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Cast Iron skillet?


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Initial post: Jan 6, 2011 2:02:57 PM PST
JHH says:
Hi everyone,

Need your opinions! Everyone I know who owns a cast iron skillet seems to swear by it. What is the difference between cast iron skillet and a regular non-stick frying pan (other than the ability to put into the oven)? Also, is there a taste difference?

Reason I am asking is I am considering buying one for making pineapple-upside-down-cake. I've made it lots of times in a regular baking pan, but saw a recipe utilizing the cast iron skillet and it intrigues me! Again, is there that much of a difference?

Input appreciated!!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2011 2:23:55 PM PST
I swear by my cast iron skillets too! I recently bought a new stove/range and would not consider the smooth top because I could not use my cast iron it that type. When seasoned properly they are better than a non-stick and safer (teflon flu). They also don't lose their non-stick coating, and if need be can be re-seasoned.

If you decide to purchase a cast iron skillet make sure it is of good quality. I do not recommend the newer 'Lodge' brand as they are rough and food tends to stick to a rough surface. I would recommend that you look for a good skillet in a second hand store. Griswold and Wagner are two very good, old manufacturers. Check for smooth cooking surface, hot spots and warps (does the bottom surface look uniform in color and shape?). They can range in price from $20 on up but are well worth the price if in good condition. The cost of a new skillet, with shorter life, would be comparable.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 3:12:28 PM PST
Cast iron skillets last forever, they are cheap, they hold onto to heat for a long time, even though it takes them a long time to heat up. They can take high heat with no problem, making them my favorite choice for searing steaks, and clean up is a breeze, no soap and water necessary. And for those that worry about germs, realize you would regularly heat a cast iron skillet to 450F, which is more than enough to kill any bacteria. You can just salt and a little oil to wash it out if need be, these days mine just wipes clean with paper towel.

I also make pineapple upsidedown cake in my skillet and it is my favorite dessert to cook for others, it's very different than what most people are used to for desserts, and I always get compliments.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 4:31:15 PM PST
Busy Bee says:
I've used my cast iron skillets for 40+ years and they're still in great shape. I wash them with soap and water and dry with paper towels. If I burn something in one and it sticks on, I will use a nylon scouring pad and re-season - no problem! I routinely use them, for steaks, eggs, potatoes and anything where you'd like a good crust to form on the food.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2011 4:49:23 PM PST
Carrie O. says:
JHH - I also swear by my cast iron. Of course, half of mine was my great-grandma's or my grandma's. :) There's a positive right there for you, they last FOREVER!

Other pros:
Cast iron doesn't leach chemicals like coated non-stick pans
Cast iron adds trace amounts of iron to your diet
Takes higher temperatures well, better for searing meat
Can go from stove to oven
nearly indestructable

Cons
Some people feel it's hard to make sure you clean it right. I don't find that's the case. It's much easier to clean than my other pans.
Fairly heavy

I've always used cast iron to make pineapple upside-down cake. That's how I was taught to make it. :)

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 5:14:18 PM PST
I have my grandmother's Griswold, which I have used during my entire marriage. Scrambled eggs are a no-no, and require the pan to be re-seasoned. My husband thinks steak and eggs from the skillet or spider, as my grandmother called it, taste better than cooked anywhere, anytime. He would cook them and I would re-season, daily if he could get away with it. He can't. The pan is also a good weapon threat. Perhaps it is bcs the iron is also in the food that the flavor is slightly different than when cooked in another pan, but it is true that the pan adds a je ne sais quoi that makes food take on its own specialness. Needless to say I have a lot of cookware, but for anything low, slow or really high temp that could distort a lesser built pan, nothing can compete. I have bought my pathetic friends who have no grandmother, or a more selfish one than mine, used Griswolds from the second-hand stores in Marysville for $12 to $19, depending on size. Make certain the pan you find is flat on both interior and exterior, but don't worry about rust. You will clean and scour thoroughly before you season. Use a clean, clear, new bottle of a light color vegetable oil, like Canola for example, and season in the oven. (That means cook it in the oven.) A lot of people will have varying opinions of what temp and how long, so mine is cold oven brought up to 400 for an hour, then turn off and leave overnight. Check with others and websites, perhaps with Griswold for your own form of seasoning. Original seasoning is usually done more than once before use. Since my pan came with over 40 years on it before I got it, all I can do is tell you what my grandmother suggested, bcs she doesn't really remember from a wood stove, and I don't re-season like that. I just clean with hot water on the stove, and add fresh canola oil, rub it in and wipe it out. Good luck and good food.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 5:41:28 PM PST
PooBear says:
I cook almost daily with one thing or another made of cast iron. They do soak up the heat, so for me anyway I turn off heat a few minutes early and coast.

There is nothing like a quality steak cooked in cast iron. Im no super chef, but one thing I do is spray the cast iron skillet with olive oil and then season the pan itself with spices, then toss the meat in. It seems easier to get right that way, for me anyway.

One thing I really like about cast iron is that you can cut stuff up in them.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 6:30:05 PM PST
Cornbread just isn't right baked in anything but a cast iron skillet. Heat up the skillet in the oven with a little butter in it while you make the batter. Pour batter into hot skillet and enjoy the sizzling sound. When baked, enjoy the lovely crisp crust. Yum!

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 7:21:48 PM PST
Mona Lisa says:
Yeah there'a a huge difference between cast iron and non-stick pans. Cast iron is thick, heats like a beast, and holds the heat evenly and well.
You do have to know how to care for them if you want to built a finish that's non-stick. I have two skillets that my MIL raised my husband and his family with. They are fantastic and just as non stick as any non stick pan. Also have a newer Lodge pre-seasoned which is starting to develop a smooth finish on it. I use it to make "No Knead Bread" as well as other cooking.
I love to cook salmon in the skillet...put a little high temp oil and heat the pan to near smoking. Gives the fish a beautiful brown crust on both sides.
Anyway to clean I just use hot water and one of those green scotch bright pads. No soap EVER, and then I wipe it with dry paper towels and make sure it's dry on both sides. This keeps it seasoned by not removing all the oil. Grandma did it that way too! To store I always make sure they can get air. The new pans from Lodge all come pre-seasoned and they no longer make them that aren't. They're ok but much more rough than a good naturally seasoned pan, but will eventually develop more seasoning and smooth out. If you don't like the pre-seasoned finish you can always run it through the self-cleaning oven cycle and start over. As long as I never use soap I never have to re-season the pans. Soap removes some of the old seasoning and keeps oil from your latest cook from adhering. I've seen plenty of folks with dull pans because they use soap. A well seasoned pan will be glossy.

PooBear got the steak down. Pan fried steak is the bomb in a cast iron skillet. If they are thinner steaks I freeze them for 30-40 to give them more time on each side to get that heavenly "Mr. Brown? :)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2011 8:31:49 PM PST
Lodge was founded in 1896 and offers the best pre-seasoned cast iron of any of the others you mentioned.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 9:39:16 PM PST
I love my iron skillet. It came from an antique store a little rusty, but a little TLC, & it was ready for action. It makes the best crust for cornbread, & also is great for making cobbler. Never have to worry about the non-stick peeling out. We chicken-fry steaks in ours, & use a name-brand, solid vegetable shortening. It can be used at hotter temps, so the crust doesn't fall off. Also, that combination keeps salmon croquets from soaking up as much fat. No greasy taste, even when cold.

Posted on Jan 7, 2011 8:45:41 AM PST
So the major benefit of Cast iron is that it is a much more dense metal than the more modern cookware available. This means that the pans are heavy and take longer to heat than a thin steel or aluminum pan. The good thing about the density is that the pan heats evenly, and then evenly transfers this heat your food in a predictable way. You won't have problems with hotspots burning part of your food while undercooking the rest of it (a large steak for instance). The ability to heat evenly is what makes it so good for pineapple upside down cake.

Other than nostalgia, I don't think there is a reason to search around for 60 year old pan in an antique shop. Metal is metal and as long as it is seasoned and well cared for, it should last longer than you'll be able to use it. I started with a Lodge pro-griddle and then shortly thereafter bought a 12 inch frying pan and 5 qt dutch oven, both from Lodge. The only reason one piece leaves my range is to pull out another. The frying pan seems to get the most use; nearly everyday for everything from eggs & fritattas to hot dogs and paella.

A note on sticking: Cast iron is not non-stick, regardless of how smooth the surface may seem. The key is to get a good layer of seasoning on it and then don't wash it off. The pamphlet that comes with Lodge products explains the seawsoning process clearly. In simple terms, seasoning is nothing more than a layer of fat stuck to the pan rather than your food. You build up the fat-layer (seasoning) by using heating the pan with a thin coating of fat (olive oil, corn oil, butter, lard, or shortening makes no difference), letting the pan cool, and then repeating the process several times. When properly seasoned the surface of the pan will be glistening but not greasy. You should be able to cook an egg on it without adding any butter or oil whatsoever (even the best non-stick requires a spritz of non-stick spray).

Cleaning: Soap breaks down fat/oil, thus soap breaks down your seasoning layer. The easiest way to clean is to swirl a little water around the pan after you are done cooking your food and while the pan is still hot. Scrape down the sides with a wooden spatula or scrub brush then discard the water and heat the pan until it is dry again. Water left on the pan will cause it to rust (Never Ever Ever put it in a diswasher).

Bottom line: I love my Lodge cast iron and use it much more than my calphalon non-stick.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2011 9:28:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2011 9:29:04 AM PST
I have a smooth top stove, so cannot use my one iron skillet since it does not sit flat and also is not smooth on the bottom. I would honestly not consider owning any stove that is not smooth top because I seem to have better things to do than clean stove top components.

Since I don't use my iron skillet anymore and have new cookware, I have found that I have great results from my stainless cookware, which I can throw in the dishwasher. The only cast iron pot I use now is an enameled dutch oven, which I use for deep frying primarily because it does hold the heat and keeps the oil at a more constant temp after food is added.

To be honest, I don't miss the maintanence involved with cast iron skillets. I have made pineapple-upside-down-cake in my iron skillet. But I like the results just as well using a glass pan---and it goes into the dishwasher.

Posted on Jan 7, 2011 10:51:36 AM PST
JHH says:
Thank all of you guys for your opinions!! They have been really helpful!

Posted on Jan 7, 2011 10:56:57 AM PST
I've heard people go to a lot of trouble to maintain an iron skillet. They really aren't that hard. The main thing is to make sure they don't have moisture when you put them away. I hand wash ours, rinsing with hot water & leave it sitting on counter for a few minutes to air dry. If needed, give a light coating of shortening, then put it in the cabinet.

Posted on Jan 7, 2011 1:27:22 PM PST
Firefly says:
I have owned a few nonstick skillets, and despite my never using metal implements, none has ever lasted with coating intact for more than a year. Once the coating is broken the pan is unhealthy to use. I would not say you MUST have cast iron, but nonstick is money down the drain.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2011 7:46:47 PM PST
K. L. Jordan says:
For the original poster, if you buy a new cast-iron pan, it will be awhile until it is seasoned enough to cook anything acidic (like pineapples, tomato sauces, vinegary sauces, etc). Usually 6 months of use at least 3 times a week. Even pre-seasoned pans from Lodge will require further seasoning for a few months. If you put pineapple in a pan that isn't seasoned well enough, you will have pineapple that turns a yucky grey-green color.

Posted on Jan 8, 2011 12:43:25 PM PST
I have a smooth-top stove and have no problems with my 12" Lodge.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2011 3:10:03 PM PST
Grandma says:
Channon, you can do scrambled eggs just fine in a well seasoned cast iron skillet without reseasoning the thing. You just have to do it differently than Julia Child suggests.

1. Heat pan and add butter. You want the pan HOT.
2. Pour in the eggs.
3. Use a fork to grab the edges of the egg as it cooks near the outer edge of the skillet and drag it to the center of the pan, causing the uncooked egg to flow out into the now empty area.

Takes about 60 seconds for 2-3 eggs in a 10-12 inch skillet, virtually no cleanup required. Certainly no reseasoning of the pan.

BTW, I do not season with canola oil because some people - including many in my family - are rather sensitive to it. The old fashioned way is to coat the pan with shortening and bake about an hour at 350 then leave in the oven overnight. I sometimes skip the shortening and go straight for the olive oil or corn oil.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2011 5:27:54 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 8, 2011 5:29:29 PM PST
ColdShot says:
I never had that kinda luck with the pan, it poured in the scrambled eggs, didn't take long to cook, but cleanup needed a jack hammer....

I'm not surprised folks are sensitive to it, it's a GMO oil, shortening isn't much better if you mean crisco

the olive oil is good, palm oil is good, coconut oil is good....heck, good old fashioned lard worked fine for years

til the corporations figured out ways to talk people out of it

http://www.thescreamonline.com/essays/essays5-1/vegoil.html

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2011 5:33:46 PM PST
Grandma says:
ColdShot, your pan probably wasn't hot enough. I do this over high heat. Heat the pan until you can feel the heat when you hold your hand over it about level with the rim, throw in the butter and swirl it quickly then dump in the eggs and have at it immediately with a fork.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2011 6:14:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 8, 2011 6:14:56 PM PST
ColdShot says:
ok grandma

next time I get up the nerve to give it a go, I'll post the results

and here, just for you, some different shortening that you may be inqusitive enuf to try....maybe not;

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_6_19?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=palm+oil+shortening&sprefix=palm+oil+shortening

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2011 6:30:54 PM PST
Grandma says:
Actually, ColdShot, I have tried some of those. I'm a pretty inquisitive cook :) I have a container of the Spectrum in my cupboard at the minute. I have not tried them for frying/sautéing purposes - I invariably use olive oil or peanut oil for that - but I have tried them for baking and I was distinctly not impressed. Used the Spectrum for biscuits and found it very hard to work into the flour.

Some years back I did a literature review of all the studies available at the time (1992) re oils, lipids and atherosclerosis. Best choice: olive oil. Second best choice: olive oil. Third best choice: olive oil. There is no runner up. Canola oil wasn't available then. All of the hydrogenated products give off free radicals when they break down that lead to arterial damage which leads to plaque formation. That includes all of the "heart healthy" products.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2011 10:36:46 PM PST
ColdShot says:
well goood for you grandma!!!!

sorry the palm oil was a bust for ya....

I'm not baker, just an amateur cook.....just avoiding GMO oils and trying to find good oils that work

heck, I'd use lard if the opportunity arose to use it!

here's a new link for your curiosity, I hope you find it informative

http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/fats_and_cancer.html

I'm sure I don't have your experience with the oils and cooking

to know what works with what batch like you would

but that list may have you searching for something else or at least I hope it will

no argument from me about olive oil...it's fabulous...Zoe Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 25.5-Ounce Tins (Pack of 2)

but I don't trust many of the so called "heart healthy" recos ......I never really liked the taste of margarine...tho I was impressed with how the chemists could
do a pretty good job of fooling our tastebuds....

here's to your experience and hoping you check out that link

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2011 7:59:20 AM PST
True, but olive oil cooked at high temperature for frying is not healthy either. I use mostly olive oil. I try to avoid frying at all cost. Cold press olive oil, which I only buy, when heated at high temperature defeats it's health benefits. The oil actually becomes a carcinogen (one of the causes of pancreatic cancer). Coconut and grapeseed oil can with stand a high temperature. The one disadvantage is the coconut oil has it's distinctive taste and may not lend to the cuisine that you are preparing and grape seed oil is very expensive. I mix my oils: olive oil and canola together when frying fish, in hope the canola oil will bring down the burn factor of the olive oil.
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