Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cast Iron Skillets

Laugh if you must but cast iron skillets are something I love and is something that came up on my "love" list for the month of February.  

If I had to pare down to only a few items in my kitchen, I believe I could survive with only a cast iron skillet to cook in. I have 3 sizes of cast iron pans plus a dutch oven.

Old cast iron skillets are an American icon and when we're out bargain hunting, if we find a good one, we snatch it up.  My most recent purchase is a flat griddle that I don't know how I've lived without for so long.  My mom had one and I always coveted it. I'll bet my dad still has it.  I know he and Nancy use the cast iron that cooked our food when we were babies. It never wears out and should be treasured when it's passed on to the next generation.

When I was growing up, everything was cooked in cast iron. If mom caught us using a scratcher on it, she would have a fit.  Now that I have my own, I'll admit she was justified in her reactions. Cast iron skillets require much love & special attention but they always love you back when you treat them right.

In the last couple of years, I have started using my skillets for oven frying just about anything you can make on the stove top. Cast iron makes corn bread bake with an awesome crust and I've been known to make pineapple upside-down cakes in them. You'll notice on the one pictured here, it was made in the good old U.S.A.  It's an antique that we use on a daily basis. I can't hardly explain how wonderful fried spuds taste that have been cooked in this pan.

This last year, we gave Gene's daughter a couple of our seasoned pans and she loves them.  Her kids tend to be on the anemic side and it's a truism that cast iron "spills" iron into food prepared in them.  I am so happy that she is not using the Teflon coated pans any longer. There is much written about a connection between non-stick pans and Alzeimer's disease. I'm certainly no expert but according to Planet Green.Com: "When heated to temperatures of 360 degrees Celsius, (685.4 Fahrenheit for us folks in the United States ) Teflon-coated pans will release perfluorooctanoic acid, a likely carcinogen. Not that people often cook at temperatures that high, but now you definitely shouldn't. Chemicals released by non-stick pans can cause the death of pet birds. It can also cause flu-like symptoms in humans. Teflon-pan makers have made a deal with the EPA to remove the poisonous chemicals from non-stick pans by 2010." 

Why take chances?


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I don't know why cast iron skillets bubbled up in my mind when I did my "love" list recently.  Perhaps its the memories of great cooking that comes with them. We have several and the largest is about 15" across. Gene uses it to make big batches of curried fried rice in. The 12" pans I use mostly for frying chicken or baking cakes in the oven, and the new flat griddle is awesome for heating up tortillas or making crispy hashbrowns. I think of my mom often when I'm cooking with them. She died in 2001 but she would be so happy to know I have completely given up other pans and cook only with Made in U.S.A. cast iron skillets.  

Do you have a favorite kitchen gadget?  Do tell!   love, susan



Seasoned with love.
My recent purchase. I LOVE this griddle!

9 comments:

  1. Well at my move all the Teflon pans went in the sale. I only kept the stainless steel and the cast iron that I had. I take that back...2 small ones for omelets I kept. But don't use them very often. I am with you that they are not healthy to use. Now that we are over on the lot for 9 days I am going to get the rest your dad has here and get them seasoned.

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  2. my "can't live without" kitchen item is my steamer!I use it almost every day for potatoes, sweet potatoes (awesome steamed), and veggies of all kinds. It has a place to put herbs inside to infuse them with what you are steaming but I don't use that feature very often.

    When I worked on a ranch in Montana all we used in the cookhouse were cast iron...but I honestly don't like them. Too much work for me...lazy, I guess!

    Susan, you should be in the cooking/food industry! What smarts you have in that area!!

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  3. Everything I know about cooking I've learned from the awesome people in my life. Second to my cast iron, I have a couple of antique graters that I could not live without.

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  4. Ooh...love the griddle! I've been wanting one of those. I'm in love with my new Le Creuset Dutch oven. We have a Le Creuset outlet store here so I got a large Dutch oven for $129 over the holidays. It sells in regular stores for more than twice that. Merry Christmas to me. ;)

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  5. Well, ACTUALLY, I don't think that Susan really "loved" her Mom's or My cast iron, as I had a few Griswolds when we met. But as she saw me clean up with a damp rag with warm water and YES A DASH OF SOAP, and then wipe them dry with a paper towel.. wipe with another while on low heat with Crisco.. {the old debate, then turn it up a smurch to get the oil down into the pores.. I wipe it till only has a bit of a sheen to them, she started to warm up to them, and then after making a few things with them.. the LOVE came. I only used them to Fry stuff, when a bachelor.. but have to admit the oven thing is a whole new arena for the old blackened beauties. I bought that Griswold in the picture {9"}for $20 over in Butte Montana, along with a long Griddle that is not picture, for $55.. that will fill up the space on a three burner Coleman pretty well, and so do a ton of pancakes, but that is only conjecture as I have not used it for that yet.
    -- gene

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  6. Gene's right ... I did not always love cast iron.

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  7. I love my cast iron pans, but I also love my smooth-glass-top stove, and the two don't mix. So I just use it in the oven (you are right about it making the best corn bread!) and when we are camping. We enjoy the BEST dutch oven food when we camp!

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  8. Hi Susan — I applaud the idea of creating a safer home, and because there’s so much misinformation out there about Teflon, I’m not surprised that you are concerned. I’m a representative of DuPont though, and hope you’ll let me share some information with you and your readers so that everyone can make truly informed decisions.

    Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at Teflon. This article highlights what they found — the bottom line is that you can use Teflon without worry.

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/kitchen/cookware-bakeware-cutlery/nonstick-pans-6-07/overview/0607_pans_ov_1.htm

    I’d truly be glad to share additional information about it if you are interested, and appreciate your consideration of this comment. Cheers, Sara.

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  9. Well, I read the abstract only of a study done by Dupont, and that didn't sound that great either, but just the abstract of this one:
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ac902238u
    with this {fair use excerpt with no (C) infringement intended:Publication Date (Web): December 29, 2009 Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society } says this in the FIRST SENTENCE of the Abstract... and is enough to give me pause about the off gassing hazard: "Perfluorochemicals are globally pervasive contaminants that are persistent,bioaccumulative, and toxic." Well... bioaccumulative tells me that ANY AMOUNT that enters the body, along with some information to be had elsewhere, that 90% bind to blood serum albumin, IF I AM GETTING THIS RIGHT!, does not sound to be a good thing to willingly expose oneself to, or our children. The key red flags for this guy: PERSISTENT, BIO-ACCUMULATIVE, AND TOXIC. All you other folks, can buy those pans with that flaking off, and off gassing toxic crap if you want to.. but I think I will stick with my Iron pans, which I might occasionally get a little Ferrous Oxide {good old rust} into my system from, if I don't heat them up and oil 'em after use. You others that choose to have those slippery pans, your choice, but I for one have enough chemicals in me from years of working in and around some of those other things in Paper Mills, that we were told were safe... like PCB's, dioxins, and the wonderful asbestos.. that was still in use up through 1977-8 in the popcorn ceilings in houses... even though they knew of the rate of death among the asbestos miners and workers where they milled the stuff, clear back around 1908 ... somewhere in that neighborhood, might have been 1918. Of course all those corporations are not like they used to be, RIGHT? Sorry for the skepticism, but have too many friends who have died of weird cancers in their 50's and early 60's... exposed to all those wonderful products of the petrochemical factories {THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT} to be anything else.

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