Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Love My Cast Iron Skillet!

Sometimes on my frugal journey  it becomes apparent to me that "cheap" is not always the best option. Disposable items like food and toiletries should always be bought when they are at their lowest price. Children's socks are another disposable item that I have learned to buy as cheaply as possible ( My children have a "thing " for wearing their socks outside to play...WITHOUT shoes. Gold Toe, Reebok, and Nike socks wear out just a  fast as Walmart brand in this scenario, so I pick my battles!). Non stick frying pans are another item I have decided are on the cheap list (after much research, a.k.a. half a dozen non stick skillets later). It doesn't matter what brand or what price range I buy, the finish always starts to flake off within six months to a year. Even when I follow the cleaning and care instructions to the letter.

I decided it was time to go another route. People have been using cast iron to cook in (and on) for hundreds of years. If it had been tested for that long it must be good. I headed to my local sporting goods store and bought a Lodge cast iron skillet the next day.

There is some prep work to be done before you can use your skillet (to "season" it, and make it non stick). Basically, you need to:
  1. Liberally grease the inside of your skillet with vegetable oil or shortening.
  2. Place your skillet inside a 350 oven for one hour. Your skillet may smoke a little bit, so turn on the exhaust fan.
  3. After an hour turn off the oven a let the oven and skillet completely cool.
  4. Wipe out any excess oil from the skillet with a paper towel.
  5. Now it's ready to cook in!
It is different to cook with cast iron. I have learned (sometimes the hard way):
  1. Cast iron holds the heat better than regular frying pans, so you need to cook at a lower temperature (If you want to cook something on Medium heat, turn your burner to Medium Low and adjust gradually from there.)
  2. Gradually heat up your skillet. Never turn your burner to High heat. It will crack your skillet, and/or start a fire!
  3. Lightly grease the skillet before the first few times you use it. I still use non stick cooking spray and have never had a problem with build up.
  4. If something sticks to the bottom of the skillet. Fill the skillet with a couple of inches of hot water (NEVER put cold water in a hot skillet!!!!!), bring to a low boil, and let it  boil  for five minutes. This will loosen the stuck on food, so you can gently remove it with a plastic scraper. 
  5. To clean your skillet you are suppose to use hot water only. You can scrub your skillet with a no scratch sponge or scrubbie. This instructions say not to use dish soap on your skillet (it ruins the finish), but that seems icky to me. I scoop a few bubbles from the top of the dish water with my scrubbie  and wash my skillet with those. 
  6. Do not cook acidic foods, like tomatoes, for prolonged periods of time. The acidic ruins the finish of your skillet. Regular cooking is fine.
  7. If  the finish of the skillet wears off, just reseason your skillet.
  8. Buy a brand name skillet. Cheap or generic cast iron can have flaws that effect their performance.
 Cast iron skillets are oven proof, so they are great for making cornbread, or frittatas.Of, course my skillet didn't come with a lid (you can purchase them separately). I like having a domed glass lid, so I can see what's going on in the pan. I purchased and old glass lid from a crock pot at the thrift store for a $1.00. Problem solved!

I have been using my skillet for five years now. It just keeps getting better with age! I have made everything in it from pancakes and french toast to sloppy joes and tamale casserole(cook the main ingredients in the skillet pour the cornbread batter over the top and pop it in the oven to bake). The more you cook in it the more non stick it becomes. It's fabulous for frying chicken and scones. Cast iron holds heat well, so temperatures don't fluctuate making deep fat frying a breeze. I have seen a bazillion cast iron skillets at yard sales and thrift stores that just need some TLC (a little steel wool to scrub out the rust and a good reseasoning) for cheap!!! In fact, I'm currently on the look out for a small one for cooking eggs! My initial $25.00 investment has more than paid for itself in the last five years. Compared to the $100.00 plus dollar I spent on the six  Teflon coated frying pans, it's a steal!


  1. Can you believe that I have had my T-Fal pots and pans for 9 years with no flaking? And I don't follow washing instructions at all and sometimes even use a metal fork by accident to get things out of the pots/pans? I also rinse the hot pans out with cold water to cool them, which I have been told recently is a big no-no. So either I am VERY lucky or T-Fal is a good brand. I use these pots daily, too, and they never let me down. I also have a cast iron skillet that I use now and then... I love it, too! Every home should have at least one cast iron skillet as they do come in handy for lots of things.

  2. P.S. T-Fal has not compensated me for my last post. :)

  3. Budget,
    I am jealous! Even my T-Fal skillet eventually flaked on me. Maybe I am just Teflon challenged!:D

  4. Thanks! It is true about pans, it doesn't pay to buy cheap. I have been scared of cast iron and I don't know why. You may have convinced me it is the way to go. Thanks for all the great tips.

  5. I also think the world of cast iron skillets, but my All-Clad non-stick skillets are still going strong after more than 10 years, with no flaking. They're weren't cheap, but they have really held up over the years.

    I always dry my cast iron on the stove after I clean it, over low heat until all the moisture is gone, and then when it's cool lightly wipe again with some vegetable oil before I put it away. And, a great way to clean cast iron is to put it in the oven when you self-clean your oven. I've done this with pans I've picked up at yard sales.

  6. Tiff,
    I was scared of cast iron,too at first. It's actually very forgiving!
    Great idea for drying and cleaning your pan!

  7. I remember my mom making corn bread in her cast iron skillet and I think pineapple upside down cake. I have one but it's in with our camping stuff which hasn't seen the light of day in many years. Maybe I should look for it. =)



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