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 ....
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.
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.
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 ]
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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Joined: Jan 12, 2000
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
author and iconoclast