Is It Me or Is It Cast-Iron?
I have a well seasoned 10 inch cast iron skillet that I have had for years, okay decades. I'm not sure of the brand, as on the bottom it only says, "Made in USA, 10 inch." I suspected a problem for a while, but the other day I was able to "prove it." The problem is food cooks unevenly in this pan.
I was cooking some eggplant the other day and noticed the slices in the center of the pan browned nicely, the ones near the edge of the flame circle only browned on the parts over the flame, and the slices around the edge of the pan did not brown at all. Yes, some of the slices were half browned and half not on each side.
Before I started I preheated the pan properly and brought the oil up to temperature before putting any the food in. After several batches like this I switch to my Nordic Ware Pro Cast aluminum fry pan. After heating the pan and the oil, I fried up the remaining slices and they fried up evenly browned no matter where I placed them in the pan.
So does cast-iron inherently heat unevenly, or do I have a bum pan? Is it time to buy a new one? If it's the latter, is Lodge the only quality choice?
<The problem is food cooks unevenly in this pan.>
<I switch to my Nordic Ware Pro Cast aluminum fry pan. After heating the pan and the oil, I fried up the remaining slices and they fried up evenly browned no matter where I placed them in the pan.>
This really isn't a surprise. Cast iron is not the bad heat conductor, but it is nowhere close to aluminum. This is intrinsic. Nothing to do with you or this particular cast iron pan. It is true for any cast iron pan. Lodge cast iron or Chinese made cast iron. Cast iron's true strength lies elsewhere.
It's not you. And buying a new CI pan is not the answer. This is the expected result unless your hob is extraordinarily even. A great hob can sort of make up for the inherent limitations of CI, but a large pan overhanging the hob is always going to going to do what you describe.
You are using a gas burner no? You used the same burner with the two different skillets?
My understanding is that CI does not heat efficiently, but does hold the heat when heated. That has been my experience. I've never had your experience. The only thing I can think of is that your pan is too big for your burner.
If you do some more testing on different burners, and you still feel that your CI is not performing properly, then I'd just recycle or donate it.
If someone in your family has old CI, or you run onto a quality older pan, Griswold or Wagner, then you might pick it up and experiment with it to see if it performs better for you.
I have been loaned a Lodge skillet for my temporary kitchen. I don't like it nearly as well as my old Griswolds. I have not been able to get the inside smooth. It is OK, but not my preference.