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types of cast iron cookware

Chrispy

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yup.

yes.

And the no-brand stuff i got at China Fare is good too.
I had to go look at my iron stuff....the two pans I have are not Lodge but are polished....the larger one (15.5 inches) I think I picked up at a good second hand cookware store but it has no manufacturer's mark that I can see....the smaller one (10") is marked MIAMI Favorite Piqua Ware but has a warped bottom (still works over fire, not so much my current electric range). My Lodge's are the nefarious wok and a grill pan and are somewhat pebbly....
 

Curvature

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I don't know anything about metallurgy. I bought the Oigen Solitto pan because the naked surface is nothing like I've seen in other pans. Utterly homogeneous. I love the shape. Cooks wonderfully.

It arrives in a very light gray, very fine. Oil from your fingers turns it black. With cooking and seasoning it turns black.

 
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I have never been able to master the seasoning thing. Food always sticks.

I'll tell you what my mother did. It was with lard, and I doubt many people nowadays want to use lard, but I believe the principal is the same if you use shortening.

Put a half-inch of shortening in the pan, and warm it up. When it becomes liquid, let it cool down. After it has become cool, heat it up again, but this time heat it until it starts to smoke. There are some oils on the market that have a higher smoke point than the shortenings used at our house, which were lard or Crisco. Here is a chart:


Don't use avocado oil. The pan may get too hot. Avocado oil has a smoke point right around 500 degrees. :eek:

Remove the pan from the heat, and let it cool. Then scrape the shortening out of the pan, and wipe it with a paper towel in only the most perfunctory of manners. If you wish to store the pan with the congealed shortening in it, you can do that, but I never saw the benefit.

From that time on, do not wash the pan with soap and water. Scrape it out, wipe it out, or let it cool and use a Chore-girl instead. Overzealous cleaning of cast iron cookware destroys the very thing that you're trying to preserve ... its non-stick capability.

Hope you have better luck! :)

Jim
 
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Curvature

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I have never been able to master the seasoning thing. Food always sticks.
It's not necessary.

Clean the pan and dry it.

Put on low-medium heat. Walk away for 10 minutes.

Put in some oil. Small amount is fine. Give it at least 5 min to warm up.

Cook something basic like vegetables or thin slices of meat. Give it a light clean with water after if you like, or not if there are no obvious charred bits.

After a few times the surface will become very agreeable.

The only thing that matters is giving the pan and the oil time to warm up, and keeping the heat low enough that the oil doesnt start to polymerize while you're waiting. Same for stainless steel, same for carbon steel. Bringing up the temperature gradually for hard sears starts thr same way. Just takes time.
 

Axo1989

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I use lots of antique cast iron, mostly Wagner, all with finely polished surfaces. Most are from my grandparents.

I have some Lodge, I don’t mind the rough unfinished surface but they are quite heavy.

I have two modern pans by Finex:
They are nice with polished cooking surface, but also heavy.

These are compacted graphite iron and seem to be lighter as a result:
They look nice, I don’t own.

I have seen Finex before, very cool. The minute I replace my old car with a new Lamborghini I'll have to get their stuff to go all-in on hexagons. :)
 
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Keith_W

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Rough cast iron can be sanded smooth if that is your preference. Start with 80 grit then work your way up to 320 grit, then wash it all away and re-season.

Others have given tips on how to season your pan. You only need a tiny amount of oil. I use regular vegetable oil - 1 teaspoon, and I wipe it on the pan with a paper towel. I heat it up on my burner for 10 minutes, then let it cool down. Then I wipe it down again and repeat 2-3 times.
 
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Anton D

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We have both and like either way!

My tip: flea markets, thrift stores, etc. and find a 10 incher or more.

8 inch ends up being a tidge small.
 
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Digby

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Seasoning is less even and less effective, and surface is more difficult to clean.
That is my intuition about it.

That said, my experience has also been that there's good-quality "pebbled" rough cast iron, and then there's cheap, really rough cast iron. The latter is IMHO unusable and a great example of ruining a product by trying to squeeze out an extra few percentage points of cost savings during production.
I think what I have is some of the really rough stuff and yeah, I think you're right. I've looked at some of the lodge stuff online and while it isn't completely smooth, it does look more pebbled than rough.

So perhaps 3 grades. Smooth, pebbled, and rough as 'ah soles'.

I have never been able to master the seasoning thing. Food always sticks.
The Chinese way is to add cold oil to a hot pan, then swish a few times before adding food. The food then pulls away from the surface as the oil heats up. Also, try and remove any excess moisture from the food before putting in pan.
 

SKBubba

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We have a cast iron skillet that my Mom gave me and her Mom gave her. It could be 100 years old. I'm afraid to use it for fear that I would ruin the seasoning.
 

MAB

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We have a cast iron skillet that my Mom gave me and her Mom gave her. It could be 100 years old. I'm afraid to use it for fear that I would ruin the seasoning.
Some of my pans are the same age. I use them regularly. If you cook with oil, avoid scrubbing with soap, they will be great.
 
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JaccoW

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It's perfectly fine to use some dish soap on a well seasoned skillet. Just don't overdo it and wash away the seasoning. But that's way harder than you think.

Personally I prefer using rice bran oil due to its 232°C (450°F) smoke point. Just cover everything in a thin layer and put it opside down in the oven for an hour at 220°C (428°F). Perfect finish. Redo it a couple of times if you want a thicker layer.

Other options can be found here: Smoke point of cooking oils - Wikipedia
 

kemmler3D

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I dunno...does it really though? I have a rough surfaced pan and feel like, for occasional bacon and steak, it is a fair amount of trouble (flaking). Maybe I'm not seasoning it frequently enough or well enough (any tips?), but I wonder if the smoother surfaced pans need less seasoning and flake less. Anyone with experience of both?
No, no it doesn't, unless you're not cleaning it properly.

If the seasoning is flaking off you're not doing it right. It should be hard to remove even by force.

I've been using cast iron almost exclusively for over 10 years, here is what I would tell anyone interested in it:

  • Whether the pan is machined (smooth) or pebbled doesn't matter that much IME, but seasoning sticks to pebbled more easily. Polished can be nicer to cook with if you get it really nicely seasoned.
  • Flax seed oil is said to be the best for seasoning, but I haven't noticed a huge difference between that and canola, grapeseed, etc. It may be preferable for coating pans for storage, though.
  • If you want to sand down / polish your pebbled pan's surface, it can work fine. They say it ruins the metal, but I've been using such a pan for a long time with no issues whatsoever.
  • You don't need to clean your pan with salt, or a chainmail glove, or any of those weird methods. I am not sure where any of that got started. Just don't use steel wool. You can use soap. Good seasoning is very hard and difficult to scrape off - just think about the last time you had to clean something with burned-on grease.
  • Likewise, you can cook tomatoes and other "highly acidic" foods in cast iron, it won't ruin it if it's properly seasoned.
  • You should have about 5 layers of seasoning on a pan.
  • Seasoning a pan is best done by putting a very thin, even coat of oil on, then putting the pan in the oven at 475-500F for an hour. Repeat as needed.
  • When you've freshly seasoned a pan, DON'T cook anything high-protein in the pan first! Meat, but eggs in particular will stick - nay, BOND - to fresh seasoning. You need to cook some veggies or potatoes a couple times first. I have no idea why this is, but I have ruined more than one seasoning job this way. The egg (or sausage or whatever) adheres to the seasoning and by the time you're done cleaning, it's ruined.
  • The easiest way to clean cast iron is to heat it up on the stove and then run water on it while scrubbing with a brush. This "steam cleaning" takes care of 90% of it for me. Really stubborn stuff can be scraped off with a metal spatula and magic erasers are good for thin layers of stubborn grime.
  • If you want to hit reset on a badly degraded pan, first soak it in a lye solution for >24 to remove old seasoning, then a vinegar bath to remove rust as needed. Keep an eye on it because the vinegar will eat away the raw iron, you need to take it out once the rust spots are gone. (you can use steel wool this time.) Then simply add your 5 layers of seasoning. Voila, brand new pan.
  • Likewise, don't worry about ruining the seasoning. You are never more than ~48 hours away from a totally restored pan if you decide you need to hit reset. This is really the best part about cast iron. It can be almost as nonstick as teflon, but it's pretty damn hard to render a cast iron pan unusable.
Cast iron is great but carbon steel has many of the same benefits, plus a smoother surface, plus lighter. So if you're building your cookware collection from scratch you should give those a look too.
 
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JaccoW

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Cast iron is great but carbon steel has many of the same benefits, plus a smoother surface, plus lighter. So if you're building your cookware collection from scratch you should give those a look too.
And some of the higher-end stainless steel pans like the heavy DeMeyere Proline 7 can have a similar thermal mass as cast iron and will be pretty much impervious to any damage. Just a lot more expensive to buy and it is generally not seasoned. So it requires a slightly different way of cooking.
 

kemmler3D

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And some of the higher-end stainless steel pans like the heavy DeMeyere Proline 7 can have a similar thermal mass as cast iron and will be pretty much impervious to any damage. Just a lot more expensive to buy and it is generally not seasoned. So it requires a slightly different way of cooking.
I have a set of stainless pans too, they're just good for different things. Carbon steel is interesting because you season it the same way as cast iron.

FWIW I probably have too many pans in general.

I have about 7 skillets, a large flat griddle, two dutch ovens, (one enameled, one not) and a saucepan, including new and vintage stuff, machined and pebbled. Plus the stainless set, plus a carbon steel pan, a giant stockpot, and a few odds and ends I'm probably forgetting.

My claim to fame is having lids for the saucepan and vintage non-enameled dutch oven. :D
 
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tmtomh

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It's perfectly fine to use some dish soap on a well seasoned skillet. Just don't overdo it and wash away the seasoning. But that's way harder than you think.

Personally I prefer using rice bran oil due to its 232°C (450°F) smoke point. Just cover everything in a thin layer and put it opside down in the oven for an hour at 220°C (428°F). Perfect finish. Redo it a couple of times if you want a thicker layer.

Other options can be found here: Smoke point of cooking oils - Wikipedia

Agree - I always wash our family's cast iron pans with dish soap and warm water after use. The cleaning takes off almost everything sitting on top of the surface from that meal's cooking, but the cooking surface of the pan retains its patina and seasoning, which is "soaked in"/fused with the surface. With a properly seasoned pan I think you'd have to scrub pretty hard with an abrasive harsher than a scrubby sponge in order to remove the seasoning.
 

kemmler3D

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With a properly seasoned pan I think you'd have to scrub pretty hard with an abrasive harsher than a scrubby sponge in order to remove the seasoning.
This is correct.

I suspect some people have historically gotten confused between burned-on food and actual seasoning. Burned-on food is pretty easy to remove... and... it should be.

Real seasoning is quite durable. If you want to know how durable, take a stainless steel pan, put it on the stove, put a tiny bit of oil in it, swirl it around, and let it smoke profusely for 20 minutes. See how long it takes you to scrub it clean without using steel wool... :D
 

Spyerx

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I use a 12” lodge had for years. Mostly use it right on the grill to sear and cook high grade wagyu steaks that do better cooking in their own fat in the pan. Cleaning is wipe fat out, splash some water in it while its hot, and just wipe it. Never soap. Beast of a Pan and i love it.

On stove I use enabled cast iron quite a bit (le creuset) along with all clad. I also have de Buyer carbon steel pans that are amazing, heat super evenly, and once seasoned right (a process) are fantastic. The more grimey they look the better they cook. My chef brother thought me how to season these right and maintain them. It’s all he uses.

And never put your pans in the dishwasher!!!!
 

Keith_W

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  • Likewise, you can cook tomatoes and other "highly acidic" foods in cast iron, it won't ruin it if it's properly seasoned.

It's not so much ruining the pan, it's the risk of iron poisoning if you regularly consume acidic stews cooked in cast iron. Prolonged cooking time + acid = a lot of iron. I do make quick pan sauces in my cast iron pan though, it's my favourite pan for frying fish. After I fry the fish, I make a pan sauce with a squeeze of lemon. No problem there.
 
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