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Wagner cast iron set...now the fun begins

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I never seem to get my existing projects done, always something new getting thrown on my plate. Well I just got another project suddenly. With new Frigidaire induction stove and new set of Calphalon AcCucore SS, I decided to see if I could have a cast iron pan or two from my mother; she has several in the garage never being used.

All the pans were old Wagners. After leaving her two 8" fry pans, the ones that came home with me were with numbers on handle #3, #5, and #6, then 2 with numbers on bottom of #7a and #11. Additional numbers were on the bottom, but not sure if they are serial numbers or what they meant. The #5 had the wagner logo in the middle, rest were at the top with "Sydney -0-". Supposedly one skillet came across America in a covered wagon.

Overall, all in great shape. Only the 2 larger ones had spots of rust that I need to work on, with the 11 being worst (4-5 spots, each size of pencil eraser or smaller).

One discussion (debate) having with my mother (who insists that her grandmother did it this way, so must be the correct way) is to wash with soap after every use. From what I have read, looks like a personal preference in maintaining cast iron (even Lodge's how-to video mentions using soap if preferred), but most seem to lean towards just wiping and building up seasoning for nonstick. With old cast iron like this that is very smooth inside, is it still preferable to not use soap? Not washing and using soap will be hard habit for me to break as I like "clean" cookware.

For those with cast iron and SS, which ones do you reach for most and for what foods? Using gas, electric, or induction (I know this in itself is a completely different discussion, but just curious non-the-less). And while I am finding great tips reading through old postings, any additional tips/tricks with cast iron would greatly be appreciated.

Thanks everyone.

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  1. If you have a good seasoning coat, you will find that your iron skillet will usually come out clean without soap. I just soak mine in hot tap water for a few minutes, scrub the inside with a scrubber sponge, put it over a flame, and wipe dry with a paper towel. I turn off the heat when thoroughly dry and store the pan dry. If especially greasy, I will use a drop or two of liquid dish soap before scrubbing, but this rarely needed.

    1. I got back into cast iron a few years ago when I found 3 different sized skillets at a yard sale...a Lodge, a Griswold, and a Wagner. None were rusty or even terribly crusty, but the crusty stuff, being unknown, HAD to go!?! Probably heresy, but I got lazy and had at them with spray oven cleaner... took a few applications but they cleaned up great.

      I used bacon grease (what my grandmother always used) to re-season. Found that the KEY to successful CI cooking is USE, USE, USE! If I shallow fry something like breaded fish, NOTHING sticks... just wipe out pan. If I cook something like a burger, that oozes stuff that sorta gunks up, I pour in a little water while pan is still hot. Dump in a little CHEAP-O salt and scrub off anything that stuck. Then rinse with HOT water and back on stove burner till HOT... another dab of bacon grease.

      My "collection" has grown considerably and I have to seriously restrain myself if I come across something I already have. Found a few of those "corn" cornbread pans. Found a cute little diamond shape skillet (Lodge, I think) that's marked 1 egg... perfect for fitting on square bread for a sandwich. Have a nice round griddle that's smooth as glass. Found a Dutch oven, sans lid or handle (bale?), but have another lid that fits. Found a 2-burner Lodge grill/griddle... ended up giving to my sister since I just waasn't using that much area that often. EVERY piece came from a yard sale, thrift store or flea market... and didn't spend more than $5 for any one item.

      1. Washing with detergent does not effect the build up of seasoning. I have some very old Griswold and various Lodge before and after they started the preseasoning.

        1. I used to use dishwashing soap in the 70s-80s on my cast iron, SOAP, not detergent. Dawn will strip off the seasoning on my cast iron. So, when the old timers talk of using soap on cast iron, it may have not been the same "soap" that is now widely available.

          I used to cook bacon to season my pans, two years ago, I spent a winter in a different part of the state. The bacon available in that area is different than the bacon I get "at home". Too much sugar in the "out of town" bacon.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Alan408

            Dawn is the only liquid dish soap I use, and it doesn't hurt the seasoning on my cast iron skillet when used sparingly. I use only a drop or two, scrub gently, and rinse. I wouldn't soak my pan in it.

            1. re: Alan408

              < So, when the old timers talk of using soap on cast iron>

              I actually think that today dishwashing liquid has gotten more gentle.

            2. Hi: Baka:

              Tips & tricks... Since you have so many (lucky you), I would:

              (1) Reserve one pan strictly for eggs (this one you baby and almost never wash with detergent, just oil and salt):
              (2) Consider reserving another for high searing (this one you can absolutely abuse);
              (3) You can even have an "everything else" pan for other things like roasting, bacon, cornbread, etc. that occasionally needs a soapy scrub every so often.
              (4) Think about how often you make integral sauces that require fond. If you do much of that (OR, when you do, you deglaze with wine or other acidic liquids), you might find that you prefer SS over CI for a variety of reasons--stick-iness, high visibility, freedom to work metal utensils hard without needing to reseason, etc.

              Have Fun,
              Aloha,
              Kaleo

              1. All of my cast iron gets washed with detergent. Nothing sticks in them. We just got a griddle from my M-I-L. It is an old Griswold. It is heavily crusted with many years of fat build up (she is 92). I am just waiting for the weather to get cool enough and I can run it through the self cleaning cycle in my oven. I've done that with several thrift shop finds, it works like a charm, and re-season.

                1. There is absolutely no need for a dedicated cast iron egg pan. I cook eggs including omelets in whatever sized pan is the appropriate size for the amount I'm cooking.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rasputina

                    Hi, rasputina:

                    I guess 'need' is a relative term. Yes, you can cook your entire life in one pan and eat well. Let's just say everyone I know who's kept one pan just for eggs has been happier.

                    At the risk of goading your disagreement, there's a case to be made for having a dedicated fish pan, too. ;)

                    Aloha,
                    Kaleo

                  2. One tip that you don't see very often regards the type of utensils to use in your cast iron skillets. My favorite turner is this one: http://www.amazon.com/MIU-France-Stai...

                    You want a spatula that has two important characteristics:
                    stainless steel composition: so that you don't get bumps building up in the finish from using some kind of plastic or silicon turner, and,
                    a straight leading edge, so that the nice finish you are building up does not get gouged by a curved edge.

                    I have my grandmother's cast iron, and have been cooking in it for 30-some years. I had not been given a lot of foodie advice on how to take care of it -- my grandma and my mom washed the skillets clean, made sure to dry them on the stove, advised me to find a different pan in which to cook spaghetti sauce, and told me to give them a wipe with bacon grease and throw them in the oven if they seemed to be performing poorly. That's what I've been doing ever since.

                    A good turner and some bacon are really all your CI will ever need.

                    1. For starters, thank you everyone who responded. Some great info.

                      Started cleaning and seasoning them today. I didn't strip them completely down to bare meta except areas that were rough inside or rust spots. Large pan I stripped most seasoning out, using Kosher salt and 120/220 sandpaper on rust spots. Other pans were mostly just Kosher salt.

                      Seasoning, I tried 350 convection oven using soybean oil. After washing/cleaning/scouring pans, I put in oven for 10 minutes to ensure were dry, pulled out and put very thin layer of oil on, then back in for 90 minutes. I then pulled out and put another wiping of oil on and back in for another 90 minutes. They have cooled and noticed that the grey metal areas are definitely darker (chocolate color), but not black. I assume it takes several seasonings. Too, I noticed the oil beaded up some (tiny beads all over). I am assuming this is due to putting oil on a hot pan, where I should have let pans cool before applying oil? Is it ok to continue another round of seasoning or rescrub pans and start over?

                      btw... when I listed what brand they were, the #5 where the logo was in the middle I thought was a Wagner like the rest, but it is a Griswold.

                      1. I own a SS skillet that I never use. Unless I'm boiling pasta or steaming vegetables, I cook in a cast iron skillet. Like your grandmother, I wash my skillets with dish soap, then dry them IMMEDIATELY on a low flame on the stovetop. Rust seems to be far more dangerous than soap, at least in my experience. My pans have lasted decades so far, and seem to be ready for many more decades.