Cast Iron

I am a big proponent of cast iron cookware. Some of the skillets I use nearly every day are upwards of a century old and still going strong. Cast iron cookware doesn't need a whole lot of special care to keep it nice--you do need to dry it right after washing, and until you've built up the seasoning, a bit of oil after use is not a bad idea--and even if you screw up and it gets rusty, fixing that is a simple soak in vinegar and water overnight, and then reseasoning. Not a big deal at all.

For Christmas 2012, I bought myself a LeCreuset dutch oven, 2.75 quarts. LeCreuset is enameled cast iron, made in France, and extremely expensive (in my opinion, at least.) I was able to use a gift card and a few promotions to get my dutch oven fairly reasonably; about half price of new. I've used it almost every week to make various soups and stews and even cooked a small chicken in it. It's a very useful pot in my kitchen.

Since then, I've picked up two others--both made by Staub--one 2.25 quarts, and one 1.75 quarts. (Why they can't make these with even numbers, I have no idea, but I digress.) These have also been very useful pots in my kitchen. I especially like the idea that they can go from oven to stovetop without an issue, and the Staub pots are extra nice because they have metal knobs on their lids (unlike the LeCreuset, which has a plastic knob on the lid that is only good up to 375F.)

Around Christmastime 2013, I'd decided to be on the lookout for a larger LeCreuset dutch oven, because while I do like my small one, sometimes it's just not big enough. But after a lot of thought, I decided that if I wanted a larger dutch oven, I'd stick with plain cast iron. Sure, plain cast iron doesn't have the pretty colors, but with proper seasoning, it can be nonstick, and there's also less chance of chipping (while enameled cast iron is chip-resistant, you still shouldn't use metal utensils, and since that's what I mostly have, that's an issue in my kitchen.) I settled on a new 5qt Lodge Dutch Oven, which came in a package deal for a fabulous price with a larger griddle than the one I have, a small skillet (which I didn't need, so will be sold), and a large skillet (which I did need.)

Now, buying new cast iron is a tricky thing. There's plenty of it out there, and some of it is pretty cheap. But a lot of it is made in China, and rather inferior. Personally, I would recommend Lodge if you are wanting to buy new cast iron. While Made in America is not always a great thing, in this case it is.

But if you want to go the vintage route, that opens up a multitude of manufacturers and possibilities. Ebay or antique shows or auctions are great places to find treasures. And while rust doesn't matter (seriously, a vinegar/water soak overnight will take care of rust), you'll want to make sure your new-to-you pot or skillet is not warped, which means it doesn't wobble on a flat surface. Truthfully, if it's cheap enough and you don't mind a bit of a wobble, warping or cracks are worse than wobbles (unless your stove can't handle wobbles, of course; I'm cooking on a 1949 Tappan Deluxe stove and live in a house where  nothing is level, so wobbles aren't bad news here), because a warped pot won't be of much use and cracks tend to be bad news.

The popular makers to look out for, of course, are Griswold and WagnerWare. There are a host of lesser-known manufacturers, however, so haunting a few of the cast iron forums or doing research before you venture out to buy is always a good idea.

The only thing to watch out for while cooking with cast iron is the acidity of the food you are cooking; high-acid foods will strip the seasoning right off your pan. But otherwise, they are good for many types of foods, and with proper care, should last you for many, many years.


Grey Walker said…
A love song to cast iron! :)

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