Earth Week? Why Not Try Cast Iron Pans?

cast-ironNo, I’m not some psycho chick who believes everything I read. But I do believe this: The FDA doesn’t take a stand on something unless they know it’s REALLY bad and even then, they downplay it. I mean, come on, how long did it take them to go public with the hazards of cigarettes? …Which leads me to the latest brouhaha over non-stick (teflon) pans. The idea is simple: they are “safe” if not “overheated” and as long as they are “intact” and “not peeling.”

Hmmm. How many of you are able to keep your teflon pans intact and not peeling? It’s so hard for me to keep them that way that I have come to think of them as disposable — only I’m too cheap to actually toss my old ones in the garbage! Instead, I give them to unsuspecting friends I want to kill!

So, rather than wipe out a portion of the population that actually likes me, I finally decided to rid our house entirely of non-stick so I wouldn’t be tempted to keep using them after their prime. The only acceptable non-stick alternative was the one that has been around for ages: cast iron. I know all the lazy-asses will whine, “They’re too heavy!” Or, “They rust.” And, “Everything sticks!” Yes, yes, and sometimes.

As usual, I thoroughly researched the best cast iron pans. (Everyone is reviewing them since they are back in vogue, so it was easy.) Most seemed to love the pre-seasoned Lodge brand. I bought a preseasoned Lodge griddle a few years ago and wasn’t all that impressed. It was almost rough to the touch. It has over time smoothed out, but it took longer than I expected. The very best cast iron pan I own was one I bought at an antique store ten+ years ago for something like $10. Expecting the price to have increased dramatically like everything else at antique stores during the past ten years,  I slyly asked my parents for these pans for my last birthday. And, off to the antique store we went .

…It was the cheapest they have ever gotten off. I got all three in the picture above for less than $25. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t believe my parents didn’t supplement my gift with something else, like a Wacom Cintiq or something reasonable. Twenty five dollars? For your favorite child? Perhaps this year they are keeping tabs on my desire for a new DSLR and have big plans to surprise me with one to make up for such a lame gift last year. Yes. That must be the plan.

Once again, I digress; After I got them home, I cleaned the pans and re-seasoned them by heating them to oblivion and then wiping liberally with peanut oil a couple times. To clean, I use hot water as soon as I’m done cooking, maybe a quick once-over with a nylon scrubber, then whip it back on the burner to dry. I keep a paper towel that I use over and over that has olive oil on it in the drawer where I store them and just run it over the inside of the pan. When it’s cool I put it away. They are a worthy substitute for teflon, I swear.

So if that sounds like a giant pain in the ass to you, then go ahead and use teflon. They don’t call it natural selection for nothin’.


  1. laurie says

    love cast iron. it’s why we bought our cabin. came with a whole set of nice, old seasoned cast iron. teflon sucks very badly. my mother-in-law keeps giving me new teflon pans …. hmmmm, should I be reading something into that?

  2. Maria Camargo says

    Now I want to switch to cast iron pans! Except I just told my bf Stefan that and he said “yeah, oookk.. good luck cleaning them!” anywhoo.. i’ll be checking our antique stores now.

    New DSLR.. how bout you sell me your old one?! deal?! hehe.

  3. Jay Morgan says

    OK, Mom and Dad could pop for the DSLR instead of the Ford Fiesta we were going to get you.

  4. Jay Morgan says

    Just rethought the last rash comment about a DSLR; we ALSO bought you, along with the vintage cast iron pans, the magnificent REX GOLIATH that proudly sits in the room off the foyer. Of course you still are our favorite daughter, but I think we somehow spoiled you….

  5. says

    ahhhhh. you are CORRECT! The fabulous ROOSTER. Since it came after the GRAND EVENT I had forgotten. I do, indeed, love him. I retract my complaints.

  6. Michelle says

    I tell you Jennie, I LOVE the pans you give me. I’m saving on the pepper! Did you realize that once all the teflon peels off, they look like the expense non-stick silver pans!

  7. literati says

    i only use cast iron pans. i pick them up at yardsales and pay anywhere from .25 to 15.00. to clean baked on grime i stick a bunch of pans in the self cleaning oven for 2.5 to 3 hours and they are brought back to new condition. i then bake then with a light coating of oil, twice. to clean and maintain i do as you stated, clean with water, heat and wipe with oil. i have not had any problems with cast iron. my food does not stick and i do not have to worry about someone messing up my pan when they use it, they are virtually indestructable. the brands i prefer to cook with are wagner and griswold, griswold being my favorite. thanks for promoting cast iron cookware. it really is worth it’s weight in gold.

  8. says

    We need to get the word out. I am telling you: the longer I use those pans, the better and better and better they get! Here’s my current problem, and maybe you can help: my two kids, ages 15 and 12.5 wash them according to my directions, without soap, put them back on the burner to dry, etc. But they keep BANGING THEM ON THE PORCELAIN SINK AND SCRATCHING IT. So my question is (since I love my sink and pans), what can I do with my kids? Will you take them?

    heh heh. Actually, if you are interested, I might have a husband, too. :)

  9. says

    The new cast iron pans ARE rougher than the vintage ones. It all has to do with the sand they use to cast them. It used to be a much finer grade. It’s now much more coarse, and also much cheaper.

  10. says

    well then that makes sense, because that would be my observation.

    Just last Wednesday, I was just trying to talk a friend into buying some cast iron and she was totally grossed out to go to an antique store and buy a used pan! You know, I guess when I think about all my friends and acquaintances with germ hang-ups, I can get there. But I keep telling them: you’re practically forging new iron when you clean and season them!! Well, I look at it this way: they will keep the prices depressed and leave all the good ones for me!

  11. says

    She’s missing a great deal! You can tell the older cast ones by how smooth the interior feels, almost like glass, if it has been seasoned and cleaned properly. That’s interesting about the germ idea; but how does she think she gets the germs off her own pans?

  12. says

    Don’t you know people like that? They are grossed out by everything! (They are the people I always get a little nervous cooking for.) I mean, what if I, like, scratch my head and then keep cooking? Is that gross? Probably! But I’m sure I do it all the time! germs, germs, germs! While I probably tend to go a bit off the deep end in the other direction. I’m thinking of having an H1N1 party, just to get it over with…

  13. says

    I’m a big believer in germs being an essential part of building your immune system. There’s some great data out there about kids playing in the dirt = healthier kids from all the microbes they pick up. Unless, of course, your kid doesn’t have much of an immune system response (which is part of what we are dealing with right now).

    We were at MUSC (one of the top ten pediatric hospitals in the country) for over two months with Olivia after she was born, and we stayed at the Ronald McDonald house. During that time, we saw many many cases of swine flu in kids with very negative results. I won’t ever forget the mom telling me how quickly her football playing teenage son got sick and went from normal to not speaking. They put him in artificially induced coma and hung him from the ceiling in a rotating bed he was strapped into so the fluid wouldn’t pool in his body. He survived, but not without some rehab work to do when he got out. Here at Parris Island, where every germ in the US is in the dirt somewhere (because of the recruits crawling face down in it), swine flu hit a lot of people. One of my best friends had it, wife of a doctor, and said it was the most miserable and painful sickness she’d ever had. I would just get the vaccine and skip the party if I were you.

    I’m really not trying to be a downer. I’ll leave on a good note. Another reason to use iron skillets – IRON! In your diet! It’s a good thing.

  14. says

    I am a germ lover. Just ask my family. They all know my motto: when the next cataclysmic holocaust occurs, they will survive. As I have been slowly building their immune systems to tolerate mold, bacteria and viral nuances on a daily basis.

    I tell them they will thank me later.

    My kids, due to the sponge-like nature of their vulnerable brains accept this wisdom without question. My husband, on the other hand, does not. He is a very suspicious eater and tends not to trust me when I say “it’s fine!”

  15. says

    I absolutely love my cast iron pans. They make the best pancakes, hashbrowns, eggs and pan pizza! They are as non-stick or better than any teflon pan I had. And they double as a weapon!

    I got all non-seasoned pans. My first is my favorite. I think it was a Wagner. I also have a Lodge, but my first is smoother and more non-stick than the later ones ever got. I made hundreds of pancakes to season mine — YUM!

    The only trouble I have with them is that they are heavy — and I tend to bang them into my enameled stove and sink too.
    Still, I ALWAYS recommend them.

  16. heyjami says

    I did not have such an enjoyable experience with Cast Iron. I ordered mine new from Amazon. $25 for a big and little one. Preseasoned.

    I will try the self cleaning trick. I do think there is something to your notes on teflon. But dang it’s been hard for me to switch to cast iron. I didn’t realize how spoiled I’ve become.

    Oh, have you heard from the microwave haters? Let me get you the link so you can feel more guilt like I do. 4 little plants… 2 watered with tap water. 2 watered with water that was boiled in a microwave. The plants that were watered with the microwaved water died. Nuking kills all vital nutrients. Oh great. Will you obsess with me for a moment? I haven’t been able to get away from it though….

  17. literati says

    regarding the cast iron pans hitting the sink: i bought the optional sink strainer that sits at the bottom of the sink. it keeps things from banging around and potentially chipping the porcelain finish. hope that helps. i guess you can ban the kids from washing your pans (which is what they would like you to do in the first place) lol.


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