Searching for cast iron? Go Griswold, not Lodge.
Speaking as a somewhat newcomer to cast iron (5ish years?), I have to say that I am ready to toss my Lodge 10" skillet for a Griswold. Especially since I want a 12" skillet, which I think will suit my needs better than the 10", as I often like to cook two steaks at once.
I recently acquired a Griswold #5 on Ebay, for about $15. When I stripped it of its seasoning, it was smooth and beautiful. And so easy to season, compared to my 5-year old Lodge. I covered it with an extremely light layer of peanut oil, a sheen you might say, and stuck it in my pre-heated Weber charcoal grill. It's pretty nice to season a pan without smoking up your entire house. Afterwards, cooked a few batches of bacon in it, and the seasoning is taking nice and smooth. This was a few weeks ago, and my pan can already almost cook eggs with no oil.
Compare this to my Lodge, which has never been quite right. I mean, it was my first cast iron pan, and maybe I messed up its initial seasoning, but I followed instructions culled from these boards to the tee. However, the seasoning's always been a bit bumpy/rough. I shrugged and figured continual use would help even things out. But after seasoning my Griswold and seeing how lovely it is, I decided I definitely should start over on the Lodge. Today I stripped the seasoning off, and was dismayed to find that the iron underneath is quite rough, and that there is a big pockmark in the middle of the pan. I had known the iron was rough, from when I initially got the pan, but I hadn't seen it in 5 years and was comparing it to the Griswold.
I've seen threads suggesting taking a sander to the Lodge in order to smooth out the roughness, but... I just don't want to go through that, especially since I'm not confident in my ability to evenly sand. It's probably not fair to my old Lodge to compare it to a Griswold, which is (I think universally recognized as) a superior cast iron maker. But for people looking into getting their first cast iron, I feel like it's worth the added search to get a Griswold rather than roll the dice on a Lodge. It costs about the same if you find a good deal, and you'll love it so much more. Unless you're a handy person who loves to sand things, in which case, Lodge all the way!
Note: I'm somewhat of a lazy person, and I totally understand that there are lots of people who love their Lodges. With some determination you'll have a lovely Lodge pan. I just lack the resolve, I suppose.
Is your gris a vintage pan ? ( > 50 yrs old) My new lodge had the rough texture you're talking about, and I assumed it was due to the modern casting techniques, alloys, etc. The newer gris I compared to also had the same surface...and I DID sand (grind, really) that rascal,and am very happy with it's performance....it's quite simple, no advanced degree required
I love my Griswold, I have a number 12 skillet, a number 9 griddle and a number 6 skillet, plus their waffler.
However I will say that I also like my Lodge pieces. I was hesitant to buy their aebelskiver pan for the reasons you mentioned, and I couldn't find a Griswold in the condition I wanted for a reasonable price. So I bought the Lodge and I've been happy with it from day one. Only very minor sticking problems the first time I used it and none after that. I also like Lodges pizza pan and I do have one of their large skillets but I don't use it as often as my Griswold.
In my Griswold I make eggs a variety of ways including omelets on a regular basis without any or sometimes 1/4 teaspoon of butter without any sticking. Their glass finish is awesome. Although not all Griswold is the same. The later years are not up to the quality standards of the past.
Excellent op-ed. I have a modern day cast iron skillet (Calphalone brand) and two Lodge cast iron Dutch Ovens. I agree that it is tougher to season a rougher surface cookware than a smoother surface cookware. My smooth deBuyer carbon steel pan is extremely easy to season. I seasoned the smooth DeBuyer pan in one single session (10-20 minuates on stovetop) and it performed nonstick-like after it. Conversely, it took me a few weeks if not a few months to get my Calphalon cast iron skillet to obtain that nonstick-like surface.
However, I do want to point out that there is some advantages of a rougher surface for seasoning. While it is absolutely true that it takes longer to fully season a rougher surface, it also retains the seasoning surface stronger allows it to be more durable - in my experience. The high and low points of the rough surface essentially creates a protecting surface for much of the seasoning. There is no easy way to scratch off much of the seasoning surface from a rough surface, while the same cannot be saved for my very smooth deBuyer carbon steel pan.
I assume the Griswold surface is probably something is between: smoother than most of today cast iron cookware, but rougher than machine spun carbon steel pans.
Thanks for the comments guys! I agree that Lodge can be great. Mine was for a brief period before it became really gunky. I'm not sure what happened, because I always cleaned it with water/bristle brush right after using. I often made steaks and fatty things in it, which I assumed was best for the cast iron. However, I probably messed up somehow. I know lots of people are very happy with their Lodges. I'm very happy with my Lodge combo cooker, which I use to make Tartine sourdough country bread with great results!
However, I do think for someone new to and apprehensive about the seasoning of cast iron, getting a smoother, easier to season pan is a better option. The whole "pre-seasoned" Lodge thing seems rather misleading to me. I had been raving about cast iron to a friend, and finally got her a pre-seasoned Lodge hoping that it would ease her in. I assumed that if you simply cook in it a while, it should take on a smoother seasoning, although I know it's better to remove the pre-seasoning and start from scratch. In retrospect I should have seasoned it for her, because I'm pretty sure it's now sitting unused in her kitchen. When I've asked after it, she says it still sticks and politely changes the topic of conversation. Haha. She loves to cook and is amazing at it, but she's quite intimidated by the seasoning thing. I think this is understandable, especially for a mother with a handful of a toddler + a small NYC apartment that is easily smoked up by anything going on in the kitchen, much less the seasoning of a pan. Next time I'll get her a Griswold and start off the process!
I agree that Lodge's "preseason" is misleading. I consider it even a joke. So my new lodge pans get a good scrubbing with stainless steel wool scrub pad, then I begin my seasoning.
I find my lodge pans to be very 'non stick' after my seasoning process. I season on maybe 4, 5 or maybe even 6 layers before I try to use it. Then I usually bake cornbread in it first. The cornbread with typically stick some on the first use. So I will bake another cornbread. If that does not stick, I am done, if it does, I will bake another one. Once I get it where the cornbread no longer sticks, I start using it for eggs. If they don't stick, I really am done and begin to use it for whatever I want.
After a few uses, I might season another layer. Just depends on how it looks and feels. Anyway, I have no problems with new lodge CI and the roughness. All the new CI brands I have seen have rough surfaces.
I also always use metel utinsils and scrub with a SS scouring pad when needed. I think the scraping of the metal utinsils help to smooth out the surface. I seldom need to scrub the skillet if I will take the time to simmer some water with a lid on the skillet. The water and steam help to get off the cooked on food. It just depends on what I was cooking in the skillet and how big of a hurry I am in.
The suggestion of scrubbing with Kosher salt and oil works great too. I learned that trick on this board. Works like a charm!
Any way. The main reason I like the new cast iron skillets, is because of those helper handles. I find that I seldom use my old smooth cast iron any more, because those helper handles.........well...... thehy don't call them helper handles for nothing. Now I don't have to call my husband in the kitchen to pour out the grease in the bottom of the skillet. LOL
Anyway, if the roughness bothers you, by all mean go for the older CI. There are old lodge skillets that are very smooth too. My old ones are slick as a button. And I got some of them new when they were rough. A few short years of cooking in them every day and they smoothed right out. But then I didn't have a problem with them rough.