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Monday, March 5, 2012

My favorite pan

I love my cast iron pans. I truly believe they are a must have in the kitchen. I say they because I have 3 different types. I actually have 4 but one of them stays in the camping supplies, so rarely gets used. The ones I use the most are a 10 inch and 12 inch fry pans and a 2 burner grill/griddle pan. They are a beautiful deep black with a bit of a shine from the oil I rub on them after each use.

The oldest of my cast iron pans is fairly new for cast iron. I bought it new 5 years ago. To be truly perfect a cast iron should be handed down from one generation to another, well used and well loved (Val, when I die you can have my cast iron if you want it). Unfortunately, it seems that in the last generation or so cast iron has gotten a bad rap. My mother never had cast iron because she was under some strange illusion that they were hard to clean, hard to season which made food stick to them, got all rusty, and were heavy as hell.

Let's take all these things one by one.


Being hard to clean is dead wrong. Cast iron couldn't be easier to clean. A well seasoned pan only takes a dry rag to clean it up. For stuck on food a paste of oil and salt will take care of stuck on bits.

Hell yes, they are heavy. That is what makes them heat evenly. Unless you plan to hang them on your fancy pot rack (ensuring that it will pull down your ceiling.) embrace the weight.

Some people think they are ugly but a well seasoned pan is a thing of beauty. They don't look all pretty and shiny and they shouldn't; they should be black and sort of pitted and to have real authentic rustic charm a dent or two goes a long way. (I dropped one of mine and the looped handle broke off. Did I throw it out? Of course not! It had just seasoned to the perfect degree.)

They will rust if you wash them with water which some people insist upon doing. resist! You really don't want to wash them with water, though I've been known to take a slightly damp rag to mine if needs be. The coarse salt, oil and a rag trick is all they need to keep them clean. A quick coat of some sort of oil or fat (I stick with olive oil) to keep them non-stick. After I've re- lubed my pans I put them in the oven where they wait patiently until I preheat the oven for use. After the oven has warmed up I take the pans outs but only if I need the room. Otherwise they stay in there to continue seasoning.

I baked this fritatta over the weekend:

Yummmm....veggie and goat cheese
See how it slid right out of the pan. I didn't use any oil in the pan before baking it. Notice the broken handle on the right. Now, here it is after I took the leftovers out and wiped it out with a single sheet of paper towel.

Almost ready to lube up and pop right back into the oven.
An added bonus, you won't be paying a fortune for them. I pick mine up at the thrift store or the hardware store and I've never paid more then $10.

That brings us to seasoning your new pan. If you bought new you will need to season your pan. Do not believe what the label says. They are not pre-seasoned. They are sort of, kind of seasoned. You will need to season them again before you start to use them. I won't go into detail on how to do this because there are tons of how-tos on the Internet. Just know that it is a simple matter of lubing up your new pan (top, bottom, sides, handle, all over) stash it in your cold oven, turn on the oven to 400 degrees and bake it for 1 hour. By storing mine in the oven and keeping them in there every time I warm up my oven the pans are continually seasoned. Easy Peasy.

If you have bought your pans used (which I rarely do anymore, mostly because I almost never find them in the thrift stores and I'm a freak about meat having been cooked in a pan that is porous and that I will cook in. It's that crazy vegetarian thing) then you will have some added work but not insurmountable. It is the rust that causes the most work. I've found that buying them from my local sporting goods store is the cheapest place to buy new pans and so much less work than rehabilitating an old one. And, if there is one thing I am...it's lazy.

If you haven't gotten a cast iron pan go get one. They are the best non-stick pan you'll ever own, and without all that nasty Teflon stuff.


Love,
M

17 comments:

  1. I had a perfectly seasoned cast iron pan years ago, but my idiot ex got rid of it. I've since bought 2 brand new ones, but I've been neglecting them since they need lots of TLC as they got caught in our basement flood and got all rusty. You've inspired me to take them out today and rehabilitate them - perfect timing, since it's going to be cold today and tomorrow, so I can use the oven as dual-purpose to warm up the kitchen and get my pans all seasoned nicely. ;)

    My mom still has her cast iron pan and uses it religiously - it was given to her by her mom (which was given by her mom, and so on) so there's a lot of history. I've already laid claim to it when my mom either decides she doesn't want it any more, or the don't-want-to-think-about-it alternative. :)

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  2. You make it sound so easy! I do not have one, but will start looking out for one.

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  3. I found one at a garage sale once and since it doesn't bother me about meat having been in, we bought it. It's my absolute favorite pan of any that I own. They're awesome!

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  4. I adore my cast iron and I can't even begin to tell you how tickled I am yours has a broken handle - it looks just like mine! (The result of The Young One dropping it on the tile floor at just the right angle.) I have 3 pans - a 10", a 12" and a 16", a 2-sided griddle, a Dutch oven, and a wok plus several miscellaneous pieces I purchased - all at Lehman's hardware in Kidron, Ohio - that I rarely use. I season mine with non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening between uses, and Darling Daughter is getting them all when I go. (And I agree - they are NOT pre-seasoned!)

    I'm thinking about re-seasoning all of mine with flax oil - I've read that it hardens to a slick finish better than any other fat. It's time-consuming, though, and I'm a bit short on that right now.

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    1. I have never heard that about flax oil. Tell me how it turns out.

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  5. Iron panz rule! We have three - a baby pan, a momma pan and a poppa pan. The baby is 6" and my favorite. It's just the right size for frying up a single egg or stir fry for one. There's your portion control right there! You eat only what will fit in the pan. For pure kitchen gadget porn, check out the cast iron wok on the Lodge Cast Iron page. OMG is it beautiful - and expensive! http://www.lodgemfg.com/

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    1. You know I'm all for kitchen gadget porn.

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  6. I must keep an eye out for one. The only ones I see are those that are enamelled and I had one of them and it was an utter nightmare for you could never deal with the pits in the surface.

    At the moment I've special pans for organic eggs. Nothing else is cooked in them. I got a one eggs pan last week. It's a little cutie.
    I discovered that lemon and course salt is the only thing that will clean the bottoms of my copper.

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    1. Here in the South, cast iron is the fry pan of choice. Making them easy to come by. I'd send you one but the postage would be outrageous.

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  7. Ahhhh I so agree with you!!!!

    Linda
    http:coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

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  8. I have a teeny single-serve one but haven't managed to acquire others. I do like them though.

    Bleargh, teflon.

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  9. Weirdly, I'm just about to write something about my cast iron skillet on my blog! I have one that was my Grandmothers, which is cool. But you are FAR better than I am at taking care of the thing.

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    1. You have a old one? That is so cool!

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  10. Of course I'll take your cast iron pans! Most of the ones I have have been passed down through my dads family who are from Erie, PA the home of Griswold. It's kind of a sin to not use Griswold in my family. My favorite is my big round griddle, I use it all the time for eggs and pancakes whenever I make them. I've been on the lookout for lids for mine, and some (especially my newer Lodge one, since the coating they use isn't vegetarian) need to be stripped & re-seasoned. Alas, my oven isn't self cleaning & you need those high temps to get the old gunk off. Maybe the next time we move I can upgrade to self-cleaning gas. I'd be one happy camper:)

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  11. I've see one that's enameled for €14 in town today. I'm torn, I've had cast enameled ones before and they pitted horribly.

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    1. I've never been big on cast enameled pans for the very reason that you stated.

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