Cast Iron Cookware for the Beginner
SURVIVAL KITCHEN

Cast Iron Cooking & Cookware Tips For The Beginner

Cast Iron Cookware for the Beginner
Cast Iron Cookware for the Beginner

 
Guest article by ‘Old Chevy – on a rustic road’

My intention for this article is to post a few tips for the cast iron cook wanna-bee. This is for beginners, or for those who have only thought about using a Dutch Oven and are intimidated by trying something new.

Be assured that cast iron cooking is almost foolproof. There are a variety of recipes including pizza, chili, pies and breakfasts. But to start out, keep it simple and enjoy your success as you move up in confidence and experience.

 

3 Primary Cast Iron Cookware Pieces

How we cook in cast iron using 3 different pieces of cast iron cookware:

– Stovetop Skillet (Check it out HERE)
– Stovetop Dutch Oven (See it HERE)
– Camp oven, also known as a legged Dutch Oven (Like THIS One)

The cooking procedure is identical for all cast iron cookware in this article.
I will only explain it for the skillet:

 

CAST IRON STOVETOP SKILLET

I place the skillet on the burner at a medium to low temperature.

I then add a little oil which I swish around with a basting brush (like these) but avoid having a puddle. (Truthfully I use my finger, but I do it before the heat is on and don’t tell anyone).

I always start with oil. If I want to use butter I will add that later after the food is in the pan so it doesn’t burn.

[ Ken adds: I asked him about his preferred oil: “I only use olive oil when sautéing onions, peppers and the like on low heat in a skillet. Otherwise I use a lighter oil, like grapeseed oil in all other situations in all cookware pieces.” ]

The skillet is heated up until the handle is warm but not so hot you can’t touch it. If you don’t heat it up first, the food will get welded to the pan and you will have a very difficult skillet to clean. I learned this the hard way when I placed a lean venison steak into a cold pan with oil and left the room as it heated up. When it was time to flip it over I had to extract it with a pair of pliers.

Heating up empty cast iron won’t hurt it, in fact that is how it is seasoned; another topic for another time.

So regardless of what goes into the utensil, I always have a film of oil in it, even with something like bacon. I turn down the heat on the skillet for over-easy eggs and turn off the burner right before I flip it. Leave it in the pan until I have the bagel buttered.

My wife has a technique down for hash browns from fresh potatoes that I have not been able to master. She has them on a higher heat but somehow does the onions without them burning. I don’t know how she does it. It’s the only secret that I let her keep, and I believe it is the only one she’s got, or so I’m told.

 

CAST IRON STOVETOP DUTCH OVEN

The stovetop DO (Dutch Oven) in our house is primarily for doing stews, roast beef, simmering on the burner for hours.

Like the skillet, it is oiled first. The meat, onions, can be braised, sautéed before adding the other ingredients.

With the tight-fitting heavy lid there is a slight pressure-cooking effect. And the entire mass of cast iron heats up the ingredients and guarantees to finish perfectly.

It almost takes an effort to ruin something in a Dutch Oven, although we often use a trivet to prevent burning or to keep the bottom layer of food from getting too soggy if there is a concern (here’s a nice one from Lodge).

On an electric stovetop if there is a concern of burning, the cookware can be placed on top of a metal plate, griddle.

We also avoid using tomatoes in cast iron. We have a porcelain version for such recipes. The exception would be chili recipes in the camp oven, which is next.

Check it out:
Enameled Dutch Oven

The Dutch Oven Cookbook

 

CAST IRON CAMP OVEN

The camp oven, though similar to the stovetop DO, has significant differences and advantages. It perches above the coals on 3 legs and has a rimmed top for placement of coals for top-down heat. This makes for nice crispy, browned food impossible in the stovetop DO.

We use our camp oven when we go camping and prepare a meal to cook while we are out hiking. Get the coals going before you head out. Then load up the ingredients. When you come back from the trail you will have a hot, delicious meal ready to eat. As we have often left camp under sunny skies to come back in a rain I suggest keeping the oven covered by some MacGyver method, a tarp perhaps high enough to not melt.

Another wonderful aspect of the camp oven is that when set out in the sun for an hour or so it will get so hot that you won’t be able to touch it without using oven/grill gloves. This means a head start on warming it up and means less charcoal.

And there is another advantage; it can use free fuel source with chunks of wood. I’ve used pellets also, but charcoal is the easiest to use and to gauge heat levels. There are charts for so many heat units per briquet, which I take as a suggestion. I prefer the peek and probe method of determining doneness.

A wonderful quality of cast iron is that it keeps the food cooking after the coals are out and will stay warm for 2nd helpings long after it has been removed from the heat.

I used a large pan underneath the oven to contain and focus the heat of the coals but I have found out they don’t burn well due to a lack of air flow.

I start the coals in a chimney starter placed on top of the lid. When they are ready I dump all of them on the lid. With a pair of grill tongs set approximately half as many under the oven as are on the lid.

Recently I’ve set the briquets on top of 1/4″ wire mesh so that I can shake out the ashes and retain the burning coals. The mesh also increases air flow.

 

Roast A Chicken In Cast Iron Cookware

roast chicken in dutch oven

Most recently we had a very large chicken, 5.5 lbs, that was too big to fit into our countertop rotisserie. So it went into the camp oven. In a 4 quart DO I first placed the trivet, russet potatoes (cut in half layered on the bottom) and the chicken on top. Lots of briquets went on the lid, some underneath, and it cooked for several hours. An occasional peek and probe into the dense joint area with a meat thermometer until it is was finally declared done. The skin under the briquet-layered lid was crispy and juicy. The meat itself developed a rich flavor and tenderness unequaled by any other method I’ve tasted. The only mistake possible would’ve been to have taken it off too early. It won’t overcook as long as the last briquets were placed halfway through the cook time; like 45 to 60 minutes before.

 

CLEANING A VERY DIRTY GREASY CAST IRON LID

Finally one last tip on cleaning a very dirty greasy lid. As you should know, do not use soap on bare cast iron cookware as the soap fragrance embeds into the seasoning and then into your food. Recently I had a lid that was coated in a very thick grease that just wouldn’t come off. I got it as clean as it has ever been by turning it upside down and filling it with HEET and lighting it on fire. After that the lid was filled with sand and scoured it. Finally it was rinsed off in hot water with no residue of any sort. If you try this be very careful as the flame is huge and is invisible.

 

CAST IRON COOKWARE PREFERENCE

My own preference in cast iron is the Lodge brand (here’s their lineup). In spite of the criticism of the rough casting, it is the best choice for beginners to avoid the laborious seasoning task. Older pieces, like the one passed down to me through the generations, is glass smooth and is preferable (but you can’t always get what you want). I prefer the 5 quart Lodge DO with handle for our stovetop oven.

The history of the oven goes back to unknown origins.
I should like to read this book someday:
Dutch Ovens Chronicled: Their Use in the United States

Have at it!!

– Old Chevy – on a rustic road

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I have several of ALL of these and use them both in and out of doors. The ceramic lined Lodge Pots are great for candy making as well because they withstand the extreme temperatures! Cook on folks!
I use olive oil and coconut oils in mine.

– I started learning to use cast iron at 9 years of age, learning to cook scrambled eggs. I have made (long, long ago) that same error of starting with a cold pan and a beef steak. I have all the same pans, and more, referenced above. DW complains that I cook much better over a campfire with my cast iron than I can in her kitchen with her higher-tech stuff LOL. My dad always told me I wouldn’t leave home until I could: Sew the split in my jeans, myself; take a chicken from hatchling to putting it on the plate; kill my supper with a rifle/shotgun, bow and arrow, fishhook, snare or trap, and put it on the table; raise and keep a garden, maintain and repair my bike/motorcycle/car or truck. Cast iron was in the same catergory as good tools/guns/fishing gear. You learn quickly what works.
– Papa S.

Hi I am a first time commenter but a long time reader. Also just beginning to prep. I love this article. I have several cast iron pans from my Grandma but scared to use them😱. This has given me the kick in the pants to give it a whirl . Thank you Old Chevy.

You can’t really hurt anything…go for it.

Mad Fab
First welcome to the comment side of the BLOG.
About Cast Iron,
1. Never never use ANY soap on them.
2. They cook best as Old Chevy said above, personality I like coconut oil, but you must use oil.
3. I do NPT like Lodge. Go to a used stuff store and buy the old stuff, even if rusty, just clean with sandpaper and re-cure.
4. Relax, tis very hard to hurt cast iron, remember its “Iron”.
5. Always leave a slight film of oil on them so they dont rust…..

Good suggestion about looking for cast iron in used stuff stores, garage sales. Of the 40 pieces I’ve got only 3 are in continuous use, another 3 or 4 occasionally and the rest are there just because. Our most often used stovetop DO was handed down from my grandparents. I’ve only purchased about 1/2 dozen new.

Mad Fab, thank you! Very encouraging to hear you are inspired to use the cast iron, you’ll love it! What are you planning on doing first in them?

All this talk about cooking with cast. Am I the only one getting hungry now? 🍴

Welcome Mad Fab! It is always nice to hear from new voices.

The nice part about receiving such a useful gift from a beloved relative is every time you use the item, you will keep that person in your heart and mind. And we cannot help thinking about all the interesting things they taught us. Enjoy your cast iron pans. I love cooking with cast iron and actually use cast iron bread pans every time I make bread. All the cast iron pans are more difficult for me to handle, but I enjoy using them. I could be wrong, but I believe I read there is also a health benefit to cooking in cast iron.

Trace Iron is absorbed from the food that picks it up. Iron is an essential mineral, meaning you can not live without it.

Mad Fab,
I also have inherited cast iron skillets from my grandmother and my mother-in-law. I imagine them smiling down when I cook with them. Good luck with your cast iron cooking!

Recently we have started cooking over a simple fire pit made of ten cinder blocks and a square grill top. We have used wood exclusively so far. Mostly we have made hamburgers. I have been surprised at how quickly baked beans in a cast iron skillet heat up over the coals. I would like to cook potatoes in the skillet. Does anyone have any suggestions?

RoughRider;
Assuming your talking Fried Taters…
1/8 inch of oil and 1/4 cup of Bacon Fat
Heat pan till very warm/hot
Toss in a sliced Onion, and some diced Pepper
Slice your Taters 1/4 inch thick, leave the peels on (best part of the Tater)
After Onions are 1/2 done add the Taters
sear the Taters browned and turn em over
stir to break them apart
again sear them till brown
Cover for 5-10 minutes or until done
Set the entire pan on the table to keep em hot….
Salt and Pepper AFTER cooked, never add before or during cooking

Yum, that sounds so good. Thank you NRP

Terra;
there’s a reason this old fat boy is an “old fat boy” HAHAHAHA
Me and Blue know how to eat if nada else :-)

NRP,
Dude, you know how to eat?
That dont mean ya know how to cook worth a darn though,,,,
🤪
🍗🍔🥓🥩🍨🍚🍙🍤🍰🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍨🍪

Tommyboy;
Interestingly enough I do enjoy “good” food, and ya cant get good food at any stinking Restaurant or Fast Food crapo-house.
Best place I know to eat…. Home :-)

NRP
I hear ya bud, just givin ya a little shit,,,
I am not a fan of going out, too many lazy people in the food service industry, rather have control of my food from raw ingredient to finished meal, plus i can cook good enough to fake some folks into thinkin i actually know what im doing

Tommyboy, I think the only recipe I’ve heard you mention is popcorn, How do cook it with cast iron?

me;
Same as any other pan, just a LOT harder to shake the pan… HAHAHA

– Actually, popcorn in a Cast iron Dutch Oven tastes pretty good. NRP is right, though. It is hard to shake the pan!
What I do is heat about 1/2 cup of coconut oil until it’s just short of smoking; then add a fistful of popcorn seed and stir it around for a minute, take it off of the fire for one minute by the clock.
Put it back on the fire, and listen for the popping to slow down. You will have to shake the oven 2-3 times until the popping does start to slow down. When it does, take it off of the fire and put the popcorn into a large bowl. Kids will love it! and it’s not as hard as it sounds. This is for around a campfire, and be aware you will have a few that get scattered around during the transfer of the hot kernels.
– Papa S.

PapaSmurf/NRP and all yall wantin popcorn,,,
Ya gotta get one o those oldtimey popcon popper pots with the hand crank, we got one, works good on anything from the electric stove to the wood stove to a campfire,,,

We make popcorn in a cast iron pot and only one shake or two.

– Tommyboy –
Actually I have an even older wire basket – thing is, I don’t care for dry popcorn, even over an open fire.
Instead, it’s “decor” and hangs by the fireplace behind the other fireplace tools.
– Papa S.

NRP-Tommyboy,

I think taste in food is learned. My momma’s cooking is better than yours and vice versa. You can’t tell me that young native kid eating that fist size tarantula on that National Geographic Amazon documentary doesn’t think that it tastes good. He’s grinning from ear to ear like an American kid eating a snickers bar.

Thanks, NRP! Sounds great! I’ll give it a try.

Great article. I have a large collection of cast iron and use them almost exclusively. I have purchased quite a few at flea markets that were coated with thick crud. This may be debatable but I put them in my oven and run through the clean cycle. Then re-season them. Have never had a problem doing that. Have also burnt them off in an open fire. Either one works well. I prefer using them on my wood-burning cook stove but have used them on glass top stove. Works ok as long as you don’t slide them around. I still need to practice using the camp oven with coals. I tried it one time and burnt the biscuits up and pretty much gave up but this makes me want to practice with it again. Love outdoor cooking. Thanks for the information.

I use cast iron for cooking every day. Once a pan reaches its proper seasoning it is better than any nonstick modern pan I have ever used. Tip if you have a rough bottom on a cast iron pan: use metal utensils. It does help smooth it out some over time. It is also a forgiving cook surface in that a scratch doesn’t ruin a pan. The plus side of cast iron for me is it’s heat retention. There are many cookbooks out now that deal exclusively with cooking with cast iron. Plus for survival is cast irons ability to be used with various heat sources (electric, gas, wood and charcoal)

MM: good point, it is indeed a survival kitchen, I have learned a lot of pioneer cooking, which depended on cast iron heavily, by visiting Rendezvous events where they dress up in 1800’s costumes and camp in primitive canvas tents. They have all kinds of ideas, digging out fireholes, reflector ovens, rotisseries, stacking Dutch ovens 4 high, baking pies in them. If there is one in your area it is worth a visit.

I once had cherry cobbler from the camp DO. My uncle poured a yellow cake mix, a can of cherry pie filling and a 7up soda into the DO, coals on top and underneath for about an hour… OMG it was amazing! 🙂

Love cast iron, but there is one problem. The older you get, the heavier they become!
When i was a kid that was our go to fudge pan.

A lot of us have that in common with cast iron, the older we get the heavier we get.

An excellent tool for cleaning cast iron is the chain mail cloth available on Amazon.

Yes, I have that, it works better than steel wool. It’s called the “Ringer”.

Skeezix: I use cast iron for almost every meal, from steaks to cornbread. Cleaning has never been a problem. I add enough water to cover the bottom, maybe a little deeper up to a sixteenth of an inch for a real mess to a cool skillet (never add water to a hot skillet with oil in it). Then heat until the water starts to boil, and scrape with a metal spatula, it cleans up real easy, but be sure to oil it again afterwards. For not too messy stuff, like gravy, the dog cleans it up real good. ( I do wash it in hot water afterwards, heat on the stove to dry, and wipe oil onto it.

Thanks for the welcome NRP😜. I just got the rust spots off the pans and are now seasoning in the oven. Lots of great info on this site and very civilized. I love the back and ok forth with some of you and the community feeling. I have a ton of questions and reading ur blog has helped out a lot. Thanks again!

Welcome Mad Fab we have a good group here. Argue a little among ourselves at times but overall a great bunch of people.Ken keeps things civil. We do have one resident kook with a screen name of NRP. Live in the desert in a house built of TP and has a handler named blue. Just try not to take anything he says serous as I think he is mentely unstable. LOL

It is possible the garage is also built out of TP as well.

Poorman, INPrepper;
OUCH!!!! HAHAHA
Please don’t forget about Blue’s Dog-House :-) :-)

I remember a cooking show that used to be on that had an older guy that cooked with cast iron outside. He made amazing things, I cant remember his name or the show title anymore. We have a few items but we don’t use them very often. I would like to know what everybody uses the most and the least. I would like to add more items but want to make sure its something that I would use often. I see the muffin pans in silly shapes like cactus and I think it would be easy to burn them and are they useful. What is your favorite cast iron item?

use our cast iron fry pans daily…use the cast iron covered pots for bread OFTEN, use the cast iron dutch oven with embers lid for pineapple upside down cake and other cakes/cobblers, have cast iron flame top griddle for french toast and pancakes….use the lodge pots for stews and candy making.

Have a question for the cast iron experts: Have a Lodge two sided grill that has a few surface rust spots on it, so I sandblasted it and plan on putting a light coat of Crisco on it (twice?) in my weber gas grill at 350 degrees (?) for an hour or two…any thoughts?

– Kenny –
See NRP’s #3. Sounds like exactly what he said to do. Crisco is acceptable, if not great… I use olive oil. bacon grease and lard, in about that order.
Bender, the piece I use almost daily is a 10 1/2″ frying pan.
– Papa S.

– Oh and welcome Mad Fab. Knew I left something out.
-Papa

Papa Smurf, I also use lard, olive oil, and bacon grease in that order.

Kenny, I recently picked up a square two-sided grill, one side ribbed and the other is flat. It also was slightly rusted in spots. After scrubbing it with oil with a coarse copper wool scrubber I did pretty much what you are planning but I used vegetable oil. Don’t let any puddles collect or it will turn into a rubbery layer. After the initial oil seasoning (lard, bacon fat too) I have learned to use beeswax with good results. Oil, however, is easier.

Kenny;
I have read and some disagree, but Cure at around 450 for a minimum of 2 hours, with a slight coating of oil of your choice.
Allow to cool and repeat a couple more times.

Old Chevy – on a rustic road;
On the Copper Scrubber, I understand the Copper Scrubber in not so recommended, the Copper “can” rub into the Cast pores because the Copper is softer than the Cast, always use Stainless Steel. What do you think?

Bender;
I use an 8″ Frying Pan, and almost always have a Dutch Oven sitting on the Wood Stove.
I have one of those Muffin Pans, 7 holler, absolutely love it, (not the fancy ‘Shape’ one). Makes muffins a weekend necessity.

NRP
Lehmans sells a stainless steel scrubber for cast iron.

That said, Amazon also sells them,

8″x6″ Stainless Steel Cast Iron Cleaner

There are a bunch of them, so you can chose what you want

NRP, you’re right about the copper, I’m tossing it.

I read somewhere, I think it was a Lodge book on how to season iron. Mineral oil will not go rancid and get gooky if the iron sits in storage for a while. I have 3 or 4 pieces I put away with some sort of oil/grease and now they are gunky. Difficult to get clean now.

Mrs. USMCBG;
Might I sugesst you build a nice HOT HOT fire in the fireplace, woodsyove, outside and litterally burn the gook off. Let em burn for a few hours minimal. Just let the fire burn out and retrive later…..

I am using my cast iron more frequently these days also. It seems the more you use it the better it becomes for cooking just about anything. Makes absolutely the best cornbread ever. Period. I have different size pans, but seem to gravitate to the smaller sizes because it’s just the two of us at home now, kids grown and gone.

Season a cast iron skillet with hog lard, never, I mean never, use soap to clean a cast iron skillet. If any rough residue is stuck, scour it with a soap free chore girl and rinse with water. It takes time, but eventually all the pores will fill, and it will become the best non-stick skillet you will ever own. My Momma would have disowned me if I ever used soap on her cast iron. A cast iron skillet is for cooking. If you’re afraid of germs/bacteria don’t use it for a serving dish unless for the food you cooked in it. Anything you cook in it, that heat will kill any bacteria that might be present in any organic residue on the surface of the skillet. Cooked bacteria has no flavor, you eat it all the time anyways.

P.S.- everyone might check, I just noticed the comment box has forgot my name and e-mail address, folks need to check before posting to avoid a bunch of “anonymous” posts.

Some use soap they say to clean off the grease; and then they grease it to season it.
From a visit at a Rendezvous event I learned to use beeswax instead of lard, oil, after use. Initial seasoning is with vegetable oil. The nice thing about it is that it melts off before you put the oil in and it doesn’t get gummy.

Thanks Old Chevy. I am going to start with some bacon and eggs and some pancakes for my grandbabies in the morning before school.😋 Love those boys!!!
Dennis, I too know your pain. Grandbabies live with us because of addictions. Never a fun time. We belong to AlAnon and has helped us to deal with issues. I too will never give up on my son. Peace be with u and your wife. Remember it is NOT your fault this is happening to your daughter.

Thank you all for the welcome
I already feel like I know some of ya and NRP and I r on the same page with the TP. Besides I don’t scare easily.😈
I look forward to being about more often and building my supplies and connections with all😜
Peace be with u all

Mad Fab;
About the questions you would like to ask, PLEASE feel free to ask away.
And it is true there are no “dumb” questions, only those that are un-asked.
One thing, Please ask “off-topic” questions on the Saturday Forum.
Is 600 rolls really enough? Some day you will know the meaning behind the ‘fun’ and method behind that question and the TP King :-) :-)

Nothing special about cooking with cast iron. Turn fire on, put food in it you want to cook, cook it and then eat it.

Let the cast iron cool and then wash and or scrub it with soap and water. Let it dry and give it a spray of Pam spray to keep it rusting.

My mom has been doing this since I was a kid, I do it this way, my Son does it this way.

NO it will not ruin the seasoning, it has not done so for any of my Griswold cast iron (was my grandmothers, then my Mom’s, now mine) that is from the 1940’s and 1950’s. 70 to 80-years of use on most of my cast iron pans and they still look great.

It is just that simple, it really is….

I dislike the Lodge brand of cast iron as it’s all got a rough sand cast finish on the inside and outside. All of my old Griswold cast iron is as smooth as can be on the inside. It makes for a much better cooking surface that is very non-stick like.

I read that Lodge doesn’t polish the inside to a smooth surface because it cost as much to do so as it does to cast it.

I will not buy any of the lodge brand as there is plenty of old well made cast iron out there for very reasonable prices at flea markets and garage sales.

I gave up cast iron cooking, for the same reason. Lodge pans were too rough and everything was sticking. I am old and do not have the decades it would take to get a Lodge pan smooth. I bought a very expensive cast iron pan that came very, very smooth and I love it! I keep a piece of cotton rag in an el-cheapo Rubbermaid container, soaked in oil. When I clean my pan I wipe it afterwards with this rag, so it always has a light layer of oil on it to keep it seasoned and prevent rust.

Another game changer for me was the Ringer cast iron cleaner, which is something that looks like chain mail – this is awesome!

I would think that if it was economical to have smooth castings ever since way back it could be better now. There is no shortage of the old ones.

I got a really nice 6″ skillet at a yard sale for $1 and I found out why so cheap when I cooked on it; it had been washed in soap n’ water and Dove Dish Soap flavored eggs didn’t appeal to them so they sold it. Eventually over numerous sessions over the stove and rinsing and re-seasoning it is now good to use.

Buddies in Backcountry Horsemen swear by cast iron.

In my family the younger generation just loves it so us olders are beginning to pass pieces down the line. Was as delighted to find a vintage cast iron 11-cup slant-sided popover pan at the thrift store as mine was delighted to receive it. However we are hanging on to our favorite pieces. Kids can have them when they pry them from our cold dead oven mitted hands.

Great article! Thanks Old Chevy.

Thanks Anony Mee, I also have several small skillets, they are the size of a piece of bread that are handy for single servings.

why avoid cooking with tomatoes in the dutch oven is it something to do with the acid?

Bingo! Yes, tomatoes high in acid will react with the iron and give the contents an undesirable flavor. I’m not sure if it penetrates the seasoning or not, or if my imagination or not, but it seems to me it does and so I avoid it.

Kevin, also avoid adding things that are preserved in vinegar to cast iron dish…( usually not a problem, but one dish that comes to mind is kraut and weiners) same deal… acid. reacts… and that means no only do you need to re- season it , but clean it very well, before.

I have been wanting to learn how to cook in the dutch oven over coals. I have watched a show on the RFD channel. I can’t remember the name of it. That is on my list of things I want to learn. haha. When I season my cast iron I use in the oven I use bacon grease or olive oil. Everything tastes better cooked in cast iron! Yum!

Texasgirl;
To be honest cook in cast over “coals” is easy,
Warm the cast in the coals first (add a little oil first), pop the lid, and dump everything in, replace lid and walk away for a couple of hours keeping the fire going. Check on it ever 1/2 hour or so.
Lastly, take the whole mess and set it on a table (on a hot pad) and watch it disappear…..
Yummmmmm tis good stuff to be sure. A little hint, do a Pot-Roast first try, guaranteed to be GREAT!

– Texasgirl –
Unless, you are baking , always add about half-a-cup of warm water to the pot before you put the lid on. If you are baking and want it not to stick/burn on the bottom, use a pan to bake in and either a trivet or three small stones, old style bottle caps, whatever to keep the pan off of the bottom. It does make a difference.
– Papa S.

A word on Lodge Cast Iron.

They are manufactured via mass production, meaning you get what you pay for.

BUT, I will say I have purchased a few pieces from them.
What do I do? I get the good old Grinders and Sanders out and grind the ridges off the outside, handle and lip, Than I go to work in the inside, starting with a 80 grit grinding wheel, then graduate on up a 400 carbide sand paper (yes they are that rough). This process on a 10″ skillet will take around an hour, but it’s possible to smooth out the “Nasty” casting produced by Lodge.

Of course they advertise a “Cured” product, Ahhhhh maybe not so much, even if you don’t grind the sucker, you’ll want to cure it anyways. I’m not sure but I believe they use old transmission oil for their cure.

Rumor alert!! Transmission oil? C’mon! Lodge uses refined soybean oil to eliminate allergic components.

http://www.lodgemfg.com/use-and-care/what-is-seasoning

A rumor that I’ve often heard was that Chinese cast iron contained lead; common sense tells you that isn’t so. Lead would vaporize well below the melting point of iron. And if lead was more valuable than cast iron, which it is, it wouldn’t go into the ladle. I resurfaced a couple of 2 qt sized DO’s from Stansport and they turned out nicely. But since my other Lodge pieces have developed an acceptable surface I wouldn’t bother again with it.

Old Chevy – on a rustic road;
What???? they don’t use Transmission Oil???? Well darn….
Gata have a LITTLE humor with the crapo that’s going on in the world.
I like the Transmission Oil rumor hehehehe

Agreed on the re-surfacing on the Cast, tis a PITA for sure.
But never been afraid of a little hard work for something of quality.

So the Dutch oven, is just exactly that, yes can be stuffed in your oven or used on top the stove, but if my memory is right were used as an oven for baking with campfire coals, heat the big cast pan in the fire, place pan with your bread or whatever in it then after you replace the lid you drop coals on the lid, old school you could just bale bread straight in the dutch oven, or for a more refined baking can use muffin tins, pie pans, bread pans, from my experience using cast iron for those pans as well works best, heat transfer is better and more even.
Try cornbread that way,

Dutch Oven or skillet with a lid can be used to bake in on stove top and a good way to get practice.Not quite the same process since can not put coals on the lid, but close approimation… I make biscuits and corn bread pones on top of stove frequently. Just grease the skillet, heat it. drop big spoonfuls of bread in, cover with a glass lid so can see when edges on base is well cooked…,, medium heat.. flip after 7-10 min… depending on thickness of batter and size fo each fritter or biscuit.

Well breakfast was a huge success😋. Gramma these are the best pancakes in the world . From the 10year old this is high praise indeed. Thank everyone.🤣

I have quite a bit of cast iron.
When I used to fry chicken or fish Cast iron skillets were the go to pan.
This article and posts reminded me how much my Mom used cast iron.
It was a special treat when my Mom made “doughboys ” in her big frying pan.
My Mom would set aside some bread dough and make small rounds about the size of biscuits .
She would cook them on both sides kind of like pancakes.
Then pull them apart,put butter and sometimes homemade jam.
This was a treat at night while watching a TV program in the early 60’s.
Thanks all for sparking a good child hood memory …

There are allot of complaints on the rough cooking surfaces of modern cast iron. I’m seeing allot of videos teaching how to finish polish the cooking surfaces so that they are smooth as butter. Might try it with one of the pans I rarely if ever use, but I have several that I use very frequently and thus they have the black, built up non stick surface already in place.

Thanks for the article Old Chevy. It brings back many memories for me because I used to cook on cast iron for years before I got married.

My wife has arthritis and she came with her own favorite thick, nonstick clad aluminum cookware. For her it is lighter and easier to manage. She also like to nuke her dishes in scalding water and lots of soap for her cleanup every day.

Cast iron was inexpensive and for that reason, it was left in many backcountry cabins within a National Park I worked in. Commercial kitchens also used either cast iron or ceramic clad cast iron for the low cost and good results. The cast iron cookware was left coated with light vegetable oil after each use much like an old blackpowder rifle. Before using, I cleaned the dust and oil off before placing over heat and recoating the cook surface with vegetable oil.

I used vegetable oil because it had a higher temperature tolerance before the oil started to smoke and burn. Tough cuts of meat were seared on the outside before being placed within a covered dutch oven in order to cook over medium – moist heat along with aromatic vegetables and herbs.

Like you folks out there, I have experienced tomatoes and tomato sauce will pit your cast iron and I have had trouble with fish and salmon leaving a flavor or taste behind. For seafood stews I use the ceramic clad cast iron pots with lids.

I like working with cast iron in my kitchen.. I like using metal utensils and cleaning it out at the end of the meal with hot water and steel wool. There are very few things I do not cook in cast iron ( already mentioned fish and tomatoes.). Learning to cook using cast iron is a valuable skill with the widespread use of cast iron in American kitchens. Odds are, if you find any cookware in an old cabin in the hills or mountains, it will be made of cast iron.

I mostly cook over medium heat using cast iron. Just below the point where the oil starts to smoke. Without a tight fitting cover, the pan is 1/2 a useful for general cooking.

Thanks Cali.. your reference to National Parks reminds me of my favorite Dutch oven book, “Camp Cooking 100 years” by the National Museum of Forest Service History. It is more than a cookbook, and although it isn’t in the title, it is primarily about Dutch oven camp cooking, it is filled with stories and pictures and I almost always take it with us when camping just to read the stories.

Old Chevy,
I loved your article, and I’m going to save it in my recipe file. I’ve got my Mom’s cast iron but have not had the courage to use it. I think I will buckle down and use them. They need to be cleaned up first, but she swore by them.

Thank you Terra, you won’t regret giving it a try. Cleaning is easy as noted by many comments here.

For dish liquid use unscented petroleum free. Can be found anywhere now days. I wash mine with that and plastic scrungie thing. Put some oil back in warm a little, put away. Have some of momma’s and mammaw’s. Used to buy real cheap at yard sales back in the day.

I do love my csst iron and wish the wife would let me use it on “her” glass top stove, Funny how it became her stove when it was “our” checkbook that paid for it. Rockwell Scale hardness test is the scale for measuring hardness in materials. One thing it shows is glass is harder than metal ,basically it means glass can scratch steel but steel can’t scratch glass. I can’t concinvce her of that though.

I concur on the Lodge as being to rough out of the box and would think that NRPs suggestion for sanding it down with progressively finer grit would be the way to do. I’ve ured down pieced in thift stores that have been sanded.

Basically if there is a buildup of crap on the bottom I tend to use oven cleaner. Wash with soap and water after, rinse severa; times and reason with olive oil heated until it smokes.

One skillet I’ve found that I think is the equivalent of cast iron is Range Craft Stainless Steel which were made in Belgium and sold by Sears. They are no longer carried by Sears and before they stopped carrying them they imported some from Korea. I can’t say about the Korean pans but the Belgium stainless is totally non magnetic. Many of the Korean stainless pans are somewhat magnetic as they use a lesser grade of steel. They’re are numerous examples of these pots and pans for sale on eBay. Folks clearing out Grnadma’s “junk”. If only only they new about quality, I love my stainless utensils as some of these will be passed down for many many generations to come. They just don’t wear out.

Me
I have several Lodge cast pans and a tortilla skillet from Amazon and they all work great on our glass top range, just dont rub em back and forth a lot if your worried about scratching, but they all seem nice and flat, heat well and are excellent for fajitas and stuff. Actually anything pretty much, i must confess though that i had been using them for everything but since i then realized that it was all about technique that made stuff not stick i bought a bunch of calphalon commercial grade stainless cookware and i use that more. I just like it better. But oh right this is about cast iron, yes yes indeed it is by far superiOr,,, hehehe 😁

Calphalon is good stuff. We splurged on one of their self sharpening knife sets and it is excellent except for the bread knife. Being serrated it is not self sharpening. I put it in the block with handle upside down to prevent sawing the wood when removing it. But this is about cast iron and I’m still looking for a good set of cast iron kitchen knives.

PS. The Calphalon paring knife needs to be shorter.

PPS. eBay has 459 listings for cast iron knives. Apparently popular in Asia.

When picking up pieces from antique stores for ordinary use avoid Griswold and Wagner as they will be overpriced compared to a “made in the U.S.A.” generic brand.

Old Chevy – On A Rustic Road;
Agreed, BUT, those Wagner skillets are very VERY nice.

Sh-h-h-h!

For cast iron cooking check out Cowboy Kent Rollins on youtube.

I am subscribed.

In the winter when it is -14F and the tradition for my birthday is I grill a steak, there’s no way I’m going out there. I did that once, once. Since then I get the kitchen filled with the aroma and smoke from the ribeye steaks sizzling on my scorching hot ribbed square cast iron skillet.

– Reread this article today after using my own oldest piece of cast iron this morning to cook my own breakfast. I have been using an 8″ skillet I bought in the mid-sixties since I was a Boy Scout. Still as good or better than it was when I bought it. It’s now one of my DW’s favorites as well. I mentioned earlier on NRP’s Bean article how to do Bean Hole cooking, so I won’t repeat it here. Cast Iron remains my favorite utensil. I definitely agree on NOT using copper to clean it. Just try to get it out of the pan! (Hint; Coca Cola boiled in the pan will work, followed by boiling water and baking soda to get the coke residue out.)
-Papa S.

Hotly debated topic is how to clean your cast iron pan! Long story short… I use a chain mail scrubber, a dash of sea salt, and a bit of heat from the stove top to clear any food residue. Then I add a few drops of fresh oil to the heated pan.