First of all, let’s address the obvious issue: they do not mill their iron down so instead of the excellent smooth surface it instead is pebbly. So why does it suck? I got a Dutch oven for Christmas and made a deep dish berry pie in it with tons of cooking spray and it came out excellent. Then I made a potroast and again excellent and I boiled the noodles in the broth. I didn’t clean it out quickly enough and some of the noodle remnants were stuck so I used a scrubby. I know what you’re thinking but I use this scrubby on my other iron seasoned with flaxseed oil without a problem - it’s soft plastic. The Lodge seasoning came off with almost no effort. No just worn down but most of the bottom was bare gray metal. WTF? I’ve since re-seasoned it with flaxseed oil and it is holding up better.
Lodge must be the absolute low-end cheapest-made mass-marketed cast iron you can find.
I’ve heard you can drastically improve Lodge products by spending some good quality time with a Dremel tool smoothing down the insides and then seasoning. Personally, I have my 40+ year old pans that are perfectly seasoned and if I need something else iron I usually go scouting through thrift stores and garage sales until I find what I want.
Totally endorse the OP. I will not own a Lodge skillet. But exception time: if the item in question is enameled, Lodge products are quite nice. I have a Lodge dutch oven, cast iron heavy as hell, alternative to a Le Creuset equivalent at 1/3 the price, and it cooks very nicely.
But yeah, their cast iron fryware sucks. Real cast iron frying pans have been milled, like Wagner.
Lodge is cheap and you get what you pay for. I have a Lodge dutch oven and it’s fine, since I take good care of it seasoning-wise and it does what I want it to do, namely work on the stove-top or in the oven, while providing a covered pot, a shallow fry pan and a deep fry pan.
What I hate, though, is the fact that it weighs a ton. I don’t remember the details but I know the expensive stuff is made by a sufficiently different/more advanced process, such that it can be a lot thinner. Some day when I feel like treating myself maybe I’ll buy an expensive cast iron dutch oven that I can pick up with one hand.
I had a gorgeous, vintage Griswold cast iron pan that had been in the family for decades; I loved it and used it nearly every day. Alas, I dropped it and to my astonishment it broke! I did not know that was possible, but it turns out that old iron can become brittle. I still miss that pan.
I have a no-name cast iron frying pan that my husband’s uncle’s neighbor picked up for a quarter at a flea market. I love it. It’s milled smooth, and we’ve seasoned it. I do sometimes scrub through the seasoning, but it takes some pretty hard scrubbing, and then I just reseason it.
Hmm, I regularly use both my mom’s old 12" no-name skillet that predates me (heck the deposits on the outside might be 70 years old), and my Lodge 15" that someone got me for Christmas several years back. Both perform really well in recent times.
However, I didn’t really “season” that Lodge skillet. I did do an initial seasoning, but after that I really just wore it in. I just used it for nothing but eggs, bacon, and tortillas for several years, and only cleaned it with one of a couple of stainless steel scrubbers (the same things I use to keep mom’s old pan nice and smooth). A Dremel or other abrasive tool would probably work the same as using steel to slowly abrade iron and create little deposits of carbon, but it’s not as tasty.
But yeah, Lodge is pretty inexpensive stuff. By the time you’re looking at nice cast iron, the enameled cast iron starts to look attractive.
Many years ago, a friend of mine pounded a tent stake with a cast iron pan. You can do a lot of things with a cast iron pan, but that’s not one of them. The pan broke upwards, in a star shaped fashion. My friend pounded it flat again, seasoned the hell out of it, and went back to using it for cooking. Worked fine.
I have no idea what brand it was; but it wasn’t anything made recently, as this was in the '70’s.
Sadly, no. Your story is heartening, though. I’m not sure I quite understand … it broke into pieces, and he re-solidfied them somehow? It’s too late to resurrect that family heirloom, but I have other pans for which the info might apply.
I also have a couple of lovely cast iron pans picked up at estate sales a few decades ago. Both are thin and lightweight. I don’t use them regularly due to their shapes (one is tiny, the other large but very shallow; more of a griddle than a pan), but if they ever broke I’d love to know that I could possibly salvage them.
It didn’t break into totally separate pieces. He’d hit the tent peg with the center bottom of the pan, and it broke upwards into a number of triangular shapes all of which were still attached to the pan at their bases. When he pounded them back into place the cracks were visible but the pieces were all jammed tight together at the edges and the seasoning filled in any remaining small gaps; the pan didn’t leak, and was fine to cook in. I don’t know whether one that came apart entirely into disconnected pieces could have been put back together by the same technique – is that what yours did?
IME cast iron pans that are very lightweight are the cheap versions. But then, come to think of it, that’s true of pans in general, at least relative to their material – an aluminum pan will be a whole lot lighter than a cast iron one of the same size, but a good aluminum pan will be heavier than a cheap aluminum pan. Thermal mass makes a difference.
Regarding weight, I wish I remembered what I’d read well enough to explain (or find via Google), but my half-remembered understanding is that in the old days there was a frequently used labor intensive way (done by hand) to produce lighter weight sturdy cast iron. Nowadays, that is very expensive, so mass manufacturers like Lodge are sturdy because they’re thick and heavy. If you spend the money, you can get “proper” cast iron that isn’t super thick. I’m not talking about the cheap, lightweight cast-iron products available, I’m thinking of well-made cast iron pans that are strong but not insanely heavy, like Lodge is.
My ancient Griswold was lightweight compared to my current Lodge, but it wasn’t one of those el-cheapo lightweight pieces you can buy now. It still had … substance.
An unseasoned cast iron will quickly rust and degrade, and good luck frying an egg on one without turning it into a scrambled egg while trying to flip it. (Mind you, a seasoned pan can also rust, which is why it’s important to dry them after use.) Seasoning protects the skillet in addition to creating a nonstick surface that’ll last longer than teflon and which improves with use.
I think it is stronger than actual Teflon, though many modern no-stick surfaces are fairly strong. But, unlike a factory-added no-stick surface, the seasoning is easy to patch at home. Basically, every time you heat the pain with oil in it, you add to the seasoning a bit.
I am very rough on my cast iron pan. I use metal utensils, and i scrub it if need be to clean it. But i also use it to make popcorn. It makes fabulous popcorn, and the surface is always in great shape after making popcorn, too.