I love my cast iron skillets. I have two 10-inch skillets and 1 10-inch flat griddle. They are shiny black and well-seasoned and are some of my favorite pans. I use them on the stovetop to make eggs and to sauté veggies; I use them in the oven as pizza pans and to bake cornbread, biscuits and upside down cake. They are great for stovetop to oven dishes and they also make great weights for making panini without a panini press. Okay, this now sounds like a grade school project to write a commercial, but I really do like my cast iron pans.
Cast iron is the original non-stick cookware. Our grandmothers, great grandmothers and on back to umpteen greats used cast iron. Yet, I have many friends who own no cast iron and swear they wouldn’t know what to do with it if they did. I’m not talking about the enameled cast iron that is so popular and costs an arm and a leg usually. This is regular cast iron, old-fashioned looking, but perfectly at home in a modern kitchen. It is reasonably priced and will last for generations, unlike non-stick pans that start shedding their coating after a few years.
My 10-inch griddle was grandmother’s and then my dad’s before it came to me. She gave it to him because it had a build-up of seasoning on it that, while it didn’t interfere with cooking, didn’t look great. I know Dad used it for years to make biscuits, build-up and all. When I was experimenting with making pizzas on cast iron a few years ago, Dad gave it to me and told me the story.
I wish I had taken pictures of the pan when I first got it – the cooking surface looked sort of like paint does when it is peeling away, but these ridges and bumps were part of the pan and weren’t going anywhere. I tried a spatula, a putty knife and a screwdriver after scrubbing did nothing. I had heard from a baking friend online that she likes to buy cast iron pans at yard sales, where they are usually very cheap, but are often rusty or generally nasty. She either heats them in her oven on the cleaning cycle, or builds a hot fire and puts the pans in the fire to burn off the rust, along with anything else they might have on them from being in someone’s barn for who knows how long.
I built the hottest fire I could in our patio fire pit and put the pan in it. I don’t know what I thought would happen, but it sat in the hot fire, looking just the same, not turning red, cracking or whatever else my imagination had conjured up. I let the fire burn itself out, which took several hours, and then let the pan cool in the ashes until morning. I woke up to find a griddle that looked like it belonged on a store shelf. It was no longer black, like well-seasoned cast iron, but dark gray, and the layers of old seasoning were totally gone, leaving the cooking surface as smooth as the day it was made. I took it inside, scrubbed it and reseasoned it, and it ended up just as black and shiny as my other pans. I love thinking about how my grandma used it to make biscuits and now I am using it for the same thing, or pizza, or bread, or whatever. And I love the idea that someday I will be able to pass it, and the stories, on to future generations.