on September 30, 2002
I don't know how I survived without a cast iron skillet for as long as I did. Maybe it's because my mother embrased the new-fangled non-stick cookware, and I never learned how useful cast iron could be. Maybe it was because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to take care of cast iron. Or maybe I just thought it would be too much work. Whatever the reason, I should have gone out and tried cast iron years before I did.
Have you ever pre-heated a skillet, only to have the temperature drop as soon as you put the food in? You can't get a decent crust on something if you can't keep your cooking surface hot enough. Ever find yourself cooking in a sea of fats and water that rendered out of your meat? A hot cast iron skillet would have sealed in those jucies. When you want to fry, don't you want to fry, not braise?
Are you afraid things will stick to the pan without a non-stick coating? Well, part of that sticking you fear comes from not searing fast enough, but one very important thing often overlooked is that a well seasoned cast iron pan *is* non-stick.
Caring for this pan is easier than you might think. Once you've used it a few times, you'll hardly ever have to scrub it if you clean it immediately after cooking. (Immediately rinse-out the pan, lightly scrub or scrape any pieces left behind, and then wipe it dry. Coat it with Crisco, and stick it in the oven.)
One thing I try to avoid is putting tomato sauce or other high acid liquids in the pan. That can cut through the non-stick surface that you've built-up -- especially if you don't rince it out before serving dinner.
You might also want to be aware that vegetable oils that are used in cast iron will not be able to be reused (for cooking) as often as they would be if they were in a non-stick deep fryer, for example. But sometimes I'll just go ahead and store the pan in the oven with whatever left-over oil I have around (no higher than 1/3 the way up) instead of coating it with fresh Crisco.
Once you start cooking with cast iron, you save the non-stick skilets for eggs, and you'll find yourself looking for things to cook on the cast iron.
And the best thing is if you don't let the pan start to rust, you'll be able to pass it on to another generation. This will be the best value you'll ever buy for your kitchen.
As for the Lodge brand, it's the only brand cast in the USA. Other brand are imports, and sometimes are not as heavy as the Lodge. So this is deffinately the pan you want.
I cannot get over the great value for the money that Lodge provides. This pan is built like an absolute tank. Its heavy weight means that once you get it hot, it STAYS hot, making it outstanding for stir-frying (better than a wok, really) and for searing meats. Also makes decent pancakes. The steady temperature regulation provided by the massive amount of metal in this pan is really great. In addition, cast iron, once used a few times, becomes virtually non-stick. Fancy-brand pans that cook as well as this one cost four times as much.
There are minuses to be aware of, inherent in the product's nature. (1) It's extremely heavy. Consider the 10-inch size if that's a problem for you. (2) It will rust (a lot) if you leave it in a wet sink, so you ought not to do that.
In short: works like a charm, a great bargain, just know the few weaknesses of cast iron.
on March 18, 2002
I own two Lodge cast iron skillets... a 12-inch one, and a smaller one (6 or 8 inch?) I *adore* them. They are the only skillets I have, in fact; for any bigger jobs that a stock pot won't work for, I use my wok.
These skillets can be used for just about anything. Very even heat, dependable. I haven't tried to make crepes in them yet, but I suspect you could. On the stove or in the oven, they just rock. Keep them clean and well seasoned, and you'll have a fantastic tool for decades.
Even though the saying goes to never use tomatoes in a cast-iron pan, I have... and it's just fine as long as you don't cook the stuff too long, and clean your pan out well right away once you're done. Clean it out, brush it out with a paper towel to get off the excess moisture, then set it on the stove over heat until it's dry, that's all it needs. The cast iron skillets are wonderful, too.
on October 18, 2001
I recently purchased the Lodge 12" skillet and am pleased well beyond my expectations.
I do a lot of French roasting (preheating the skillet to 400+ degrees in the oven, then placing it on stovetop over high heat to sear the meat/poultry, then placing back in the oven at reduced temperature). I don't have to be concerned about melting handles, ruining non-stick coatings or warping; the skillet is the equivalent of a Sherman tank!
The heavy cast iron absorbs, distributes and retains heat beautifully, as advertised. I have found that it is unsurpassed for browning/caramelizing onions, which it does very quickly and evenly, although toss stirring is a task for a weight lifter!
Clear instructions for care and seasoning came with the pan. During the seasoning process the pan turned ugly (just like it's supposed to) and the kitchen took on the faint aroma of a foundry, but now it is truly non-stick, especially if you start off with a very hot pan.
The flavors of foods cooked in the pan are so much better! I could say it was my imagination if not for the fact that I've heard this claim from so many other cast iron users.
I wash it with clear water and a soft brush, dry it with a dish towel, then place it in a warm oven for about 15 minutes to dry it thoroughly, then wipe a light coat of vegetable oil all over it and it's ready to go again. The 'household' understands that I am the only one who cleans the pan and that it is never to be soaked. The standing rule is "Just leave it and I'll take care of it". There are no objections.
I was so happy with the skillet that I went after the 7 qt. Dutch oven (especially after I read one of the other reviewer's tip that the lid also fits the 12" skillet, which it does perfectly).
All this for a fraction of the price of the 'trendy' cookware (and it will easily outlive them). I would consider my new skillet a bargain at twice the price.
on March 18, 2005
I am surprised by some of the comments here cast as negatives on this pan:
It rusts if left in the sink too long.
It has to be seasoned.
I couldn't season it.
It's so heavy.
It's not really black, it's a silvery-grey.
It comes with complicated instructions about how to season it.
Well, all of these things may be true. But you know, it is _cast iron_. You really have to want to use cast iron to use this pan at all, and you use cast iron because of the advantages it has--all of which are mistakenly cast as negatives by a few reviewers.
Of course it rusts if "left in the sink too long." It's unfinished iron (before you season it), and iron rusts. You do not leave unseasoned cast iron cookware in the sink at all, ever, for any reason (or in any other constantly wet place). Toss any of your unfinished iron stuff into the sink. It'll rust. Your kid will wrinkle up if left in the bathtub for a couple hours--is this a deficiency in your kid? No, it's the nature of the thing. You're not supposed to leave the kid in there that long! Your nonstick Calphalon will become very sticky, losing its finish, if you keep washing it in the dishwasher. Is that a deficiency in the product? Well, no--as Calphalon says, DON'T DO THAT. "Doc, it hurts when I do this." "Don't do that."
Of course it has to be seasoned. It's... cast iron. And the instructions are a lot more involved than "fry up your bacon and wash any which way." But do you want cast iron or not? If yes, accept that it has to go through some seasoning. And only the first couple treatments are artificially administered as treatments per se--the majority of seasoning comes very easily through normal use and normal washing (for cast iron). So anyone can season it.
(Remember to coat the WHOLE PAN in shortening when doing the oven-seasonings, not just the interior. I have a feeling many complaints about rust, especially on the bottom, are from people who are seasoning only the cooking surface. [And then soaking it in a sink, which you NEVER do.] You need to season the whole pan, inside, outside, handle, everything.)
It's not black? Well, yes--when it's not seasoned. Seasoning improves with use of the pan over time (and proper care), and that black color develops. It starts out grey; after the first oven-seasoning with shortening it may be a brownish color; after a few months of use a dark brown; eventually nearly black--and that is beautiful.
So how do you care for and clean it? Well, until it is fairly well seasoned, you NEVER let it sit in water for any amount of time. ANY TIME AT ALL. You don't soak it. You don't dishwasher it. You don't suds it up. You don't set it in the sink.
You let it cool, and then you clean it with very hot water and a brush--a plastic brush should do--to scrub the food off. (Not a hard abrasive plastic or steel pad or brush. Just a good stiff plastic bristle brush.) If you need any extra abrasive power at all (rarely will you), use salt as a scrub. Then you towel-dry it well, and then put it on a burner at medium for four or five minutes (I always set a timer). Occasionally, you may want to give it a fine coat of oil or shortening; I put a little on, let it sit, and then wipe it clean.
Over time, the iron will become pretty well sealed and the pan nearly black (the cooking surface will be black). And it will be nonstick.
This is cast iron. It's great stuff. And yes, there is some user-participation involved. But for the benefits of cooking with cast iron, they're worth the trouble to many who cook.
on August 23, 2000
Cast iron fry pans are the best choice for frying foods in fat/oil/pam etc. Those nasty fat deposits left over that you feel like you need to clean off your stainless fry pans, you want to leave on cast iron. These deposits after an accumlation of years of cooking turn into a sort of ceramic finish which is nearly non-stick. The heat is pretty evenly distributed, not quite as well as with copper, but then with copper fry pans it seems to take forever to heat the pan enough to brown anything.
The best thing about these pans is the cost. Its got to be the least expensive pan available. But don't let that fool you, its also one of the most used ones in my kitchen.
If you cook for a family, get the 12", if only for two, a 10" will do. Unless you make a lot of soups which require saute'ing large amounts of vegtables. With the smaller pan you could do them in batches. Or I suppose for the price, you could own two of these pans. The disadvantage of that would be it will take a bit longer to get that well used patina as you would be splitting the usage between two pans.
Disadvantage: Cooking tomato based sauces. The acid in the tomatoes will remove a thin layer of the buildup. Mine after 20 years is impervious and unaffected, your new one will not like it much. Also any sauce if left in the pan while you are eating dinner will continue cooking as the pan holds the heat very well. You should remove all of the unused portions which you intend to save immediately after turning off the heat.
Also get a lid. I got a glass one so I could keep an eye on things as they cook. Keeps the spatter down when frying too.
As for the dietary iron, well the medical community is out on this one, yes there is some iron in food that is left in the pan for a while. Is this iron in a form that you can utiltize? When you fry food, is it mostly in the oil? For men who don't give blood, iron build up could be a problem. Is there enough from eating from cast iron to be a problem? No one really knows. But in any case it appears that amount of iron to be gained is very small. So don't stop eating your spinnach.
I have 2 pieces of Lodge cast iron cookware. This one, which I conditioned myself, and the Lodge Logic preseasoned 10-1/4" skillet. I have to add my voice to the chorus of cast iron admirers who don't know how they ever managed without their Lodges. I do about 80% of my cooking with one or the other. Steaks, burgers, any type of sauteed chicken recipe, stir-fry, fajitas, cornbread, bacon and eggs, pancakes, french toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, and on and on.
Cast iron's chief strength comes from its massiveness. It is basically a honkin' big hunk of iron formed into a skillet. This large quantity of metal, once heated, will tend to evenly distribute its heat and stay hot no matter what you put into it. Futhermore, once properly conditioned (a simple process which Lodge's included instructions will explain), they are almost as non-stick as teflon.
Unfortunately, cast iron is not without its faults. Its greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness in that it is significantly heavier than other types of cookware. This skillet weighs about 8 lbs. Imagine trying to pick that up, plus the weight of whatever you've cooked in it, with one oven-mitted hand so that you can use a spoon in the other hand to help maneuver your recipe into a serving dish or storage container! If you have weak hands or arthritis or any condition that limits your ability to pick up and manipulate heavy objects, it may not be a good choice for you.
Also, its iron - it will rust if not maintained correctly. Lodge provides you with use and care instructions which are not complicated or difficult, but which you MUST follow to the letter. Read the instructions carefully when you get your pan. No dishwasher, no soap - just hot water and a stiff brush, dry quickly (I put mine on a burner and heat it up to drive off every trace of moisture) and coat with cooking oil.
I've read some reviews where folks are saying that you can't cook tomato-based or acidic products in cast iron. Though it may be true, I've never found an authoritative source to corroborate this and, in fact, Lodge's website (lodgemfg.com) offers recipes that contain tomatoes and acidic ingredients! I regularly put tomatoes, tomato sauce, wine, lemon juice, etc. in my cast iron and haven't seen any ill effects from doing so.
I think when I buy my next piece of Lodge Cast Iron, I will opt for another "Original Finish". The seasoning process is not difficult (coat with Crisco and bake), and I think the finish is slightly superior to the Lodge Logic. This pan, which I conditioned myself, has after 3 years acquired a shiny, jet-black surface whereas the other has more of a black matte finish which is slowly becoming shiny as I cook with it (I've had it for 2 years). I will say, however, that as far as non-stick properties and cooking performance, I can't see any difference between them.
These pans are so inexpensive, it will cost you very little to give them a try. If you do, you'll be singing their praises with the rest of us!
But I sure do use it frequently. Heat distribution is superior and nothing could be finer for cooking a pot of chili or other items that need to simmer for a long time.
I've also used it in the oven, for baking things like corn bread.
It is one of my top three pans and I use it frequently, but it does require extra attention for clean-up. Before putting it away, I give it a quick wipe with a thin layer of cooking oil. And then before I use it, I wipe it out with a dry cloth.
I love old things anyway and when I cook with this pan, it reminds me that in many cases - newer isn't better. There is a reason these pans have been in use for 150+ years. They are superior.
In his book GEAR FOR THE KITCHEN, Atton Brown, host of the Food Network show GOOD EATS, says if were allowed to have only one item of cookware, it'd be his 12" Lodge cast iron skillet. The book says it does about everything well except boil pasta.
Cast iron is the worst heat conductor among cookware except for ceramics. But this is an advantage for much cooking. Good conductivity is only good if you want to heat a lot of liquid quickly - like in boiling pasta. Cast iron is prized because of even heating - no hot spots to burn delicate foods - and because once heated, retains its heat so well - good for searing and pan frying. Once a good seasoning is established, the non-stickiness rivals that of Teflon. And this skillet is quite happy going from the stove top, to the oven, to the campfire, etc.
Lodge is the only manufacturer of cast iron in the USA now, and they are considered the highest quality maker by cast iron enthusiasts. Consistent thickness, good seal between the lid and skillet, and good metallurgy are important to the performance and durability of the cookware. This skillet is very reasonably priced, so there's no reason to try to save a couple of dollars to buy a pan made in China. (Note that some otherwise name-brand cookware manufacturers are passing off this stuff under their name. Emeril's line is one.)
Note that Lodge also offers a pre-seasoned version of this skillet (Lodge Logic line) for a few dollars more. Seasoning is not at all difficult (wipe down pan in shortening and place in heated oven for an hour), but the preseasoned skillet will save smoking up your house. But use care with it as any seasoning. I quickly removed the preseasoning off a Lodge Dutch oven with a Scotchbrite pad, which pretty much made moot the point of getting the preseasoned version. (Something somewhere led me to believe that Scotchbrite pads were OK for cast iron seasoning. They're not.) Looking at Lodge's product line develop, I'm wondering if they'll continue to sell the non-preseasoned line.
If you're looking for your first piece of cast iron cookware, I'd recommend the 10-1/4" skillet unless you know you need this larger one. You'll probably find more recipes geared to the smaller skillet, but if you like bacon, you'll find it easier to cook in the larger skillet. If you have a larger family, or cook outdoors for a scout troop, the 12" will come in handy.
Note that the measurement is the overall diameter of the skillet at the lip, and not the diameter of the flat portion at the bottom. For the 12" skillet, the bottom of the skillet is more like 10" diameter.
Get the lid. It also fits the 12" indoor Dutch oven. And get CAST IRON COOKING FOR DUMMIES if you're new to this. It's a great book. You might also want to toss a package of Lodge handle mitts into your Amazon order so you don't burn yourself grabbing the handle.
Read and follow the care instructions, and this Lodge skillet will be a family heirloom that will passed down for generations.
on October 18, 2002
I never used cast iron before, then bought a Lodge reversible grill/griddle and decided to purchase this skillet.
It is wonderful. My fried chicken tasted great, and I was able to sear my steaks to a nice crust with pink meat on the inside -- I have not been able to do that with any other piece of cookware. I am very impressed with the performance of this skillet.
The reason it's getting 4 stars is because -- as another reviewer mentioned -- the handle is kind of short. If it were just an inch longer it'll be great. It does have a grip on the other side to help you carry it.
Be sure to invest in double pot holders when handling this skillet and be very careful. I'm sporting a bandage on my thumb as we speak because my thumb grazed the part of the handle that wasn't being protected by a pot holder. Ouch!
Cleaning and maintenance is not as hard as it seems. I just wait for it to cool, scrub and wash, wipe dry, and leave it on the burner/oven to dry thoroughly. I turn then the fire down, wait until the pan isn't too hot, and apply Crisco. Since the pan is still warm the shortening melts right away and coats it easily. It's not labor intensive but it is time intensive as you will need to wait for the pan to cool down initially to wash, kick it up to hot again to dry, then cool again to season. But then again, you have to load the dishwasher, unload the dishwasher, handwash your nonsticks...