how to clean and season it just like if it was bought brand new.

          1. notquitethereyet, I wish to strike a discordant note to those who recommend new Lodge cast iron. We grew up with cast iron in our home and when we got married, we purchased a new Lodge cast iron skillet. For 29 years, we tried to make that thing cook like the cast iron we remembered from our childhood and later. We studied all the materials and advice about seasoning, and tried all of them sooner or later. We tried; really, we tried. Finally, a little over a year ago, we broke down and bought an old cast iron Griswold skillet off of eBay, for under $20, even with the shipping included. We cleaned it up when we got it (put it through a cuycle in the self-cleaning oven), and re-seasoned it. It worked right away, and was just like the cast iron we remembered from our youth.

            If you go shopping on eBay, stick to Griswold made in Erie (if the auction does not mention "Erie," pass), and watch for the magic phrase "sits flat." Avoid the collector's items (they usually discuss items such as "large logo" or "slant logo" and have prices over $50); they do not cook any better, but are valued as antiques. Follow this advice and search for ThreeGigs's posts on seasoning on this board, and you are guaranteed success.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Politeness

              ipsedexit and politeness,

              thank so much for the idea of trying an older brand. my concern is that as a vegetarian the products may have meat incorporated in them from past cooking and seasoning.

              1. re: notquitethereyet


                I think "may" is an understatement. Not only because most people cooked meats in these vintage cookware, but also because lard is the the traditional method of seasoning a cast iron cookware. It is believed that lard produces a better seasoning surface, but of course lard violates the vegetarians practice, Kosher lifestyle, Islamic principle....on and on.

                The Lodge cast iron cookware already has been seasoned with vegetable oil. If possible I would season the cookware one more time before using it. Best.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Thanks Chemicalkinetics,

                  If I could get an unused old model that would be great to try but I agree with you that the meat will almost certainly have been in models that are already used. So I think I will go with Lodge, and season once more as you suggested. Thanks.

                  And thanks everyone for the great feedback.

                  1. re: notquitethereyet

                    Honestly, if you clean the skillet properly using methods like lye tank, electrolysis, or just running it through a self-cleaning oven, any meat particles would be taken off. The skillet would be as though it was never used before. There are some great WAGS sellers on ebay who already cleaned and seasoned the skillets for you. Just ask them what oil they used to season it if you're worried about meat. Most season with some kind of vegetable oil. I used lodge for several months and then bought a wagner off of Ebay. The non-stick properties from just one or two coats of seasoning is amazing.

                    1. re: Eivuwan

                      You'll never be able to get the lightness and smoothness of an older skillet, in a new model. If you like, I can recommend some very trustworthy sellers from the Wagner and Griswold Society, for you to contact (I'm a member, too, but don't sell stuff) about purchasing a skillet. Unless you're prevented by religious dictates from even the remote possibility that you'll encounter meat residues, I don't see how cast iron that's been thoroughly cleaned and stripped down to bare metal, and then re-seasoned with vegetable oil, should be a problem.

                      Here's where you can seek more information: