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cast iron skillet

 
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drivel, drivel, drivel ....

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 ....

drivel, drivel, drivel ....
 
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Originally posted by Paul Wheaton:
I'm convinced that the non-stick goo on pans is super toxic.



would like to see some data from labs...just to get convinced and avoid any further toxoid.
[ December 07, 2004: Message edited by: Ellen Zhao ]
 
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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.
 
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Cast iron is good, except you got to grease the hell out of it. Which is not good. Stainless is the best, but pricey.
 
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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.

We use lots of cast iron skillets. Some are smooth. Some aren't. I wash them with water and a washcloth (or one of those non-abrasive sponges).

Plus you need to make sure to preheat the pan before you add the eggs so they don't stick.
 
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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.
 
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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 ]
 
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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 ]
 
Ray Marsh
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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.
 
paul wheaton
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So I have a massive article about cast iron

And I even have a video:



 
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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.
 
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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.



 
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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.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Pat Farrell wrote:
He says get Calphalon Commercial Hard Anodized, not their "non-stick" pans. You can clean them, they last forever.



Perhaps with proper care and feeding, they do. If you don't know what you're doing, it's possible to completely destroy them. Trust me, I speak from experience.
 
Pat Farrell
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Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote: it's possible to completely destroy them.


At $200 a pop, ouch.

So far, my wife loves hers.
 
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I had the Calphalon pieces at one time. Didn't care for them too much and the pieces have mostly been replaced with other pieces over time -- mostly KitchenAid 3-ply clad.

I also have a cast iron skillet and a griddle that get a lot of use.

And just try to take my Le Creuset dutch oven!
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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@Pat -- come to think of it, my Calphalon wasn't that expensive; maybe it was a cheaper line, not the Commercial.

@Bear -- I wants me onea dem dutch ovens. Worth the $?
 
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I got some Emerilware hard anodized when I moved into my apartment and they are awesome!

Completely non stick and easy to clean, with no "surface" to scrape off
Oh and much less expensive than the Calphalon....

I have a cast iron skillet, but I guess I don't know what I'm doing. Everything sticks terribly.
 
Bear Bibeault
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Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:@Bear -- I wants me onea dem dutch ovens. Worth the $?

Absolutely! It's the workhorse of my kitchen.
 
paul wheaton
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A fella sent me some artwork to spiff up the article. Cool!



And for the cast iron homage from the book "hanibal" he made this "silence of the pans":



There's a bunch more too: http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp

(just feeling excited about it and wanted to share)
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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That first one is 8 ways of awesome.
 
Pat Farrell
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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.
 
Pat Farrell
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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.
 
paul wheaton
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Not only bad to eat, but it off gasses. The off gas has killed a lot of birds.

As for washing it: when you do everything right, there will be no need to wash it - but sometimes things go wrong or a friend cooks with it and doesn't know. So there are ways to mend that.

 
paul wheaton
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My cast iron article is now #4 when googling for "cast iron"! Might not be a big deal for you all - but I'm pretty excited.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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That is actually pretty impressive!
 
paul wheaton
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4.1 million searches per month for "cast iron".

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.

 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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I bet Bill Gates wishes he published "The Road Ahead" on the Web. Oh, that's right, he thought it was going to be just a fad -- in the first edition, anyway
 
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My cast iron pan works great in the oven.  

On the electric stove it seems as if it is not transferring the heat to the food.  I turn the heat all the way up and the food does not cook.    

I can cook with other pans.   I can boil water on the burner.

It will eventually cook a raw burger or piece of salmon but it takes way longer than other pans.

Perhaps it is just the perception.  I should measure it a bit more scientifically.  

Have others had this experience?

Best,

Kevin
 
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My favorite cast-iron skillet has a less-than-flat bottom because several years ago I accidentally left it on a burner set to "high" and came back to find it glowing red.

More recently, I got tired of the short lifespan of non-stick cookware and the potential chemical issues and bought a cast-iron tamagoyaki pan, which is now my "go-to" pan for almost anything that doesn't need a big pan. Tamagoyaki itself is also fun to make and the pan is more non-stick than any Teflon I've ever had.

There is a lot of mythology about cooktops. I've determined that the advantages claimed for gas are questionable and I'm too klutzy to be slamming cast-iron down on a glass cooktop, so I'm fine with a traditional electric system myself. The main thing is that if you're cooking stuff that needs a pre-heated pan, a medium heat needs about 3-5 minutes to get the pan up to temperature, and -- just as importantly -- to be evenly heated all over. Whether you wave your hand over it, use an infrared temperature gun, or whatever to confirm that it's hot enough is up to you, but be patient and err on the side of caution. A little more time doesn't mean anything if your temperature setting is correct.

Cast-iron does take extra time relative to, say, cookware with a copper core, but that thermal mass works both ways. It also cools slower and more evenly. Take advantage of that.

And don't turn the heat up too high! Better to run at medium for most things and wait for the pan to warm. These days I mostly only use high for getting water boiling in a (stainless) pot or with a wok.

I also hate packaged foods that say "medium-high heat". Actually, they mostly mean "medium". For me, medium-high is between medium and high and I've burnt a few things because of that.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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I got an email today that someone had posted on this thread today, 13+ years since my last contribution. I feel compelled to provide an update: since I last posted, I spent a few years as a scoutmaster and got my own cast iron skillet — and I use it every single day, I love it!

Every day I wash it, gently, with soap and water. I do not scrub it, I just gently wipe and rinse, then wipe with oil on a paper towel before I put it away. It is like glass — absolutely nothing sticks!
 
kevin Abel
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I like waking up old posts.   Some people don't like when someone does this and I'm not sure why.

The food slides around on the pan OK.  

I will wait 5 minutes on medium or high heat.  Then I reduce to medium or 5/8 power.    The burger will not cook for maybe twice as long as another kind of pan.  If the food starts from frozen it appears to take double the time to cook even if I pre-heat the pan.

Maybe using the cast iron is more fun so I'm paying attention to it so time seems to pass more slowly.   Or I'm traveling at the speed of light and don't know  

Thanks,

Kevin

 
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I heard the term "handle hot" yesterday. Basically, until the handle is too hot to safely touch unprotected, the pan hasn't fully heated evenly.

I don't recommend the high/low method. It's not really going to save any time and it will definitely heat more unevenly so you'll get a false impression of "ready to cook".

For frozen items, there might be some effect since cast iron isn't as fast at conducting heat that when a cold item lands on it and pulls out the surface heat that part of the skillet needs time to "reload". I wouldn't expect it to be a major thing, though.

I had to learn to be patient, lower the heat and resist the temptation to stir things up all the time. Unless you're looking specifically for a superficial sear, it's better to leave things undisturbed long enough for the heat to sink into them, cast iron or not.
 
kevin Abel
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Tim,
The pan is great for the oven.  If the pieces of food are small, they cood well on the stove.  I notice that it is thicker items like a piece of salmon or beef that take a long time.   I check the temperature every five minutes and it takes a long time to reach the 165 needed for some items.
Kevin
 
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Doesn't really matter what your cooking vessel is made of, thicker food will heat more slowly. Food is a LOT less thermally-conductive than any pot or pan and even microwaves need some stabilization time. It's also the reason that meat and breads need to be allowed to sit a few minutes after the heat is off.

Just to repeat, it's generally better to cook longer and cooler than to try and flash-cook in a really hot pan. Exceptions being things like wok-frying where the whole point it to toss around small food items to get that "wok hei" sear. Or putting a nice color on the outside of meat. Not being an expert on the proper cooking of animal carcasses, I'll have to let you do your own research on how to reconcile a sear with a slow cook of a thick steak (when I grew up, meat wasn't done until the outside was charcoal).

Another reason for keeping it low and slow is that tough cuts of meat will remain tough if you cook them too fast. A longer cook-time converts the connective structures so that they render into juicy flavor and the meat fibers fall apart. They need time, not temperature.  Can't make good carnitas any other way.

 
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Speaking of pre-heating, I got drafted into making a skillet of hash this morning. I typically don't pre-heat for that, since the hash is spread out in a thin layer and thus cooks through fairly quickly. After 3 minutes give or take, the part of the handle nearest the pan reached about 90 degrees F. It took about another 4 minutes or so before the far end of the handle got that hot.

Potatoes, finely diced or shredded typically need to spend about 6 minutes on a side to crisp up in my cast-iron skillet. At the medium (electric) heat setting, which is about simmer temperature for a pot of water on the same burner.
 
kevin Abel
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I love my cast iron pan for everything except cooking thick food like salmon or Steak.

I keep hearing good things about air fryers.   I sent away for a $99 one on Amazon.   I hope my pan does not get jealous  

Kevin



 
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Air fryers are great for some items, but I would definitely not use it to cook a steak 😛 .
 
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I think some like to put the cast-iron skillet with the steak in the oven. I have, incidentally a cast-iron grill pan in case I ever do want to grill a steak.

Snarky people will say that "an air fryer is just a convection oven". And technically it is. But A) my regular oven is a contractor-special, so no convection in there and B) my air-fryer is a very small unit that can sit on the countertop or be stashed in a cabinet and which consumes a lot less power for the jobs it does. In Florida in the summer, the less heat you generate, the better!

More mornings than not breakfast consists of pulling something from the freezer, throwing it in the air fryer, setting the timer (my oven cannot turn itself off!) and walking away. It shares that virtual with my Instant Pot. While there are many frozen items that do well in an air fryer and some items have separate air fryer directions now, there are some limitations. In general, things that spatter when they get hot (lots of liquid and/or grease) are contra-indicated if not actual fire hazards. On the other hand, I like to whip up a batch of dough in the food processor, roll it out into biscuits, freeze it, and pop a few in the air fryer when I get the impulse. Beyond that, my only regret is that my unit is too small for my mini-lasagna dishes so I have to use the full-sized oven for stuff like that.

Truthfully, if I had to get rid of every single kitchen appliance and start over, the air fyer and Instant Pot would be the most essential items, probably followed by my stick blender (to thicken soups in the Instant Pot), and I suppose a hot plate for the cast-iron skillet. The microwave could be spared and likewise a full-sized kitchen range/oven.

Ironically, both the Instant Pot and Air Fryer were not instant decisions. I passed them by in the stores on many occastions because I really don't want to give up counter space. But when a sale got too good to resist and I was able to score the smaller-sized units, I grabbed them and haven't regretted it.
 
kevin Abel
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Ron,
I used the Air Fryer to cook salmon today.  It didn't stink up my condo and it did not heat up my Florida Condo as my oven does.  
I want to try cooking a small piece of steak to see how awful it turns out.  
I like searing the outside of steak on the stove in the cast iron pan.  Then broiling it.

I learned a trick of putting butter in the pan and then whole pepper corns.  Then put the steak on top of the pepper corns and use them as ball bearings so the steak does not stick to the pan.   I  have not tried it with the cast iron pan.

Kevin
 
Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
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