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Can we talk cast iron?

I'd like to replace my stainless steel. I haaaate my stainless steel. I've burned the hell out of it. I have lots of questions!

1. First, how easy is cast iron to take care of? Will I burn and ruin it like I have my stainless steel?

2. I've found cast iron at thrift stores before but I don't know what to watch for - how do I know I am getting a good pan?

3. Also, how do I know that there is not gross bacteria growing in a used pan? Is it not porous? I would be okay using a pan from someone I know but I worry about where a thrift store pan has been, iykwim (which if funny I feel like this considering I've bought and used cloth diapers for my kids before, huh?).

4. Are enamel coated cast iron pans good or not?

and last,

5. Anyone see the pans Dr. Mercola is pushing? What do you think?
http://www.mercola.com/products/cast-iron-cookware

Thank you so much for your help!
 

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1. First, how easy is cast iron to take care of? Will I burn and ruin it like I have my stainless steel?

It's easy. You won't burn it unless you have a blast furnace
. Just keep it seasoned--that means to wash it with water only (scrubbing is fine) and then heat it on the stove to dry it. Turn off the stove and while it's still hot, rub some oil or bacon grease or what have you on it and leave it. After you do this a few times it will be sort of naturally 'nonstick.' This also keeps it from rusting. (If it does rust though you can just scrub it off.)

I break all the cast iron rules occasionally though--even wash with soap if I am going from, say, fish to pancakes--and I do fine. (though you really should season them 1st--if I don't, the pancakes will stick.) I soak them occasionally too, but you can rust them fairly easily this way.

2. I've found cast iron at thrift stores before but I don't know what to watch for - how do I know I am getting a good pan?

I just get the shape & size I want. Most old cast iron is great stuff--better than new.

3. Also, how do I know that there is not gross bacteria growing in a used pan? Is it not porous? I would be okay using a pan from someone I know but I worry about where a thrift store pan has been, iykwim (which if funny I feel like this considering I've bought and used cloth diapers for my kids before, huh?).

Bacteria?? Don't worry about it. (Remember, 99% of bacteria are actually GOOD for you. A lot of your body runs on bacteria...You would die without bacteria.) When you heat the pan you will kill them anyway.

They ARE porous, and they also release iron into whatever you cook in them. I deliberately leave tomato sauce in there overnight just to soak up the iron--probably most of the iron in my diet comes from cast iron pans. They will even sometimes release blackish/grayish stuff into food if it sits there long enough--but don't worry about this.

4. Are enamel coated cast iron pans good or not?

YES!! Love them, LOVE them. Iron won't get into the food, but they cook beautifully. I have 2 Le Creuset pots (TJ Maxx) and I use them all the time. They are fantastic and will last forever. You can bake them or use them on the stove.

Cast iron is heavy though, and will break a glass cooktop if you aren't careful. & don't drop them on your toe (ouch!).

and last,

5. Anyone see the pans Dr. Mercola is pushing? What do you think?
http://www.mercola.com/products/cast-iron-cookware

That's not a terrible price, but it's still expensive, and you might get more pieces than you will actually use. There are many varieties of enameled cast iron (Ikea even sells it) so I'd say to shop around. I have a feeling it's probably all more or less the same thing. You hardly ever see it in thrift stores though...which means it's something people actually use.
 

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Great reply!

I on the other hand refuse to buy used cast iron but that is only because I have never found any that was in suitable condition and I cannot reseason one to save my life.

I found a great company called LODGE, that makes preseasoned cast iron pans of all sizes! It makes doing cast iron for the first timer so easy!

Before you replace everything with cast, I suggest getting a key piece, like a nice large skillet. Practice using it with all different kinds of foods and cooking methods.

If you LOVE it, then start replacing your other pans and pots.

Have fun!
 

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Great thread. I will try and help. I use both SS and Cast iron and I have not had a problem.

1. First, how easy is cast iron to take care of? Will I burn and ruin it like I have my stainless steel?

Cast Iron is EASY to take care of. You cannot ruin it. I season a little different than a pp. I only season when I feel that it needs it. I rub cooking oil on the inside and outside and put into a 350 degree oven for a little over an hour. Cool and its ready to use.

Wash w/ soap as little as possible. Just use really HOT water and a brush to clean. I dry it off immediately and put it away.

2. I've found cast iron at thrift stores before but I don't know what to watch for - how do I know I am getting a good pan?

I have found that the older the better with cast iron pans. The older ones are lighter and smoother. The Lodge brand I am not too fond of, too heavy and rough.

Look for a size that you will use most often. I have found many at the thrift store and they are usually under 5 bucks. I just make sure that there are not any chips or cracks. I really like older Griswold and older Warner pans.

3. Also, how do I know that there is not gross bacteria growing in a used pan? Is it not porous? I would be okay using a pan from someone I know but I worry about where a thrift store pan has been, iykwim (which if funny I feel like this considering I've bought and used cloth diapers for my kids before, huh?).

I am a very picky person but buying used pans does not bother me. When I first buy them, I wash throughly and then I season.

4. Are enamel coated cast iron pans good or not?

I LOVE Le Creuset pans. You can get Black Satin enamel or enamel coated pans. They are having a sale at the Le Creuset outlets until the end of March on their discontinued colors. Also, try TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Home Goods, Ebay, Garage sales and thrift stores. I walked into the thrift store and walked out with 4 pieces Brand new pieces of Le Creuset for under $20.00 so just keep an eye out. After that buy, I have been walking out empty handed.


And last,

5. Anyone see the pans Dr. Mercola is pushing? What do you think?
http://www.mercola.com/products/cast-iron-cookware

I have never heard of these pans and cannot comment.

Good Luck!
 

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I only buy used cast iron anyway.


Seasoning pans is easy! I think Amy Dacyzyn published instructions once and some pans have instuctions printed on the bottom. I oil mine with olive oil and bake for an hour at 500 degrees. Turn off oven and let sit in the over till morning when I wipe out any excess oil. Ready to use! I end up having to reseason occasionally because I occasionally use soap to clean the pan.

Good luck.
 

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We have a lodge rectangular griddle ... nice for pancakes and crepes! With gas cooking, I have figured out just the right heat settings.

The seasoning process (look up on the net) will kill any bacteria on cast iron. They do not survive long in the oven! There is a used-cast iron issue for vegetarians, as there could be traces of animal fat in the pan. We have baked them in Mom's pottery kiln, to remove organic contamination (and start over on seasoning)

Large cast iron is heavy... so make sure you like it before you junk your stainless. We use only the griddle and an asian Indian Tava (sp?)
 
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