Featured Gadget – Everlasting Non-stick Cookware

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.

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4 thoughts on “Featured Gadget – Everlasting Non-stick Cookware

  1. Hi Sarah,
    I’ve had a cast iron skillet before, but I think I don’t know how to care for them. How do I wash them and season them? In the past, when I’ve wiped the inside of the pan, I was left with black residue on the towel. I must be doing something wrong, because the thought of that black residue being cooked into my food turned me off from using it.
    I bought a cast iron griddle from a Mexican supermarket to use on the stove top, but it seems like it is coated with black paint or something. The first time I tried to wash it and cook on it, black stuff came off and onto the tortillas I was heating. I know I’m not doing something right.
    I thought seasoning it meant rubbing it with cooking oil, but that didn’t help. Obviously I don’t know what I’m doing! 🙂

    • Hi Wendy!

      To wash your cast iron: scrub with hot water and a nylon scrub brush or scrub pad. Dry thoroughly. Only use soap if you made something with garlic or onions that you think will flavor whatever you cook next. If you use soap, re-season.

      To season: Rub the inside of your pan with a thick layer of Crisco or other solid shortening (it doesn’t have to be name brand) and put in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour. Remove from oven and carefully wipe out excess fat with a paper towel while the pan is still hot. Let cool and wipe again.

      Every once in a while, when your pan is new, season the outside of the pan the same way, just with a thinner layer of Crisco so it doesn’t drip all over the oven. Do the inside in a different session.

      Every time you use your pan, wash with hot water and after drying, rub a thin coat of Crisco on the inside of the pan. If the pan isn’t really hot from washing, heat it briefly in the oven or on a burner to melt the shortening and then wipe out with a paper towel while hot. Let cool and wipe again before storing.

      Try to use Crisco to grease when you use it, at least until it has a good seasoning coat, which will make it shiny and black. I use olive oil or butter for cooking most of the time, now that they are seasoned, but I always do the thin Crisco coat after washing.

      Sometimes the pans will make the towel black when you dry them. That is just the nature of the pan. I usually dry with a paper towel. There is a little iron that leaches out into cooking, but your body treats that like iron from vitamin pills.

      Sometimes pans are coated with wax at the factory, to keep them from rusting. You might have to heat it in the oven at 350 for an hour or so before the first use to melt this off. Be sure to open the windows (I speak from experience). Once the pan cools, scrub it thoroughly, with soap this first time, and then season it with Crisco.

      I like the Lodge brand, which is an old company. The pans are usually pretty reasonably priced. You might be able to save your pan that had the black flecks. See if you can scrub that off, or melt it off in the oven. Maybe it is that wax coating and not the seasoning.

      A lot of the directions that come with the pan, or are on the internet, say to use cooking oil. I think that makes a sticky coating and can sometimes turn rancid. I think shortening/Crisco works better.

      Wow, sorry for such a long reply. Hope this helps. Let me know if you have other questions.
      Sarah

  2. I LOVE old cast iron. When I got married to my first hubby, who was originally from Kentucky, we were given his grandmother’s cast iron 10″ skillet. I used that thing for all sorts of cooking, and baking. He also told me about how to ‘rescue’ rusty old pans/dutch ovens, by placing them in either a good fire, or inside a fired up woodstove. If you have a 10″, a 9″, and a dutch oven in your kitchen, you can do just about anything you can think of, either cooking, or baking. One of my favorite pieces is my covered chicken fryer, a Lodge piece…It’s PERFECT for making tarte Tatin! Isn’t too bad at chicken frying, either…lol!

    Have fun!

    Laura

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