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cast iron skillet

paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

drivel, drivel, drivel ....

I'm convinced that the non-stick goo on pans is super toxic. So I want to switch to just cast iron. After a lot of use, the cast iron develops it's own non-stick surface. People call it "seasoning", but I think it is more like petrified grease and burnt food.

So I buy a cast iron skillet and season it about 15 times. My eggs still stick. I spend hours researching and experimenting thinking "mind over teflon". I keep finding people on the net where their eggs just slide out of the skillet. To them they don't do anything special. What do they do that I don't?

I go to a neighbor's house and see that his dog food dish is an old cast iron skillet. Like 80 years old. The cooking surface is glassy smooth.

Research .... It turns out that there were two kinds of cast iron skillets sold. Those that were simply cast (the only kind available now) and those that had their cooking surface polished.

So last night I buy a skillet for $15 and some sandpaper .... About ten minutes of sanding leaves one's arm mighty tired. It'll be a few days ....

drivel, drivel, drivel ....


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Ellen Zhao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 17, 2002
Posts: 581
Originally posted by Paul Wheaton:
I'm convinced that the non-stick goo on pans is super toxic.


would like to see some data from labs...just to get convinced and avoid any further toxoid.
[ December 07, 2004: Message edited by: Ellen Zhao ]
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

Six months ago I bought a set of All-Clad stainless steel pots and pans. Nothing sticks to them -- they're awesome. I'll never go back to teflon.

The real unspoken secret to using cast-iron pans, as I always understood it, is the same as the secret to using a good carbon-steel wok: you don't really wash it, you just wipe it out. If you wash it with soap and water, especially if the pan's still warm, you've pretty much ruined it and have to start seasoning all over again. I have issues with this and so have never done well with cast iron.


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Ray Marsh
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Joined: Jan 12, 2000
Posts: 458
Cast iron is good, except you got to grease the hell out of it. Which is not good. Stainless is the best, but pricey.


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Marilyn de Queiroz
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Posts: 9043
    
  10
The real unspoken secret to using cast-iron pans, as I always understood it, is the same as the secret to using a good carbon-steel wok: you don't really wash it, you just wipe it out.

We use lots of cast iron skillets. Some are smooth. Some aren't. I wash them with water and a washcloth (or one of those non-abrasive sponges).

Plus you need to make sure to preheat the pan before you add the eggs so they don't stick.


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Warren Dew
blacksmith
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 04, 2004
Posts: 1332
    
    1
I swear by well seasoned cast iron frying pans. Mine have been pitch black for years. But yeah, you need the kind where the inside bottom, at least, has been ground smooth.

They used to come with directions on the initial seasoning - cover them with suet, then put them in the oven at 300F for a few hours. The grocer looked at me kind of strange when I asked for suet when I first seasoned mine 20 years ago.

I sometimes wash mine in hot water and, worse than soap, detergent. Doesn't seem to be too much of a problem given my usage patterns.

I never cook anything water based in them, though. Using frying pans as pots will get rid of the seasoning really fast - especially with acidic foods like tomato sauce - though it will also add iron to the food, for those that need more iron in their diet.

My eggs will stick a bit unless I put a little oil in first; not a problem since I usually cook bacon before the eggs. Omelets don't stick because yolks have more fat; hamburgers - from regular ground beef, not lean - likewise don't need added oil. And yes, I always preheat the pan; it reduces the total cooking time.
Helen Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 13, 2004
Posts: 1759
I grill bacon, sausages and tomatoes. And toast. I've never used a toaster in years.

Omelettes I cook one side in a frying pan that has a detachable handle
then move it to beneath the grill after removing the handle. They puff up to the size of Yorkshire puddings. I've never tried cooking an omelette entirely under the grill but I think it can be done.

Mushrooms don't work so well cooked under a grill. They are best sauted in a pan. For some mysterious reason grill cooking is far less smelly. Kippers? Grill them. You don't have to watch over the cooking too much and only have one tray to wash. I'm sure it's more economical with the fuel, too.
My ideal cooking range would be an Aga as it generates heat from a timer
and heats the water and house as well. They have built in griddles that you wipe off and are hot enough to kill any bugs. But when it's out of commission it's time to move to a hotel until it's fixed. Though I believe service is much better these days. They last a lifetime and even if you move house your successors will continue using it. No one is stupid enough to replace an Aga.

Pan Linings ? I've known some people to take those iron filing scrubbers to pans and scrub away until they can see their faces in them.
[ December 08, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]

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Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
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Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

A light oiling after six or so heatings will work far faster than sandpaper. Certainly don't put eggs in a cold skillet. Properly seasoned and heated, it don't matter what the surface is. Eggs are tough to get right, that's all. Cook with authority! That'll set 'em straight.

All-Clad, for the record, sells a teflon skillet pretty much for making eggs.

Teflon the demon? Too much country air, Paul.
[ December 08, 2004: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]

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Ray Marsh
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 12, 2000
Posts: 458
Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
Eggs are tough to get right, that's all. Cook with authority! That'll set 'em straight...


I find giving them a stern talking to prior to cooking usually helps.

You know usual drivel about sacrifice and commitment.
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

So I have a massive article about cast iron

And I even have a video:



Arvind Mahendra
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 14, 2007
Posts: 1162
I find if you use enough oil it will not stick no matter what. Use thicker oils like soyabean/sunflower/canola instead of olive and coat the pan thoroughly with a thin layer before cooking.
And the poster is right about not washing your pan either as that ruins it. Another tip is to use wooden spatulas as they less likely to scratch the surface of your pans keeping the non stickiness intact.


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Chris Baron
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 21, 2003
Posts: 1049
I just came across this stove and instantly thought of you, Paul. It's like one these round (north) american ovens (i forgot the name) combined with a cooking field. The price is quite high because it's hand made here. I wonder if there's an american original he copies.



Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4634
    
    5

Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:The real unspoken secret to using cast-iron pans.... you don't really wash it, you just wipe it out. If you wash it with soap and wate.... ruined it and have to start seasoning all over again.

For sure, washing with soap is a sin, ruins it.

IMHO, teflon is not a great surface for post or pans. It chips off, wears and loses its slip. This is separate from the question of whether eating it is good for you.

I have a good friend who is a professional chef, all high end cooking. He says get Calphalon Commercial Hard Anodized, not their "non-stick" pans. You can clean them, they last forever. But they are only "non-stick if you use good technique, if you overheat them, the oil, meat, etc. then its really that they are "less stick" than other metals. But they are expensive. About $200 for a frying pan and lid. Cheaper on eBay by a lot. My wife loves hers so much she bought a second one in a slightly smaller size.
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

Pat Farrell wrote:
He says get Calphalon Commercial Hard Anodized, not their "non-stick" pans. You can clean them, they last forever.


Perhaps with proper care and feeding, they do. If you don't know what you're doing, it's possible to completely destroy them. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4634
    
    5

Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote: it's possible to completely destroy them.

At $200 a pop, ouch.

So far, my wife loves hers.
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 60048
    
  65

I had the Calphalon pieces at one time. Didn't care for them too much and the pieces have mostly been replaced with other pieces over time -- mostly KitchenAid 3-ply clad.

I also have a cast iron skillet and a griddle that get a lot of use.

And just try to take my Le Creuset dutch oven!


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Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

@Pat -- come to think of it, my Calphalon wasn't that expensive; maybe it was a cheaper line, not the Commercial.

@Bear -- I wants me onea dem dutch ovens. Worth the $?
Janeice DelVecchio
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Sep 14, 2009
Posts: 1613
    
  10

I got some Emerilware hard anodized when I moved into my apartment and they are awesome!

Completely non stick and easy to clean, with no "surface" to scrape off
Oh and much less expensive than the Calphalon....

I have a cast iron skillet, but I guess I don't know what I'm doing. Everything sticks terribly.


When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all.
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 60048
    
  65

Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:@Bear -- I wants me onea dem dutch ovens. Worth the $?
Absolutely! It's the workhorse of my kitchen.
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

A fella sent me some artwork to spiff up the article. Cool!



And for the cast iron homage from the book "hanibal" he made this "silence of the pans":



There's a bunch more too: http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp

(just feeling excited about it and wanted to share)
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

That first one is 8 ways of awesome.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4634
    
    5

paul wheaton wrote:I'm convinced that the non-stick goo on pans is super toxic.

I will not go as far as "super toxic" but I do agree that it is "bad for you to eat" TM.

Do you wash your cast iron skillets? If so, that is the problem. You are never to wash them. Just knock off the old food and set it aside. Next time you use it, get it hot enough to cook any bad bugs left over.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4634
    
    5

Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:@Pat -- come to think of it, my Calphalon wasn't that expensive; maybe it was a cheaper line, not the Commercial.?
We paid $200 for the first one, the cook still loves it. So we got a second. Did some shopping and found it for about $80. They are heavy, but then so is a cast iron skillet, I'd say they are much lighter than cast iron, but not at all light as an aluminum skillet with teflon.
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

Not only bad to eat, but it off gasses. The off gas has killed a lot of birds.

As for washing it: when you do everything right, there will be no need to wash it - but sometimes things go wrong or a friend cooks with it and doesn't know. So there are ways to mend that.

paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

My cast iron article is now #4 when googling for "cast iron"! Might not be a big deal for you all - but I'm pretty excited.
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

That is actually pretty impressive!
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

4.1 million searches per month for "cast iron".

Kinda funny how an obsessive curiosity a long time ago, turned int a rant and then a full article and then something I feel so good about.

I really like the internet medium. This is way better than a magazine because I can update it a thousand times and never have to worry about telling magazine readers about new info or whatever. Or a book where there are old copies of the book lying around with information that is not as good as the new information.

Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

I bet Bill Gates wishes he published "The Road Ahead" on the Web. Oh, that's right, he thought it was going to be just a fad -- in the first edition, anyway
 
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