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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is my first vintage cast iron! I have heard about how great the vintage Wagner cast iron (or WagnerWare cast iron) is versus the new modern varieties that you might find these days. Today, Lodge dominates they market and I have plenty of Lodge cast iron cookware (skillets, griddles, and dutch ovens). You can also find some cheaper brands, probably made in China, and most likely inferior to the Lodge. These Wagner cast iron skillets were actually in pretty darn good shape overall. The quality was apparent even it if was partly psychological. Either way, I could immediately see how smooth the interior surface of the skillets were.
Buying Vintage Wagner Cast Iron
I found this piece on eBay as part of a lot of 3 Wagner Cast Iron Skillets – there was an unmarked #3, a WagnerWare #3 1053H, and a WagnerWare #6 1056N. In the photo on the auction, it was clear the 1053H was never really used – there was no seasoning to be seen, the color was of raw cast iron (gray), and there was a little rust clearly visible. The unmarked #3 and the 1056N looked fantastically seasoned – shiny and black! Well, there you go, you can see for yourself
I was seeking out good deals for some Wagner skillets on eBay. The thing is some of the very clean pieces that have been stripped, de-rusted, and re-seasoned can fetch a pretty penny. We’re talking $20 or $30 up to over $100. Surely some of these items are over priced to some extent, maybe some of the pieces are just really rare and hard to find, or maybe some bidders let their emotions take over and the final, winning bid was higher than they intended. It isn’t like there is manufacturers suggested retail price for this stuff.
Anyhow, I focused my search on some of the lower priced items initially. Once I narrowed it down a bit, I looked for items with some apparent and visible defects. My reasoning was that it would be easy in most cases to fix any of those defects. If a skillet is rusty, then you can clean it well, use some vinegar at a 50% dilution with tap water and soak it for a little while. Maybe use a little steel wool to get the last bit off. If a skillet is a little crusty or even a lot crusty with old greasy seasoning, you can still deal with that. You’d be able to use some restoration methods and end up with a pretty good result.
You also have to think about the shipping costs with cast iron, after all, that iron is pretty darn heavy! Some of the pieces are bulky and require a awkwardly shaped box. Essentially, you have to take into account the shipping cost when bidding because in some cases the shipping can make up 50% of the total price. Just keep that in mind…
Here are a couple other tips when buying on eBay:
Ask questions! You can just be direct and ask about the condition: Is there any rust on the item? Is there any pitting? Are there chips, especially around the edges? Is the bottom completely flat and absent of wobbling? Are there any defects? You only want to purchase from a reputable seller and a reputable seller will answer your questions promptly and honestly. I actually bought a pretty beat up Wagner 1058 that was a little rusty on the inside and had 1/8″ of visible gunk and seasoning in some areas. I cleaned it up using some oven cleaner and patience. It looked pretty beautiful once it was cleaned up but a crack was also revealed. It’s not a huge deal since it actually doesn’t seem to affect the cooking at all even though you can see the crack on the interior and the bottom of the skillet. That’s a long way of saying that, 1) a crack isn’t necessarily a big deal, and 2) defects may not be apparent if the cast iron cookware has a thick layer of seasoning.
Flat bottom usually means no heat ring rather than non warped. Check out a few of the auctions that do have cookware with a heat ring and you will see what I mean. Cast iron can become warped if it was heated or cooled too quickly and the result is a permanent disfiguring of the metal. It is most critical if you are cooking on a flat glass top and if the warping is severe, you may not be able to use the cookware effectively on the stovetop but the oven or grill would still be fair game. If you are using a gas range, or electric coils, the impact of a warped piece is far less important. To reference the Wagner 1058 again, this skillet was flat on the bottom with no wobbling initially. Well, after all of the cleaning it turned out to be a little wobbly. I do have a flat, glass top stove top range so this isn’t ideal. However, the skillet is still usable and seems avoid having a hot spot based on the point of the skillet that is actually touching the stove. I do need to do some more research on that though.
Beware of reproductions. Here is another gotcha that you can ask about and while the seller may not admit it directly, you will have made it clear that you know what you’re talking about! Look out for the “Wagner’s 1891 Original” which was manufactured from 1991 to 1999. You can find these often; you’ll know they aren’t vintage because of the engraving on the bottom dated “1891” and the fact that they are completely underprices for some cast iron that is over 100 years old.
How Much Does Vintage Cast Iron Cost?
In this case, I won the auction for $12.05! A great bargin if you ask me! “How much was the shipping?!” you say. The shipping for the lot of 3 skillets was $15.85. Yep, the shipping cost more than the goods. Each of the skillets was less then $10 a piece, they can pretty much last for a few lifetimes if you take care of them right. I felt great about this deal overall. This may be an exception as far as the pricing but I think if you lurk around and take your time while monitoring the auctions, you too can find a good deal. As I mentioned, you can find a full range of pricing, from reasonable to outrageous.
Afterthoughts: Quality of Vintage Cast Iron
Well, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the unnamed #3 but it turned out to be wicked smooth and in excellent shape. The seasoning on this one was first rate! The 1053H was pretty much pristine – It looks like it was in the original box for 50 years and got a little damp. I am certain that it was never used and after a little vinegar bath for about 30 minutes, plus a little baking with canola oil (how to season), this 1053H was better than it was new. The 1056N looked great with a very solid looking seasoning. I took it for a test run with an egg and it performed flawlessly – no sticking at all! I am really happy with my purchases and look forward to finding more great deals on eBay.
Many people read or hear about cast iron cookware and are surprised to find that there are various types available. You may have decided that you want to begin cooking with cast iron pots and pans but you may not know where to begin. While bare, uncoated cast iron and enameled cast iron cookware do have similar features and provide comparable benefits, there are a few key differences to note when deciding to purchase the cookware. The goal of this post is to compare Enameled Cast Iron vs Cast Iron. It’s the battle of heavy metal! Sort of…
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron cookware is comparable to stainless steel in terms of its non-stick characteristics. It is safe to use with acidic foods and has a high heat retention due to its thickness and generally awesome cast iron qualities. Additionally, these skillets are also safe to use in the oven, on all stoves and on the grill. I would slightly hesitate to use the really ornate, pricy cast iron out on the barbie due to the risk of damaging the somewhat delicate, glossy coating.
Enameled cast iron is also heavy which may be a positive or a negative depending on if you have other plans for the cookware such as protection against an intruder. If you don’t have a sandwich or panini press you can use a preheated dutch oven or skillet. Enameled cast iron also has a lower thermal conductivity when compared to simple cast iron; many chefs use the time it will take to heat up an enamel cast iron Dutch oven and complete other tasks in the meantime.
These skillets are also more expensive than traditional cast iron, particularly when you compare well-known brand names, like Le Creuset. However, if you can find these skillets at flea markets, thrift stores or from an aging relative, you may be able to save some money. Even Lodge had gotten into the enameled cast iron game, and who could blame them with the prices of some of the imported pieces. The quality is no doubted high to exceptional but if you’re on a budget then the price tag may make you reconsider. Additionally, the pans and pots vary in their knobs, handles and shape, but you can often order replacement knobs for a dollar or two; your off-brand, never-heard-of-before skillet can now be safely used in the oven.
Avoid using metal utensils in enameled cast iron; it is possible to chip the coating. However, should such a situation occur, simply season the pan again. You are only exposing the cast iron; that doesn’t mean you cannot use the pan anymore. Enameled cast iron will not hold flavors as readily as a traditional cast iron skillet. This is really a positive and a negative. Let’s say I’ve just fried some catfish in my cast iron skillet – Yum Yum! Let’s say I want to make some pine apple upside down cake the very next day. I think you can see the point. It’s certainly not a deal breaker for the bare cast iron but I think it’s clear that the enamel coating could be handy in some cases.
Bare, uncoated cast iron is relatively cheap compared to traditional cookware and enameled cast iron. In fact, some lucky chefs can inherit cast iron skillets from their grandmothers and great-grandmothers because cast iron dates back to the 5th century BC. While you may not have a pan quite that old even though your grandmother may resemble otherwise, cast iron cookware is sturdy and can last for generations. Some people consider, the author included, the older, vintage cast iron pieces to be superior in quality and the antique stuff just gives you the warm and fuzzies too.
Cast iron, when properly seasoned, is the original nonstick pan. Many veteran chefs and beginners alike agree that it is the best type of cookware for searing and blackening. Even if you simply need a pan to use under the broiler or a good weapon to guard against an intruder, nearly everyone should own at least one sturdy cast iron skillet. It’s pretty much a staple in the American kitchen and for good reason.
Bare cast iron can help to evenly deliver heat more efficiently as the result of the unique radiative properties of the dark metal. Additionally, if you have an iron deficiency, bare cast iron can help to add extra iron into your food. This is an important thing to consider to help get the trace elements that are needed, especially if you or anyone in your family suffers from Iron deficiency anemia. It isn’t just an tale that your grandma told you – the Journal of Food Science conducted a study with the results published in 2006. The amount of iron (Fe to the chemistry folks) varied greatly based on the acidic pH or organic acids but the food contained significantly more iron than food cooked in anything else than uncoated cast iron. We try to cook on cast iron 3-4 times a week around here.
However, while a heavy cast iron pan can help you to protect your home in the middle of the night, the skillets are fairly heavy to lift. These pans must be seasoned and should rarely be used to cook acidic foods because the acid can wear away the seasoning to the point where the food will come into contact with bare iron, causing a reaction. While it is always fun to experiment with new flavors, you may not want to taste metal when you are sitting down to dinner with your family. Moderation is key to the acidic food – I make a chili in my dutch ovens every now and then but don’t do it everyday or let it simmer for more than 3-4 hours. I would skip the pasta sauce (Sunday Gravy) if you’re planning on simmering/braising for many, many hours.
If you do not treat cast iron with care, you risk shattering or cracking the skillet. Avoid placing the pan in water while it is still hot; the temperature difference can damage the skillet by warping or cracking it. Additionally, use caution if you have a smooth, glass top range; you risk scratching the service, making it more difficult to clean. I have a glass top stove myself and we haven’t had any issues so just be careful and I think your stove will be okay. These skillets also have the potential to rust and have a low thermal conductivity; it may take a while to properly heat up a pan to cooking temperatures. The low thermal conductivity has a plus side since the pan will stay hot for longer. This is why they serve fajitas on cast iron; the hot, searing metal keeps the food hot while you’re stuffing your face full of tasty Tex-Mex.
If you are searching for a cast iron skillet, inspect it to make sure the handle is usable; a pan with a stubby handle will cause nothing but headaches when the time comes to cook. It wouldn’t be unusable but you may need to task it with other jobs aside from typical skillet tasks – maybe use it as a deep dish pizza pan…?
Enameled Cast Iron vs. Cast Iron – Who is the Winner?
Both enameled cast iron and bare cast iron have positives and drawbacks; if you are in the market for new cast iron cookware or an enamel cast iron Dutch oven, it is vital that you do your research to determine what type is best for you. However, if you aren’t picky and you are on a budget, start hounding family and friends to see if anyone has an extra skillet that they are not using or scout out nearby thrift stores and garage sales to score the best deals. Regardless of what type of cast iron you choose, you will be able to cook with pans that have been around for centuries. Just get one of each…They both have their place in your kitchen.
If you pressed me, I would go for the bare, naked, uncoated, unadulterated cast iron. It think it has the edge in durability.
The following article on the care of cast iron utensils, by Soc Clay,
is taken from the January/February 1992 issue of The Louisiana
Black Iron and Black Magic
When the earliest white hunters and settlers came to Louisiana, one
important piece of equipment they carried was a cast iron Dutch oven.
This highly practical cooking utensil was essential in the kit of even
the lightest traveling adventurer in early America. In fact, long before
Columbus began his quest of discovery, hunting parties around the world
depended uon some form of the classic Dutch oven to handle a multitude of
The Dutch oven and other black iron cooking untensils continue to be
essential in hunting and fishing camps across Louisiana. An iron pot with
a tight fitting lid is still the prized possession of many camp cooks. More
than a few are also found “back home.” The fancy copper-bottomed and tinted
glass cookware may be prominently displayed, but the black iron is tucked
away close at hand.
Properly seasoned, a flat-bottomed Dutch oven is an ideal pot to whip
up a venison stew, work up a batch of gumbo or jambalaya, fry a mess of
quail or bake a round of sourdough biscuits. The late Ted Trueblood, one
of America’s most loved hunting scribes, was sold on the dutch oven as
being the most important piece of cookware. Trueblood was an open fire cook
of the first order. He saw no use whatever in packing in a camp stove and
fuel when he was in a serious hunting situation.
Trueblood, writing in the August 1960 issue of Field and Stream, talked
about the then-modern equipment available to hunters and fishermen. He
said, “Among all these good new items there are a few old ones that
survived with undiminished popularity. Almost without exception, they are
things that the working outdoorsman adopted as his own. The canoe and the
axe are classic examples. The Dutch oven is another old favorite.”
Trueblood’s observations ring true. According to America’s largest
manufacturer of black iron cooking utensils, Dutch oven users are thicker
than they have been in years. There’s even a Dutch Oven Society and a
bunch of Dutch oven cook-offs popping up all over the country.
Amazingly, more and more folks are going back to ironware, not only
because of its unique cooking and flavoring characteristics, but also
because cast iron has stood the test of ages as one of the safest forms of
While a dutch oven is still a favorite tool of the open fire cook,
probably the most used piece of ironware in today’s camp kitchens is the
ever-faithful cast iron skillet. Throughout Louisiana, it is safe to say
that at least 80 percent of all households have at least one black iron
skillet in regular use.
Ironware was made for the cook who takes time to do things right. The
thick walls of the casting were designed to absorb and evenly distribute
heat from a licking outdoor flame or the flat top of a wood burning
cookstove. With modern camp stoves fueled by electricity, natural gas or
propane the iron pot continues to do a superior job. It just takes less
energy than most of the other cookware on the market.
Cookware made of glass, stainless steel, enamel, porcelain or copper,
or lined with a space-age non-stick surface, strives to leave no influence
of taste in foods. Properly seasoned ironware, on the other hand, emits a
savory seasoning “flavor” that no other cookware can duplicate.
But if black iron makes such black magic in the kitchen, how come even
more folks ain’t using it?
The answer is simple. Sweetnin’ the pot, as the old timers call it,
takes some time and patience. And once the initial job is accomplished,
some thought has to be given to maintaining the pot. When done properly,
fried foods won’t stick and the bitter taste characteristic of a new
casting won’t leak into your food. If you have picked up a new casting,
found a treasure at a flea market, or want to recondition a neglected
family heirloom, here are some tips I gleaned from an old Cherokee lady who
has used black iron to perform black magic in her kitchen for
three-quarters of a century.
First, inspect your black iron casting for a smooth interior surface.
The finish on the outside is unimportant. Quality ironware has a smooth
interior that readily accepts sweetening and provides a slick surface to
Wash the new utensil, or one that has lost its seasoning, both inside
and out with a mild dishwashing deturgent. New castings come with a
protective coating that must be completely removed. Use a scouring pd if
mecessary, but this is the last time a black iron utensil should ever see a
scouring pad. Dry the casting throughly with paper towls and allow it to
air dry for at least 30 minutes
Use unsalted lard or shortening to completely coat the inside and
outside of the dry pot or skillet and then bake it in a 350-degree oven for
a total of 10 hours. This can be accomplished a few hours at a time while
baking other items if you make sure the old grease is wiped clean and a
fresh coating is applied each time the pot goes into the oven.
After 10 hours of baking, test the pot by using a little vegetable oil
to fry an egg. If the egg sticks, wash the pot lightly with soapy water
and a cloth or brush, re-coat it, and bake it for an additional three hours
or so. Then test it again. The sweetening process allows the porous cast
iron to absorb as much grease as possible. When completed, the pot will
take on a deep, shiny black finish.
Once the pot has been properly seasoned, never scour it or let the pot
sit in soapy water. Never place it in a dishwasher. Old time camp cooks
would break your arm for washing a black iron pot at all. They simply wiped
it clean and used it frequently to keep it in top condition.
When boiling foods in a newly seasoned pot, keep the water content low
and be sure to remove the lid from hot foods to avoid steaming the
seasoning off the lid.
Once the pot is conditioned, store it in a dry place without the lid on
between uses. A paper towel in the pot will absorb moisture. Most folks
who use black iron regularly like to apply a light film of cooking oil or
grease to the insides during storage. Finally, when you get ready to pass
along that treasured old pot or skillet, be sure the new owner also gets
There are other methods for sweetening black iron cookware, but none
has ever worked as well for me as the old Cherokee recipe.
Some would say black magic occurs in many forms throughout Bayou
Country. For good cooks, in camp and at home, across Louisiana some of the
very best black magic takes form when well seasoned black iron bubbles and
sizzles up some of the finest grub in the land.