Cast Iron Skillet: The Ultimate Smart and Frugal Cookware?

When we got married, we received some very nice cookware as wedding presents. Calphalon, non-stick, anodized, big bucks. But after years of abuse due to my poor cooking skills, my $50 frying pans are anything but non-stick anymore. So, yesterday I spent some of my holiday Amazon gift certificates on a Lodge 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet. (I also picked up a bond investing book and got free shipping.)

I know plenty of folks already have one of these, but I’m joining the bandwagon! This New York Times article Ever So Humble, Cast Iron Outshines the Fancy Pans outlines the many benefits well, but here’s a summary and my responses:

It’s cheap, durable, and lasts forever
Brand new, and even pre-seasoned, mine only cost $15. That’s a lot less than most fancy cookware, and you don’t have to navigate all the marketing ploys. You can probably pick up a slightly cheaper one secondhand, but I remember finding one a year ago at a garage sale and they wanted $15 for that too! Finally, besides the occasional re-seasoning, it should last forever as long as you don’t drop it on concrete or something.

You can cook at high temps without worry
I admit it, I like to fry a lot. But reports suggest that Teflon and other chemically-treated pans can give off dangerous fumes when heated to high temperatures. So you’re not supposed to pre-heat, sear, or use them in ovens. I look forward to searing my very first steak and then putting it straight into the oven to finish for a warm center. (Been watching too much Food Network…)

Just as nonstick when seasoned
From the article:

Well seasoned, it is nearly as nonstick as any manufactured nonstick surface and far more so than stainless, aluminum or even copper pans.

Sounds good to me. Seasoning isn’t even that hard – directions vary, but basically you just grease and bake. Purists will want to do it themselves, but to me having it pre-seasoned both saves time and doesn’t cost more. There a few small maintenance tips to keep the seasoning going – avoid steel wool, not too much soap, and keep it dry to prevent rust – but I think I can handle that.

All of my foodie friends and the vast majority of the Amazon reviews love their cast-iron. Do you? Anything else I should know?

Comments

  1. We put cast-iron skillets on our wedding regsitry, because I grew up using them and wanted us to have a set of our own. Unfortunately, the ones we got were not pre-seasoned, and I somehow managed to screw up the seasoning process. It didn’t take long for our cast-iron skillets to be rust-spotted.

  2. I love my cast iron griddle and we use it all the time. Honestly, if I were to drop it on concrete I’d be more worried about the concrete than the griddle. I’m sure it’ll last forever.

  3. We got the same Caphalon hard-anodized pans for our wedding 1.5 years ago.

    The Bed-Bath-and-Beyondification of America’s homes marches ever forward.

  4. I bought the same pan 2 years ago on the advice of Alton Brown. Everything everyone says about cast iron is right. If I had to choose one pan to use forever it would be my lodge. One thing you might want to be careful with is to make sure the handle isn’t hanging off the edge of the stove when cooking. These things stay hot for a long period of time and if you run into it by mistake you can get a nice little burn.

  5. We love our iron skillet. It is a pain in the arse to clean, but the food always seems a little tastier.

  6. Tina Harkey says:

    http://www.arrowheadcutlery.com/sunshop/index.php

    While not a frugal choice my ex and I purchased a set of Healthcraft cookware 18 years ago (oh my…I’m only 38) I have the pots, a big pan, the electric skillet, the grater/chopper and it has saved me money and I don’t have to worry about food leaching like you do in cast iron if you don’t care for it correctly. They all still look brand new and cook a great meal.

  7. the biggest trick with cast iron is knowing how to clean them. I like Martha’s advice for “advanced” household tips. For cast iron crusted food, she recommends warming vinegar with kosher salt and then brushing off the gunk. Works like a charm. If it is not so bad then just kosher salt and a brush. Then brush a little oil back in, use food safe mineral oil if storing long term (won’t go rancid). Iron pot cooking is also a way to boost iron in your diet, too.

  8. We cook everyday and they are the only pans we own. Two belonged to my great grandmother, the rest were purchased new. When they get dirty just wash with a soft sponge and water, then dry on the gas stove in about 30 seconds with high heat.

  9. One other cool thing, you can store a cast iron pan in the oven, and if you accidentally turn it on, your pan will be just fine! I have a big old double oven range, and little storage space, so my cast iron is stored in the smaller oven. Safe and sound!

  10. We have found coconut oil to work best. Butter produces carcinogens when heated to high.
    We ended up buying four pans and getting rid of our more expansive cookware to get the Lodge pans.

  11. For cleaning cooked-on food, I use kosher salt mixed with a little bit of oil and rub it around with a paper towel. Very easy.

  12. RR’s comment reminds me of something that happened to my mother. A few years ago she preheated the oven to bake something and completely forgot that one of her pans was in there. Unfortunately the wooden handle caught on fire but the actual pan was unscarred and continues to cook delicious meals to this day (sans handle of course).

  13. The one thing to be careful of when using these pans, is setting off the fire/smoke alarm. I like to use marinades and without fail cooking a steak on one of these always sets off that whiny alarm. It gets so hot that the pan turns just about any drippings to smoke, but it’s still fun times cooking with it all the same.

  14. Never use soap or detergent. After you take the food out just take it to the sink and use a wire dish brush to get any debris out under hot running water. Then put it back on the stove on a warm burner to dry it. Don’t “drip dry.” It might rust. If stuff is stuck, just put a little water in and set it on a low heat burner on the stove while you eat, then take it to the sink and swish it out. You can get glass lids in a hardware store for these. They are great for stove-top as you can see what is happening.

  15. For steaks specifically, I would recommend something like this: http://www.factorydirect2you.c.....p=L2021-26

    We have a very similar one (not LeCreuset though, not painted, not pretty, but works just as well). From what I hear, the ribs are essential for sealing in the juices properly. :) We stopped ordering steaks at restaurants, because the ones my wife makes at home are simply better (well, we don’t go to places where a dinner for two is upwards of $150, but the restaurants that are cheaper then that simply can’t compare, especially if you get good dry aged steaks at WF or similar).

    Cleaning is simple — just pour water on the skillet while it’s really hot, and most of the gunk is “lifted”. Wash quickly (I don’t use any soap — there is no need), dry on on stovetop on high heat.

    PS. The procedure for getting delicious raw steaks is approximately this: preheat the skillet, preheat oven to 380F, grill steaks for about 3 minutes on each side, take them off the skillet (it’s too hot for the next step), put steaks into the oven for another three minutes. Steak must be 1.5-2″ thick.

  16. I have some of these and love them!

    I also have some All Clad nonstick that I got years ago, and I totally can’t use it. I’m about to send it to them – it has a lifetime warranty. I’m guessing your Calphalon does too (Googling for “calphalon warranty” shows that many of their lines do have lifetime warranties), so send it to them and get them to replace it!

  17. Tracey – Sorry to hear that. I guess that’s one less thing for me to screw up. But from the article it seems like if you get rust you just have to scrape it off and re-season. Maybe I’ll do some deep-frying first :)

    Karotte – :D I just say that because cast-iron is brittle, according to my Materials Science class from college.

    Heather, socal, Josh, Jonathan, Dee , max – Thanks for the cleaning tips! I’m sure I’ll need them.

    Michael – I think mine do, but I’ll have to see what their “lifetime” warranty really means.

  18. Like the others had said, don’t use soap. I just rinse mine off with water and it usually takes very little scrubbing. Then I stick it back on the stove and turn the burner on to completely dry it. Just don’t forget about it, did that a few times and it burned the seasoning right off (and house got real smoky).

    It is by far my favourite pan to use.

  19. Now my question is this: “why does the cover for the pan cost $25 and the pan only cost $15?” at least that is on Amazon. Interesting.

    My grandmother does all her cooking on these, and she loves it. I have used it a few times at her house and I like them as well, but I have never bought them for myself. I think it may be a nice investment though.

  20. Not an option for me. My wife is disabled and iron pans would be way too heavy.

  21. I got cast iron skillets a couple of months ago on Alton Brown’s advice. (Actually, I asked for one for Christmas, but my mom found a set of three for under $15 and gave them to me early.) Be careful about heating up oil; the only grease fire I’ve ever had was when I used the cast iron for the first time.

  22. I know a lot of people LOVE cast iron, but I’ve just never reached that stage. My skillet has been sitting in a cabinet for years at this point. I hate how heavy it is, I’ve burned myself on it several times, and I’ve never gotten comfortable with not scrubbing it (I like my pots and pans CLEAN). At this point, I should probably just donate it to Goodwill.

  23. You’ll love the cast iron! I’ve found that as long as you don’t let food set in the pans for too long, you won’t have a problem cleaning them.

    Also, if you get in a pinch, you can use a brilow pad to scrub out the tough stuff, then lightly oil the pan before storing; no steel wool though!

    Grant

  24. OK, you guys are way over estimating the power of the old fashioned cast iron pan. It’s nice but it won’t do miracle, even when it’s pre-seasoned. It only takes you a couple wash to get the coating off and it will start sticking food or rusting again. You will have to season it over and over. Or, alternatively, never wash the dish with dish soap – give me a break.

  25. My parents have a set of cast-iron pans that my dad bought 50 years ago. They are always washed last in dish soap with a Brillo pad, often even left to soak there. (My parents don’t use a dishwasher.) They are also left to drip-dry half the time. Anyway, the point is that even with all this, they are so well seasoned that they don’t rust and rarely get purposeful reseasoning.

    My mother rarely uses other pans, except for some things like making scrambled eggs.

  26. arz: of course it’s not a miracle. It’s just indestructible. As opposed to tefloned and/or anodized stuff. And I sure as hell don’t reseazon mine (we eat steaks at least once a week for the past year). And, oh, yeah — the steaks are frigging delicious. In fact, they are so good, that would not even mind reseazoning the damn thing once in a while. But I don’t. Not because I’m lazy, mind you (which I am, but that’s beside the point). It’s simply ’cause there’s no need…

  27. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong then, my cast iron griddle pan always sticks and always leaves a big mess to clean up later. I’ve reseasoned it many times too. :(

  28. Thanks to this post, and max, I am *this* close to jumping on the Le Creuset cast iron griddle to add to my collection. I love my other Le Creuset…and I want to become the mastress of seared steaks!! Thanks for the tips. I’ve been pouring over the Williams-Sonoma website trying to figure out what I want to spend my $50 gift card on….my mouth is already watering.

  29. I bought my cast-iron skilled from Wal-Mart Supercenter 5.5 years ago. It makes delicious French toast.

  30. I’ve always liked the cheap non-stick pans. I’m not a big chef, Ramen tastes good even when it’s not cooked at the highest temperatures ;-). I’ve avoided cast iron because it’s A) heavy and B) not non-stick (typically). Looks like I was wrong about the second part. Maybe I should look into it.

  31. I had the 12 inch Lodge on my amazon wishlist and got it for Christmas. I haven’t used it yet, but I’m very excited about it. I think I want to get an 8 or 10 inch as well for when I’m making a small portion of something, like eggs. My mom’s cast iron pans are still nice after probably 40 years—and I never knew not to use dish soap—I’d guess that she doesn’t either since she never told me that. I’ll be sure to tell her! Amazon routinely offers these for as low as $9.99 (12 in.)…I recommend using a price watch service (I use http://www.frozenwarrior.com/~pricewatch/ ) and you will be notified when the price drops below the current, which is usually around $15. Plus if you have an order for $25, these ship free. These are also eligible for the 4 for 3 promotion—if you buy 4 qualifying items, the least expensive is free—great for gifts or to get a whole set! Any product eligible will have a special promotion note on its page.

  32. Here’s a 2005 Consumer Reporst article about cookwear. The whole article isn’t there unless you sign in, but it does cover quite a bit before that. One mention from it about cast iron…

    “A much older technology, cast-iron cookware, remains an option. We tested two brands but didn’t include them in the Ratings. We don’t consider cast iron suitable for everyday use because of its weight and uneven frying-pan heating.”

    http://www.accessmylibrary.com.....842203_ITM

    Going back to the comments discussion – It seems like a whole lot of work for not a lot of benefit – I really don’t want to have to baby my pans. Also for me, any stove-top pan that requires hand protection in order to move is a deal breaker.

  33. Cast iron may added needed iron to your diet. While non-stick surfaces may be dangerous at (accidentally) high temperatures,
    and are more damaging to manufacture.

  34. This applies to the common cheap teflon-like non-stick surfaces, not every surface which can be called, literally, “non-stick”, such as enamel or ceramics.

  35. I love cast iron skillets, been wanting one for severl years now. Eventually, I will get me one.

  36. Avoid using a cast iron pan to scramble eggs or prepare an omelet. My spouse, a sensational cook, says another smaller pan is best reserved exclusively for eggs. BTW it’s nice to read the enthusiastic responses of so many commenters which tends to confirm the high current interest in home cooking. I for one look forward to Jonathan’s updating his kitchen experiences as his expertise develops. If you didn’t know already Mark Bittman who writes a Wednesday column for the Dining In/Dining Out section of the NY Times is a great source for cooks of all stripes from neophyte to super-experienced. Read him in the online NYT.

  37. I have a 10 inch Lodge and I clean it with soap every time. – Just nothing better than a clean pan.. Just re-season, with high heat and some oil spread around with a paper towel before storage and it looks nice and shiny with 0 rust :-)

  38. For those of you familiar with cajun/New Orleans style cuisine, cast iron is the only real way to prepare “blackened” meat (steak, chicken, shrimp, etc…if you’ve never tried it, you are missing out. It is much tastier than the name implies.) I used to have a cast iron until it got flooded by Katrina (could have tried cleaning it, but that water was pretty horrible). I am a bit compulsive, and I agree with others who are not totally comfortable with not cleaning the pan completely. Also, I never found the pan to be as non-stick as even the cheapo teflon pans. But it is certainly good for high temp cooking and saut?ed dishes, and it is a great way to do steaks although I still prefer a grill.

  39. If you make a real mess out of your cast iron (such as burned on honey-mustard and pork chop juice that just won’t scrub off after ruining two SOS pads) you can run it through a self-clean cycle on your oven and burn the gunk off. You’ll be left with shiny clean unseasoned cast iron which has to be reseasoned. I’ve heard you can do this with a good hot fire, too, but never tried it.
    I like lard for seasoning mine (rub it on well and put in the oven at 350 for a half-hour or so), but then, I like lard for piecrusts and always have it on hand (I render it myself, it’s next to impossible to buy). It has to be clean and not rusty to season: use steel wool to get the rust off first if you have rusty pans. My old cast iron (from my dad) is the best (50+ years of use), my newer items tend to have a bit of a rough surface that causes trouble. I wash mine with dish soap and never have trouble.
    You really need to make pinapple upside down cake in yours, if you haven’t already. Joy of Cooking has an excellent recipe.

  40. Here are my tips for using cast iron:

    1. Not good for tomato sauces. The acid will strip the patina (i.e. seasoning). The patina is crucial. Tomato sauces require stainless steel in my opinion. I would also never use vinegar or anything acidic -in cast iron — for cooking or cleaning.

    2. Use lower heat than other cookware and preheat the skillet before putting the food in. If you have a patina, food will not stick as badly at lower heats.

    3. Dont freak out if food sticks. Just think of it as adding more patina for next time. Be patient. The patina will come with use.

    4. For cleanup, never use soap of any kind. Don’t scour with harsh brushes or steel wool either. Treat it like teflon. Use a pre-rinsed soft scotch brite pad with water. For really tough celanups, use the chinese wok-cleaning method: boil water in the skillet for a few minutes first.

    5. Finally, always coat the skillet in cooking oil before putting it away. Never let it sit dry.

    -Eldavo

  41. I see who wrote that NYT article. Jonathan, given your self-admitted poor cooking skills, you may want to pick up his book, How to Cook Everything. It’s really good.

  42. Season it every so often anyway, especially if you use it a lot and wash it with soap.

  43. I just found the same one at TJ Max for 9.99 in Columbus, OH. They had a bunch of different ones but YMMV. No bond book included thou.

  44. My mom had one when I was a kid. I love cast iron for making funnel cake and pancakes. YUM. There is nothing like deep frying in a cast iron pan. The temperature is more likely to stay constant if you ask me. My mom got rid of hers after the kids ruined then one too many times by leaving it soaking and rusting in the sink.

    But yes, they are wonderful. I have kind of been holding out for an old school Griswold pan. My friend swears by them, but like the article says, there’s only one domestic US manufacturer anymore. Per my friend, Griswolds go for like $300 each on eBay because they’re so old and rare now. He’s got two or three in egg pan and full skillet sizes. Best to find them at yard sales in OH, PA, etc.

  45. Anything else I should know?

    Make sure to wipe it dry. It will quickly get rusty if left wet.

  46. Jonathan in Atlanta says:

    I just ate a tasty Potato breakfast off my cast iron skill I got for my wedding a year and a half ago. The skillet is the only thing that still looks great and works well. I love the article! Thank you.

  47. I love cast iron. I have been caught singing:

    I am Cast Iron Man.

    Always looking around for a Griswold pan.

    (To the tune of Iron Man)

    I am always collecting antique cast iron pans and stuff. I see it as a completely safe investment. If all else fails you can always eat off the stuff.

    Favorites are Wagner, Griswold and Wapak.

    I just got a Smart Brockville. Anyone ever heard of it?

  48. Iron Overload says:

    It should be noted here that Cast Iron could have killed me! Had I taken the advice on here recommending eating off of Cast Iron, I could be facing some serious liver damage right now. You see, like million of other americans, I have Hemochromatosis, it’s a genetic disorder and 1 in 5 americans is a carrier of it, and we collect iron in our bodies, of course you never know if you have it, if you’ve never had your Iron levels tested, Regular blood testing does not test for iron levels. Thank God my doctor specifically checked for iron in my blood and it was way too high (like many other americans are) and I could have died had I bought the cast iron pots. Iron is absorbed through food and through iron pots. I will have to get phlebotomy treatment to rid my body of the excess iron, but I can tell you this, UNLESSS YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR IRON LEVELS ARE YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER EVER EAT OFF OF CAST IRON PANS, YOU COULD BE UNKNOWINGLY KILLING YOURSELF SLOWLY
    It’s much more common than you think……….. A simple blood test should be done before you purchase cast iron pans, it’s called Ferritin (stored iron), TIBC (total iron binding capacity) and your Iron Serum levels, Please check all your iron levels before using or purchasing cast iron pots and pans.
    Good luck
    Iron Overload girl.

  49. Lester7707 says:

    I would like to add a few comments about using cast-iron pans. First though, I have a couple of comments regarding “Iron Overload.” I am glad that she received her medical diagnosis. I, on the other hand, am a regular blood donor (and a man) with naturally-low blood iron levels. For me, additional traces of dietary iron are a benefit. Now, on to cast iron usage notes . . .

    I have several cast-iron skillets, ranging in size from 6.5 inches to 12 inches. Some of them are quite old (a 1903–1912 Wapak, a 1909-series Erie-Griswold, one pre-1900 Erie, a 6.5-inch 1940-series Wagner, a 1930s Iron Mountain chicken fryer, and a new 10-inch Lodge). I stripped all of them down to bare metal (using the 900-degree self-cleaning cycle of my electric range). Afterward, I re-seasoned each of them, by coating them with a thin layer of Crisco, and baking them in the oven at 450 degrees. After subjecting them to three such seasoning episodes, I began to use them.

    I discovered that I could cook virtually anything in cast-iron pans, while using no more than a few drops of oil. It was a pleasure to cook scrambled eggs and over-easy eggs, because they would slide about within the pan. I made various wet rice dishes using tomatoes and ketchup, and the acidity did not strip the seasoning. I fried fish and drizzled lemon juice over the fish, and acidity did not strip the seasoning. I prepared fried rice, using high temperatures normally reserved for searing steaks, and nothing stuck to the pans. Once, I accidentally fried sliced potatoes without adding any oil, and nothing stuck. I also routinely baked no-knead bread in the covered chicken fryer. The no-knead bread recipe uses no oil, in the dough or in the pot.

    After all of these cooking experiences, how durable was the seasoning? I tested the 1909-series Erie-Griswold skillet. First, I used it daily for a week, and washed it each time, using hot water and liberal quantities Sun Light dish-washing detergent. The seasoning remained intact. Next, I scrubbed this pan forcefully, using a stainless-steel pot scrubber. After several minutes of scrubbing, areas of the seasoning layer looked a bit roughened, rather than the usual glossy black. My arm was tired. Next, I grabbed a 3×3-inch section of coarse emery cloth (essentially a rough sand paper used for stripping paint from metal). After several minutes of scrubbing with the emory cloth, some bare metal was beginning to emerge. At this point, my arm was very tired, and I concluded my test. Only at this point did I ever need to re-season this pan.

    What did I learn from all of these experiences? First, a cast-iron pan that has been properly seasoned at a temperature of 450 degrees (with Crisco) has a protective layer that is about a hard and durable as epoxy resin. Second, the high-temperature seasoning layer allows the pan to be used for cooking even acidic foods (e.g., with tomatoes, wine, or vinegar). Third, the hard seasoning layer allows the pan to be washed with detergent, with no fear of stripping the seasoning layer. If detergent strips the seasoning layer, then the pan was not properly seasoned, at a high enough temperature. Fourth, such a pan is essentially non-stick, and even gummy protein-based residues (such as might ooze from a frying fish) will wipe out readily, with a stiff natural-fiber brush under a stream of hot running tap water. Afterward, place three drops of oil in the warm pan, and smear the oil all over the pan, using a piece of paper towel (or your fingers).

    In conclusion, I would say that most of the problems that plague users of cast-iron stem from seasoning their pans at 250 degrees, and then thinking that the seasoning job is complete. Crank up that heat, people! Yes, the seasoning directions provided by Lodge Manufacturing Company are helpful, but bake your pan at 450 degrees, instead of at the suggested 350 degrees. Season the pan three times three times, before ever using it. Also, as one other person commented, store your pan in the oven, if you have this option. Leave it in the oven while you are baking things, unless it gets in the way. The heat is never a detriment. Again, after using and cleaning your pan, coat it with three drops of oil. Buona fortuna, amici!

  50. CastIronPanMan says:

    Properly seasoned cast iron pans do not release any significant amount of iron into your food.

    Does IronOverloads doctor
    Aluminum=bad
    teflon=bad
    stainless steel=food sticks

    The best cast iron to cook with is made before 1960 or so. The casting quality is excellent and the cooking surface is carefully ground smooth.

    I have not seen a cast iron skillet that is made in China that was worth owning.

  51. I own a Smart Brockville #5, snagged it at an antique store in Dawson City ten years ago, and it is still my favorite skillet. Unfortunately, the one I have is tiny and I’m needing a bigger one. I just bought a Griswold, hoping it would compare but (gasp) it DOES NOT perform as well as my Brockville. I can find very little about the Canadian company, their skillets are hard to come by, but (when I find them) far less expensive. I guess hype doesn’t mean a whole lot in Cast iron. Smart Brockville ROCKS!!!

  52. Gypsy, what size is your Griswold skillet? It might be too big for the burner, or perhaps, it is not properly seasoned. Using a large skillet on a small burner typically causes the center of the skillet to be hotter than the outer area, so cooking is inconsistent.

    The only real difference that I have encountered among various skillet brands is that the thicker ones (generally the newer ones) require more time to heat or cool. Once it reaches the proper cooking temperature, any properly-seasoned cast-iron pan should cook as well as any other. My 2005-vintage Lodge 10-inch skillet cooks as well as my 1909-series Erie-Griswold 10-inch skillet, but the Lodge weighs six pounds and the Erie-Griswold skillet weighs 4.5 pounds.

  53. My burners are large, so that isn’t a concern. I agree about the seasoning and cooking temperature. My Brockville sweetie is really old and was already thickly seasoned when I got it, so I think the age of the seasoning, combined with the fact that it’s machined down to be smooth as glass, helps quite a bit.

    I did a little side-by-side cooking this weekend to try and figure things out. My findings: First of all, my older skillets were seasoned with lard. I had initially seasoned the new Griswold with oil, so I reseasoned it twice with lard (1 hour at 500 each time) and it came out a-l-m-o-s-t as smooth as the Brockville– so that was half the problem. Next I discovered, the Erie-Griswold (as you already mentioned) heated up way too fast, which (if I walk away for a second) caused the food to stick. The Brockville heated up a tad bit slower and was more forgiving– nothing stuck.

    I haven’t found all skillets to be the same, though. My Lodge behemoth has a cooking surface like (well-seasoned) concrete. I’ve had it for ten years, have seasoned it to death, and still hate cooking in it. Now that the Griswold has arrived, I’ve given up– the Lodge is now officially my tomato pan.

    With a little more time and love I’m sure the Griswold will become an old friend; but I’m still in love with the understated Brockville. I just ordered a larger Brockville and will post again (for anyone who might be curious about Smart Brockville) how well it compares to the smaller one, as well as the Griswold.

    Thanks for the GREAT blog!

  54. Lester, you were right about the skillet brands– no real difference. After working for almost a year to salvage my beloved pans, I’ve come to the following conclusion. SATURATED FAT. The electric glass-top stove in my new house made the cast iron more temperamental than my previous gas stove, to the point that my previous Brockville sweetie was even starting to stick. Solution? I CLEANED the pans in the cleaning cycle on my oven. SEASONED twice (500 degrees for 2 hours) with PALM OIL. Now I used a light coating of palm oil after cleaning and (usually) before cooking. I also switched to a BAMBOO SPATULA, instead of plastic, which allows me to scrape the skillet harder without damaging the seasoning. Incidentally, the Griswold is now my favorite skillet, because it’s lighter than the otherwise identical Brockville Smart.

  55. Wanderer says:

    Some good info here. I just bought a Smart Brockville #9 skillet at a thrift store today for $2.92. I had never seen this brand before and my search lead me here. The interior of the pan is perfect, smooth as glass, no cupping or pitting. The outside has a layer of crude that made it hard to read the smart and brockville, looks like Brockuilleon, no T (that is a strange looking v, looks more like a u). I will take it back to bare metal and re-season it this weekend. Some idiot spray-painted the handle green, so it has little collectable value but it will be a Great cooking skillet.
    There are some Fantastic deals to be had on cast iron at thrift stores, good high quality vintage skillets and pans that are far superior to any of the stuff being made today. Pass over any thing marked Taiwan or China, not bad but they do not have the machined smooth surface of the old pans. Not even all of the old cast iron was machined smooth, that was only for the better, more expensive brands. You can find really good old lesser quality skillets that have a smooth cooking surface, but realize it took years, as much as a decade of cooking with metal utencils to wear that rough surface down. The inside cooking surface is the most important thing to look at. Rub your fingerover the surface. Is it smooth, like glass? Are there any Pits, or depressions, is there any cupping (is the surface level or is there any concave or convex area usually at the center) The Only new cast iron I would buy is the Lodge pre-seasoned skillets at about $25, they have a pretty good surface, but why buy new when you can find Better items for less. In 2 months of casual looking I have found a #4, a #5, and a #10 Griswold skillets, a # 6, a #7, a #8 , and a #10 Wagners and Wagner Ware skillets, and a 10 inch Square WagnerWare skillet. The most I paid for any skillet was $5 for the square WagnerWare. Most of these needed at least a good cleaning if not a serious cleaning, but a couple were good to go right from the shelf.
    The most I paid for any 1 item was $8, thats right $8 and that was for a Griswold 954 F Corn Bread Pan, a fairly rare and sought after pan. The cooking surface had what appeared to be a serious coating of rust, but I rubbed at it with a finger tip and removed most of the rust with that so I knew it was a keeper.
    That rust kept others away and it took me no more the 15 minutes with some fine steel wool to remove all signs of rust. I sprayed it down with oven cleaner, stuck it in a plastic bag, left it for 2 days, rinsed off the oven cleaner (wear rubber gloves and have good ventilation for this, outdoors with a hose is great) scrubbed it well, re-seasoned it, and now it looks good as new and it cooks incredible corn bread sticks that have that crunchy oldside you can only get with cast iron. It may sound like a lot of work, steel wool, rubbing waiting 2 days, etc.. but there was less than 1 hour of labor involved. An out of state family member asked me to make a short video of how I restore cast iron, and if it turns out ok I will post it on youtube.
    $8 and an hour of my time for a pan I would not sell for $75.
    Good luck and good hunting.
    PS does anyone have any info on Brookville smart? I woild appreciate it.

  56. Gypsy, you have made some interesting discoveries. I am glad to see that you have achieved harmony with your cast iron. I think your observations (regarding seasoning your skillets with palm oil at 500 degrees) could be very helpful to readers. In fact, your comments reminded me of how my father seasoned our cast-iron cookware, when we were living in Hawaii.

    Because of Hawaii’s high humidity, unprotected cast-iron will begin to rust fairly quickly. Therefore, my father coated our cast-iron cookware with some combination of palm oil and coconut oil, and baked them on our barbeque grill and on a large public barbeque grill (located at a public beach). The cast-ironware would bake over the coals, while we ate our meal. The result was that there was never even a speck of rust. Moreover, we even washed our seasoned cast-ironware with soapy water and Brillo pads, and dried them promptly. Again, there was never even a speck of rust. I would guess that the unregulated temperatures of the barbeque fires were at least 500 degrees.

    It is interesting to see that you now prefer using your lighter-weight Griswold skillet, rather than your heavier (but otherwise similar) Smart-Brockville. For me, the lighter weight is why my everyday pan is my 100-year-old Erie-Griswold skillet, rather than my heavier six-year-old Lodge skillet.

    You also indicated that you use a bamboo spatula with your cast-iron pans. I use a bamboo spatula only when using my cast-iron wok (an amazing 3.5-pound paper-thin 13-inch wok, ordered from a popular wok store in San Francisco). However, I always use an antique carbon-steel (rustable steel) spatula with my cast-iron skillets. By the way, old-time cast-iron enthusiasts tend to recommend using only a stainless-steel spatula, and then deliberately scraping the cooking surface of the pan (now and then) with it, to prevent having a heavy accumulation of seasoning. I think it is obvious that such intentional scraping is best restricted to well-seasoned skillets.

  57. I also have a Snart (Brockville) skillet that I acquired in 1984, along with an old cottage.

    -Love it, along with other cast iron cookware.

    One unique (to me) piece that I was given by my daughter, is a deep fry pan (3″) with a unique dimpled/ hammered texture to tha pan and lid exteroir.

    It is a high quality piece, with the pan having a machined interior surface.

    What I find interesting, is thatthere are no markings whatsover.

    The piece can be seen at http://users.vianet.ca/billviv.....C01051.JPG

    Any input/feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    [img]http://users.vianet.ca/billvivianpaterson/Uploads/DSC01051.JPG[/img]

  58. Webster, if you would like for us to assist you in identifying your dimpled deep-fryer, then you will need to provide good-quality images of the entire fryer and lid. The images should show the interior and exterior of the fryer and lid, along with top and bottom images of the handle and the attachment of the handle. It is the combination of all of these aspects of your fryer and lid that might assist in their identification.

  59. Loretta Millar says:

    I am looking for the store that is in Brockville Ontario is there a store there that selld cast iron pans ?

    Thank you

  60. Loretta, the James Smart Manufacturing Company closed in 1967. However, you should be able to find Lodge cast-iron pans in the Wal-Mart store in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Many large Canadian cities have Wal-Mart stores. Good luck.

  61. Loretta, there is a large Wal-Mart store located in Brockville, Ontario, Canada. The address is 1942 Parkedale Avenue. You should be able to find Lodge cast-iron pans in this Wal-Mart store.

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