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Feb 20, 2011 08:31 PM

Why bother stripping cast iron when you can buy a new pan for so little money?

At the risk of being flamed or misunderstood once again, I ask...

Why bother stripping cast iron when you can buy new for so little money?

A brand new Lodge Logic 12" skillet costs less than $20. A box of lard is less than $3. For $20, you're off to the races.

And yet, people fool with oven cleaner, lye, and scrub for hours.

Why bother?

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  1. Not all cast iron is created equal is my reply. Just because it's new, easy and cheap does not make a better item.

    1. Partly has to do with emotional attachment. Partly has to do with the preseasoning on the brand new cast iron cookware are usually not great. I stripped down the original seasoning surfaces from both of my Lodge Dutch Ovens.

      1. I always thought the easiest way to strip a skillet is to stick it on the self-cleaning cycle which is essentially free (if you were going to do it anyway) and no work at all. So I saved $20 in any case.

        2 Replies
        1. re: DGresh

          you can crack your pan in the self-cleanin cycle of an oven. probably not, but could so why take the chance?
          the oven cleaner way works and depending on your tolerance, is not a lot of work. like cleaning an oven, but you don't have to reach in there, lol.
          there are instructions all over the web for doing it that way.
          i find it very easy, but usually unnecessary. mostly just use the old ones the way i bought them. seasoned and ready to go!

          1. re: DGresh

            I'm with DGresh. The self cleaning cycle. I've brought some cruddy gunk covered but otherwise great pans back to life that way. I got a terrific Griswold skillet in a thrift shop. A very old one made in Erie PA. It was so disgusting looking people were passing it by. It is a 10" and does great fried chicken.

          2. I love my cast Iron pans. All were made before 1970, and many before 1930. The reason I have old pans is not that because of emotional attachment, but because of the quality of the pans. New lodge pans are useless. The casting is such that you could grate your nails on the surface, regardless of seasoning, such a pan will never become non-stick. The pans I have were made in America (Sidney, Ohio and Erie, PA) and have a glass-smooth bottom. The additional time spent restoring these pans will be made up for every time I cook in them and don't have to struggle with sticking food, and again every time I clean the pans simply by scraping them clean with a spatula and hanging them back up. I have talked to several people who say they don't like cooking in their cast iron pans. Further conversation often reveals that they own new, lodge-type pans, with rough surfaces and are trying to use a plastic spatula. To experience cast-iron the way it was meant to be used, you will need an old skillet and a nice thin metal spatula with a flat, sharp edge. No food stands a chance of sticking against such a combination. You may be able to buy a new lodge pan for $20, but it will be of poor quality and could actually turn you against all cast iron. I should also note that the "hours of scrubbing and use of oven cleaner" is often an exaggeration; only in the case of one pan have I had to go so far to restore it. Often, soaking in hot soapy water, scrubbing with a steel wool and some boiling out, will leave you with a pan that is ready to be seasoned. Old cast iron is so smooth already that really only a light seasoning will do, with some pans I have simply put them on the burner on high and wiped a little coconut oil on the surface once they are hot, and I have never had a problem with the seasoning. I suggest you find something old and beautiful that is well-made and you will love using it.

            6 Replies
            1. re: motownbrowne

              Great point. I've heard people talk about how great old CI pans are, but usually focus on the seasoning, not the quality of the pan.

              Mine are old enough to be high quality, and they belonged to my grandparents, so I'm doubly attached to them.

              1. re: Pylon

                I should also mention that besides the family heirloom method of obtaining pans, very high quality pans can often be had at garage sales, antique stores, etc. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can find some great deals, many in fact less than $20. Other than our waffle maker and our dutch oven, I haven't paid more than $20 for a piece of cast iron, and with the exception of the elusive Griswold #2, I don't think I ever would.

                1. re: motownbrowne

                  Last year I went to an antique tractor show that had a large flea market. You could get a set of 4 cast iron fry pans for $20!

                  1. re: scritch

                    I wrote about this on another thread but in my area of PA, every farm house has a pile of cast iron collecting dust in the basement. If the owner is lucky, it goes for a $1 or $2 a piece at auction. Often, the auctioneers will throw pieces in with box lots just to move it along. (this is true for the frying pans, I haven't seen a dutch oven in years so they are either rare back in the day or people still use them)

              2. re: motownbrowne

                I was going to say the same thing! I have almost two full sets handed down from my grandparents. They're 1930's era Griswolds from Erie and are amazing. The story in the family is that when the pans needed stripped my grandfather worked in the steel mills in Pittsburgh and would take the pans to the mill and fire them red hot and bring them home to be re-seasoned. The quality of the iron is radically different than the Lodge and similar pans. The pans I'm using release better than any non-stick I've ever seen and a joy to cook with.

                I'm surprised not more people have mentioned the recent Cooks Illustrated article regarding seasoning - it seems pretty solid:

                So in answer to the OP - I keep mine for sentimental reasons as well as quality reasons. It's great to have such a useful tool that also brings great memories and history.

                1. re: Strangewine

                  strangewine: There is a long recent thread about the CI seasoning "method". It is less miraculous in reported results than you would expect.

                  "The quality of the iron is radically different than the Lodge and similar pans."

                  What do you mean by this, exactly? Is it the iron itself, or the casting? My understanding is that Griswolds and Wagners are prized because their cooking surfaces were machined very smooth, and are of different thickness from all that came after. I would appreciate knowing if you think the pig iron was different/superior, along with an explanation as to why. Thanks.

              3. Yeah just throw it away... some land fill somewhere needs another cast iron skillet that will never decompose.

                2 Replies
                1. re: J.Dish

                  It's called recycling. Look into it.

                  1. re: NotJuliaChild

                    Perhaps you should into the contents of what people are saying. They strip and reuse old cast iron, because
                    A) It is a better product. Look at a Griswold pan from the 1930's and look at a today's Lodge. It is like comparing a Dalton China to a dollar store plastic plate. Hell, why wash a plate when you can buy a cheap dollar one each day?
                    B) it is already here, not needing to use resources to make throw away cheap others. Which BTW is what true recycling is! Use what you have as long as you have and can so you do not need to do anything more to remake it into another product,.

                    Look into it, You might actually learn something.