Cooking with Cast Iron

by Matt Moore on June 25, 2012 · 123 comments

in Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure



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My passion for cooking was first born in my grandmother’s kitchen.  On Sundays, she would always host our entire family, extended family, friends, and strangers for a post-church lunch that invariably stretched well into the evening.  It was a day filled with food, laughter, and fellowship.  Of course, the Southern staples of collard greens, black-eyed peas, mac n’ cheese, squash casserole, and spiral-sliced ham always made their way onto our family table.  But my grandmother — Sitty as she was known — was famous throughout Valdosta, Georgia for one thing: fried chicken.

Wet battered and fried in a black cast-iron skillet, the crispy skin and moist, tender chicken was almost prophetic.  My father still jokingly tells my mother that Sitty’s fried chicken was one of the reasons he proposed over 30 years ago.  Rightfully so — we Southerner’s take pride in our traditions and food.

Sitty passed a few years ago, but her memory still lives on.  Not only through the memories of her joyous smile or sharp sense of humor — but also through her cookware.  That’s right — I celebrate her love every time I pull out that perfectly seasoned cast-iron skillet she handed down to me.

There’s something incredibly comforting about cooking in her old skillet.  I’m reminded of those childhood family meals, while at the same time I know that I am creating new memories for myself and friends — all through the same cookware.

For that very reason, I have long felt that when it comes to cookware, cast iron is king. It lasts a lifetime(s), cooks evenly, and even supplies a healthy low-dose of iron to your diet.  It’s arguably the most versatile piece of cookware you will ever find.  It performs on the stove top, in the oven, over coals, or even on top of a grill.  From frying, to sauteing, to searing, to baking – it’s truly the Swiss Army knife of the kitchen.

The best part?  Cast-iron cookware is super affordable when bought new and can also be snagged on the cheap at yard and barn sales and restored.

So, listen up men.  Before you go buy a bunch of expensive gadgets to outfit your kitchen, start first by picking up a cast iron pan.  Treat it right, and you’ll be passing it on to your grandkids.

MM

SEASONING CAST IRON

Unlike Teflon pans, which get their non-stick properties from chemical compounds, the stickiness of a cast iron pan is diminished by a natural layer of oil/fat called “seasoning.” The seasoning also protects the pan from rust.

These days, the majority of skillets you will find come pre-seasoned by the manufacturer.  While you should always take steps to maintain the seasoning (see below), you may encounter times that you want to repeat the seasoning process.  Of course, if you are starting with a brand new, unseasoned skillet, you will need to follow this process before you begin using your cast iron.

WASH –  This will be the only time I advise you to use soap on your cast iron, as you will want to strip it completely clean.  Repeat, only use soap on your cast iron prior to seasoning your skillet — never again — got it?  Good.  Now, rinse that skillet with hot water to remove ALL of the soap.  Done?  Rinse it some more to be sure — you want ALL of that soap out of the pan prior to seasoning.  If you are re-seasoning the surface due to stuck-on food particles or uneven color, go ahead and use a brush or even steel wool to form an even, clean surface.

DRY – After the skillet is completely cleaned, make sure the entire surface is dry and smooth.

SEASON – I prefer to use a thin layer of melted (vegetable) shortening.  You will want to apply this layer over every part of the skillet.  If you do not have access to shortening, choose a cooking oil such as canola, soybean, or safflower, and follow the same procedure.  Avoid using low-smoke point oils such as extra virgin olive oil or butter.

BAKE – Set the oven to 350 – 400 degrees F and place the cookware (upside down) on the top rack of the oven. Bake the cookware for at least one hour.  You can place aluminum foil underneath the pan to avoid drippings getting on the heating element.  Then turn off the oven and allow the cookware to cool to room temperature in the oven — several hours.

STORE – cookware in a cool, dry place.  Thinly coat the cookware with cooking oil in-between uses to maintain seasoning.

USING CAST IRON

As I mentioned earlier, cast iron cookware is extremely versatile.  This is good news, because the more you use it, the more slick with seasoning it will become over time.

One thing is also certain: the handles will typically become VERY HOT!  Always use an oven mitt or folded towels over the handles to prevent burns when handling cast iron.

PREHEAT – cast iron typically takes a bit longer to preheat than standard stainless pans, and it should be done slowly.  Heat the pans slowly over low heat, and then adjust to your desired cooking temperature.

COOK – Once the pan has reached your desired temperature, begin cooking.  Cast iron will maintain that level of heat, thereby providing a reliable and steady heat source.  The pan can also be placed on top of a trivet or towel on the serving table, keeping dishes warm through most of your dinner service.

CLEANING CAST IRON

DO NOT – put your cast iron in the dishwasher.

NEVER – use soap or detergents to clean your cast iron.  Only use soap when you are stripping the pan to re-season (see above).

AVOID – running cold water over the surface of a hot pan, as this can shock the pan, causing fissures or possibly even warping the pan.  Allow the pan to slowly cool before rinsing with hot water.

CLEAN – the surface with a stiff nylon brush and hot water.  For stubborn food particles, you can also add kosher salt to the pan, and work the brush against the salt to serve as an abrasive.  For more stubborn food particles, heat some oil in the pan along with some kosher salt and use a kitchen towel to scrub the surface to remove the particles — careful to ensure you fold the towel enough to protect yourself from the heat.  For super-duper stubborn food particles, boil some water in the skillet for a few minutes while carefully loosening the residue with the brush.

DRY – the cookware thoroughly after cleaning. If you had been using the oven, you can stick the pan in the cooling, still-warm oven for awhile or heat it on the stovetop for a few minutes to make sure all the moisture is removed.

APPLY – a thin layer of cooking oil to the surface while the pan is still warm.

STORE – cookware in a cool, dry place.  Storing the pan in the oven is a viable option, but remember to remove the pan prior to turning on the oven. If your pan has a lid, store the pan and lid separately, or place a folded piece of paper towel between the lid and the pan so the pan is ventilated.

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Let’s put all of that information to use — here are a few of my go-to recipes!

Cast Iron Pan Seared Salmon

A unique attribute of cast iron is its heavy weight and reliable temperature control.  It makes for the perfect piece of cookware to get that crispy sear on a salmon filet every time — without the smoke.  That’s right – I simply cook this fish over medium heat to get a great sear without smoking out or smelling up my kitchen.  It’s a great one skillet meal for the busy bachelor.  (Prep 5 minutes, Cook 10 minutes, Serves 1)

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 8 oz. Fresh Salmon Filet
1 Zucchini, roughly chopped
1 Vine Ripe Tomato, cut into quarters
½ Fresh Lemon

Preheat skillet over medium heat, add oil.  Liberally season salmon filet on both sides with salt and pepper.  Add to skillet and cook for 3 – 4 minutes on each side.  Don’t poke or play with the fish!  Leave it alone to develop a nice sear.  Add zucchini and tomatoes in the last five minutes to soften and cook through.  Season with salt and pepper and finish with freshly squeezed lemon.  Serve.

Cast Iron Grilled Strip Steaks

No matter your choice of cast iron — steaks love direct heat.  Cast iron pans or grill pans can be heated directly over the stovetop for creating that perfect sear.  For thicker cuts, sear the steaks on the stovetop over medium-high heat, flip, and insert into a high-heated oven (500 degrees F) to finish cooking through.  Many conventional grills also offer cast iron cooking grate inserts.  These grates essentially work the same way, while retaining high heat levels and a durable cooking surface.  Better yet, pick up one of these cast iron camp grills (as pictured) and you’ll have the best of both worlds.  (Prep 5 minutes, Cook/Rest 12 minutes, Serves 4)

4 8 oz. Strip Steaks, at room temperature
Canola Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Heat cast iron cooking device over direct heat.  If using a cast iron pan/grill pan on the stovetop, preheat to medium-high.  If using a gas grill, preheat burners to medium-high.  If using charcoal, pile the coals to one side to create a high-heat, direct grilling surface.  Coat the steaks in a thin layer of oil and season liberally with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Place the steaks directly over the heat, and grill for 2 – 3 minutes per side, flipping only once — do not mess with the steaks during the cooking process.  Remove steaks from grill and allow to rest 3 – 5 minutes prior to serving.  Serve.

{ 123 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sean June 25, 2012 at 11:40 am

I love my cast iron. As a primal-eater, I’d suggest ditching the artificial “vegetable” oils and shortenings (canola/soy/shortening) and instead go with more natural options like coconut oil and lard, and use olive oil for seasoning after each use. Salmon cooked in coconut oil is quite a treat, it adds a subtle sweetness!

2 William June 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I own a cast iron skillet, but have rarely used it. Then I spent a weekend at a friend’s house who’s only pan was cast iron. I made bacon and eggs and they came out great. I’m going to season my skillet and start using it as my primary pan.

3 Jr June 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Please post how to take rust off a cast iron pan!!! This would be a great rainy day project and be nice to still use grandpa Joe’s skillet with future generations.

4 Chris D June 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Cooking with cast Iron also has the additional benefits of seeping some of that Iron content into high acid foods thus supplementing our need for the mineral. Increasing our red blood cell health. I was once told a Skillet meal a day can stave the feeling of cold campground mornings, exhaustion, and many other effects (caused by Iron depletion) especially in prolonged wilderness settings, and poor nutrient locations.
Thanks for sharing nice read.

5 Stefan June 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm

For seasoning, you might as well do it right. Go with flax oil.

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/

6 Brien June 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Thanks for the inspiration, Matt. I bought a few different-sized skillets and a dutch oven from Lodge some time ago, I love cast iron and I’m definitely a convert, but I still don’t think I’m using them as often as I could.

7 Jim Weller June 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm

+1 for Stefan, flax seed and medium heat.

We use our cast iron skillet 3-6 times a day with nary a blemish. And Sheryl is right, polymerize!

After cleaning and drying the pan, as indicated in the article, I put it on medium heat just enough to tease the moisture out. Then I wipe it with a very thin layer of flax seed oil.

For stripping, don’t believe the junk about onions or salt. Use chemicals and power tools. When we switched to flax oil, I stripped and wire brushed the old lard build up. Now, two+ years later, the flax oil keeps it looking freshly seasoned.

8 Jon June 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Great article.

I agree with the previous comment about writing an article on restoring old, beat-up garage sale cast iron pans.

9 Todd June 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm

My eyes have been opened

10 Danny Zawacki June 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm

This is the best write-up and explanation I’ve seen on the how and why to season a cast iron pan. I’ve definitely committed the cardinal sin of using soap on mine. Never again.

Tell me, why does this only apply to cast iron and not pans made of other metals like stainless steel?

11 Jason June 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm

For restoring, throw the old pan in a self cleaning oven cycle.

i use my Lodge skillet and dutch oven all the time for the grill. Great for soaking brats, bacon for burgers skillet breakfasts in the morning, apple crisps for desert. I also make chili in the winter on the grill, they say not to cook tomato based things because the acid can strip them and make a heavy iron taste, but I haven’t had an issue yet.

12 NIref June 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I love my cast iron skillets. I acquired them from my aunt through my mother. A little care over time, and they are slicker than a marimba band.

Using cast iron also has health benefits. The metal can secrete nutrients into whatever you are cooking. People with anemia are advised to cook with cast iron in order to increase their iron intake. Teflon and other chemical coatings have been shown to be toxic and can get into food, especially at high heat.

My ideal steak is seared on a ridiculously hot cast iron skillet, then thrown into a 450-500 degree oven to finish off.

13 L.T June 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I use Lodge cast iron all of the time. The flax seed oil is a good way to season a pan but it will stink up your house. The best way I have found is to season the pans on a grill. I got a new 12 inch skillet for Father’s day and it took me one day to get it non stick. I treated it with flax oil and “cooked” the pan on the grill four or five times.

A thin coat of oil works best. I made cornbread that night and it popped right out when I turned it upside down.

Lodge’s 14 inch pizza pan is a joy to have too. I cook up pizzas in about ten minutes with that pan. I put it in the oven as the oven preheats and take it out when the oven reaches temp. I prepare the pie right on the cast iron and it browns the crust just right.

I made chicken fajitas last night on the grill with my new skillet and cleanup was a breeze using the de-glazing trick with hot water brought to a slight boil. Everything that was previously stuck on wiped off with little to no effort.

That Sportsman grill is my next purchase. Great little grill for small fires and dinner for two.

14 neal June 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I’ve used cast-iron a bit, and had it recommended to me a lot, but i;ve always been a little weired out by the idea of grease that never really gets cleaned from the surface. oils and fats go rancid, right? What prevents that from happening on a pan? What prevents bacteria growth and such? Is it just because when you end up up using it frequently, the heat kills that stuff over and over again?

15 LJ June 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

We rescued a skillet that was used as an ash catcher in my father-in-laws wood stove.

We tried many of the methods for seasoning and none of them really worked. An older person told us just to fry some bacon in it.
We did so, a lot. Soon the sheen started coming back. Then we started frying everything in it, saving our everyday cast iron skillet for normal cooking.
Over the course of a year the pan got is natural non-stick coating back and has been perfectly seasoned for the past 6 years.

Later on I read that when a wok is sold in china they include a hunk of pork fat with it for the initial seasoning. what a magical animal.

16 Christopher Battles June 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Thank you for this. I learned a few new things here and we use one everyday.

K, bye

17 Fish Monger June 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Well done piece. There is nothing that can’t be cooked and cooked well in a well seasoned cast iron pot or skillet and if a cook can’t in cast iron, then I don’t want to eat what ever he’s cooking.

18 Rob June 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

How about Sitty’s fried chicken recipe?

19 GusT June 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Yes, the fried chicken recipe would be great. If it is a family secret,maybe other recipes.

20 Alain Racette June 25, 2012 at 4:46 pm

The last picture of the article with the three salmons on the grill-thing with the coals – WHAT IS THAT? I must have it!

I thought it was a barbecue but remembered the article was about cast-iron and it looks too small. What is this magical device and where can I find one?

21 Alain Racette June 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm

And when I say salmon, I totally mean steaks lol.

22 Ben June 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I’ve been using cast iron as my main skillets for years, I have 4 in constant use to feed my 3 kids.

Every time they get dirty, I scrub them with dishsoap – and if necessary, a copper scouring pad.

Blasphemy? Whatever! I prefer my pans to be clean, and re-seasoning is a piece of cake. Just heat the clean pan until it’s hot enough to brown butter, and spread a dollop around the hot pan, letting it smoke a bit. Done! Butter works the best.

Forgot the pan in the sink? All rusty? I’ve seen people really flip a lid over it (speaking metaphorically). No big deal really. If it’s still a little sticky the first time you cook with it, it’s won’t be much and will quickly recover.

That said, cast iron is the best, thanks for posting this.

23 Ben June 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm

To clarify – washing a skillet with soap to get the clinging grease won’t destroy the season unless it sits in the soap. And if you do ruin it, and have to reaseason, preheating the pan seems to make a huge difference.

My intention is posting is to note that cast iron is much easier to care for, cleaner, and more trouble free than many cooks will lead you to believe.

24 minuteman June 25, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Someone was asking why we season cast iron. I believe the reason is that CI is porous and the fat is absorbed into the pores of the metal, where it builds up into a permanent layer of fat.

25 L.T. June 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

A. Racette…..that thing is the Lodge Sportsman grill. Amazon has the best deal on them that I have found.

Soon…..soon I will own one of my very own.

26 Logan June 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm

cast iron manly

27 Matt Moore June 25, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Hey guys – thanks for the comments.

Sitty’s Fried Chicken is slotted to make an appearance in a future post focused on good ole Southern food!

In the meantime, keep on cooking with Cast Iron!

MM

28 Pat S. June 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm

As my first “fun” retirement project I built an old school wood / charcoal fired brick BBQ pit where I can smoke and / or grill. Now that I have done some smoking I want to make biscuits in a Dutch Oven using the related Dutch Oven thread. An occasional biscuit won’t kill me, right?

29 Jared June 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm

The story couldn’t hit any closer to home. I live in the Jambalaya capital of the world. My grandpa was the 4th ever Jambalaya Champion and has been using cast iron all of his life. The last ten years, he has slowly worked on a book and finally released it sometime last year. It really puts the word “tradition” back into dutch oven cooking. I encourage everyone to visit his site http://www.blackironandcajunspice.com and purchase his book. I promise that you won’t be disappointed. It will further explain dutch oven cooking if you are eager to know more after reading this article.

30 Mike June 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Cast iron skillets are fine. Cast iron corn stick pans are the best. If your from the south, you know what real cornbread is. I also have my grand parents 100 yr old corn muffin pan.

31 Pat June 25, 2012 at 7:35 pm

We used a non-stick teflon skillet and it would last a less than a year, get scratches, and then have to be replaced. It was a joke gift for Mother’s day every year. I would buy expensive ones hoping they would last. Then I was introduced to cast iron at a Scout camp. I bought our first skillet. My wife was first doubtful because it was so heavy. That was over five years ago. Now we have the a big skillet and a small skillet that are used daily. Never needs to be replaced.

32 vickyw June 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm

You are wrong about washing your cast iron. They can and should be washed after using. I use my great-grandmothers skillet almost daily and it’s washed after every use. I also re-season it after every use. I have never had food stick to my cast iron. Not even over easy eggs. Never let your pan sit in water, and always dry well (I use paper towel). Season with a solid shortening, and let it rest in 200 degree oven for at least an hour. This just finishes the drying process. Good cooking with your cast iron.

33 Dax June 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm

For cleaning, one of the most important tools is a good spatula. If you have a spatula with straight (to rounded), almost sharp metal tip, it will do nearly all the work of cleaning the pan while you cook.
NEVER use plastic utensils, because small amounts can melt in to the pan and build up over time.
If you have a newer, mass manufactured pan, like me, the surface is not perfectly smooth when you get it and might not even be perfect after initial seasoning. As you use the pan and the spatula together, the tiny pits and imperfections will get filled in and sheared smooth by the spatula. Then, soon enough you will have a perfectly level, perfectly smooth pan, which makes clean up that much easier.
thanks for writing this article, more people should know the joys of cast iron cooking!

34 Brad June 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Lodge Logic L410 Pre-Seasoned Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill

I am going to order one – it has gotten some great reviews at Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-L410-Pre-Seasoned-Sportsmans-Charcoal/dp/B00022OK2A

35 David June 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

I agree with this article and many comments. Cast iron, if cared for properly, is wonderful cookware and should outlast the original owner. I purchased a common brand 10 inch skillet a few years ago. It is well made and cooks most foods well. However, the finish is comparatively rough and delicate foods can stick. Fast forward a couple years, I picked up a Griswold 6 inch cast iron pan that is dated to be about 100 years old. I love this pan. The entire pan is very well finished in that the entire pan is smooth and shiny. This pan can very easily handle delicate foods like fish and eggs. Plus, it is really cool cooking with a pan that was made before my grandparents were born and was probably made before WWI. It will easily outlast me. I purchased this pan at an antique store and paid more than buying a new pan at a big box store. If you want a good introduction to cast iron and don’t want to spend too much money, go for the big brands at the big box store. However, if you want a beautiful, very well made, and delicate-food friendly pan, hit the flea market, garage sales, or antique stores for a vintage pan. Either way, you cannot go wrong with cast iron.

36 Matt June 25, 2012 at 10:37 pm

@JR: while I haven’t tried it myself, I have heard that if you pour ammonia directly in the pan and scrub it with steel wool, the rust will come right off. Obviously you then have to rinse it out very very very well, but then you end up with a brand new UNSEASONED skillet. You can go through the seasoning process and make that pan perfect again.

37 michael June 25, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Grind it down!

All the old cast iron pans have a machined bottom. You will notice concentric rings leaving a smooth finish. These season easily and cook the best. For the last couple of decades Lodge and other brands simply sand cast their pans, no more machining. This leaves a pitted surface that takes ages to fill with seasoning and can leave noobies frustrated and unable to achieve the desirable non-stick finish.

A solution is to to pull out your trusty random orbit sander and with an aggressive 60 grit sand the shit out of the bottom to get it far smoother. The tops of the little nobs will be reduced and it will be far easier to season. Don’t worry about the bright iron. Wash the pan and season right away and you’ll have the most incredible non-stick pan.

Michael, Cast-iron aficionado for over 20 yrs.

38 Evan M June 26, 2012 at 4:01 am

I literally cringed when I saw some people’s posts about washing their cast iron with soap. As for seasoning, flax is the best but I use canola since it’s cheaper and you tend to have it around the kitchen anyway. Actually, I based my initial seasoning technique on Sheryl’s website. There’s a lot of good info there.

@ Neal, When you perform the initial seasoning, you bake it to a temperature above the oil’s smoke point. It then polymerizes to form the non stick surface and the distinctive sheen. The oil applied after each use should be a very light layer, to the point you barely feel any oiliness. If the cast iron is kept in a place with plenty of air circulation, the oil should never go rancid. That’s why the author recommended storing lids separate from pots. As for bacteria, I’ve never personally taken a sample and looked under a microscope but I’ve also never heard of anybody getting sick from using cast iron.

39 Evan M June 26, 2012 at 4:05 am

As for myself; I love cast iron cookware. I use CI skillets exclusively. I also have a nice 5qt kitchen dutch oven (no legs) which is great for Moroccan tagine cooking.

40 Bryan Lee Sammis June 26, 2012 at 7:07 am

Those cast iron fry pans have a unique flavor all their own!!!

41 Raun Lauterbach June 26, 2012 at 7:15 am

This is a really good primer on the benefits of using cast iron. I’m trying to use mine more and more. I was lucky enough to inherit a few cast iron skillets from ~1940. Really good stuff!

42 Natale June 26, 2012 at 7:50 am

I bought a 10″ Lodge 2 years ago and have gotten a lot of enjoyment so far. I haven’t formally reseasoned it (it came factory seasoned) but typically leave a coating of oil on the surface of the pan after I cook with it while it cools. That said I have some trouble with eggs and starchy foods (pancakes mostly) sticking. Time to reseason or do I just need to put down more fat when I cook?

43 Natale June 26, 2012 at 7:53 am

and why has a link to this youtube video not been posted yet? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a51tvqe6A-8&feature=related
Pretty much what inspired me to switch from teflon in the first place.

44 Ben June 26, 2012 at 7:54 am

There’s only one thing about prevailing cast iron lore that bothers me – that soap is taboo. It’s far from the truth.

Cast iron skillet care kind of sounds like a pain in the rear. All these special steps, special oils, special treatment, who wants to put that much time into it? I need pans to feed my kids, I don’t want to deal with special steps. I put them in the dishwater and scrub ‘em out with soap.

After decades of cast iron heresy, what I have are CLEAN pans on which to prepare meals. If you can wipe your finger, or a paper towel across the bottom of your pan and get a brown smear, it’s not clean or fit for food preparation. The easiest, fastest way to effectively remove that greasy gunk is soap.

Then you put that sucker on a burner, heat it right up, add a pat of butter, and you are frying eggs or what have you in minutes, no sticks or mess, and most importantly clean food.

It is super easy, super convenient, folks are really making it hard for themselves and compromising the quality and cleanliness of their cooking in the process. I highly recommend the easy, clean method – especially if you have others to prepare food for.

45 Ryan June 26, 2012 at 8:27 am

Cast Iron is all we use in our home with a good 5 in constant rotation.

46 Micah June 26, 2012 at 8:52 am

Great comments on here, I can personally vouch for Michael’s random orbital polishing method. It makes a big difference in getting that initial super slick bottom.

Also, I do have one of those cast iron grills, and while they are a bit small, it’s plenty big for everyday grilling. The only thing to worry about it where to put it while it’s cooling down. It can take 6 hours to fully go out and cool down. You want to make sure it doesn’t get left out all night and covered in dew, instant rust.

47 caleb June 26, 2012 at 9:02 am

Aluminum foil works for scrubbing as well.

48 Sug Cain June 26, 2012 at 9:07 am

Great post. Just made two brilliant filets in mine last night. However, it’s much better to use bacon grease or lard to season the pan. Those seed oils and vegetable oils are so terrible for you. I don’t know any man who needs an oil that has to be “deodorized” using ammonia. Love this site!

49 Bruce Williamson June 26, 2012 at 9:08 am

Don’t use cast iron anymore. The wife wanted a ceramic top range and you really can’t shouldn’t use cast iron on it as it will scratch the top.

But it is the best material for cooking and a hell of a lot cheaper than the stainless steel stuff.

50 Tess June 26, 2012 at 9:15 am

I agree that there’s nothing like cast-iron, especially for making cornbread and frying potatoes and onions. The pan itself seems to add flavor that no other cookware does, not even oven-safe stuff.

I’m on the “wash with soap” side. We have cast iron pans that are three generations old, and they’ve been washed with soap all that time. We don’t put them in the dishwasher, and we don’t let them soak– but a good quick swish with hot soapy water isn’t going to deseason them.

ONE MAJOR CAVEAT!!! If you have a glass top range, sorry– you can’t use your cast iron pans on it. Manufacturer’s orders. Apparently, the iron can get so hot it’ll crack the glass surface.

I’m looking forward to the day soon when I move to my new house, with a traditional electric range, so I can use my iron skillets on the stove top again!

51 Tess June 26, 2012 at 9:20 am

Forgot to add– I once bought an ancient griddle at a junk store. It was literally *crusted over* with about a half an inch of rock-solid yeech on the outside, apparently from being used over a wood cookstove eye or an open fire. It was also really sticky on the cooking surface. Soap and a stainless steel scrubby did nothing to reduce either issue. Neither did the dishwasher.

I got some Red Devil lye and soaked that sucker in a bucket for a day. It came out as slick and clean as a brand new griddle (slicker, actually, than a modern new one.)

Yes, lye is dangerous and deadly poison, but used according to directions it’ll make short work of all that fired on junk.

52 John June 26, 2012 at 9:52 am

Okay, here’s the real deal on the “no soap” taboo.

IT’S A MYTH.

Back in the day, the only soap most people had was homemade lye soap. That stuff is HARSH, and it would take the seasoning right off your pan.

Nowadays, almost no-one uses lye soap, but the “no soap” taboo persists. Most people now use much milder soaps and detergents, so any regular dish soap is just fine for washing your cast iron pan. You can even use a mild scrubber, if you like. (Dishwasher detergent is a different story, though. Do NOT put your cast iron in the dishwasher.)

Remember this: there is a big difference between SEASONING and GREASE. Seasoning is oil that has undergone a polymerization reaction to heat and air. It’s the good stuff. Treat it well. Grease, on the other hand, is just fat. It gets rancid, it smells bad, it traps bacteria, it’s nasty. Wash it off. Feel free to use soap.

53 Tyler S. June 26, 2012 at 10:46 am

Getting my 10” cast iron skillet was one of the best investments I made as far as my apartment. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING tastes better if cooked in the cast iron. Not to mention, it literally adds iron to your dishes. So if your nails area little blue around the edges, or your memory/thinking starts to go, or you are anemic…cast iron will help add the iron you need into your diet.

54 Okie June 26, 2012 at 10:53 am

I’ve been cooking with cast iron for the last several years and a few things I’ve found that aren’t mentioned here:

1: To restore a pan, don’t be a afraid to get abrasive. I’ve used steel wool, sandpaper and grinding bits. Whatever gets the rust off.

2. To reseason a pan, stick it in the oven on a 2 hour cleaning cycle. Strips it bare and its ready to go.

3. Be careful of how much lard or oil you use seasoning it. Coat it, but don’t glob it. Overuse of oil in the seasoning process will smoke in the oven and make everyone’s eyes in the house burn uncontrollably.

4. Even after seasoning, don’t be afraid to scrape it down with a good, flat, metal spatula (I recommend a Dexter-Russell). Don’t dig hard, but a smooth scrape will take the top layer of junk off (burnt egg, bacon pieces, crumbs and built up seasoning). The remaining oils will fill the microscopic ridges in the pan and reinforce the seasoning and smoothness. You want it seasoned with oil, not food particles.

5. Lastly, always oil it after use. I use oil oil. Especially after baking with it (cornbread in it is amazing but sucks alot of the oil out.) Keep it clean and oiled constantly and it will easily become your favorite kitchen piece.

55 Okie June 26, 2012 at 11:08 am

To answer some people’s questions regarding if you should stop using soap on teflon pans – NO.

The nature of cast iron is much different than a teflon pan. Cast iron has microscopic ridges in the iron. This is why food will stick to an unseasoned pan – the weight of the food fills in those ridges and binds to them. By seasoning your pan, you are filling in those ridges with oil/grease, so that food literally sits on top of them. This is why I advocate scraping cast iron, it evens out the surface. When you use soap on CI, it can strip the oils and grease out of those ridges, thus eliminating your seasoning. Teflon doesn’t have these ridges, so soap it up and clean it, as there’s nothing down in the metal for it to strip.

56 Tim McMahan June 26, 2012 at 11:43 am

Thanks AoM for the article! :) And thanks Mike for mentioning grinding. I have been researching the topic since I picked up a never used 30″ griddle. Its VERY rough and i’m sure everything will stick right away. I too have seen the machining marks on old stuff. All I have to add is DO NOT use grapeseed oil, not even to cook with. Its so thin, it acts like a solvent on old seasoning. Mine started to rust after one time of cooking with it!

57 Cheryl June 26, 2012 at 11:44 am

There is no tastier way to fry eggs than on cast iron. You wouldn’t think there would be a difference, but there definitely is. I’ll never cook them any other way again.

58 Guy June 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I’m a cast iron junkie……something about its durability, practicality and longevity

59 Chris June 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Where does one BUY NEW UNSEASONED cast iron? Its so frustrating trying to find this stuff… Been looking for years now! Does no one sell it new anymore?

60 Eric June 26, 2012 at 6:46 pm

My wife wanted a glass top range forever, and about three years ago I bought her one. While installing it, I noticed the directions said “do not use with cast iron”, at which point I proceeded to HIDE that dirty piece of paper from my wife.

Three years of cast iron cooking on the glass top range later, both the range top and the cast iron are holding up just fine!

61 Will June 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I discovered the wonders of cast iron about five years ago. Bought myself a 100-year-old Griswold skillet. Those pans not only have a superior grade of iron (so I’m told), but the surface is milled smooth, unlike modern CI.

I use it all the time, and it’s my favorite pan. If my house burned down tonight, it’s the first thing I’d try to dig out of the rubble.

62 Sam C June 26, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Soap – as a previous poster mentioned, it is only harsh *lye* soaps that will ruin your season. No problem with Dawn or other normal dishsoap – I use it all the time on my Cast Iron.

Newer stuff (and the cheap Chinese made cast iron cookware) are not finished to the same level as they used to be. The tip above about finishing them yourself is a good one, even if you don’t have a sander you can use steel wool or abrasive paper and some elbow grease. It helps.

I use bacon grease to season my cast iron and it works well.

63 Gary R June 26, 2012 at 11:05 pm

The best bet on cast iron is to look at the thrift stores for old pans in good condition that someone is cleaning out of Grandma’s house without knowing the value. You’ll find better pans than you can possibly buy today for next to nothing. Look for the ones with a perfectly smooth, glossy interior. Look on the bottom for the maker’s name – Atlanta Stove Works or Griswold are prime finds.

One poster has it right – modern cast iron is sand-cast, with a rough, pebbly interior. The good stuff years ago was machined smooth on the inside. Today the manufacturers skip that step to save money. Yes, you can grind it down yourself, but it is a hassle. That’s why if you can find a second-hand pan that is already glass-smooth on the inside, you’re way ahead of the game.

64 Evan M June 27, 2012 at 6:41 am

@ Ben
I don’t know why you keep bringing up cleanliness as a reason to use soap. I throw a little plain water in my pans when I’m done and scrub it out and never get any brown residue when I rub my fingers on the cleaned surface. Just because we don’t use soap, doesn’t mean our cast iron isn’t clean. Or maybe it’s because you’ve soaped off your seasoning that you get a brown residue.

65 Mr. T. June 27, 2012 at 8:16 am

We cook primarily on cast irons and Dutch ovens in our house. Cast irons cook as well as much more expensive steel/gold/copper mixes that go for 350+ a pan. It really is the connoisseur’s choice.

We bought a proper Chinese cast iron wok as well, which came with a bamboo brush for cleaning. We find this works perfectly on all cast iron pans. No soap. Dry by heating on the stove at very high heat for a minute or so. Simple care.

Regularly cooking free range pork bellies (ie uncured bacon) keeps the pan well seasoned. We rarely add oil (no vegetable oils) to reseason.

66 Keith Powers June 27, 2012 at 9:07 am

I recently obtained a Wagner Ware 13-3/8″ skillet from Craiglist, and vegetable/flax oils were caked on to it. It took 1/2 an hour of heating at 350 degrees and scrubbing with a Chore Boy to get the later of vegetable based scum off.

I will never season cast iron ANYTHING with any other than lard. A thin layer (essentially, wiping it with a cloth saturated with lard) over a charcoal grill (to get proper polymerization temperatures for saturated fats), repeated 4-5 times, and I have a non-stick finish that is VASTLY superior to Teflon.

67 Andrew June 27, 2012 at 9:25 am

I never had much luck with the traditional method of seasoning that the manufacturer suggests with vegetable oil in the oven, so I approve of the shortening. My trick is to do it on an outdoor grill. Add shortening to the pan, turn it upside-down and give it a few minutes until it turns black then let it sit and cool. BOOM!

68 Roland Denzel June 27, 2012 at 9:54 am

Great article. Lots of great info.

I have to agree with those who say not to use soybean, corn, or seed oils. These oils are bad for us, in general, and many of them go rancid quickly.

Ideal fats are lard (or bacon or sausage grease, even). If that’s too foreign a concept, coconut oil is idea. Extremely high smoke point, stable at room temp, and take forever to go rancid.

I primarily only cook with coconut oils and animal fats (ghee or clarified butter, lard, tallow, bacon, etc.) because they are far healthier than seed oils.

Roland

69 scottindallas June 27, 2012 at 10:58 am

I disagree with the author about how to clean your cast iron skillet. The best way to clean it, is to wipe it with a paper towel, and discard towel. We don’t put water in the skillet but 5% of the time.

Don’t cook anything watery, or real (water based) saucy in your cast Iron. For all of that Stainless is better, burns and deglazes as you want.

As to seasoning, beef fat is very good. I use the dickel (the fatty knuckle on the top end of brisket) from smoked brisket, which is like bacon. Don’t wash that cast Iron, it wipe it clean, heat it up, wipe again, and re-season if needed.

70 Zeke June 27, 2012 at 11:04 am

Love cast iron skillet, the first pan my parents ever gave me when I hit 18 is still my go-to, and will definitely become multi-generational.

Two points, though…
1> Forget that nylon brush nonsense and go with a copper scrubby (Chore-boy makes ones that are still solid copper and not just copper coated) The copper won’t rust in between cleanings, and that and hot water will always be enough to clean it. If somethings stuck badly just let it sit for a few minutes with steaming hot water and then scrub. Plus this allows you to actually feel the surface of the man as you clean to keep the cooking surface spotless.
2> Another no-no that I’m surprised you omitted was do not cook with any kind of acid in cast iron. De-glazing with wine, or lemon(or juice), or simmering tomatoes or sauce will strip your hard earned seasoning right from the pan. It will deposit all of that seasoning right in what you’re cooking– watch how that built up grease will discolor your wine sauce as it peels off the inside of the pan. Sure will leave a nice clean pan, though. Save this kind of cooking for your stainless cookware.

71 TylerReyna June 27, 2012 at 11:09 am

like Louise answered I am surprised that anyone able to make $8261 in one month on the computer. did you read this web link(Click on menu Home more information)

72 TylerReyna June 27, 2012 at 11:09 am
73 Alan June 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm

People, on this of all sites you should know this – MEN DO NOT NEED EXTRA IRON!

Seriously, look this stuff up. WOMEN need extra because they bleed, men DO NOT and there is considerable evidence that excess iron causes a raft of health issues in men. Some even speculate that iron is the reason for the life expectancy gap between the sexes.

Reading this article actually put me off the idea of an iron pan, as it seems a lot of hard work. However the idea that the thing is leeching iron into my food seals the deal. No way!

74 Scott June 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Best of both worlds: enameled cast iron. Like regular cast iron, enameled pans heat evenly and are essentially nonstick. Unlike bare cast iron, you can cook acidic foods in an enameled pan without worrying that you’re stripping the seasoning (or adding a metallic flavor to your dishes). Like a teflon pan you have to be a little bit careful not to scrape the enamel out of the pan (so don’t use metal utensils in it), but unlike teflon you don’t have to worry about chemicals leeching into your food.

Le Creuset and Staub make phenomenal enamelware, and Lodge is starting to get a little better in that market. Beware Chinese-made enamelware, though; the enamel has the unfortunate habit of chipping during cooking.

75 CoalClinker June 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Cast iron is the only way to cook as far as I’m concerned! I have a Piqua Ware #5, a pre-1895 Wagner #8, a Griswold #9, 2 National #9s, a Lodge #10, a Wapak #10, a Birmingham #10, a Wagner #11, a Wagner #12, a Birmingham #14, and a Lodge #14. I also have a Wagner 3-in-1 Chicken Fryer, as well as a Piqua #81/2 Chicken Fryer. Also I have a 24″ Griswold Griddle, and a 1920 Wagner Waffle Iron.
I have some tips concerning buying, reconditioning, and use of your trustworthy cast iron skillet.
Buying and old skillet: You can find them around flea markets and even antique stores. You need to check if the bottom is warped, which means it wobbles and won’t sit flat on your cook top. It should wobble very little. If there’s no table top to check it on, carry around a hacksaw blade to check the flatness of the bottom of the piece.
If the piece is a bit rusty, that doesn’t necessarily rule it out. I carry around in a small baggy a piece of steel wool and a tiny bottle of vegetable oil. The oil with steel wool will remove any surface rust. You do not want any piece that is pitted!
Reconditioning you skillet: I use Wal-Mart brand spray oven cleaner. It’s pretty nasty stuff and will clean of the crud pronto! I prefer to try to preserve the decades of black on my skillet’s bottom cook surface. I’ll cut out a piece of cardboard that perfectly fits in the bottom of the skillet; I use painter’s tape to keep it in place. When cleaning a skillet like this, try to place it bottom side up to keep the oven cleaner off that cook surface. This may take a week or more. You scrub it with an abrasive dish pad, soap and water, Always dry it afterwards, then reapply the oven cleaner repeatedly until you’re down to bare metal. You’ll have to cut out another piece of cardboard each time you do this. I always clean the outside first, then wait until last to clean off the interior to facilitate the process.
Seasoning your skillet: After you wash off the last application of oven cleaner, and dry your skillet, line the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil to catch any oil drippings from the seasoning process. I use grape seed oil to season my skillets. This stuff rocks! Put a VERY thin layer on the skillet inside and out, and put on your oven rack upside down. Set the oven to 450 degrees, and bake the skillet for about 2 hours. Let it cool.. Repeat with another very thin layer of oil. Each layer after the baking process should never be sticky- that means you didn’t bake it enough. After doing this several times, your gray iron skillet will have a rich, dark brown, varnish like coating on it. It’s ready to use now!
I think the best way to break in a skillet is to fry eggs for awhile. Don’t try to fry hamburger or onions at first for it will stick! Frying potatoes or chicken is a good way to start one out, too.
I have used this seasoning process on my #10 Lodge, which does not have a ground, smooth surface. Food does not stick!
Cleaning and maintaining your skillet:
I prefer to never clean my skillets with soap and water. After it cools, I pour off the oil and wipe out the rest with paper towels. However, sometimes food does burn and stick. In that case, do not scour with abrasives! Let your skillet cool, and put some water or even soapy dish water into the skillet. Allow to come to a boil, and use a large spoon or whisk to stir. The stuck, burnt on crud will usually come right off. Most of the time, however, I’ll use oil and coarse salt to scour my skillets. You should be able to see yourself in the bottom of a clean, oiled skillet!

76 Cleveland013 June 27, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I store my cast iron skillet in the oven as suggested. However I leave it in there all the time. My oven doesn’t keep temp perfectly and the extra bulk of the cast iron, while slow to heat up, keeps the oven more regulated and at an even temp, very helpful when baking.

77 Ben June 28, 2012 at 9:54 am

@Evan

Cleanliness is the primary reason I kept mentioning soap! If you have a greasy pan, water alone won’t make it clean, it’s science fact.

However, it’s not my intention to nitpick about such things – I know that using soap is a good idea on cast iron, I let decades of results speak for themselves, as do others who have tried other techniques.

The real issue here is, as one commenter noted, that cast iron care sounds like a real pain, it’s so involved with so many time-consuming steps. The truth is that it’s a lot like any other skillet – with the exception that you have to spend 5 minutes with it after you wash (actually 2 almost instant steps – heat, oil).

Cast iron is awesome, and super easy, don’t let the ‘experts’ make it sound like it’s something it’s not. Recommended for everyone.

78 Zeke June 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I agree with Scott in post 74, enameled pans are the sch-nizzle, especially for anything that needs to stew or cook for awhile…like chili, pot roast, stews(duh), etc..(and these pans will be multi-generational as well) but plain old fashioned cast iron still has it’s place…bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes…no substitute in these situations…and you simply cannot properly “blacken” any meat with out a cast iron skillet

79 Miriam June 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm

What’s this??? You didn’t share Sitty’s Fried Chicken recipe??? For shame!

80 OUTRDR June 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I have a cast iron skillet that has only been used for baking cornbread for 32 years. Great stuff…

81 Jt June 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Two days ago the power went out all over Northern Saskatchewan. With no oven/stove or microwave we were left with only a bbq. Being the smart 16 year old I am I grabbed the cast iron pan put it on the bbq and fried eggs.

82 brian June 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Thanks for the primer on a cast iron skillet. Usually cook up a pan steak once a every other week in my stainless steel workhorse, but a cast iron sounds even better. Would’ve been nice to hear more about making your grandma’s fried chicken, but thats probably the family secret recipe, kind of like our grandma’s german potato salad. Anyway, thanks again.

83 Ball June 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I season my pans with bacon grease. Shortening is evil

84 Evan M June 30, 2012 at 2:48 am

@ Ben
Greasy and lightly oiled are two different things. A cleaned rifle will have a coating of oil on it for protection, cast iron is no different, you just use a different oil.

Boiling water IS sufficient to clean cookware without soap. Food particles are gone and bacteria are dead. I’d be curious to know if there’s any evidence that anyone has gotten sick from cast iron not cleaned with soap or maybe we’re just using different definitions of clean.

If the additional care requirements make cast iron seem like a pain to people (since I don’t wash mine with soap it takes about the same amount of time as a steel pan so I don’t know why it would) I would counter that the cooking benefits outweigh them (even heat and heat retention).

Some people seem to like using soap, more power to them, it’s their cast iron. It seems that many many more do not and have had no trouble using the soapless method for hundreds of years. I’d be hard pressed to tell all these people that they are wrong and shouldn’t be telling others to do it that way.

PS. ‘Scientific fact,’ I don’t think it means what you think it means.

85 C Bergsten July 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I’m surprised that none has mentioned how to do a proper salt cleaning of your cast iron skillets. That’s the type of cleaning I do if I want to strip and re-season. I’ve also noticed that this method takes care of rust as well.

1. Put the skillet on the stove, add a layer of salt (at least half a centimeter thick) and slowly heat it up to maximum temperature. Keep it at that heat for about 30 minutes. You may wish to stir the salt a bit during, for better effect. This will suck all the old seasoning into the salt and burn off any other dirt or rust.
2. Pour off the salt and let the skillet cool off (30 minutes minimum). If there are still any dirt on the surface use a steel brush or similar. The cast iron should be silvery gray at this point. Once cool, brush off any excess salt and loose dirt.
3. Return to stove. Cover the surface in oil (I use rapeseed oil) and heat up the skillet to low to medium heat. Keep it there for another 30 minutes. It’s important to have enough oil so that it doesn’t dry out during the process.
4. Pour off the oil (which at this point should also contain dirt particles) and leave it to cool off. Once cool, dab with a paper towel or similar to remove excess surface oil.
Done… cleaned and a base seasoning applied.

Regarding using soap. I’ve always avoided doing so because if you’re not careful soap will gather in the pores, just as the seasoning, thus risking a slight soapy taste at next use. So if you do use soap, do it swiftly, while the skillet is cool and under running water to make sure you don’t leave any residue behind. Though I can’t say I’ve ever felt the need to clean my skillet with soap.

86 Ron July 1, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I used to love using my cast iron, used it all the time. Now have a glass top stove. I am thinking of getting one of those stand alone electric elements and just use it on the countertop with my good-ole cast iron.

87 dennis July 2, 2012 at 10:38 am

I use CI alot. Another good way to season if you have a lttle issue is to put in some Coconut oil turn burner on high and cook till it smokes. Let cool, wipe out extra, cook it again till it smokes. and your goood to go.

Pour in boiling water to help get clean, then follow steps above to fix it.

88 Lynne July 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I think the best thing about cast iron is the price. When we were first married we bought a a few different sizes of cast iron fry pans at flea markets and I don’t think we ever spent more that $5. My favorite pan that I still use 30 years later cost $3.00 AND they were already seasoned.

89 Deltaboy July 5, 2012 at 8:46 am

I love my collection od CI many pieces are over 100 years old. My Griswol #8 skillett is my favorite.

90 MTD July 6, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Impeccable timing for this post–I returned from a trip to find that my housemate’s friend had run the house cast iron skillet through the dishwasher! I had never seasoned it myself so this was a good opportunity. I can say that the inaugural dish on the revitalized skillet was a success.

91 Liz July 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm

@ Chris

You can buy new, unseasoned cast iron at farm supply stores. Agrisupply sells tons of it in the stores, and probably online, too. http://www.agrisupply.com/

92 Heathre July 10, 2012 at 9:51 am

I agree with Sean. I wouldn’t recommend canola/soybean/safflower. Instead, coconut/olive/lard/butter/bacon fat/tallow.

I love cast iron skillets.

93 Danhy October 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm

20+ yr user of cast here – - Also a microbiologist and soap chemist by trade, and the family and church cook by night. Yeah, I’m a little late to this party but got here the back way.

Clearing up a couple of things:

1) Normal dish soaps are fine to use on well-seasoned iron. Preferable sometimes, but not necessarily most of the time. I wouldn’t ever use any harsh cleaners or TSP on them, but a little Dawn won’t hurt the iron.

2) Today’s detergents do however leave a film and this film is not without its own issues or flavors. This is why only if I have a pan that is a little rank from whatever I cooked after cleaning it normally, you betcha I’ll hit it with a squirt of detergent, rinse it well, and go back to normal. It doesn’t come to this 90% of the time.

2) Clean but unwashed pans are not a haven for bacteria, let alone viruses. Washing let alone washing with soap is not necessary to achieve a clean pan. If you believe otherwise, you’ve been duped by marketing. Soaps are largely just wetting agents designed to make water do it’s job a bit better. They can emulsify the oils allowing them to be removed easier, but not necessarily more completely than with just water.

A good bristle brush with just water will clean your pan just fine, and the small trace amounts of oils that are left will simply add to the seasoning of the pan as it is being used time after time. You simply want to make sure that you are getting rid of food particles and moisture, which is why you want to use the brush, dry it, and then slightly oil it to keep the air and moisture out.

3) Even if you have some food particles on the pan, once they are dried, they are no longer a food for bacteria or molds. This is the fundamental nature of your outdoor grill. Do you wash that rack every time you grill. Most people don’t and they are perfectly healthy. Chances are that the fresh food you buy fresh from the supermarket has far more bacteria on it than a pan with a bit of oil or even some fine dried food particles. 99.99% of that bacteria will die off by the time your food gets to 140 for 10 minutes, and your body knows how to take care of the rest, and does so every day.

4) Iron is meant to be used. Oiled up pans that are left for months on end can get to be a bit stinky from rancid oils. But ones that are regularly used will never suffer that humiliation. If you have cookware and want it to be the best that it can be, use it or lose it. I have about 10 iron pots and pans plus a ceramic coated iron one. It’s a little tougher to use them as regularly as I must, but I’ve already given away all my non Griswolds, and I plan to let my daugher in laws fight over them after I die or end up in a home.

5) Acid foods aren’t as problematic with iron as they are made out to be. I cook at least a dozen pots of chili and another dozen of Italian tomato somethingoranother every winter, and I have the best seasoning on my pans you can imagine. The first reason is that today’s tomatoes are not nearly as acidic (or flavorful or nutritious) as the non-GMOs that your grandmama used to grow or buy. You’d have to cook tomato sauces in your iron daily to have it be an issue. Second, cook your meats in the pan first and then add your tomato products. The first adds to the seasoned product before you add your harsher acid foods. That said and for disclosure, I also have a great set of stainless and if I’m cooking a big family meal, the sauces will go into the stainless. Yes, I still have 2 teflon pans as well. You never know when they might come in handy, but they primarily only get used now for fried potatoes on the rare occasion that I make them since those stick to anything including my prized Griswolds.

6) FYI, you, your food, your kitchen, and your house as a whole aren’t as clean as you think you are. And that’s a good thing. Nobody should eat rotten food, but eating normally and not worrying about what might get in your body will actually make you a much healthier person.

7) There are many fine pans out there still, though I can’t think of many reasons to use a Lodge when you have the choice of something better. Griswold pans are the acclaimed version and collectors items. It doesn’t take many of them to have a valuable collection worth enough that your stupid stoner grandkid can hock at a local pawnshop after you are long dead. Yes, they last that long and my youngest pan is about 80 years old with my longest one going on about 120. I’d guess them to have at least 300-400 more years in them short of someone leaving them outside in the weather to rust.

But don’t feel like you have to spend the big bucks for Griswold pans. Wagner also made a great but much less expensive brand. I’m guessing they will probably have some value once people stop selling the Griswolds or they get just too danged expensive. But don’t go for the Wagner called the 1891 (hint: it’s not made in 1891) It’s no better than a Lodge pan, at best…. and maybe worse.

The Griswolds (particularly the ones with the big Logo) and the old Wagners will all milled down after they were cast, and these are the ones that will give you superior cooking and are surprisingly a lot less weighty.

Here’s another hint: If you see an iron pan with directions for seasoning it on the bottom molded into the metal (yes, I’m serious), it’s not a good pan.

Go to Ebay and search for Griswold or vintage Wagner pans. You can still find some good deals out there, and if you are willing to clean one up, you’ll probably even get a Wagner cheaper than you can buy a recently made Lodge.

94 Ioana October 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Waw, awesome info! I would loove to have your Grandma´s fried Chicken recipe! PLEASE !!

95 Kate November 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm

@John- No one uses lye soaps?? Every time you use a real soap, not a glycerin soap or detergent, you’re using a lye saponified soap. The reason old lye soaps were often harsh was because the lye was poorly calculated, too much was used and saponification was incomplete, leading to excess lye remaining in the soap. Now there are much better lye calculators for a given fat or oil and you can have a lovely, luxurious soap.

96 Kevin November 26, 2012 at 2:37 am

Thank you for your masterpiece of all things cast. I wrote a little novella on the budding love found with my grill pans and dutch ovens. ‘

http://knakao.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/cook-like-a-man-with-a-cast-iron-pan/

97 Rob December 2, 2012 at 2:19 am

Stefan is right, flax seed oil is the best. Smoke point doesn’t matter at all when you’re seasoning, you need an oil with a high iodine value so that it will lend a slick finish. You should also be seasoning at 500 degrees. I had been using coconut oil and bacon grease, and it was never really non-stick. Now I have the sexiest shiny, uniformly black cast iron pan that is an absolute pleasure to cook with.

98 Jason February 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm

A bit late for the party here. Still, thought I’d share how I clean my cast iron pans if they have stuck-on bits:

After you remove the food and excess grease, wipe out with a paper towel, then place back on the heat.

When the pan is good and hot, dump about a half-cup of water in, deglazing the pan. Scrape the crunchy bits off the bottom.

Oil lightly if needed, then store.

99 BJ March 12, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Vinegar works great for removing oxidation from many metals – including rust from cast iron. I typically use regular apple cider vinegar. Fill the pan full enough to submerge all the rust, let soak several hours (overnight), pour out the out the vinegar, and scrub the pan with steel wool. The rust will lift right off. You should immediately season your pan after removing the rust, or it will rust again.

100 Smoothie March 30, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Great article. When is Miss Sitty’s fried chicken recipe going to be posted? LOL

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