There are several reasons that people rave
about their cast iron pans and cast iron skillets. Besides being an ideal heat conductor,
cast iron cookware heats evenly and consistently, it is inexpensive and will last
a lifetime (actually several lifetimes) with proper care, and it is an old-fashioned way to cook fat
free. When well seasoned, a cast iron pan will be stick resistant and require no additional oil.
Cooking With Cast Iron Cookware:
You can use a single cast iron frying pan or cast iron skillet for just about any cooking task: Bake a
cake, sear a filet, roast or fry a chicken, fry potatoes, stir-fry vegetables, etc. One skillet is all you need, but because cast iron
cooking is lot of fun and makes the food you cook taste great, you'll probably going to want more than one cast iron pan.
An old-fashion way to cook fat-free: The benefits of cast iron pans and
skillets are terrific: Foods glide out of it as from no pan made with Teflon; it goes
from stove to oven; no special utensils are needed to cook in it; it
won't warp, and cleanup is a cinch. A well-seasoned cast iron pan will
only get better with age, and will last you for a lifetime. It's time people realize the
culinary wonder that a cast iron pan can be!
Professional chefs consider cast iron cookware to be precision cooking tools, as these dependable pans enable precise
control of cooking temperatures. Their heat retention qualities allow for even cooking temperature without hot spots. Cast iron pans can be
used on top of the stove or to bake in the oven. All our grandmothers had cast iron skillets and cast iron stove-top griddles. In fact, your grandmother
swore by it and the pioneers depended on it.
Purchasing vintage and new cast-iron pans:
New cast-iron pans: If you don't own a cast
iron skillet, it's well worth the time and money to invest in one. You can find new cast-iron pans and skillets for
sale on the internet and at cook stores everywhere. Probably the best new cast-iron pans are Lodge. Check out my article
Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Pots.
Vintage cast-iron pans:
My personal recommendation is that you purchase vintage cast-iron pans. You can find these cast-iron pans and skillets at thrift stores, flea
markets, E-bay, or you can scour the garage sales, and/or tag and yard sales for one that might look
as if it has seen better days. The top brands of vintage cast-iron pans
and skillets are Griswold, Wagner, and Lodge. If the pan is rusty or encrusted with
grease, buy it anyway. Don't worry! I'll tell you how to get that new or
old one into shape so you can enjoy it for a lifetime of fat free
cooking. You'll be able to pass the pan on to your own children and grandchildren.
Linda's favorite cast iron pots, pans, and skillets:
Cast Iron Skillet or Frying Pans:
Choose the size most comfortable for you. I recommend the 10-inch one, as it's the best tradeoff of size and weight. Personally,
I own 10-inch cast iron frying pan and a 12-inch cast iron frying pan because on occasion, I'm called on to feed large groups of people.
Check out What's Cooking America's large selection of
cast-iron pans and skillets
Check out the large selection of
Cast Iron Cooking Recipes.
Cast Iron Griddles:
Want to make the greatest pancakes you've ever eaten? Want your French toast to have that crispy
edge so prized at breakfast time? You need to get a
cast iron griddle and get it good and hot on the stovetop. Cast Iron Pots and pans work fine on electric
or gas ranges, or over a campfire if you're so inclined.
The photo above shows an old cast iron griddle that belonged to my husband's mother. I use it to make pancakes, French
toast, toasted cheese sandwiches, and more. What is nice about it, is that it fits over two of my gas burners on my gas range.
Cast Iron Dutch Ovens:
Before anyone ever thought of a crock pot, there was the cast iron Dutch oven. Dutch ovens have been used for hundreds of years. Nothing will hold a good, even
temperature better than the heavy metal of this monster pot, and it can go from stovetop to oven without missing a beat.
Camping usually means you eat hot dogs on a stick, cold sandwiches
and not a lot of appetizing food. But what if it didn’t mean that? What if you
could have Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and cherry
cobbler? Or any other meal you would normally cook at home? Would campfire
food be more appealing? Well it can be if you utilize a very old and versatile
tool; something your grandmother probably had more than one of – a Dutch oven.
Check out this very interesting and informative article on
Dutch Oven Camp Cooking.
Seasoning, Using, and Caring For Cast Iron Pans and Cast Iron Skillets
How To Use Cast Iron Cookware:
The first most common mistake of why
people do not like cast iron is that they say everything sticks. If food
sticks to your cast iron pan, your pan is NOT seasoned right and you
need to re-season it. Cast iron is a natural non-stick surface and if
your pan is seasoned correctly it WILL NOT stick!
Always preheat your cast iron frying pans before frying in them.
Water droplets should sizzle, then roll and hop around the pan,
when dropped onto the heated surface. If the water disappears
immediately after being dropped, the pan is too hot. If water only rests
and bubbles in the pan, it is not quite hot enough.
NOTE: Do not pour
large amounts of cold liquid into your hot cast iron frying pan. This can cause the
cast iron to break. Never forget your potholders! Cast iron pan handles
get HOT when cooking!
There is a trick to maintaining cast iron
cookware and that trick is known as "seasoning" or "curing."
Your food will never stick to the bottom of the skillet or pot and the iron will not
rust if it is properly seasoned. Plus the cast iron cookware cleans up easily as well. Seasoning or curing cast iron
cookware means filling the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some
sort, which subsequently gets cooked in. This provides a smooth, non-stick surface on the inside of the cast iron pan.
If the cast iron pan was not
seasoned properly or a portion of the seasoning wore off and food sticks
to the surface or there is rust, then it should be properly cleaned and
re-seasoned. Seasoning a cast iron pan is a natural way of creating
non-stick cookware. And, like you cook and clean the modern non-stick
cookware with special care to avoid scratching the surface, your cast iron cookware wants some special attention too.
NOTE: All new
(not old cast iron cookware) cast iron pans and skillets have a protective coating on
them, which must be removed. American companies use a special food-safe
wax; imports are covered with a water-soluble shellac. In either case,
scrub the item with a stainless steel scouring pads (steel wool), using soap and the hottest tap water
you can stand.
How To Season Cast Iron Pans and Cast Iron Skillets:
Definition of Seasoning: To season
a cast iron pan means to create a slick and glassy coating by baking on
multiple thin coats of oil. This will protect the cast iron pan from
getting rusted and makes for a non-stick cooking surface.
You season a cast iron pan by rubbing it with a relatively thin coat of neutral food-grade oil
(I stress a light coat of oil). Rub the oil off with paper towels or a cotton
cloth. The pan will look like there is no oil left on the surface, but there is as the oil is just very thin (the pan will look dry, not
glistening with oil).
Use vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, etc.), shortening (like Crisco shortening) or lard for seasoning
your cast iron pans.
I recently experimented and found out that food-grade
also works great. Check out
Smoking Points of Oils - Types of Cooking Oils.
Coconut oil is actually much more stable at higher temperatures and it
seasons the pan with a similar coating that animal fats would.
Also check out the Q&A's
web pages below:
Techniques for Restoring and Seasoning Old Cast Iron Pans and Cast Iron Skillets.
Place the cast iron pan,
upside down, in the oven, with a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom to
catch any drips. Heat the pan for 30 minutes in a 450 to 500 degree F. oven. Once done, turn off the oven, and let the pan cool to room
temperature in the oven. Repeating this process several times is recommended as it will
help create a stronger "seasoning" bond. I usually do this process 3 to 4 times.
Seasoning cast iron pans does generate smoke similar to cooking in a dirty oven.
The oil fills the cavities and becomes
entrenched in them, as well as rounding off the peaks. By seasoning a new
pan, the cooking surface develops a nonstick quality because the formerly
jagged and pitted surface becomes smooth. Also, because the pores are
permeated with oil, water cannot seep in and create rust that would give
food an off-flavor. Your ironware will be slightly
discolored at this stage, but a couple of frying jobs will help complete the
cure, and turn the iron into the rich, black color that is the sign of a
well-seasoned, well-used skillet or pot.
Never put cold liquids into a very hot cast
iron pan or oven. They will crack on the spot!
Be careful when cooking with
your cast iron pans on an electric range, because the burners create hot
spots that can warp cast iron or even cause it to crack. Be sure to preheat
the iron very slowly when using an electric range and keep the settings to
medium or even medium-low.
Unless you use your
cast iron pans daily, they should be washed briefly with a little soapy
water and then rinsed and thoroughly dried in order to rid them of excess
surface oil. If you do
not do this, the surplus oil will become rancid within a couple of days.
Remember - Every time
you cook in your cast iron frying pan, you are actually seasoning
it again by filling in the microscopic pores and valleys
that are part of the cast iron surface. The more you cook,
the smoother the surface becomes!
How To Maintain
Cast Iron Pans and Cast Iron Skillets:
Every time, after I use my cast iron pans, I do the following:
Let the cast iron frying pan cool.
Wash it with dishwashing soap and water. Never soak or let soapy water
sit in the pan for any length of time - just briefly wash it out.
Rinse thoroughly, then dry with paper towels.
NEVER put cast iron
cookware in the dishwasher.
A lot of people disagree with using
dishwashing soap and water
to wash cast iron pans. A chef told me that if a health inspector ever
found a pan that had not been washed with soap and water in his kitchen,
he would be in trouble. Plus the grease that is left behind will
eventually become rancid. You do not want rancid oil in your foods and
Place the cleaned cast iron frying pan on
the heated burner of your stove for a minute or two to make sure
that it is bone dry. While the pan is still hot and on the stove
burner, lightly oil inside of pan (I mean a light coat) with a
neutral cooking oil. I
use a paper towel to spread the oil lightly over the pan.
Neutral Food-Grade Oils - Use vegetable oils (canola, sunflower,
etc.), shortening (like Crisco shortening) or lard for seasoning
your cast iron pans. I
recently experimented and found out that food-grade coconut
oil/butter also works great.
Leave frying pan on the hot burner of stove for a few minutes. Remove from
hot burner and wipe excess oil off the pan with a paper towel.
Store your cast iron cookware with
the lids off (especially in humid weather, because if covered,
moisture can build up and cause rust). Be sure that you place a
couple paper towels inside your cast iron pan when storing to make sure that any moisture that
forms will be absorbed by the paper towel.
put the utensil in the dishwasher or store it away without drying it
How To Cook in Cast Iron Cookware:
Cast iron is a great alternative to non-stick
cooking surfaces. Cast iron can be preheated to temperatures that will
brown meat and will withstand oven temperatures well above what is
considered safe for non-stick pans. You can cook almost any food in cast iron
One of the reasons cast iron is so highly valued is for its cooking
properties. Heat is evenly distributed and held, making it ideal for
deep frying, searing, and even baking. The versatility of the
cast iron frying pan or skillet is unrivaled; use it on the stove top, on your
barbecue grill, and/or in your oven.
You can also bake food in your oven
using your cast iron cookware.
Instead of using that casserole dish, try using your cast iron
cookware. Your can bake your cakes, pies, biscuits in cast iron
cookware. Be creative!
Always preheat your cast iron frying pan before frying in it (see above).
Acidic items like tomato sauces will
be darker from iron leaching out, but many people with iron deficiencies do this for extra iron in their diet. Never store acidic products in cast iron cookware. In fact, never ever use your cast iron pots for storing any
It is not recommended that you use
your cast iron as a pot for boiling water. Some people say that the hot water will remove small bits of oil from the surface which
will then be found floating around. Water breaks down the seasoning
and can cause your cast iron to rust.
Check out my large selection of
Cast Iron Cooking Recipes.
Misc. Cast Iron Questions:
Cast Iron Pans:
Measuring Pan Size
Measuring for Lid Size
Measuring Size of Lid
Metallic Taste - If your food gets a metallic taste, or
turns "black", it means one of two things are wrong. Either your pot has
not been sufficiently seasoned, or you are leaving the food in the pot
after it has been cooked. Never store food in the cast iron pan as the
acid in the food will breakdown the seasoning and take on a metallic
Rust Spots - If your
old or new cast iron pans gets light rust spots, scour the rusty areas
with steel wool, until all traces of rust are gone. Wash, dry, and
repeat seasoning process.
Goo or Guck in Pan - If too much oil or shortening is applied
to a cast iron pan in the seasoning process, it will pool and "gum up" when
the pan is heated. In this case, the goo can be scraped off and some
more grease rubbed over the spot, or the pan can be re-scrubbed and
Heating the pan upside-down may help prevent gumming but
protect your oven by using a foiled-lined baking sheet or aluminum foil to catch the
grease. Seasoning at higher temperatures, approaching the smoking point,
of the oil used will result in darker seasoned coatings in less time
that aren't sticky or gummy.
Very interesting and excellent books on using, collecting, and cooking with cast-iron skillets and pans
The Book of Griswold and Wagner: Favorite Wapak, Sidney Hollow Ware
By David G. Smith, Chuck Wafford
The Book of Griswold & Wagner, referred to as the blue book by collectors is the
most complete, accurate, and widely used reference and is coveted by collectors.
The Book of Wagner & Griswold: Martin, Lodge, Vollrath, Excelsior
By David G. Smith, Charles Wafford
This book continues from where The Book of Griswold & Wagner left off. There is NO duplication with the
exception of the skillet logo charts, and the pattern number charts which have been expanded and better organized.
Dutch Ovens Chronicled: Their Use in the United States
By John G. Ragesdale
John Ragsdale, a leading expert on the development, care,
and use of Dutch Ovens offers this condensed history of the
technological advancements of these vessels. If you are
interested in Dutch ovens, this is a "must have reference.
The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes
By The Lodge Company
Cast iron cooking is back in vogue! From America's most chic restaurants to the
countless kitchens of avid home cooks, everyone is rediscovering the joy of cooking with classic cast iron.
Cast iron cooking has always been a kitchen favorite with its even heating, great heat retention
and its flexibility to go outdoors and grill or cook over an open fire.
Questions & Answers - Comments and Hints
Techniques for Restoring and Seasoning Old Cast Iron Pans and Cast Iron Skillets:
Please check out my Q&A pages below on the many different techniques on restoring and seasoning cast iron pans.
Hopefully the following topics will help to answer your many cast iron questions:
Ammonia for Cleaning Cast Iron
Ceramic Top (Flat Top) Electric Range and Cast Iron Pots
Dutch Oven Camp Cooking
Hot Fire for Curing & Cleaning
Iron and Carcinogens in Cast Iron
Misc. Questions & Answers
Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Pots
Propane Torch for Cleaning Cast Iron
Salt for Cleaning Cast Iron
Sandblasting Cast Iron Pots
Sanding Cast Iron Pots
Self-Cleaning Oven for Cleaning & Seasoning
Smoking Points of Oils - Types of Cooking Oils
Warped or Cracked Cast Iron Pots
Washing Cast Iron Pots