History Of Wagner Cast Iron

Rusty WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet - 1058
Rusty WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet – 1058

The use of cast iron for cookware is centuries old and many of the vintage pieces can still be used today. For example, cast iron Dutch ovens were used by the settlers of the United States as they traveled westward. Without their wood burning stoves, the camp Dutch oven provided a way for the travelers to cook their meals over an open fire.

Wagner Hollow Ware Company (Pre Wagner Manufacturing Company)

The  official start of the Wagner Manufacturing Company was in 1891 and you can see the centennial commemoration of this in the 1991 version of the cast iron frying pan.  However, the Wagner brothers, Bernard and Milton,  actually started making metal castings of light hardware for general stores back in 1881.  In addition, the brothers manufactured tin hollowware for government contracts. Tin hollowware is describes  general tableware like  sugar bowls, tea or coffee pots, soup containers, hot food covers, water pitchers, platters, butter plates and other metal items that went with the dishware on a table. Hollowware does not include flatware.  Bernard and Milton Wagner are credited as the first to cast iron for cookware in Sidney, Ohio. WagnerWare was born.

(A short footnote about the Centennial Commemoration of the 1991 version of the skillet, The Wagner’s 1891 Original Cast Iron Skillet - though it stated “Original,” along with a date, this line of cookware was manufactured in 1991 through the late 1990s.  You can tell the quality difference pretty much immediately. modemac over at Cast Iron Chaos has some additional details also.)

WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet - 1058
WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet – 1058

Wagner Manufacturing Company

This is the start of the Wagner cast iron dynasty as we are familiar with it. Two other brothers, William and Louis, were added to the mix in 1891 which triggered the beginning of WagnerWare cast iron cookware.  With the momentum of population growth and expansion, the Wagner brothers had a market ripe for growth and built the most modern and technologically advanced manufacturing facility for casting iron at the time.  Wagner Manufacturing was able to produce world class cookware, rivaling and later surpassing the other powerhouse in the cast iron cookware arena, Griswold.  WagnerWare Cookware was awarded in several nationwide as well as some international expositions, including but not limited to expositions in Chicago, Nashville, Paris, Buffalo, and St. Louis.

Size #3 Used for Serving
Cast Iron Skillet, WagnerWare Size #3 Used for Serving

Uniting Wagner and Griswold

In some circles, this is stated as “Wagner acquiring Griswold” but it is not that simple.  The real story is slightly more complicated and is quite common when small family operated business grow into large corporations.  Companies are bought and sold, consolidated and dismantled, and the cast iron cookware business is no different.  The Randall Corporation purchased Wagner Manufacturing in 1952. McGraw Edison Inc. bought Griswold on March 29, 1957 and then sold it in December 1957 to Randall who already owned Wagner.

Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
http://www.nmhistorymuseum.org/
Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
http://www.nmhistorymuseum.org/

 

Beginning of the End

WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet - 1056
Frying an Egg – WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet – 1056

 

Effectively, the Griswold manufacturing plant in Erie, Pennsylvania was shut down in 1957 and any Griswold cookware made after this period was out of the Wagner Manufacturing Sidney, Ohio plant.  This was the beginning of the end of the high quality cookware that both, Griswold and Wagner, were known for.  Well, that might be a little bit harsh but most experts do agree that the quality started to decline in quality at this point.  In 1959, the final nail in the coffin came when Randall sold off Griswold and Wagner to Textron.  It is widely accepted that post 1960 Griswold and Wagner cookware is not in the same collectable class as the pre 1960 cookware.  General Housewares Corp. bought Textron Inc. in 1969 and that included the Griswold and Wagner cast iron cookware lines.  One could argue that those cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, and griddles that were made after the merger and acquisitions are better than the ones made after 1990 or so, and that probably not far from the truth.  However, if you compare a modern day, Made in China, cast iron skillet to a 1970, Made in the USA WagnerWare cast iron skillet, to a 1920 Griswold or Wagner cast iron skillet, the difference will be clear.  An interesting note is that cookware that declares it was Made in the USA are typically not considered collectable pieces.


Modern Era

In 1996, a group of investors, which included a former employee of Wagner, purchased the Wagner and Griswold cookware lines.  This was known as the WagnerWare Corporation.  They continued manufacturing for another 3 years before closing their doors in Sidney in 1999.  In 2000, the American Culinary Corporation purchased the rights, legacy, and remaining facilities of the Wagner and Griswold lines.  The former employee noted above is Peter Pike and is the President/CEO of the American Culinary Corporation.  It is clear that Mr. Pike is dedicated to the legacy and quality of the Wagner and Griswold names.

Are you interested in buying vintage cast iron?

Please check out my post on how I acquired my first piece of Wagner Cast Iron.  It might be a different scenario than you think!

Curious about enameled cast iron?  The pretty, colorful stuff – read this blog entry for some of the finer points of Enameled Cast Iron vs. Cast Iron.

Preheating - WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet - 1056
Preheating – WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet – 1056

 

Reference: http://www.americanculinarycorp.com/

 

How To Restore Cast Iron

This post will be similar to our post on how to season cast iron, but from a slightly different starting point and focus. Here we will discuss the process by which the seasoning on a piece of cast iron cookware may be completely removed, followed by a guide on how to re-season the cookware with flaxseed oil.

Be sure to check out the video at the end of this post for more information!

How To Restore Cast Iron

First of all, why would you want to restore cast iron cookware? There are many possible reasons. Perhaps an ignorant house guest, in an effort to be helpful, washed your favorite, perfectly-seasoned pan with dish washing liquid and steel wool. Maybe you bought a vintage piece of cast iron online or from a shady back-alley antiques dealer and the seasoning is flaking off due to improper storage. Or maybe you foolishly cooked your grandmother’s famous salt and vinegar pie in the pan, not realizing the acid would eat away at the seasoning. Whatever the reason, let’s use a computer analogy and assume you’d like to completely reformat your cast iron’s hard drive and re-install a clean operating system.

This Lodge Cast Iron Skillet has lost some seasoning
This Lodge Cast Iron Skillet has lost some seasoning around the sides of the pan.

Let’s get this out of the way first: the seasoning on a piece of cast iron cookware is nothing but fat molecules which have bonded to the iron and other fat molecules present in the seasoning layer. Therefore, with a little tweaking, the seasoning may be removed by any method that you’d normally use clean up a big greasy mess (including Noxzema … probably).

One popular method is to simply place the cookware in the oven and run it through the self-cleaning cycle. The self-cleaning feature of modern ovens heats the interior to 700-, 800-, or even 900-degrees Fahrenheit, turning any organic material (read: food and grease) into ash. While we like to think of cast iron as indestructible, these high temperatures are capable of warping or even breaking cookware, and so this method is not recommended.

how to restore cast iron - using oven cleaner
Spraying Easy-Off onto the pan inside a trash bag

Therefore, this post will focus on a second popular method, which involves the use of oven-cleaner. A note of warning: Oven cleaners such as Easy-Off are essentially aerosolized lye. Wear gloves! Go outside!

The process is simple, if a little messy:

1. Apply oven-cleaner to the cast iron cookware.
2. Place cookware in a trash bag and let sit for at least 30 minutes.*
3. Remove cookware from bag and scrub using soapy water.
4. Repeat Steps 1-3 until all of the seasoning is gone.
5. Rinse cookware with a few tablespoons of vinegar.**
6. Dry cookware thoroughly.***

* The longer you let it sit and give time for the oven-cleaner to work, the fewer repetitions (Step 4) you’ll have to do. Some guides instruct you to let it sit for 7 days before moving on!

** This step really, probably, most likely isn’t strictly necessary, but just to be safe, the acidic vinegar will react with and neutralize whatever miniscule amounts of basic oven-cleaner is left over. And you thought you’d never use high-school chemistry again.

*** Your iron is now naked and unprotected. If you leave it wet from the sink, it will rust. If it’s a humid day, it will rust. See note about high-school chemistry above.

The unspoken Step 7 is that you should go ahead and apply at least one coat of your new seasoning immediately. If only there were a place on the Internet to learn how that might be accomplished …

how to restore cast iron
After 1 round of oven cleaner and soap scrubbing

 

After 3 rounds of oven cleaner and scrubbing
After 3 rounds of oven cleaner and scrubbing.. This pan is naked!

 

Please check out this super awesome video by TheCulinaryFanatic on YouTube.  He also goes by Jeffrey Rogers and he knows his stuff.  He actually explains this better and has a method of using the self cleaning oven cycle to strip the cast iron.  Please visit him at: https://www.facebook.com/aboutcastiron


Recipe: Colossal Sea Scallops (Seared on Cast Iron)

Serves 2 and can be scaled to serve more

Colossal Sea Scallops
Colossal Sea Scallops

 

Ingredients

  • 4 colossal sea scallops, rinsed in cool water and gently dried
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

The following ingredients are used as the seasoning and a dash should be used of each. See the photos to get an idea about how much to add

  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Natural Cane (Raw) Sugar
  • Ground Cayenne Pepper
Seasoning for Sea Scallops
Seasoning for Sea Scallops – Raw Cane Sugar, Sea Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Cayenne Pepper
Sea Scallops are resting with Seasoning
Sea Scallops are resting with Seasoning

Directions

  1. Get some fresh Colossal Sea Scallops (more information below on selecting the right scallops).
  2. Remove the scallops from the refrigerator, unwrap them, rinse them in very cool tap water and allow them to drain on a fresh paper towel.  Gently dry the scallops and set them on a plate, leaving space between each scallop.
  3. Assembly the dry ingredients for the seasoning.  If you do not have any Natural Sugar, also called Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado, plain old white cane sugar will work just fine.
  4. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of oil to the plate of scallops and coat the scallops with the oil.
  5. Add a dash of each of the dry ingredients to each side of the scallops.  Use the photo as a guide on how much to add.
  6. Cover the scallops with some plastic wrap. Allow the scallops to rest for about 20 minutes.
  7. Grab a beer or a cocktail – I had a Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale – this will help pass the time while you wait.
  8. Let the cast iron skillet heat up on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  In this case, I used my Wagner 1056, just the right size for four scallops.
  9. Add some canola oil to the pan and tilt to coat the bottom the the skillet.
  10. Place the scallops on the pan and let them sit.  Don’t try to slide them around or poke or prod the scallops to see if they are sticking.  If you do, they will stick!  Just let them be and develop a nice crust.
  11. After 90 seconds they should have a nice crust and will slightly pull back from the pan.  When they do, go ahead and flip them over.
  12. Again, don’t try to see if they are sticking!  Let them cook for 60 seconds if you prefer a slightly less done scallop and up to 2 minutes if you insist on having the more well done.  I would suggest sticking to the 1 minute.
  13. Once then have finished up, remove them to the serving plate and enjoy after allowing to rest for about 1-2 more minutes.
  14. Feel free to serve them a small wedge of lemon but I just like them straight up.  If you have really fresh, high quality seafood, then you can just enjoy the natural sweet flavor.

WagnerWare 1056 Preheating

WagnerWare 1056 with Colossal Sea Scallops

WagnerWare 1056 with Colossal Sea Scallops

 

Selecting Quality Colossal Sea Scallops

This is really the key to this recipe and probably any other seafood recipe. Yes, I can confirm that if you have subpar quality seafood, the finished product isn’t going to be so good.  The number one way to get high quality seafood, colossal sea scallops in the instance, is by going to a quality seafood  counter.  A specialty seafood store with a real life fishmonger (or fishwife – that’s a lady fishmonger) is your best bet.  They take pride in their products and won’t dispense less than perfect product.  I found these scallops at Kathleen’s Catch, in metro Atlanta. Kathleen does a great job there and I highly recommend checking out her shop.  We have a couple fine farmer’s markets in the area too and they would be great options as well.  More common would be a Whole Foods or Fresh Market and they certainly take care to provide great products as well.  They both have a solid supply chain and serve very fresh seafood.  Lastly, your local grocery store can potentially have some options for you but you’ll want to make sure it’s a store with a decent amount of fish moving out of their case.  The fact is that most of the seafood, scallops included, will be frozen when they arrive at the store and that is just fine.  If they thaw them properly and sell a reasonable amount of it, you can expect to find some decent quality scallops. I would say that if it’s your first try at scallops, get something that you can be assured is fresh, high quality, with a fresh ocean-like aroma, not like old fish.  Scallops will have a slightly sweet aroma too, and this will translate over to the flavor too. It does not always hold true but in many cases, in all aspects of living, you get what you pay for – don’t try to save money when you’re buying scallops.  In my area, that’s about $20-26/lb.  Is that expensive?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Definitely.  The key take aways are to go to a fine establishment to buy your scallops and don’t be afraid to shell out some cash to get a high quality product.

 

Have you made this recipe?  If so, how did it turn out?  Do you have any suggestions to improve the recipe? Do you have another recipe that you recommend?  I want to know!  Leave a comment below – I would love to hear your thoughts.

Dating Wagner Cast Iron

How Old Is My Wagner Cast Iron Skillet?

WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet: #3 and #6
Wagner Ware Cast Iron: 1053 (#3) and 1056 (#6)

I hear the question all the time: How old is my Wagner cast iron skillet? Is there a way to date my Wagner cast iron dutch oven?  Or even my Griswold skillet?

It is not an easy answer and there are a few factors to consider.  So, first off there is a line of demarcation for collectible cast iron cookware.  Roughly after 1960, the cast iron cookware that was made in the US is not considered a “collectible” item.  It just means it the collectors don’t hold those pieces of cookware as high as the other pre-1960 pieces.  I would say the 1960s – early 1980s made cast iron cookware is still pretty darn good and probably some of those pieces are better than what you can get today.  Read a little more about the history of Wagner Cast Iron and even Griswold Cast Iron…

In many cases, we cannot determine the exact date that a piece of cookware was made.  Unfortunately.  We can come pretty close to a range of dates once we understand a little bit about the manufacturing of the cookware. The iron foundries would have moulds for the various pieces of cookware and over time the moulds would need to be replaced.  Or through expansion the foundries would get more moulds to increase production or to make another piece of cookware.  Why is all this is important?  Well, the logos and markings on the bottom and handles of cookware would change over time.  In this way, we can assume within a range when a piece of cookware was actually made.

The two pieces to the right (which I found on ebay), are most likely from the period from 1925 – 1959.  It’s a pretty big range, I know.  And one of them, the #3 was apparently never used.  When I got it, there was a little bit of rust present on the gray, unseasoned, raw cast iron.  Amazing that it never had any food on it until I bought it.  I simply washed it with some soap and hot water, soaked it in 50% vinegar & 50% water for 20 minutes.  After that I seasoned it using the method outlined here.




One of the best ways to tell is by the font, location, and styling of the logo and trademarks on the bottom of the cookware.  I highly recommend checking out castironcollector.com with some photos and relative dates.  I used the photos there to review the font and location of the logo on the bottom of the skillet.  You can see the script-style on the “W” where there is a small loop in the center.  The logo and writing is in the center near the top, or opposite the handle.  The “Wagner” has a bit of an arc to it, while “Ware” and “Sidney” are written straight with no arc.  The guide at castironcollector.com has photos for a whole bunch of manufacturers: Favorite Stove & Range, Griswold Manufacturing, Lodge Manufacturing, Martin Stove & Range, Sidney Hollow Ware, Vollrath Manufacturing, Wapak Hollow Ware, and, of course, Wagner Cast Iron Manufacturing.

Great Accessories for Cast Iron Skillets

Here are a couple of very convenient accessories for your cast iron skillets.

 Silicone Handle Covers

If you have made to this website, I’m sure you have experienced a blazin’ hot cast iron handle after a cooking session.  One of the reasons we love cast iron is it’s property of heat retention but it’s also the reason the darn handles stay so hot.  Well, the good folks at Lodge know all about this issue.  They now carry Silicone Handle Covers. They protect your hands or whatever else you might touch the skillet handle with up to 450°F which take care of most situations.  One key thing to keep in mind is this is a one-size-fits all kind of product and in my opinion Lodge should have, maybe, offered a couple other sizes.  So, for this product we recommend that it is used for skillets that are 10″ or larger.  The smaller skillets, like a 6.5″, have much shorter handles and this makes the silicone covers move around.  Please keep this in mind and this trade off makes this handle cover favorable over a cloth cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lodge Polycarbonate Pan Scraper

The other great accessory is the Lodge Polycarbonate Pan Scraper. This little tool allows you to clean your cast iron cookware well without using soap or compromising the sought after non-stick seasoning. The polycarbonate material is strong and hard enough to allow all the food remnants to be scraped away yet the scraper will not scratch up your cast iron. The scrapers come in a pack of 2 and can be used for all your cast iron cookware. One of the key features is that each of the corners on the scraper is shaped differently, allowing you to clean every nook and cranny of your cookware.

Season Flaxseed Oil Cast Iron

Season Flaxseed Oil Cast Iron

So you’ve got yourself a new, nude piece of cast iron cookware and you’re ready to put a fresh coating of seasoning. In our previous post, we mentioned that really any type of fat will work, with vegetable oil or shortening being the most commonly used (due to their near-ubiquitous presence in modern kitchens). However, in the past few years, rumors of excellent cast iron seasons using flaxseed oil have caught our ears, and we were anxious to try it out.  If you have not yet tried to totally strip and re-season a piece of cast iron, please consider the process…and check out this other post to provide some context about the process, benefits, and why one may consider stripping the existing seasoning.  If you’re just interested in seasoning or re-seasoning your cast iron and you don’t have any flaxseed oil handy, check out the post using any old oil you have around.

What the heck is a flax?  

Great question. Flax is a flowering plant (the blooms are blue) that grows in the cooler part of the Northwestern United States and Western Canada.  Flaxseed oil contains a high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids – we’re talking 8 grams per tablespoon. I know you won’t get all that tasty omega-3 fatty acid from seasoning your cast iron but you can use the rest as a dietary supplement. These are the same heart-healthy fatty acids promoted by cardiologists and dietitians found in fish and nuts (and flax seed). Interestingly, these same fatty acids apparently provide an extremely tough and slick seasoning layer when they polymerize to form the seasoning layer on the surface of cast iron.  I normally put a little flaxseed oil in my smoothies (~1 tablespoon in 20 oz) and the oil has a mild nutty flavor and when it is mixed in a smoothie, it works well with bananas and soy milk. 

The upshot of this is that you can find flaxseed oil pretty easily in the health-food section of your local megamart. The downside is that flaxseed oil has a distinct “fishy” smell to it due to the presence of these omega-3 fats. No worries, once polymerized by the heat, the oil will form a smooth, non-reactive surface and the fishy smell will disappear.  “How fishy?” you may be asking yourself.  It’s pretty darn fishy so prepare your significant other accordingly.  You might consider doing this on the grill if you have a command of temperature control or you have some hot coals smoldering from grilling some meat.

This guy cost $9 at the grocery store!
This guy cost $9 at the grocery store!

How to Season Cast Iron With Flaxseed Oil

There are many guides on how to season cast iron cookware. Below is the method we chose to use here, taken from a Cook’s Illustrated article on this subject:

  1. Preheat oven to 200-degrees Fahrenheit. Once preheated, place cookware into oven for 15 minutes.  [The important part here is to ensure the cast iron is dry and slightly warm which helps the metal take up the oil.]

  2. Remove cookware from oven, turn oven off, and open the door to let it cool down as much as possible.

  3. Place ~1 tablespoon of oil into the hot cookware and wipe it around with a wad of paper towel.  Be sure to get every nook and cranny, inside and outside. Using a second paper towel, wipe as much excess oil off of the surface as possible.

  4. Put the cookware upside down into the (semi) cool oven.  Turn the oven to “Bake” at its hottest setting (usually 500- or 550-degrees Fahrenheit). Once the oven reaches this temperature, leave the cookware inside for 1 hour.

  5. After 1 hour, turn the oven off and let cool completely with the cookware inside.

  6. Repeat Steps 1-5 at least 5 times, or until a smooth, black season is obtained.

Seasoned with Flax Seed Oil
Seasoned with Flax Seed Oil

As you can see, there’s not much to it, but unfortunately, a lot of waiting around is involved. Luckily, after the first coat is applied, the danger of rust is past and you can apply the other coats over a few days.  If you can only afford the time to apply just one coating, well, that’s good too.  Just start cooking on the cookware and you’ll be well on your way to having some very nicely seasoned cast iron cookware.  The more you use it, the better!

The resulting flaxseed seasoning probably won’t be any more slick than another, but the hype is that it’s much tougher than other seasonings. We’ll keep updating this post as we use the experimental flaxseed pan over the next few weeks and months.

Why Cook with Cast Iron?

Why Cook with Cast Iron?

One of the main reasons why people choose a cast iron skillet for their cooking tasks is because cast iron cookware can be used for almost anything. Whether you want to sear potatoes, bake a cake or stir-fry vegetables, one cast iron frying pan is all you need. However, because cast iron cooking can be a lot of fun, especially for someone new to the idea, you may find yourself with more than just a single pan. Here are some other reasons why you may consider cooking with cast iron:

WagnerWare Cast Iron: #3 and #6
WagnerWare Cast Iron: 1053 (#3) and 1056 (#6)

No Fear of Scratching

Cast iron doesn’t scratch, so you can use virtual any cooking utensil on it without worrying about damaging the pan. Unlike most non-stick pans on which you need to use rubber spatulas or special spoons to cook the food, you can use metal spatulas, rakes, shovels or nearly anything on cast iron. It truly is virtually indestructible.

Doesn’t Warp

Ever wonder how Grandma’s cast iron skillet still looks the same as when she used it decades and decades ago? One of the wonders of cast iron is that it doesn’t warp over time when repeatedly exposed to high temperatures. Many traditional pots and pans can lose their shape, as exposure to heat and use over time molds the shape of the pan, yet cast iron continues to look exactly the same.

Holds Flavor

Cast iron skillets hold flavor for longer. In fact, while some people may be grossed out the remnants from Grandma’s meal may still be in the crevices of the pan from a luncheon held 35 years ago, it is for this reason that cast iron enthusiasts adore the cookware. Many maintain that the flavors are held within the pan itself, so when you cook something new, you are still adding a little bit of the flavors that were there previously. For better or worse, cooking with cast iron can ensure a different flavor experience each and every time.

Size #3 Used for Serving
Cast Iron Skillet, Size #3 Used for Serving

Heat Retention

Cast iron skillets are ideal heat conductors. They have high heat retention, and those who swear by cast iron maintain that the food heats more evenly when compared to traditional pots and pans. The versatility of a cast iron skillet is unrivaled; you can use it on a stove, on a barbecue grill or even in your oven. Cast iron can be preheated to temperatures that will brown meat and will withstand higher oven temperatures than what is considered safe for traditional non-stick pans. Because cast iron skillets hold heat for longer periods of time and heat up more quickly, you actually save a little bit of money in electric or gas heating costs, whichever applies to your home.

Great for Baking

One of the main reasons people enjoy cooking with cast iron is that it is versatile – you can use these pans for baking, stir-frying, searing and boiling. In fact, before the slow cooker ever existed, grandmothers around the world used cast iron Dutch ovens for all of their cooking. Dutch ovens, used for hundreds of years, are notorious for cooking if you want an even temperature. Moreover, a Dutch oven can go from stovetop to oven without missing a beat. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Less Expensive

If you do not currently own a cast iron frying pan, it is well-worth your time and money to invest in the cookware. You can often find sales on the Internet, and most stores carrying cast iron skillets that are pre-seasoned and ready to use. You can typically expect to spend about $30 on a cast iron skillet, depending on the size, while you may be looking at over $100 for the same-sized stainless steel pain.

Long-Lasting

Remember that cast iron can last for three generations or longer. Ever have a family fight or know of someone who desperately wanted Grandma’s pans after she passed? Anyone who is anyone in the cooking world knows and appreciates the importance of a good cast iron skillet. If you don’t know of anyone in the family who is passing one down anytime soon, you can find vintage cast iron pans at a local flea market, thrift store, online auction site, and garage sales. While you may worry that because these have already been used, they are disgusting and not worth the dollar you might spend, cleaning cast iron is relatively simple.

More Iron in Food

Although cast iron doesn’t leak chemicals into your food, it can allow iron to saturate whatever it is that you are cooking, and that is truly a benefit for those who are iron-deficient and looking for natural ways to boost their levels of the nutrient. Iron deficiency is fairly common across the globe, particularly in women. As many as one in 10 American women do not receive adequate amounts of iron; if you are looking for a different way to add iron into your diet other than taking a vitamin or supplement, cooking food, especially an acidic food like tomato sauce, in a cast iron frying pan can increase the iron content by as much as 20 times.

Use Less Oils

Did you know that cast iron frying pans are also healthier than non-stick pans? The lovely sheen that you see in the skillet is the sign of a well-used and well-seasoned pan, which translates into non-stick as well. Fortunately, however, you will not need to use heaping amounts of oil to sear chicken or brown crispy potatoes while cooking with cast iron. In fact, if you use cast iron skillets regularly, you often don’t need to add any extra ingredients before you begin to cook.  Check out the Definitive Guide to Seasoning Cast Iron.

Chemical-Free

If you are extremely health-conscious or at least somewhat concerned about living a healthy lifestyle, then keep in mind that when you use cast-iron skillets, you avoid all of the harmful chemicals and toxins that are prevalent in non-stick pans. The repellent Teflon coating that keeps foods from sticking contains perfluorocarbons (PFCs), a chemical that has been associated with developmental problems, cancer and liver damage. These chemicals are released as the pans are heated or when the surface gets scratched, and we subsequently ingest the fumes into our bodies.

Easy to Clean

Cast iron skillets are great in the kitchen and extremely versatile, but what about cleaning? Even for the most troublesome spots and caked on grease, oatmeal can do the trick, believe it or not. While all you really need is a scraper to clean cast iron, if that isn’t working, you can sprinkle some oats on it and add a little water. The paste will absorb the leftover grease without stripping the pan of iron. However, if you are one that holds fast to the notion that the leftover flavors simply add to the next meal, cleaning a cast iron skillet truly is a breeze.

While cast iron may seem like an old-fashioned choice, this reliable cookware should be a staple in your modern kitchen. Please don’t throw away that old pan that has been passed down to you from generations. As long as it has no significant cracks or nicks, you can clean, season and use the pan for every single one of your cooking needs. And, if all else fails and you need a great middle-of-the-night weapon against an intruder, you can’t go wrong with a single cast iron skillet.

 

Rusty WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet - 1058
Rusty WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet – 1058

Buy Antique Wagner Cast Iron Cookware

Please check out my post on how I acquired my first piece of Wagner Cast Iron.  It might be a different scenario than you think!

Curious about enameled cast iron?  The pretty, colorful stuff – read this blog entry for some of the finer points of Enameled Cast Iron vs. Cast Iron.

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Cast Iron Steak

Are you interested in buying vintage cast iron?

Cast Iron Steak - Rib Eye
Cast Iron Steak – Rib Eye
Credit: A. Kennedy

 

Cast Iron Steak Recipe

Cast Iron Steak - Rib Eye
Cast Iron Steak – Rib Eye
Credit: A. Kennedy

One of the best ways to cook a steak if you can’t make it out to the grill is on a cast iron skillet.  You can’t beat the sear from the massive surface area that the skillet provides. It is really nice to cook over a live fire, whether is charcoal or a real stick burner, but if you’re limited and must stay indoors this method is the way to go. In fact, this method might be the preferred method if you’re in a pinch for time.  And, I would say this cast iron steak recipe would beat out a gas grill – sorry!  But you may as well broil your steaks if you’re going to use a gas grill (in most cases anyway), and there isn’t anything wrong with that but the point is that a gas grill is not ideal.  Okay, now that we have that out of the way…  This recipe was inspired by Alton Brown’s Pan-Seared recipe which can be found here.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 Ribeye Steak – 1.25″ to 1.5″ thick
  • Canola Oil to coat
  • Coarse Sea Salt or Kosher Salt and Pepper
  • 0.5 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 0.5 teaspoon finely chopped sweet onion (i.e. a Vidalia onion)
  • 0.5 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Directions

* Just a quick point to ponder – this will get smoky.  It will be a good idea to open up a window before you put the steak on the skillet and perhaps be ready to fan some fresh air to your smoke detector if there is one close by your kitchen.  :)  Just plan ahead and don’t be surprised.

Place a 12 inch skillet in the oven and heat to 500F.

Take the steak out of the refrigerator and coat lightly with canola oil.  Lightly season the steak with pepper then cover with plastic wrap.  Allow the steak to warm to room temperature.  This is a key step in the process which will enable the steak to cook to the desired temperature throughout.  As a rule of thumb, allow the steak to sit out at room temperature for at least 45 minutes.

While you’re waiting for things to warm up, go ahead and prep the garlic and onions. Get a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil that will be used to wrap the steak to rest once it has been removed from the skillet.

Once the oven has reached 500F and at least 45 minutes have passed, take the skillet out of the over and place on the range on Med-High heat.  Allow the cast iron skillet to set on the stove for 5-8 minutes.  It will obviously be HOT (!!) so use some caution.

Uncover the steak and generous sprinkle the salt on both sides of the steak.  Don’t be shy here because you need to add enough salt for the whole steak and this is a thick piece of meat!

Put the steak in the middle of the hot, dry skillet. It is going to smoke so turn on the fan on the range and get ready to open the window if it isn’t already done.  Sear the ribeye for  30 seconds without moving. Turn the steak with tongs and cook another 30 seconds, then put the pan into the oven for 2 minutes. Flip the steak and cook for another 2 minutes. If you follow these time guidelines you should get a medium-rare steak. If you prefer medium, add 45 seconds to both of the oven turns.

Remove the steak from the skillet and place it on the aluminum foil.  Put the garlic, onions, and butter on top of the steak.  Cover with foil and rest for 4 minutes. Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto plate.

Yummy!

Tips on picking a ribeye steak

Waygu Ribeye ("Kobe")
Waygu Ribeye (“Kobe”) – Look at the Marbling!
Credit: Michael T.

Get fresh meat and you can get a pretty good idea by the color.  Fresh steak should be bright red.  As the red meat gets older and less fresh, it turns tan and later to brown.  I would highly suggest getting USDA Choice.  The USDA Select maybe okay if you really check out the piece of meat and try to find something with a little marbling but you probably won’t be as happy with the results if you go with Select.  USDA Prime would of course be great and should turn out excellent, however, I would probably not get Prime unless it was on sale.  Certified Angus Beef (CAB) would be a fine choice here since CAB grade is at least Choice grade and may even be Prime.  Like many things in life, you get what you pay for so if you want to have a super tasty steak, you will have to shell out a few bucks for it.  Go ahead and splurge on the high grade steaks and you won’t regret it.

If you have a really good butcher around you can get some Waygu (or “Kobe”) beef.  These steaks have some serious marbling and are really excellent.  If you have a special occasion coming up or just want to see what all the fuss is about, check out the Waygu beef.

Let me know what you think of this recipe.  How do you cook steak indoors?  Do you have any tips?  If so, be sure to comment below!

 

 

 

Here are a few articles that you might be interested in reviewing also:

Affordable Steaks

Cooking a Flank Steak

Recipe: Calzones on the Grill on a Cast Iron Skillet

Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone cooked on the Grill

Calzones on the Grill

I love pizza.  Or, pretty much anything that has most or all the components of pizza, such as a calzone.  Today, I will be sharing my experience making calzones on the grill and some reasons why you might want to do this.

About 50% of the time, you can see a ball of dough in my refrigerator resting, slowly rising, and developing great sourdough like flavors, waiting to be kneaded (pun intended).  I might bake a loaf of bread, na’an, pita, pizza, or flatbread.  Once, I even made some cinnamon rolls with Nutella spread over the top.  The recipe for the dough that I make varies slightly but our cast iron pizza recipe has a good one to start with.  We actually travel a decent amount and sometimes a kitchen isn’t fully stocked so I have definitely made bread or pizza dough with just flour, water, yeast, & salt.  That’s all you really need.

 

 

Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill – Divide the dough into four equal pieces and knead for a few minutes.

Okay, here is how it started –  I knew I wanted to have some sort of a pizza.  I also knew that it was a warm day and the house was already heating up!  Cranking up the oven for an hour or more would definitely make the house hotter and that is not at all a good thing during the summer time.  No problem since a grill can cook just about anything and we know that from so many chefs.  The last time that was on my radar is when I saw Bobby Flay grill pizza on his show “Grill It!” using a Weber Kettle.  Awesome.

Next, I wanted to use my cool WagnerWare 1053 #3 Cast Iron Skillets.  :)  No really good reason why but I have really enjoyed coming up with ways to use these smaller pans.  It’s a little tough to cook in a small pan like a #3 but that make really fantastic serving dishes and if you’re making personal sized meals or side dishes, they just make good sense.

 

Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill – After kneading and letting the dough rest, you can spread and press the dough into the pre-oiled pan.
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill – Fill up your pizza pocket or calzone with your favorite toppings.

You can see I divided the dough into four roughly equal pieces.  I kneading them for about 2-3 minutes a each and then let each of them rest for about 5 minutes.  After the rest, I flattened each ball of dough and pressed one of them into the bottom of each cast iron skillet.  I filled them up with caramelized onions, red peppers, minced garlic, and chopped artichokes.  Feel free to put anything you want in the calzone, like bacon, sauce, olive oil, cheese, goat cheese, more bacon, etc…  You’ll notice that I opted to omit the sauce and cheese for the filling.

Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill – The calzones are topped with the other two pieces of dough.  I used the very delicious Pizza Seasoning from Penzey’s Spices.  I also enjoyed a black lager while grilling – gotta have beer if you’re by the grill.
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill – This thermometer is not super accurate but it is close enough to keep us in the right range.  The temp actually dropped a little bit for this picture.  Most of the time, the grill was in the 300° range.

I had the grill heating up with an indirect heat set up.  That is to say, I had the two side burners lit at about med-low.  This allowed me to keep the burners at the center of the grill off so that the bottom of the calzones would not burn.  I might try turning them on low for the 2nd half of the baking next time but I was a little worried about that for the first attempt.  And, since this was my first try I was not quite sure about how long to cook these calzones or at what temperature.

Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill – Topped with cheese and ready for the grill.
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill – Sitting in the center with the two outside gas burners on Med-Low.  The stock thermometer displayed about 300° for most of the grilling time.

Normally, I would cook a pizza really hot, like 500-550° + on a pizza stone or cast iron skillet.  In this case, I knew the filling was dense, the cast iron was relatively cool, and that a hot grill would not be the right way to do it.  I figured that a moderately warm grill would work and that I needed to keep the calzones on for 25-40 minutes or so.  I monitored, watch, peaked, and checked on the calzones every 10 minutes or so.  Towards the end of the grilling, I bumped up the burners on the outside and even turned on the  center burners.  I slid the calzones right out of the pans and then  put some pizza sauce on the top.

Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill – After 35 minutes on the grill.
Cast Iron Calzone on the Grill
Cast Iron Calzone cooked on the Grill – All sauced up!

Dedicated to Cast Iron

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