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Bare cast iron vs enameled cast iron - which is better?

c
cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 02:26 PM

I'm trying to add to my collection of good cookware and bakeware products. Currently, I have an enameled 6 qt Le Creuset dutch over and a bare cast iron griddle. I want to add to my collection. From my previous posts, I have learned that for making sauce, I should use something like All-Clad and not cast iron (enameled or bare)? But what are the differences between bare cast iron and enameled cast iron? Is enameled best for cooking at low temperatures? So that includes any type of meats with a sauce (which is why I bought my french oven)? Anything else?

What about frying pans? Is it best to go with bare cast iron here?

What about bakewear? Is LC enameled cast iron best here?

Is buying an LC enamel-on-steel stockpot a bad idea? Is All-Clad better in this case?

When using enameled cast iron or bare cast iron, what type of cooking utensils should you use to protect the cookware?

Finally, are there any oven mitts that you recommend over others? Or just get any that protect you up to 500F?

Thank you!

  1. r
    rosemarie365 Dec 18, 2011 09:30 AM

    I've been cooking for around 50 years now and used/use it all EXCEPT I will never use non stick cookware. In my opinion, I think a well seasoned, well milled cast iron pot/pan serves me better than an enamel-over-iron piece. When I bake a certain potato recipe, high heat, I have better results, less sticking with the cast iron. I would never, however, cook a sauce, especially tomato, in cast iron. I like my enameled or stainless steel pots for that. Just my preference. Also, I cannot over emphasize that you can 'season' a cast iron 'till you're blue in the face but if it properly milled (smooth inside bottom).....you will never be happy with it.

    1. c
      CharlieTheCook Oct 7, 2011 01:16 PM

      Flavor ghosting is the quintessential problem with plain cast iron IMO (maybe my palate is too sensitive) - everything you've ever cooked in one of those pans, especially bacon and the standard aromatics, seems to hang around forever causing the development of an unwanted 'house flavor' to everything cooked in the pan.

      Enameling the cast iron goes a long, long way in eliminating this problem.

      1. c
        catdoc46 Oct 2, 2011 12:13 PM

        I have a combo of just about everything.

        1. I like enameled cast iron for Dutch ovens for long, slow roasting or simmering at low to moderate heat.

        2. Stainless steel or copper for moderate to higher heat cooking.

        3. Cast iron (purchased bare and then seasoned) when I really crank up the heat like pan-frying steaks, pancakes, frying eggs in fat, etc.

        I DO NOT like nonstick cookware. I bought an expensive piece of nonstick Le Crueset and I never use it. The best piece of non-stick cookware I have is a well-seasoned cast iron skillet.

        1. c
          cutipie721 Oct 2, 2011 10:09 AM

          Check out Regalware cookware as well. Tri-ply fully clad. Made in USA. Very affordable too.

          http://www.cutleryandmore.com/usa-mad...

          1. BIGGUNDOCTOR Oct 1, 2011 04:47 PM

            You don't need a lot of fancy pans to cook with. Look at what a majority of the restaurants use in the cook line. You will see lots of Wear Ever plain aluminum pots, pans, and bare cast iron griddles. Even in the high end restaurants.

            Baked goods like bread, etc turn out fine in plain old tin pans like the ones made by EKCO. Pyrex, or Corningware does fine for the rest like lasagna.

            I have some old cast iron pans (Griswold, and Wagner) that I inherited from Mom. I use them the most. I also have a bunch of Mom's Revere Ware SS pots, and pans that I like.

            The difference between cast iron, and steel is the carbon content, and manufacturing process. Cast iron is just that, cast iron. Steel is cast iron that has had the carbon removed, then added back to the desired amount needed for the alloy. Steel also has various other elements (copper, manganese, silicon, tin, molybdenum, vanadium, chromium, etc) added to it to modify the workability, or intended use IE: tool steel, spring steel, free machining , structural, heat resistant, etc. Steel can also be run through rolling mills to further modify the grain structure, and be formed into various shapes, and sheets. Cast iron is brittle whereas rolled steel items can be bent easily without breaking.

            Enamel is a coating of glass, and can chip if impacted.

            Start slow, go to a thrift store, and buy some pots, and pans to try out. The thrift stores in Las Vegas have a big selection of cookware, at decent prices. Also look on Craigslist, and check out some garage sales for cookware.

            In the end it does not matter what we like, it is what you like. Some folks do not like the weight of cast iron. I prefer items made in the USA, and leave Chinese items on the shelf. I all depends on what you like. Also see if any of your friends have some pots, pans that they would be willing to let you try out before buying.

            3 Replies
            1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR
              c
              cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 08:31 PM

              Oh, and a good frying pan for making eggs and omelets (something non-stick-- I hear cast iron can be difficult)...

              1. re: cmm3
                Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 09:21 PM

                By the way, I should not have said that cast iron is not good for eggs. I actually like it. The heat may be slightly difficult to control and the surface is not very even, but the nonstick property of a bare cast iron skillet is actually not bad for frying an egg or two.

                1. re: cmm3
                  BIGGUNDOCTOR Oct 3, 2011 08:06 PM

                  I don't have any probs with eggs in the cast iron pans I have. A TV cook years ago showed how to season a CI frying pan with salt, and when he was done he cooked an egg in it. The fried egg was sliding around in it like it was on ice.

                  Again, I will just say to take it slow, you don't need everything at once.

                  The cookie sheets I use the most are some my Dad made when he was in the Air Force. They are made from CRES (corrosion resistant steel) and I love them. They are essentially a flat sheet with one end bent up about 1/2" Being flat makes them really easy to slide the cookies off with a spatula ,and onto the cooling rack. Being steel you can scrap the stuck on parts with a spatula, and not worry about gouging it. The rest of my baking pans are mostly vintage EKCO tin pans.

              2. iluvcookies Oct 1, 2011 04:32 PM

                Bare cast iron for a frying pan... season it and it will serve you well for years.

                Enameled cast iron for a dutch oven... I find it easier to clean and I'd rather not deal with seasoning such a large pot. Plus, I can use it for chili and not worry about it being reactive to the tomatoes.

                Clad stainless steel or Anodized aluminum for general cooking.

                I have a LC enameled stainless stockpot and I love it for boiling water for pasta and making chicken stock.

                For baked ziti, lasagna, etc I prefer a 9x13 Pyrex pan.

                For baking cakes I use professional aluminum cake pans (Wilton makes these).

                Potholders? What are those? I use a folded over DRY kitchen towel. Emphasis on DRY.

                As for utensils, wooden spoons will rarely scratch any cooking surface.

                1. danbuter Oct 1, 2011 04:02 PM

                  If you're cooking lots of tomato sauces or other acidic foods, I'd recommend ceramic. If it's for meats and cornbread, go with bare cast iron.

                  1. Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 02:35 PM

                    "I have learned that for making sauce, I should use something like All-Clad and not cast iron (enameled or bare)?"

                    For delicate sauce, more or less yes in term of your general idea, but I won't say it has to be All Clad brand. Other brands work just fine.

                    ""But what are the differences between bare cast iron and enameled cast iron?"

                    You have stated that you have both cookware. You should have a very good hands-on experience.

                    "Is enameled best for cooking at low temperatures?"

                    For slow cooking at low and medium temperatures.

                    "What about frying pans? Is it best to go with bare cast iron here?"

                    Depending what you want to do with your frying pans, but if you want to cook/sear at high temperature, yes.

                    "What about bakewear? Is LC enameled cast iron best here?"

                    Depending what you want to bake

                    "Is buying an LC enamel-on-steel stockpot a bad idea? Is All-Clad better in this case?"

                    I would say neither. Stockpot is stockpot. You can go cheaper on a stockpot.

                    "When using enameled cast iron or bare cast iron, what type of cooking utensils should you use to protect the cookware?"

                    Enameled cast iron -- I use soft utensils like wood and plastic. Bare cast iron -- I use anything including metal utensils.

                    39 Replies
                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                      c
                      cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 02:48 PM

                      For delicate sauce, more or less yes in term of your general idea, but I won't say it has to be All Clad brand. Other brands work just fine."

                      What material is All-Clad? It's a copper clad stainless steel material, right? What other brands would work for a delicate sauce (what makes something 'delicate')? Is stainless steel in general okay?

                      What is considered 'slow cooking'?

                      "Depending what you want to do with your frying pans, but if you want to cook/sear at high temperature, yes."

                      When would you want to cook on the stove at low temperatures?

                      ""What about bakewear? Is LC enameled cast iron best here?"

                      Depending what you want to bake"

                      Can you give some examples? I am new to cooking for myself (beyond heating up noodles and a jar of sauce). As you can see, I don't know many of the basics yet...

                      1. re: cmm3
                        Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 02:57 PM

                        "What material is All-Clad? It's a copper clad stainless steel material, right? What other brands would work for a delicate sauce (what makes something 'delicate')? Is stainless steel in general okay?"

                        All-Clad has several series and has the copper core you mentioned. However, the most famous series from All Clad is aluminum core, like this one:

                        http://www.victorsfood.com.au/images/extras/sstech_diagram.gif

                        http://www.allclad-stainless.com/home.php

                        "What other brands would work for a delicate sauce (what makes something 'delicate')? "

                        Another decent triply (stainless steel-aluminum-stainless steel) cookware will work just the same. Copper core or copper based cookware will be even better in theory.

                        "Is stainless steel in general okay?"

                        Full stainless steel or cladded stainless steel? Full stainless steel cookware is probably not so great for making sauce due to heat spots.

                        "What is considered 'slow cooking'?"

                        I don't think there is a hard definition, but something which you cook for more than an hour is slow cooking in my definition. Maybe even 30 minutes.

                        "When would you want to cook on the stove at low temperatures?"

                        Well, if you are going to fry an egg or something delicate, then you probably don't want your pan very hot -- just one example. On the other hand, if you want to make blackened fish or something, then you will want the pan at very high temperature for the initial searing.

                        "Can you give some examples? I am new to cooking for myself (beyond heating up noodles and a jar of sauce). As you can see, I don't know many of the basics yet..."

                        To be honest, I don't think Le Creuset or any enameled cast iron cookware as being great bakeware. No one is going to (or should) bake you cookies or a cake in an enameled cast iron cookware. On the other hand, there is one recipe which call for enameled cast iron Dutch Oven. -- the no knead bread (Skip to 2:55 min if you like):

                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13Ah9E...

                        Do you know what you want to bake? In short, I think enameled cast iron can be used as a bakeware, but I won't buy enameled cast iron cookware just to bake -- aside from no knead bread.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                          c
                          cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 03:12 PM

                          Thanks!

                          What I'd bake? For example, baked ziti. Ravioli. Stuff like that? Maybe that isn't technically baking? I'm not too sure.

                          So, to make eggs, enameled cast iron would be better than bare? Any other type that is recommended for eggs?

                          1. re: cmm3
                            Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 03:18 PM

                            "For example, baked ziti. Ravioli."

                            I see. I would think that many bakeware will work very well, including enameled cast iron cookware. The beauty of an enameled cast iron cookware is not the fact that it is a better bakeware than a metal or glass bakeware. Rather the selling point of an enameled cast iron cookware is that you can cook in it on stovetop and then bring it into oven -- you don't need to transfer the foods from one cookware to one bakeware. Again, it isn't better.

                            "So, to make eggs, enameled cast iron would be better than bare? Any other type that is recommended for eggs?"

                            Actually, I would think bare cast iron or bare carbon steel pans work better because they are more "nonstick". Between the two, I think bare carbon steel is better because it is usually thinner and therefore has better heat response. A seasoned cast iron or a seasoned carbon steel pan is more nonstick than an enameled cast iron cookware. Of course, a lot of people will tell you that Teflon nonstick pan is still the best for eggs. Even people who hate Teflon nonstick in general will say that they still prefer it for eggs.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                              c
                              cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 03:23 PM

                              Thanks! I was reading somewhere else that it was recommended to get "enameled steel"... do you know what kind of material they are talking about specifically? I am not sure if my translation was correct ("enameled steel") but I know they are talking about enamel on some sort of metal, but I am unsure which. Any ideas? What are some American companies that enamel steel?

                              Thank you very much!

                              1. re: cmm3
                                Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 03:44 PM

                                "enameled steel"

                                I think enameled steel is just like what you said. Enameled coating applied to carbon steel. There are plenty American companies which sell these, but not many are made in US. For example, this Rachel Ray enameled steel cookware set is most likely made in China:

                                http://www.cutleryandmore.com/rachael-ray-cookware/enameled-steel-premier-cookware-set-p113401

                                Chantal is famous for its enameled steel cookware, and Chantal is a US based company, but its enameled cookware is mainly made in China. Not that I have anything against China, but I wasn't sure if you want the American companies or American manufacturers, so I just want to be clear.

                                Now, Chantal has a copper series. I don't know how thick the copper is, but if it is somewhat thick, then it will be great. The layers are "enameled - steel - copper - steel - enameled". This cookware series is made in German.

                                http://youtu.be/SWfRcD0Tcic

                                By the way, may I ask why do you want an enameled steel cookware? You said you read it somewhere. Do you remember why they recommend it?

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                  c
                                  cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 03:48 PM

                                  Easy to use, cheap, works well and will last long enough (same link said that people shouldn't be fooled by salesmen saying 'this purchase will last a lifetime' as needs/wants change).

                                  I haven't seen many items that just use steel. I thought the main options were: clad/copper core, aluminium, stainless steel, cast iron (enameled or bare), and teflon skillets, so when I saw 'enameled steel', I was wondering what they meant.

                                  1. re: cmm3
                                    Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 03:54 PM

                                    "clad/copper core, aluminium, stainless steel, cast iron (enameled or bare), and teflon skillets, so when I saw 'enameled steel'"

                                    Most stainless steel cookware people talk about are really stainless steel cladded with aluminum. I just want to be clear. Enameled steel is similar to enameled cast iron. The only difference is carbon steel vs cast iron core. Good luck.

                                    "I haven't seen many items that just use steel."

                                    Then you should check out those carbon steel cookware threads here. Debuyer is particularly famous for making carbon steel cookware. Not enameled, just straight carbon steel cookware.

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/741895

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/775472

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                      c
                                      cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 03:57 PM

                                      Are there downsides to steel? You seemed not to recommend it in a previous post...

                                      1. re: cmm3
                                        Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 04:04 PM

                                        "Are there downsides to steel? You seemed not to recommend it in a previous post..."

                                        Really? A previous post within here? Or a previous post from a different thread. Can you quote the section, so I have a better idea why I didn't recommend it.

                                        Just a quick note, it really depends what you want the cookware to do. What I love about carbon steel pan is that it is lighter than cast iron cookware and responds heat better due to it being thinner. Once seasoned, a carbon steel pan is fairly nonstick. Chinese chefs use carbon steel wok to fry rice and the rice remains nonstick at very high temperature. Skip to 1:15 min if you like

                                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehgnv3...

                                        The rice would have stick like crazy if it was a stainless steel wok, and a Teflon surface wold have melted if it was a Teflon pan at that high temperature.

                                        I probably said carbon steel cookware do not have the same heat even distribution as aluminum based or copper based cookware and that would be true. So it really comes down what you want the most. I think different cookware constructions offer something different. So I don't think there is one perfect construction now.

                                        If you want a cookware which can handle very high heat and yet remain nonstick, then I absolutely recommend carbon steel. I have a carbon steel Debuyer pan and a carbon steel wok. I love them.

                                        If you want to make sauce, then no, I would never recommend a carbon steel pan.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                          c
                                          cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 04:08 PM

                                          It wasn't specific, but when I mentioned it you seemed to dismiss it, asking why it was recommended (in what context). I assumed you didn't like the material. I guess I was wrong.

                                          Responds to heat means that it heats up faster? And if I turn down the heat (in the oven or on the stove), it will cool faster (than say, cast iron)?

                                          When do you need heat to be very equally distributed? Don't you fix the problem when you move the sauce around in a pan (with a wooden spoon, for instance)?

                                          1. re: cmm3
                                            Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 04:26 PM

                                            Oh, now I know what you are talking about. Just to be clear, I have more concerns with enameled on carbon steel, not pure carbon steel. The way I see it is that enameled carbon steel cookware do not have very good even heating surface, but it also does not have some of the advantages like the bare carbon steel cookware.

                                            "Responds to heat means that it heats up faster?"

                                            Yes. Usually, stovetop heat respond, not referring to oven heat respond.

                                            "And if I turn down the heat (in the oven or on the stove), it will cool faster (than say, cast iron)?"

                                            Yes, a typical carbon steel cookware will heat up faster than cast iron cookware and it will cool down faster as well. This is mostly because cast iron cookware are usually much thicker.

                                            "When do you need heat to be very equally distributed? "

                                            If you want to cook something with minimal attention or if you cannot afford to move the foods too often. For example, some people will say delicate fish. If you flip or move a fish too much, you can break it into pieces. On the other hand, you will hardly need a evenly heat distributed surface for boiling water, so a copper cookware for boiling pasta is completely wasteful.

                                            "Don't you fix the problem when you move the sauce around in a pan (with a wooden spoon, for instance)?"

                                            True, if you can easily move the sauce around.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                              c
                                              cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 08:31 PM

                                              Thanks all! In the interest of saving money, how about a 13 piece stainless steel 18/10 cookware set from Costco for $190 (it is a "C" brand, I think it's the one that makes their cookware in Brazil. it is not Calphalon, iirc). Here is the link: http://bit.ly/oja9Oa

                                              How does that compare to cast iron (enameled or otherwise)?

                                              What about Hard-anodized aluminum cookware? How does that compare? Costco also has a 15 piece set for $160 http://bit.ly/nSIOIt I don't know which company makes that set.

                                              I don't know how much I'll use certain pieces in the set. What I would like to get is an 8" and either 10 or 12" frying pan (probably Lodge cast iron, it's dirt cheap), a good wok (I have one from Costco but I am unsure the quality of the materials and the type of metal it is-- the handle is flimsy), a 1 or 1.5 quart sauce pan, a 3 quart sauce pan and a 6 or 8 quart stock pot.

                                              Then probably a cookie sheet (which metal?) and a stoneware baker, probably this one, JCP has a Le Creuset baking dish that includes two dishes for $45-- 10 1/2x7" and a 7x5" dish. That seems like a good deal, and I think it will be very versatile?

                                              Does that plan sound better than one of those sets? Or is that set a better deal (I hope over time I cook more and I have more needs for various cookware)...

                                              1. re: cmm3
                                                Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 09:59 PM

                                                cmm3,

                                                I agree with many of others’ advices. They are very good. Back to your quesitons here, I just want to point out a few things. The stainless steel 18/10 cladded cookware from Costco you mentioned are 5-ply at disc bottom. They are not fully cladded cookware. Do you know the difference between disc bottom vs full cladded cookware? Some people prefer one over another, so I don’t want you get surprised.

                                                “How does that compare to cast iron (enameled or otherwise)?”

                                                Stainless steel cladded cookware have better heat response and better heat distribution than cast iron. Stainless steel surface also make them very durable. Most of them can go straight inside a dishwasher. Stainless steel surface, however, makes it very easy for foods to stick to it.

                                                “What about Hard-anodized aluminum cookware?”

                                                Hard anodized aluminum cookware in general has even better heat response and heat distribution. Some of them can go inside a dishwasher, but many cannot. More important, the Costco hard anodized aluminum cookware are coated with nonstick PTFE (Teflon) on the interior surface. This is both good and bad. The nonstick surface makes it very nonstick and very easy to clean. However, nonstick surface does rarely last, so this set of cookware will eventually lose its nonstick surface. I think it is good to get one or two cookware with nonstick surface, but I won’t do for an entire set.

                                                “Does that plan sound better than one of those sets?”

                                                Buying cookware in separate pieces is a great idea.

                                                “Or is that set a better deal”

                                                If you want a good affordable fully triply cookware, then please also consider Tramontina triply and Cuisinart MultClad:

                                                http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tramontina-8-Piece-Cookware-Set/5716478

                                                http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tramontina-10-Piece-18-10-Stainless-Steel-TriPly-Clad-Cookware-Set/11072505

                                                http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-MCP-12-MultiClad-Stainless-12-Piece/dp/B0007KQZWU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317531507&sr=8-1

                                                Disc bottom cladded cookware are usually cheaper:

                                                http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produc...

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                  c
                                                  cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 10:10 PM

                                                  Wow, so many choices! The list of individual pieces I said I would get if I didn't get one of those sets... what do you think? Am I missing anything? Any redundancy?

                                                  1. re: cmm3
                                                    Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 10:44 PM

                                                    "What I would like to get is an 8" and either 10 or 12" frying pan (probably Lodge cast iron, it's dirt cheap), a good wok (I have one from Costco but I am unsure the quality of the materials and the type of metal it is-- the handle is flimsy), a 1 or 1.5 quart sauce pan, a 3 quart sauce pan and a 6 or 8 quart stock pot.

                                                    Then probably a cookie sheet (which metal?) and a stoneware baker, probably this one, JCP has a Le Creuset baking dish that includes two dishes for $45-- 10 1/2x7" and a 7x5" dish. That seems like a good deal, and I think it will be very versatile?"

                                                    It is always nice to have two frying pans, but you may able to squeeze by one. A good wok is good. I recommend a carbon steel wok if you don't mind seasoning cookware. Your two saucepans and a stock pot are great choice.

                                                    Get one or two cookie sheets depending how much you bake. I used to only have one, but then all my recipes require at least two full pans of cookie sheets. So instead of baking my cookies in one batch at a time, I finally bought another so I can bake two pan-worth of cookies. A stoneware or glassware is good. A metal bake pan also work too.

                                                    Some people like a straight edge saute pan, so you can always subsitute your large frying pan with a saute pan.

                                                    http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produc...

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                      c
                                                      cmm3 Oct 2, 2011 12:45 AM

                                                      Thanks! I just successfuly reseasoned my cast iron griddle from Lodge! The four attempts before this one resulted in lots of smoke and the smoke detectors going off (I live in an apartment building and the neighbors weren't pleased).

                                                      I reseasoned them because I had used olive oil to cook steaks on them for 45 minutes (the insides were still very red, so I had to cook them for so long and there was no juice left). I then found out that you are suppose to preheat the cast iron on high heat until it gets right before the smoke point of the oil you're using (it was recommended to not use olive oil but rather palm or vegetable oil), then throw the, e.g., steaks on for 2-3 minutes on each side and voila, medium rare ready to go!

                                                      Is that the right way to do it? How long does it take to heat up on a gas stove (roughly)? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 30? When I was cooking steaks before for 45 minutes, I cooked on low-medium, so I would assume it only takes cast iron 15-20 minutes on high heat to get hot enough?

                                                      Finally, what oil/fat do you recommend? I know there are lots available. The most important thing for me is to not get the apartment incredibly smokey and not set off the fire alarm!! Second is most practical, third is fair price. Is vegetable or palm oil the best choice? Something else?

                                                      Thank you so much, Chemicalkinetics (and the rest of the posters here)! I hope I can start the Atkins diet by Monday now that I have had almost all my questions/concerns answered today!!

                                                      Best -

                                                      1. re: cmm3
                                                        Chemicalkinetics Oct 2, 2011 09:54 AM

                                                        "you are suppose to preheat the cast iron on high heat until it gets right before the smoke point of the oil you're using (it was recommended to not use olive oil but rather palm or vegetable oil), then throw the, e.g., steaks on for 2-3 minutes on each side and voila, medium rare ready to go!"

                                                        That is approximately how I do it if I want a crushy exterior and soft interior for the steak or fish...etc.

                                                        "How long does it take to heat up on a gas stove (roughly)?"

                                                        That really depends on your stove, but I would think 5 minutes on high setting to get a cast iron pan really hot. There are two ways to gauge the temperature. One way is to put a very small amount of oil, like 1/2 teaspoon, on the pan to see when the oil start to smoke. The other method is the water droplets test: sprinkle a few water drops on the hot cast iron skillet, and if the water droplets make sizzles sound and dance on the hot surface, then it is approximately hot enough. It takes a few practice to get the hang of it:

                                                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkCoWbdmpTM

                                                        "Finally, what oil/fat do you recommend?"

                                                        Do not use extra virgin olive oil for high temperature cooking. Most refined cooking oil is fine. A lot of people refer peanut oil and grapeseed oil, but refined corn oil is cheaper and should work fine for most applications:

                                                        http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/collectedinfo/oilsmokepoints.htm
                                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                          c
                                                          cmm3 Oct 3, 2011 10:44 PM

                                                          Oh, so when you cook a steak, for example, in a cast iron skillet, you don't use oil with the steak? You only would use oil to check to see if it's hot enough? Is that why I keep setting off the fire alarms? I was putting down a good amount of oil on my griddle immediately, and within a few minutes, I would set off the smoke alarm (long before I put the steak on).

                                                          I always thought you needed oil when you cook (or butter, etc)...?

                                                          1. re: cmm3
                                                            Chemicalkinetics Oct 4, 2011 06:50 AM

                                                            "Oh, so when you cook a steak, for example, in a cast iron skillet, you don't use oil with the steak? You only would use oil to check to see if it's hot enough? "

                                                            I should be more clear. Yes, I do use oil to cook the steak and sometime marinate the steak with a little bit of oil along with the rest of the ingredients. In theory, if you are pretty good at gauging the temperature of the pan, then there is no reason to add oil ahead of time. In other words, you can just heat the pan up. When the time is right, then you add the oil (or butter) and the steak. However, like you said, sometime we overheat the pan. So when we add the oil and the steak to the pan, it just smokes excessively. One way to prevent this is to add very small amount of oil in the beginning to the pan. When that small amount of oil starts to faintly smoke, then you know the pan have already reached the oil smoke point. Now, you can add the rest of the oil and the steak.

                                                            "I was putting down a good amount of oil on my griddle immediately, and within a few minutes, I would set off the smoke alarm (long before I put the steak on)."

                                                            Oh, I see. So you put the oil from the start? Many people believe in adding the oil right before the steak. That old saying "Hot pan, cold oil". Some people dispute this, but it is still a very popular method. Anyway, if you add oil from the very beginning, then you should able to see when the oil starts to smoke. When the oil starts to smoke too much, it is time turn off the heat, or move than pan away from the hot stove. You should definitely try to use a higher smoke point oil. It really help.

                                                            "I always thought you needed oil when you cook (or butter, etc)...?"

                                                            I agree. I hope my above statements clarify the confusions.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                              c
                                                              cmm3 Oct 4, 2011 10:30 AM

                                                              So how much oil do I need to put on the steak when the pan is hot? Do I cover the entire steak with vegetable oil so it sears (is that how searing works)?

                                                              Thanks!

                                                              1. re: cmm3
                                                                h
                                                                happybaker Oct 4, 2011 10:49 AM

                                                                I just rub the steak with oil, both sides so it's coated - and then cook in a hot pan.

                                                                I don't cook a lot of red meat, so normally I'm a bit skittish about those skills - but this recipe/method from Alton Brown using a cast iron pan is FANTASTIC. Great every time.

                                                                http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

                                                                1. re: cmm3
                                                                  Chemicalkinetics Oct 4, 2011 10:59 AM

                                                                  I like to marinate the meat with some oil, so I suppose that effectively cover the whole steak, but like happybaker said, you really don't need a lot of oil. You certainly don't need the oil starts to dip off the steak. Think of applying lotion to your skin (maybe a bit more). Enough to coat the steak.

                                                                  Technically, I don't think you need to apply oil to the steak in order to sear steak. It is just a little skill, but not required. Searing steak just means cooking the steak on a very hot surface -- and you should hear that sizzling sound -- in many TV commericals. Not some water boiling sound.

                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                    c
                                                                    cmm3 Oct 5, 2011 12:58 AM

                                                                    I see. So what is the point of adding oil? What is the benefit?

                                                                  2. re: cmm3
                                                                    SanityRemoved Oct 7, 2011 02:05 PM

                                                                    What I do is lightly coat the cast iron with a higher temp cooking oil, do not use extra virgin olive oil as it will break down. The amount should be light enough that you cannot pour any oil off of the pan if you tip it.

                                                                    Leave the steak out of the fridge for a little bit so it can warm a little. Now get the pan hot. The amount of smoke should not be enough to set off a smoke detector because there shouldn't be enough oil in the pan to create that much smoke. You then put in the steak. Let it sit there for at least a minute or two. The steak will tell you when it is time to turn it as it will release from the cast iron when it has seared properly. Lift a corner, if you have resistance wait longer then try again. When the steak will lift with little resistance you can flip it over.

                                                                    Depending on how well you like your steak also effects how hot you want your pan to be. A rare steak is going to take a higher heat because you need the sear to occur quickly to lock in the juices before it begins to cook the interior. Faster sear results in shorter time to turning the steak.

                                                                    1. re: SanityRemoved
                                                                      c
                                                                      cmm3 Oct 7, 2011 02:18 PM

                                                                      Thanks. Would vegetable oil or palm oil be the better oil to use on my cast iron? I live in an apartment so the most important thing is not setting off the fire alarms. I think palm oil has a higher smoke point-- are there any downsides? Or should I use another oil all together? Thanks! I'll go to Costco and pick up a big bottle of it tomorrow.

                                                                      1. re: cmm3
                                                                        SanityRemoved Oct 7, 2011 02:29 PM

                                                                        A light olive oil would work as well as canola or peanut oil, I don't have any experience with palm but not real happy with corn or soy. In the end the oil should be two things - flavor and smoke point. Flavor is important because you have to be happy with it, so if it may impart a flavor you don't like then it's the wrong oil. The other is a high smoke point . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point
                                                                        Remember the oil should be a very thin coating and you can do it with no oil whatsoever. There will be some smoking during the cooking process so you will have to contend with that.

                                                                        1. re: SanityRemoved
                                                                          c
                                                                          cmm3 Oct 7, 2011 02:43 PM

                                                                          Would you recommend peanut or canola? For flavor...? Do you think either will set off the fire alarms regularly, like what happened when I used extra virgin olive oil?

                                                                          1. re: cmm3
                                                                            SanityRemoved Oct 7, 2011 03:11 PM

                                                                            I would say peanut, as canola can result in a fishy smell to some, but again a very light coating, you can apply it with a paper towel or an onion dipped in oil or you can lightly coat the meat. Extra virgin olive oil is great for what it is supposed to be used for but too many tv personalities have created an idea that it is a good for everything oil. The producers of olive oil will be the first to point out that you should use various types of olive oil for different methods of cooking.

                                                                            1. re: SanityRemoved
                                                                              h
                                                                              happybaker Oct 7, 2011 09:15 PM

                                                                              I love canola but it does get fishy at high temps. Peanut is fab.

                                                                              1. re: happybaker
                                                                                c
                                                                                cmm3 Oct 7, 2011 09:39 PM

                                                                                Are there any other oils I should consider or should I just go with peanut oil?

                                                      2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                        h
                                                        Houndx Oct 4, 2011 08:27 PM

                                                        Just bought a fully clad set myself and was looking at the tramontina until I found a 10 piece Kenmore Elite set at my local Sears for $150. Now it's the smaller sizes like the 8 piece tramontina but includes a sauté pan and lid as well and had the added benefit of my being able to touch them first..

                                                        1. re: Houndx
                                                          h
                                                          happybaker Oct 4, 2011 09:20 PM

                                                          Wow - this looks fab indeed and the reviews are good, but I worry about the glass lids.

                                                          But, still tempting : )

                                                          http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12...

                                                          1. re: happybaker
                                                            h
                                                            Houndx Oct 5, 2011 04:16 AM

                                                            Those aren't the same set. The Kenmore Elite triply set isn't on their site. They come with metal lids and are fully clad. The sets on their site include glass lids and multi-ply disc bottoms.

                                                            Reviews and a pic are here http://www.mysears.com/Kenmore-10pc-T...

                                                            1. re: Houndx
                                                              h
                                                              happybaker Oct 5, 2011 09:16 AM

                                                              Ah.... quite different INDEED!

                                                              Thanks!

                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                  h
                                  happybaker Oct 1, 2011 09:01 PM

                                  Chemicalkenetics - first off - you rock.

                                  Secondly I love that no-knead bread recipe and am happy to tell you that I made it in a heavy cast aluminum pot from a thrift shop - and it was fabulous. Preheat it, throw the dough in, cover as directed, and you are good to go. (And if you don't have a cover, you can use a heat safe heavy plate.)

                                  As for baking - cakes and such - go to a restaurant supply store and get the heavy rolled aluminum pans. They are light, don't warp or rust, not too expensive - and they LAST. I have pans from the 40's & 50's I picked up at yard sales that are still going strong!

                                  1. re: happybaker
                                    c
                                    cmm3 Oct 1, 2011 09:12 PM

                                    What type of aluminum? I'm visiting my mom tomorrow through the middle of next week and there is a restaurant supply store in her town.

                                    What kind of cookware do people who are not that strong prefer, but is still good? My wife is 115 pounds (before pregnancy) and 8 months pregnant-- she finds cast iron very heavy and sometimes too difficult to lift, even with two hands. Our cheap Target stuff on the other hand...

                                    If I can get her a lightweight skillet, I am sure she will use it (instead of always grabbing the cheap Target stuff)

                                    1. re: cmm3
                                      h
                                      happybaker Oct 2, 2011 10:36 AM

                                      CMM3 - my pot was a "Club", non-enamaled from the 40's - 50's. Much lighter than cast iron but very handy. Pricey if you buy them new now I think. Wearever does indeed do some nice restaurant grade pots you can buy at Rest. Supply stores for not too much.

                                      And for cake pans, my old ones are Mirro. And I even have old wearever ones... You want a heavy pan, with straight sides, something like this --

                                      http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0000VLIHI/r...

                                      Good luck!

                                    2. re: happybaker
                                      Chemicalkinetics Oct 1, 2011 09:15 PM

                                      "Secondly I love that no-knead bread recipe and am happy to tell you that I made it in a heavy cast aluminum pot from a thrift shop "

                                      Happerbaker,

                                      Thanks. You are right. There is no reason the Dutch Oven has to be made of cast iron. Aluminum would work just fine. In fact, it does not have to be a Dutch Oven. Anything approximately that shape will work for no knead bread.

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