[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 10-26-04 AT 09:07PM (CST)[/font][br][br]If you find an iron skillet in any condition at a yard sale or antique store, buy it. I can't imagine that anybody would sell their momma's or grandmomma's skillet. You can also buy iron cookware at stores like Wal-Mart or Target.

1) Any iron skillet can be conditioned/seasoned, no matter it's age or condition.

2) If you buy a new one from any Wal-Mart or hardware or hunting store, season it this way: Rinse it out thoroughly with a sponge and hot water in the sink, no soap. Dry thoroughly and pour in a quarter cup of grease, oil, lard, bacon drippings or any cooking oil. Wisk it around and rub it into the pan with a paper towel; top, bottom, handle and sides, thoroughly. Preheat oven to 300. Place pan on a baking sheet (to catch runoff) in the oven and heat it, undisturbed for 25 minutes and don't worry if it smokes. Remove and let cool down. Wipe it out and then repeat the same process at least once, preferrably twice over the next two hours. No soap! Only a paper towel.

3) Never scrub your iron pan/pot/skillet/dutch oven with a metal scouring brush or soap. Never put any kind of cleaner in your pan besides hot water and a sponge or tough brush to remove residue. Then set it on a stove eye to dry. Don't let it rust in a dark place like a drawer.

4) If you find a cast iron skillet that appears to have a half-inch of encrusted crud cooked on it, grab it up and offer less. These old skillets are good as solid gold and can be put in a sandblaster or outdoor grill and fully restored, even improved. Once you sand-blast it or heat it in a blazing fire for an hour, scrape it out and season it as shown above. If you think you don't know where a sandblaster is, consider that anybody you know who works in a manufacturing plant or municipal utilities place knows where one is or has one.

We have probably 20 iron products; square, round, oval, sectioned and shaped like corn, oblong and 6 inches deep, 3 inches in diameter up to 17. They have their own personalities, one being the best for fried chicken, one only used for catfish, several only for cornbread, the square one only for chicken fried steak and gravy, a little round one only used for scrambled eggs on Saturdays, the newly restored one only used for deer steak or smoked sausage.

Iron skillets and pots ain't teflon and won't cook stick-free. When you cook, perhaps pour in a smidgen or three of grease or oil or lard and let it heat gently, then do your cookin. The magic and beauty of the cast iron is the heat distribution and quick heated, consistent capability of the surface.



  • 58 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I use a bamboo brush that looks like a wisk broom to clean my iron skillet and my wok. I always oil 'em up again after each use.

    I like how you keep mentioning, "NO SOAP", Don. That's key. Very well written, valuable piece of information too. Worthy of being cutout and taped on the iside of the cabinet door where these gems are stored.
  • I was just contemplating buying a new set of T-fal cookware. I may try an iron skillet first since I'm into this new 'cooking thing' as my family calls it. Ha, they're taking the bait. Once they get hooked on these new recipes, I'll leave a note and a recipe, and dinner will be ready when I get home!
  • Ha! Fat chance. Tried that. No one sees the note.
  • Did you try leaving it on the remote control or taped to the cookie jar or telephone?
  • I guess I'm just gonna have to buy you one and season it and send it via 'brown' to you. Quite expensive, but I like to make yankees happy people whenever I can.

    (You can sail a 100 foot skipjack but can't season a little ole iron pot?) x:-)
  • But I don't sail the skipjack singlehandedly!

    This new way of cooking and cleaning frying pans is foreign to me. I set the smoke detector off using my regular cookware! Ugh. I'm due for a new microwave.
  • Don't put cast iron or any other frying pan in your new microwave unless you want another new one. x:D
  • Thanks, Don. I have several iron skillets (spiders) left to me by my mom, but they are not very usable right now. This will help get them in working order.

    Anne in Ohio
  • I have a bunch of Pampered Chef stoneware. It also cannot be cleaned with soap. They come with these nifty little scrapers that work great on cast iron.
  • I have a citified cousin that went off the deep end one day and threw a 30 year old perfectly seasoned iron skillet way...just because we fried up some rattlesnake in it! (She's been written out of the will, by the way.)

    Another wonderful cast "cooking" vessel is an old lid off a wringer washer found in a scrap yard. After being fired and properly seasoned, it has become my favorite griddle for campfire cooking - the edges are turned up enough to keep grease out of the fire and the surface can hold enough to feed me and several teenagers.

  • >Another wonderful cast "cooking" vessel is an
    >old lid off a wringer washer found in a scrap

    I don't know if I could eat french-fries or chicken fried steak cooked in/on cracked white porcelain that wobbles. Maybe you'd teach me.

  • It's actually cast iron - very old, and doesn't wobble if placed on stones in the fire.
  • "No, soap, No soap, No soap"

    In germany when you purchase a new frying pan, be it iron, teflon, stainless steel whatever! In big bold red letters is a stickers that say's NO SOAP", of course the sticker is in german and I cannot recall how to spell NO soap in deutsch, but, you get the idea? I have difficulty when I am at my daughters and washing up after dinner. I wanna reach for the soap! I have had my bad finger slapped more than once over that, truly :-)
    Yep, no soap!!!!Excellent advise.
  • Don't forget all the magic you can do in a cast iron Dutch oven. They don't have to be used on a open fire or covered with glowing ambers, they work just as well in your oven at home.
    Concerning your squre iron, everytime my grand dad would hear the math expression "pie are square" he would respond, "No, pie are round, cornbread are square!" Apparently his mom always used her square iron for cornbread.
    Remember.... anytime you make cornbread for dressing, etc. be sure to leave enough that you can crumple it up in a tall glass and then fill the glass with sweet milk, all you need to add is a spoon and/Or you don't have to have shortbread or angels food cake to pour those strawberrys on, corn bread will work just as good.
  • Thanks, Dutch, for the memories. I took my ten-inch square iron skillet fishing for 4 days this past week. We had sausage and assorted other stuff every morning and cleanup was only a double paper towel after it cooled off a bit. I wouldn't sell this skillet for five hundred bucks. Well, maybe not.
  • All right Don, I inherited two beautiful iron skillets from my husband's grandmother. She used one to make cornbread, and the other for everything else. They definitely have the two-inch crust of "yuck" on the bottom and sides. I don't have access to a sandblaster, nor do I have access to a hot fire pit. Can I just keep cooking on my electric stove with these suckers, or should I really make an effort to get them cleaned up? My mom seems to think that they are a health hazard in the condition they are in, but I figure Granny Duck used them and lived to be over 86, so they can't be that bad. What do you think?

    Anne Williams
    Attorney Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers, LLC
  • Anne,

    Is it the inner or outer bottom and sides that are gunked up? If the inner surfaces are smooth and the outer surfaces are crusty, don't sweat it. You have skillets just like my mother's, and they haven't killed anybody (yet). My mother used to be rather famous for small kitchen fires through no fault of the cast iron skillets themselves. She would start yakking on the phone and forget that she was heating up grease in the skillet to fry potatoes (or squash or okra or chicken or round steak...but usually potatoes). The upside was that our kitchen got repainted regularly. The other source of our kitchen fires was overflowing ashtrays with a few smoldering butts discarded into the trash during a bridge game. As I write this, I realize I'm lucky to have survived childhood.
  • I've often wondered how in God's name my sister...who can't boil an egg...wound up with the set of iron skillets bought new by my great-great-grandmother around 1875, and passed down by my mother. Life just ain't fair sometimes. If you like fried food (and who doesn't?) there is just nothing quite as good as using cast iron...and they never wear out!
  • Another thing that an iron skillet does best is Hungarian pancakes (palacsinta). I've tried and tried to make palacsintas on various other cookware and they just don't taste as good as when made on an iron skillet. The skillet must transfer the heat a thousand times more evenly. My mom would make us palascintas every Sunday morning growing up. Sadly, I don't have an iron skillet, so I rarely make them for my kids. They do love it when I do.
  • Do share the recipe!

    Anne Williams
    Attorney Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers, LLC
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 12-02-04 AT 10:03PM (CST)[/font][br][br]If you cannot scrape and scour the gunk off the skillet, you must find someone who can do that for you, even if they must use a sandblaster. Heat the thing up really hot with some grease in it, cool it a bit, push a metal spatula into it or maybe even a screwdriver or a drywall spade and pop off the gunk. But, do not, DO NOT, immerse it into water after you heat it or it will bust wide open. Don't treat it delicately; scrape and scour it till the gunk is gone, then season it appropriately.
  • Can I heat it up out in the carcoal grill outside, or does it have to be over an open fire pit? I'd really like to clean these things up and use them.

    Anne Williams
    Attorney Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers, LLC
  • Yes, you'll notice in number 4 in the original post, a blazing fire is fine. I've cleaned some of the toughest skillets in the gas grill out on the patio. Be prepared to have a roaring high fire with the grease from the grill and the skillet. Don't try to lower the lid of the grill, just let it roll on. But, when the fire gets to blasting, do cut off the gas and just let it burn. Do not attempt to lower the lid or you'll singe your arm or hand. And if the fire dies down, just relight it and get it going again. A hot iron skillet is like untempered glass in a can't go from real hot to cold too suddenly. But the gas grill isn't going to hurt it. Don't try this inside.
  • I failed to mention to you that my wife found a new cast iron wok at BassPro in Springfield. She bought the last one they had. To paraphrase Mr. Brown, You can whoop up some "good eats" in an iron wok.
    Cabellas (spelling?) in Kansas City also has a big selection of cast iron cookware. Last time I was there I saw an iron frying pan that had to be three feet across.
    Happy Eating.....

  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 12-03-04 AT 09:15PM (CST)[/font][br][br]I have my doubts as to the existence of a 'cast iron wok'. A skillet is one thing. A cast iron skillet has a flat bottom and is at least a quarter of an inch thick, sometimes thicker. A wok is a thin metal pan with a rounded bottom. I don't know that I've ever known the two to meld. Perhaps you can educate me.
  • Honest to goodness it is a cast iron wok. The wok is very heavy and it works just like the thin metal woks you mentioned as we have a couple of them also. It is also designed same as the usual wok only in cast iron and of course the sides are a bit thicker. I am sure that it may take longer to heat up but my betterhalf loves using it and has not used a "normal/regular" wok since getting this one.
  • Two small comments - first, if you get a nasty one that's hard to clean, put it in a self cleaning oven (during cleaning cycle). That usually incinerates the crud. Second, the small razors for cleaning paint off trim work really well at getting daily crud off pans.
  • For those of you that have such skillets and a sweet tooth...there is NOTHING better than a pineapple upside down cake made in a cast iron skillet.

    Mine was handed down from my Great Grandmother....I wouldn't trade it for anything!
  • congtatulations! I agree. Passing an iron skillet down should be a more careful and thoughtful exercise than passing down a two carat diamond!!
  • Don that would depend on which type of carat/carrot you valued most. :-)

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