Monday, September 22, 2014

Latest Info on Cast Iron Cookware

Sep 21 2014

About 35 years ago when I started doing most of the cooking for the family my Mother in law gave me her old cast iron skillet, a #9 and probably an older Lodge. The inside was nice and smooth; I used it for years. I tried re-seasoning it without luck. If I had been more informed and knew how to re-season it I would probably still be using it. I either gave it away or threw it out.

I started using the new Teflon coated non-stick cook ware. It worked well but after a year or so no matter how well I treated it using only plastic utensils it would have scratches and eventually look like it was peeling. After the Teflon scare I would throw them out and get new; they were fairly cheap.

I bought a 10 inch scan pan skillet. They claimed it was some kind of hard ceramic and was guaranteed for life. It did work well for a little over a year and then it started sticking bad. I threw it out not wanting to go through the hassle to get my money back; even though I paid $90 for it.

I bought a good set of stainless and you had to know how to cook with it or things would stick easily. I still use all the pots and pans but not the skillets. I bought a 12 inch cast iron skillet with a lid to cook chicken outdoors on my gas burner. I remembered how good my Mother in law’s chicken was done in a cast iron skillet. I think I used it once then gave it to my neighbor for his son in law to use camping out. Years later when my neighbor died his wife gave the skillet back to me, but it was a mess. I put it in my shed to store.

After I retired 11 years ago I was cooking outdoors more in the summer using my gas grill and a gas burner. I got the old 12 inch skillet out and read up on cleaning and re-seasoning old cast iron. I had cleaned some clay bake ware for a friend in my self-cleaning oven and it came out looking like new so I got the idea to try to clean the cast iron skillet the same way. I ran it through a cycle and it looked nice.

I had found a 6 step method for re-seasoning cast iron with flax seed oil.

1.       Wipe a thin coat of oil on the skillet and then wipe it all off. There will still be a thin coat of oil there.
2.       Place it in the oven at 500 deg. As soon as it reaches 500 deg. let set for a half hour and then turn off the oven. Let cool down completely before removing.

3.       Repeat this 6 times waiting at least 12 hours in between.

I could not find flax seed oil; it has a short shelf life so not many places carry it and it is expensive. I did some more research on oils and decided to use grape seed oil, it has a high smoke point, no taste, is easy to find and reasonably priced. Using it and the above procedure gave my 12 inch skillet and lid a nice black color.

Last fall I bought an old Wapak skillet. The Wapak cast iron ware was hollow ware with a smoother finish and lighter weight than the new stuff being made. I researched it and know it is at least 80 years old. It was so dirty you would not want to just wash with soap and water and use.

I ran it through my self- cleaning oven and re-seasoned it with the 6 step method. It came out looking almost new! I used the 12 inch Lodge a couple of times but it is too large for my normal cooking. I use the Wapak skillet. I would use it more but it has a slight bulge in the bottom and does not set flat on my glass top range. I use it mainly in the oven, especially to bake cornbread.

Over the last 12 years I have collected some new Lodge Cast Iron Ware; a 9 inch skillet, a 10 ½ inch chicken friar with lid, a 5 quart Dutch oven with lid, and a small bean pot with lid. A lot of members here have said they don’t like Lodge’s seasoning so they remove and re-season. For me that’s too much work so I do a one- step seasoning in the oven and use it. I have found it gets better with use.

With any new cast iron or re-seasoned the first thing I cook in it is a batch of bacon. Then I try to not use any acid based ingredients like tomatoes until I have used it a while. I don’t use the cast iron to store the food after cooking but try to clean it as soon as I can.  I clean it all with hot water and a brush. I just found that the new scotch blue pads work well; it is non-scratching and will not take any of the seasoning off; but it will clean any stubborn food better than the brush will. If there is a lot of food sticking in the pan I use the brush first and then the blue scotch pad. They clean up well with very little effort. After washing I wipe a very thin coat of the grape seed oil on with a paper towel and then store it.

When I get one back out to cook I always use a little oil. I use mostly all extra light olive oil from a bottle or a spray can. On occasion I do like to use some bacon grease and butter too.

If you are one that does not like the slightly rough texture of the Lodge skillets just think about it lets more oil is in contact with what you are cooking so it should work better than a completely smooth surface. I like it and have good luck with it.

After Lodge came out with their new carbon steel skillets I bought a 10 inch to try. I like it and also bought a 12 inch. I think they cook and clean up as easy as the cast iron and are a lot lighter to use.
I had first bought a cheap import carbon steel to try and after a short time it warped a little. The Lodges are a little thicker and after using at least a year they still set flat.

So now the Lodge carbon steel skillets I use on a regular basis for most all of my cooking in skillets.

I am no expert on cast iron; this is just what I have learned and what works for me; if you have a way that works for you use it.

I just thought this may be of help to some of you. Cast iron does not need a guarantee, if you don’t drop it and break it; it will outlast you! I have kept my cast iron pretty clean and it still looks in new condition.

If you get to where there is too much guck in one don’t fret. Simply use some elbow grease and clean it with steel wool or sandpaper then do a 1 or 2 step seasoning and it should be like new. An easy way is to run it through your self-cleaning oven. Then I would go through the 6 step seasoning again.

Over the years I have probably thrown out at least 6 of the cheaper non-stick skillets. If this is true for most families just think of the energy and land fill space that would have been saved. We have had the perfect non-stick cook ware for at least 100 years and forgot about it!

I know this is long and a lot of the info I have posted before but it is updated and think there is some good info here all in one post. I hope some will find it useful.

In older posts under Cast Iron Cookware you can see the cleaning and re-seasoning results.

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