My New Lodge CI vs Vintage Skillet
Several weeks ago, I purchased a Lodge 12" cast iron skillet from Amazon.com. I have been using it pretty regularly and have been satisfied with the results -- from roasted chicken, home fries, potato pancakes, etc.
However, I've run across threads here in which posters have sworn by vintage CI -- Griswold, Wagner and older versions of Lodge, due to the machined smoothness of the pans' interiors. I was under the impression that good seasoning determined the nonstick properties and the slick appearance. Now I feel as if I'm missing out on something.
I'd like to go on E-Bay and get one of those vintage pans, but our household keeps kosher. So that would entail getting the pan kashered (a koshering process) and having it blowtorched, because it's a safe bet a given pan has had its fair share of pork chops and bacon as well as lard to season it.
To have this done, it would cost $25 or more, in addition to the initial cost purchasing a vintage pan. I'd like to know if folks here at Chow would think it's worth the trouble for a vintage CI pan.
Any input would be appreciated.
Personally, I think most of the "vintage" cast iron craze is mostly emotional, not practical. One trip through the self cleaning cycle in my oven will take any cast iron back to its elemental state.
The nostalgia of using a antique cast iron (assuming it isn't worn out) is just that. If you want a super smooth surface, you can be very choosy at Wal-Mart or some other mass market place or, take your skillet to a sand blaster that will shoot it with very fine media. Personally, I don't see value in the added effort. My factory stock Lodge cast iron cooks very nicely and I'm building MY OWN memories and nostalgia with MY cast iron, not someone else's.
<To have this done, it would cost $25 or more, in addition to the initial cost purchasing a vintage pan. I'd like to know if folks here at Chow would think it's worth the trouble for a vintage CI pan. >
To be very objective, you will have some people say yes, and some say no, and that is the honest truth.
My personal opinion (opinion, not fact) is that it is NOT worth the trouble. Why? Because I think in time, your Lodge cast iron pan will work just as well as your vintage cast iron pan. It will take a bit more time, but it will work fine.
So why will others say yes? Well, they will tell you the exact opposite. They will tell you that a vintage cast iron pan performs much better than a Lodge cast iron pan.
So at the end, you have to decide.
I have had the chance in these last 2 months to clean and re-season 6 vintage skillets, all of various makes. Some of these skillets have definitely 'taken' the seasoning better than others, though my seasoning method was the same with all. I suppose that variations in manufacturing and also the history of use of each particular vintage skillet are some of the variables. All 6 of them are machined smooth on the cooking surface.
All that to say, my advice to you is that with vintage, you can never really know for sure how it will turn out until you do your work on each one and give it a try. We are learning what to look for when examining a skillet to buy (cracks which are sometimes hard to see, warping of cooking surface or bottom, rust or discoloration, etc.).
Vintage skillets can be found reasonably priced and the more collectible brands are not always the best to cook in. I have one Griswold which it is my least favorite and we hope to trade it in for something else. A large Wagner for which we paid $17, and even has some mild pitting on the cooking surface, is actually one of my favorites as it took the seasoning right off and we can fry an egg in it with no sticking in just a very small amount of fat.
I bought a no-name vintage skillet for my SIL and it cooked like a dream immediately after cleaning with Easy Off and one layer of seasoning at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Paid $10 for that one.
If you were able to find some very reasonable deals, and didn't mind the initial uncertainties of vintage CI, you well may find yourself a marvelous and special skillet . I personally love the charm and the idea of the history of a vintage skillet but that is just me.
I prefer the vintage CI pans because they're thinner and lighter, and generally more finished--inside and out. Whether they take or hold seasoning better than a new bumpy Lodge, I'm not so sure about.
Here's an alternative that would save you the kashering expense, a new old pan: http://www.ebay.com/itm/360544008565?... Not strictly bare CI, but it's quite rare, and the auction closes in 11 hours.
I come to sing the praises of a slightly bumpy CI pan. I just swapped out a smooth non-vintage CI 12" pan for a Lodge. The old one wouldn't hold its seasoning very well. When it had its seasoning it was as non-stick as any teflon but it chipped and was otherwise not great. Here's the thing, though: even when it had the perfect seasoning it was suboptimal because it was so smooth it wouldn't retain enough brown bits to deglaze. In the 12-inch size too much non-stick is a bad thing IMO. You're not planning any 6-egg omelets, right? :-)
The great things about CI are durability, heat propagation and heat retention. Non-stick is a bonus. As long as it releases things well enough for you to cook in them and clean the thing, you've won. I'd say that unless there's some highly specific application you have in mind that is helped by both CI and an extreme non-stick surface you should stick (hah!) with the Lodge.
I really meant to add to my earlier post--that I have no experience with newer Lodge to compare, and I would really like to know how the older cast iron vs newer perform.
Anyone want to do this little test with their newer Lodge? Heat pan till a sprinkle of water dances and sizzles. Then add about 1 teaspoon oil and spread quickly with spatula. Break an egg (straight out of the fridge) cook and turn for an egg cooked about medium. A couple of my vintage pans will not stick the egg at all. For several of them, one has to carefully work a metal spatula all around under the egg to loosen before turning.
It would be really interesting to hear how various skillets might do with this and compare.
I'm afraid I'm not up to performing your full experiment, instead I'll simply tell you that I have a skillet that I've had for about a year, and I have no problems with my eggs sticking. In the earlier days, I used more olive oil when cooking and never had a sticking problem, but now I have seasoning built up (I never wash it, I only scrape it and wipe it out) I use less oil and still have no problem with sticking. I take that back, when I seared a roast with no oil at all, a couple of tiny parts stuck but were easy to lift up.
I should also mention that I always fully heat my pan by bringing it up slowly (a temperature marking every five minutes) to just below medium - this is the point when if I raise it any higher the oils on it just start making a ton of smoke. So, since I've never put food in before it was fully heated, that may be part of the reason for my success.
>Anyone want to do this little test with their newer Lodge? Heat pan till a sprinkle of water dances and sizzles. Then add about 1 teaspoon oil and spread quickly with spatula. Break an egg (straight out of the fridge) cook and turn for an egg cooked about medium.<
yep, I can do this in my new Lodge skillets. At times they are so slick that I have a hard time getting the spatula under the egg, because it slides away.
Now, to the originaI poster. I say, unless you just want a vintage skillet for the sake of usung something old and historical, don't bother. Your new skillet will do just fine. And you know from the beginning, what has been in that pan. I feel that way myself. I prefer a pan that I know the history of it. My vintage pans are hand me downs and I know what they were used for.
I can't comment on whether or not you should get a vintage pan, since I am just getting started with cast iron myself. But in regards to the kashering, most likely running the pan through a self-cleaning cycle of your oven will be enough, rather than the blow-torch method. It's definitely worth finding out about, assuming you or a friend have a self-cleaning oven. Then it's just the cost of the pan itself, and the time to reseason it.
I think the old and smooth cast iron is better than the new. Just my opinion. I have some of both and both work fine.