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  #1  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:10 PM
chiroptera chiroptera is offline
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What do I look for in a cast iron skillet?

I need a new one. I know some people have them passed down for generations; but unfortunately nobody has given me an heirloom cast iron skillet yet.

I checked eBay, where there are tons - and found this "vintage" one for $149. Along with lots of others for considerably less.

This site has a nice selection, and the prices seem reasonable.

Or should I just go to Target or Wal-Mart and buy the first ten inch skillet I see? Does it make a difference?

Related - is it worth the extra for the enamel-coated ones? I have a Le Creuset casserole dish and adore it, but they are considerably more spendy.
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  #2  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:25 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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$150??

Just get a "preseasoned" Lodge skillet, Amazon has good prices...size will be a matter of personal preference, I personally have a 12" (good for bigger jobs, but heavy as hell) and a 9" for cornbread and smaller, everyday sorts of tasks.

Be forewarned non-enameled cast iron is somewhat fussy to use - it needs to be quite well seasoned or things can stick badly (you'll want to cook a lot of stuff like bacon and cornbread when it's new), you have to be careful washing it or you can strip the seasoning, you can't leave it sitting around wet or it can rust, etc.

I like enameled cast iron for Dutch Ovens and gratin dishes and the like.

Last edited by zombywoof; 11-11-2011 at 05:30 PM..
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  #3  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:28 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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$149

I'm sure there are minor differences, but IMO, you shouldn't be paying more then $15-$25 for a 10-12 inch skillet. Last time I bought one I just went to an army surplus store in my area (which is just a fancy name for a camping store). I think I paid about $15 for a 12 inch skillet. Which was good because for as much as people love them, I really never got into it (and I do plenty of cooking). I never really got it seasoned properly. It was a pain to clean/dry/store. I think it was purposely trying to burn me. It was heavier then hell. It eventually decided a skillet shouldn't be that much work and stopped using it.
Now, stainless steel pots and pans on the other hand are a friggen godsend.

Last edited by Joey P; 11-11-2011 at 05:30 PM..
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  #4  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:31 PM
chiroptera chiroptera is offline
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I just found that Target carries the Lodge brand skillets.

I had one for years, and was fairly anal-retentive about cleaning it carefully and seasoning it regularly; I loved it but it got left behind in a move. Periodically I'd rub it down with oil and bake it at low heat in the oven for a couple of hours.
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  #5  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:31 PM
silenus silenus is online now
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Hit Goodwill or Salvation Army. They usually have cast iron around somewhere. There is absolutely ZERO reason to pay triple figures for cast iron. The stuff is rather simple. Just get a Lodge.
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  #6  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:35 PM
Miss Woodhouse Miss Woodhouse is offline
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You look for the word "Lodge" and the word "pre-seasoned." then you buy that one. Done. $35 for the 12" at Walmart or Target or pretty much most big retailers that carry pots and pans.
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  #7  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:39 PM
gazpacho gazpacho is offline
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The ebay link for $149 is for an antique. You get it because it reminds you of you grandmother's skillet or you have an interest in old things, not because it is different from the $15 lodge from amazon.
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  #8  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:42 PM
missred missred is online now
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I bought my last pre-seasoned Lodge at their outlet store for about $10 a couple of years ago. It's great for cornbread or frying chicken. I've done biscuits in it as well.

I use a Lodge cast iron dutch oven with legs for camping and one without for inside cooking. There's nothing like them. I also have one 14" X 4" skillet with a lid for frying chicken when the whole gang's here. It was passed down from my grandmother and was purchased sometime before WWII.

Just keep it dry and seasoned, as posted above and you'll be fine.
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  #9  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:47 PM
redtail23 redtail23 is offline
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Yup, Lodge pre-seasoned. Or Lodge non-seasoned, if you can't find the other - but you'll need to season it up right. Fine cast iron, should run you around $25 or so. Walmart, Target, or your local surplus store. Better yet, check the thrift stores.

My biggest concern about buying from the Lodge website would be the cost of shipping.

The enameled stuff is useful for certain things, but unless you know you need it, you don't need it.
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  #10  
Old 11-11-2011, 05:54 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Hit Goodwill or Salvation Army. They usually have cast iron around somewhere. There is absolutely ZERO reason to pay triple figures for cast iron. The stuff is rather simple. Just get a Lodge.
Yep. I wouldn't pay more than $30 for a good cast-iron skillet.

As for seasoning it, I first read about flaxseed oil here on the Dope maybe six months to a year ago, and it really works amazingly well. Here's a link to the process. It's not necessary at all to use flaxseed, but I've gotten the best results in the quickest amount of time using it.
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  #11  
Old 11-11-2011, 06:04 PM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
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They clean up fine with hot water and kosher salt as an abrasive. Dry immediately.
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  #12  
Old 11-11-2011, 06:45 PM
phall0106 phall0106 is offline
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I see them at garage sales all the time. I have a couple of them that I've picked up here and there--none of which I've paid more than a few dollars for. Last summer, I got a really nice dutch oven (with a lid) for $5. I wanted to take it camping, but honestly, I use it for stews--instead of simmering the stew on the stove, I simply stick it all in the dutch oven and pop it in the oven to bake for a couple of hours.

I have one skillet in which I make cornbread and Irish soda bread (not at the same time). Are they heavy? Yep. Can they be a PITA to season and clean? Sometimes. But, I grew up with family that used them all the time. They're not my primary cooking pan, but for some things, they are my preference.

Also, try Craigslist. I've seen them there as well.
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  #13  
Old 11-11-2011, 08:39 PM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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I'll throw a nod to Olvida nickle-plated cast irons (especially as I first heard about them on the Dope).

Expensive, yes.

But I'll never go back to regular cast iron. This should last forever, so I won't need to, really.

A cast iron pan you can put in the dishwasher. Yes, cleaning the traditional pan was never all that bothersome (usually), but it's not sticking it in the dishwasher easy. or leaving it overnight when there was no after-dinner cleanup and no worrying about the metal at all.

Or cooking strongly-flavoured meats or sauces, then making pancakes in the morning with no trace of the previous meal.

I cherished my cast irons, loved the decades-old seasoning they had. But they just don't compare to the Olvida.
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  #14  
Old 11-12-2011, 12:35 AM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
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A good skillet is milled in the interior, not pebbly-textured. It should be as smooth as a sheet of glass on the cooking surface.

I don't care for any brand I've seen being currently sold (not that I've seen them all).
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  #15  
Old 11-12-2011, 02:13 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
A good skillet is milled in the interior, not pebbly-textured. It should be as smooth as a sheet of glass on the cooking surface.
I agree completely.

Quote:
I don't care for any brand I've seen being currently sold (not that I've seen them all).
For years I haven't seen any in stores that have the flat machined surface, which I find terribly frustrating. I assume that's what you're referring to. It amazes me that the manufacturers don't provide them, and it amazes me that the customers don't insist on them.
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  #16  
Old 11-12-2011, 09:53 PM
typoink typoink is offline
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The best way to find a good skillet is antique malls. You can find a 12" Griswold for $20-30. They are much, much better than Lodge. The smooth interior surface is much better to work with.

There's a group of enthusiasts who are bringing smooth-surface cast iron back to market, but, at the moment, your best bet is to find an old Griswold.

This isn't to say Lodge is lousy, and kudos to 'em for keeping cast iron on the market. I've a pot of chili simmering in a Lodge enameled dutch oven right now.

Last edited by typoink; 11-12-2011 at 09:55 PM..
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  #17  
Old 11-12-2011, 10:02 PM
sitchensis sitchensis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
For years I haven't seen any in stores that have the flat machined surface, which I find terribly frustrating. I assume that's what you're referring to. It amazes me that the manufacturers don't provide them, and it amazes me that the customers don't insist on them.
If you properly care for the skillet, it will have a flat smooth surface.
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  #18  
Old 11-13-2011, 06:39 PM
typoink typoink is offline
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Originally Posted by sitchensis View Post
If you properly care for the skillet, it will have a flat smooth surface.
Lodge skillets, the only decent ones currently for sale, aren't. They have a pebbled surface that will never be smooth, even with heavy seasoning.
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  #19  
Old 11-13-2011, 08:30 PM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
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Originally Posted by typoink View Post
Lodge skillets, the only decent ones currently for sale, aren't. They have a pebbled surface that will never be smooth, even with heavy seasoning.
Which is why this "milled is the best" thinking is bullshit. No matter what, you don't cook on the iron surface, you cook on the layer of seasoning. The food never touches metal. Pebbled or concentric circles is irrelevant.
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  #20  
Old 11-13-2011, 11:44 PM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
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Originally Posted by drastic_quench View Post
Which is why this "milled is the best" thinking is bullshit. No matter what, you don't cook on the iron surface, you cook on the layer of seasoning. The food never touches metal. Pebbled or concentric circles is irrelevant.
I'd trade 20 Lodges for a single milled Wagner in decent condition. (Or pay 20x the price to get one on eBay, which you actually don't have to do).
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  #21  
Old 11-14-2011, 06:45 AM
chiroptera chiroptera is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
I'd trade 20 Lodges for a single milled Wagner in decent condition. (Or pay 20x the price to get one on eBay, which you actually don't have to do).
No kidding. More like 40x the price - $800 for a dirty skillet. That's crazy.

Lots of cheaper Wagners on eBay, though.
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  #22  
Old 11-14-2011, 09:58 AM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
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As long as it is suitably thick, cast iron is fungible. Old, no-longer-produced pans aren't imbued with any +5 bacon frying magic. You're paying collector's prices for a somewhat rarish brand.
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  #23  
Old 11-14-2011, 01:12 PM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is offline
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What I look for in a cast iron skillet is fricasseed chicken with dumplings on top...
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  #24  
Old 11-14-2011, 01:48 PM
brainstall brainstall is online now
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I feel like I'm the only person who loves my cast iron pans, but still doesn't treat them with the deep reverence that others seem to. I have a few - some inherited from family, one found rusty and crusty at a junk store (paid $2), a couple from Goodwill - again in the $3-5 range, and a couple bought new.

I do not wash them in pure spring water, with perhaps a wee scrub with some genuine sea salt, followed immediately by drying them with an irish linen tea towel...
I wash and scrub them in hot, soapy water and usually throw them on a burner to dry. Sometimes they get rust spots and I use a curly kate to remove it. I don't worry about the seasoning on them - they all seem to be well seasoned, despite my lack of effort to preserve it. I have meat pans and sweet pans because I don't like onion flavoured French toast, but that's about as complicated as it gets for me.

I would never spend $149 for a cast iron pan. WOW! Keep your eyes open at garage sales and thrift stores, or just pick up a cheapo one from wherever.
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  #25  
Old 11-14-2011, 06:28 PM
typoink typoink is offline
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Originally Posted by drastic_quench View Post
Which is why this "milled is the best" thinking is bullshit. No matter what, you don't cook on the iron surface, you cook on the layer of seasoning. The food never touches metal. Pebbled or concentric circles is irrelevant.
I understand what you're saying in principle, but it just isn't my experience. I own two Lodge skillets and a Griswold. The only obvious immediate difference is the finish of the inside. The Griswold works much, much, much better.

I can't tell you why, but they're all cared for the same, have been seasoned, maintained, and well-used, but the Griswold is way, way better for nonstick cooking.

I'll also mention that my Griswold has a spot of rough surface where (I assume) it's rusted slightly below the seasoning. The surface is still seasoned. That one spot is the only spot where food will stick.
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  #26  
Old 11-14-2011, 07:19 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Originally Posted by typoink View Post
I understand what you're saying in principle, but it just isn't my experience. I own two Lodge skillets and a Griswold. The only obvious immediate difference is the finish of the inside. The Griswold works much, much, much better.
I have to agree. I inherited two 8-inch cast-iron pans of unknown provenance when my wife's grandmother passed away and the cooking surface looks like glass, it is so smooth. It is not a matter of decades of seasoning--that's just the way the pan was made. (Apparently, it was "milled," if I'm reading the comments here correctly.) While my Lodge (or something similar) cast iron pan performs well, it's not at all like those milled cast iron pans, which really are almost like Teflon in their non-stick properties. It's possible that my own Lodge still needs a few more years of seasoning. I don't know why it would perform differently--in theory I would think it doesn't matter once a base coat of seasoning is established--but it does, at least in my experience.
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  #27  
Old 11-15-2011, 06:59 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Originally Posted by kaylasdad99 View Post
What I look for in a cast iron skillet is fricasseed chicken with dumplings on top...
I just popped in here to make sure somebody had hit that straight line. Thanks, kaylasdad.
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  #28  
Old 11-16-2011, 10:00 PM
VernWinterbottom VernWinterbottom is offline
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I have a no-name cast iron frying pan from a discount store and it's fine. Better yet last spring walking my daughter to the bus stop, I picked a beautiful old Griswold "pancake skillet" off my next door neighbor's trash.
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  #29  
Old 11-16-2011, 10:50 PM
VOW VOW is offline
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Look for a "Harbor Freight" store in your area.

(and do NOT let the man-of-the-house go with you...)


~VOW
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  #30  
Old 11-17-2011, 11:16 PM
Oslo Ostragoth Oslo Ostragoth is offline
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Back to the OP:

You look for your 80-year-old mother, who has her grandmother's chicken frying cast iron pan.

Well, that's my plan, anyway.

Black as the dark side of the moon, and slick as --- --- -- - --------*.

*Disgusting quote available on request.
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