Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cast Iron Cookware, Run to Your Nearest Thrift Store


Cast iron cookware, by any other name such as skillet, pan, or pot, is absolutely wonderful. I prefer to say pan, but most searches use cast iron skillet.

I've ditched anything Teflon,  and anything else that is suspect for that matter, which leaves me with stainless steel and cast iron. My stainless steel is a mix of old and new (think Revere Ware, it is great)

What motivated me were the alarming articles about Teflon, its toxicity etc.It is quite disturbing. DuPont mumbled something about phasing the PFOAs out (cancer causing chemical when over heated) but guess what, they haven't. (teflon lines self cleaning ovens and that yucky smell is guess what? very toxic) I threw out many pans years ago, but just recently fell back in love with iron.

The big problem is, no one makes a new good cast iron skillet. I tried the new Lodge ones and they are quite frankly...awful. The reason is they are made with a sand mold method and the surface is left rough, not silky smooth. The older ones were machine polished. So no matter how much you season it, things stick. What were/are they thinking?

The only option then is to find old cast iron skillets, obviously a limited supply. Ten years ago, you couldn't give them away, they were cheap at thrifts stores and yard sales and consider oh so...old and yesteryear. My how things have changed .If you can find one at a yard sale or thrift store, good for you, but mostly you'll find them at antique shops or Ebay. The prices may vary from $20 to $40 depending upon the size and condition. Look for a nice smooth cooking surface. Don't shy away from a little rust or some gunk. There is lots of advice on the internet for cleaning them up. The best one is putting them in an open camp fire for hours to burn everything off!

I've got a nice little collection going and have been searching for more for family and friends. Not too many bargains these days though, the dealers know what they are doing. I did have some that were in the family, a nice big #12. (numbers have nothing to do with actual size in inches) The small one shown was also a hand-me-down and makes perfect eggs. I rarely clean it, just rinse it off and leave a little grease on it.There is good advice online about seasoning old pans so they are non-stick.

The added benefit is these treasures are really green - low tech to produce, low chemical profile( the only issue is leaching iron into your food but that may be a good thing)  and they last forever. Given that these beauties are not made anymore and that their value will only continue to go up, I suggest your nearest thrift store, consignment shop, or antique dealer. Run, don't walk.


Jazmin said...

I enjoyed reading your article, but I wanted to comment on what you said about the lodge skillets. I have a few and have found that, although they take some time to season well enough to fry an egg (like a few months of consistent use), they can be as smooth and slick as old cast irons. Lodge is - in my opinion - one of the better modern skillets for a reasonable price. If you get another one make sure to really commit to seasoning it and don't back out after a few weeks because it isn't perfect yet. Remember, those old skillets sometimes have generations of use under their belt.

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