Cookbook

Lodge is the only brand you can buy new

unless you want to pay $180+ and go with Stargazer, Finex, or a couple of others who have come on the scene in the last few years.

Griswold, Wagner, Birmingham Stove and Range and several others went out of business decades ago, leaving Lodge as the sole cast iron foundry in the USA until recently. The only way you can buy the old ones is through antique and thrift stores, yard and estate sales, or eBay (very pricey). And you'd better know what you're doing before you buy, else you could get "stung". These are old pans, often abused (warped, rusted, pitted, cracked, crusted over). When you buy a used pan, you have no idea where it's been or what it's been used for, so you need some knowledge of how to determine if the pan is in good shape or not, and you'll need to know how to strip it down, clean it and reseason it.

Cast iron is cast iron; they all cook the same. Lodge is as good as any other cast iron. The difference is that the vintage pans have a very smooth cooking surface, whereas modern Lodge has a rough surface. With enough seasoning Lodge can be decent, such as releasing cornbread from the pan, but it will never be non-stick enough to slide a fried egg around in the pan like the old ones. A very well-seasoned vintage pan is almost as non-stick as Teflon.

Be aware that cast iron does take some special care to maintain the seasoning. You can't boil in it or cook acidic foods like tomatoes, vinegar or wine. Food should be removed from the pan as soon as it's done. It shouldn't be soaked for more than a few minutes, and it should never be put in the dishwasher. You shouldn't use any harsh scrubbers to clean it. Some people maintain that you shouldn't use soap on it, but I usually do, except when I've dumped out some cornbread and the pan is basically clean--that's when I just wipe it out with a paper towel. It needs to be perfectly dry before storing, because any moisture can lead to rusting.

These "rules" are all about the seasoning. You can't really hurt the pan itself by scrubbing or soaking or using soap, but you can destroy the seasoning. The seasoning is what protects the pan from rust and also helps make the pan sort of non-stick. The only way you can kill the pan itself is by warping it, cracking it, or letting rust pit it deeply.

Until a pan has been used for years and years to develop a good seasoning, cast iron's best uses are for searing meats and cooking bacon, making gravy, frying things and cooking cornbread. After maybe a decade of constant (daily) use, other foods can be incorporated. Maybe.

cathyntx

FYI: HOW-TO'S, WHAT-TO-DO'S & ANY-HOO'S # 28

cleaning with baking soda
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Lodge is the only brand you can buy new
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