- The older it is, the better it is- vintage cast iron is smoother. Your modern cast iron will never be quite as non-stick as the vintage stuff.
The material may be the same, but the production methods have changed. In the old days, cast iron pans were produced by casting in sand-based molds, then polishing the resulting pebbly surfaces until smooth. Vintage cast iron tends to have a satiny smooth finish. By the 1950s, as production scaled up and was streamlined, this final polishing step was dropped from the process. The result? Modern cast iron retains that pebble texture. No big deal but it may encourage you to find some old cast iron the next time you drive past a yard sale or antique shop. Maybe you can get your hands on some old family cast iron pieces- so many stories in a great grandma's skillet.
- They are inexpensive: especially compared to the amount of money you can throw down buying fancy french saute pans such as a Mauviel M'Heritage 2.5mm 11-3/4 inch Copper Fry Pan for nearly $500. Take a look here at The Lodge website to see all the options in cast iron cookware. The first one you would probably want to own is the standard skillet. Size would depend on how many you tend to cook for, but keep in mind how great these are for finishing a whole meal in one pan. I try to avoid cleaning dishes so I go big with the 12 inch which you can pick up new for $37. It is a perfect size to saute swiss chard & red onions in one side and bacon or sausage in another, all while keeping the other third of the skillet for eggs sunny side up.
A well seasoned cast iron skillet is virtually non-stick, allowing you to cook with little or no oil. They are not as hard to season and care for as you think. To season or cure it means filling the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some sort, which subsequently gets cooked in. This provides a non-stick surface on the inside of the cast iron pan. Traditional cast-iron skillets don't emerge from the box with a nonstick surface. Coat the skillet with cooking oil and bake it in a 350° F oven for an hour. It won't take on that shiny black patina just yet, but once you dry it with paper towels, it will be ready to use.
- Less is more. Don't feel as though you have enough storage space for all your cookware? You can probably clear out half of your pot and pan collection right now and replace it with one 12 inch cast iron skillet and a lid. Seriously! With it you can sear a darn good steak, bake cornbread, sunny up your eggs, roast a chicken, bake bread...the things you can do with your skillet are nearly endless.
- Cast iron is tough, it can take a beating. Go ahead, set it right in that campfire or into your hottest oven. Just don't leave it sitting in water or forget it in the river. No different than your favorite pair of boots or jeans, they get better the more you use them.
There are so many things to share about cooking with cast iron. This is just a bit to get you to either pull yours out from the back of your kitchen cupboard, or go get your hands on one. Check in for my weekly Saturday posts highlighting recipes, uses, cleaning tips, and all sorts of inspiring ideas for making the most of your cast iron. If you Pinterest you might enjoy following this The Wilderness Project CAST IRON Pinterest Board. (click to follow link)