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Brandon Greer
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I'm interested in investing in some good cast iron pieces. I read Paul Wheaton's article on choosing CI skillets and wondered if the same advice applied to dutch ovens whose primary use will be cooking soup. Will a Lodge dutch oven do or should I be looking for Griswold and Wagner?

About skillets, I see that the Griswold and Wagner skillets have gone up since Mr. Wheaton's article, much to my disappointment. I've been looking on Ebay. Does anyone know anywhere else I might can search?
 
DeLaney Becker-Baratta
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I have a Lodge skillet, it works like a charm and I have had it for six years. And it was cheap too.
 
D. Logan
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Lodge is what you buy when you don't have the funds or access to something better. Lodge can work, but the texturing means it takes longer to break in and their seasoning is not ideal. I have seen a few cast irons from out of the country show up in stores from time to time, but there is no way to really be sure who will have them when.

If you want to get a Griswold or Wagner, they can be reliably found at antique shops. Most of the time the owners know what they have and will be charging a fair bit for them, but sometimes you will find a small shop tucked out of the way where the owner doesn't realize what they have. This is especially true of a cast iron that is all gunked up and whose identity is a mystery. Look at the outside. If it isn't heavily textured, it probably isn't a Lodge. When you clean it off, you might just reveal a treasure. My best success with cast iron has always been at the mom and pop style antique shops though. Hope that helps.
 
Leila Rich
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Brandon Griffin wrote:I'm interested in investing in some good cast iron pieces. I read Paul Wheaton's article on choosing CI skillets and wondered if the same advice applied to dutch ovens whose primary use will be cooking soup?
I know nothing about cast iron brands, but I'd generally suggest avoiding cooking liquids/acids in cast iron as it strips the seasoning and can taint/discolour the food.
I stick with stainless steel for that stuff; unchipped enamel's good too.
If I had lots of money, I'd make soup in an orange, enameled cast-iron Le Creuset casserole.
SO stainless steel it is then

 
Brett Andrzejewski
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I found a Wagner cast iron skillet on Craigslist locally. I just had to drive to pick it up, no shipping and handling.

I also have been painfully working with a non-machined cast iron skillet. After about 3 months of cooking (mostly greasy foods and a flat stainless steel spatula) the surface is getting pretty smooth. I can get eggs to not stick, but they don't slide around just yet.
 
Brandon Greer
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I just purchased a 12 inch wagner on Ebay. For the dutch oven I went ahead and bought a Lodge.
 
Craig Dobbson
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I was given a set of OLD dutch ovens, skillets, fry pans and even a bacon press a few years ago. They were in pretty bad shape with lots of rust and almost no seasoning. Previous to that I was struggling with the lodge brand. It took a week or so to get the inherited set back into working condition. I haven't touched the Lodge pans since then.

Even the old rusty ones you see on CL or ebay are better than the lodge brand as long as they aren't too pitted. I've brought a few back from near death. A lot of people don't know how to use them so they sell them cheap at yard sales in real rough condition.

I've thought about taking an angle grinder to the lodge ones that I have just to see if I can make them work better by smoothing them out.

Just my opinion of course.
 
D. Logan
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:I've thought about taking an angle grinder to the lodge ones that I have just to see if I can make them work better by smoothing them out.


I wouldn't suggest this. I have read several cases where someone tried to smooth out Lodge cookware with an angle grinder and it ends in heartache. After taking forever, it apparently seems to affect the metal tempering in some manner because more than one has mentioned that the treated cookware ends up cracking or otherwise warping when heat is applied. Then again, take that with a grain of salt since it is second-hand information. I've never been annoyed enough with Lodge cookware to risk destroying it.
 
Brandon Greer
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Is there any reason to have a well used/seasoned dutch oven? I'm thinking it's mainly used for soup and the like. Please advise.
 
D. Logan
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If you are only using it for soup, it probably won't make a large difference. The times it would be most noticeable in a Dutch oven are with baking and roasting applications.
 
Craig Dobbson
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Though I have used cast iron for soup and stew, I prefer to use them for things like roasting meat or deep frying in oil. I have some stainless steel pots that I use for soups and stews. They are much bigger than the cast iron ones, so they make a pot of soup that will last at least two days. I've used the cast iron dutch oven to bake pies and cobblers too. That's a nice thing to have on hand during winter camp outs.
 
Johnny Niamert
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:
I've thought about taking an angle grinder to the lodge ones that I have just to see if I can make them work better by smoothing them out.



I used one of these on a drill for reconditioning an older rusty yard sale score.



Granted, it was on an older 18" pan, not a lodge. But being a rust bucket before and nearly a mirror after.
I've seasoned and used the pan many times since then.
 
Craig Dobbson
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That's exactly what I had in mind. I thought that I could corrode the texture off of the lodge pan by getting it to bare metal and then adding some bleach to it overnight. Bleach (an oxidizer) will rust that sucker fast, then I can smooth it out easier with the wire wheel you pictured above.

 
Leila Rich
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Brandon Griffin wrote:Is there any reason to have a well used/seasoned dutch oven? I'm thinking it's mainly used for soup and the like. Please advise.

I think 'oven' in the name is really important-
from what I understand, we're talking about gear specifically designed to be used as an oven on an open fire, not so much a pot.
I think this is maybe one of those 'because it wasn't around' things:
actual ovens, stainless steel and enamelled pots for example.
I imagine if there'd been access to things that didn't make tomatoes taste funny and turn Jerusalem artichokes black, they'd have been all over it!

A bit of an OT story....
In NZ we usually call 'Dutch ovens' 'camp ovens', as they can bake stuff in an open fire.
The best ones have a very high lip on the lid specifically to hold embers.
We'd bake bread in a camp oven on a very burned-down fire, with embers piled on the lid.
We used a thick layer of bran in the bottom to insulate the bread from burning.
It was very wet, dense dough from grain we'd ground-I imagine most commercial flour would probably be too light.
As has been mentioned, they're great for roasting meat and veges too
 
Brandon Greer
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Thanks for all the info. I will be using this on an open fire (rocket stove). I have regular pots and pans for the electric oven.
 
Bob Knows
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Mr. Wheaton's article said,
If you ever use any water, make sure that you thoroughly dry out the skillet right away. Otherwise you will get rust! It is really important that you use heat to dry the skillet. A towel just isn't going to get it dry enough.


I've been using the cast iron for decades and some clarification needs to be made.

First. Cast iron cook wear works because cast iron is porous. The oil soaks INTO the iron. The surface does not need to be kept oiled when not in use. Over time your cooking oil will soak all the way through the iron. Old pans often have a crust of burned carbon on the bottom that seeped out through the bottom of the iron.

Second. New cast iron is seasoned by heating it to open the crystal structure while having some oil in the pan. After some hours on low heat the top of the iron will have absorbed some oil and your new pan will be seasoned. Seasoning is not related to coating the pan with oil. You can always wash off the oil and have a clean, dry pan between uses.

Third I always soak my cast iron fry pan every day for a few hours after frying bacon, etc. It does not rust. Soaking loosens any baked on food and makes cleaning nothing but a rinse. A well seasoned pan is saturated with oil so it does not rust.

Forth. Do NOT use heat to dry your cast iron. I have seen far more good iron pans destroyed by being forgotten on a stove than from rinsing. Iron will warp or even crack by being put on a fire empty and forgotten. Getting an empty pan too hot is a good way to burn all the soaked in oil out of the iron and have to start over seasoning it even if it doesn't warp. Soak it for a while, then rinse it with hot water, scrub it gently with a Scotch-brite sponge and dish soap, and leave it tilted on its side in the dish rack to air dry. Don't ruin your pan by putting it over a fire empty. Dish soap will not wash soaked in oil out of the iron, but dry heating over the stoave will burn it out.

Some of my pans are more than a century old. Still as good as new. Good luck and good cooking to all.

 
Bob Knows
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Brandon Griffin wrote:Is there any reason to have a well used/seasoned dutch oven? I'm thinking it's mainly used for soup and the like. Please advise.


Dutch ovens were designed to function as an oven over a fire. The lid has a rim so you can spread burning charcoal (coals from the fire) on the lid and have heat above as well as below. I've made some really good dutch oven pizza at camp. Its good for baking bread over a fire.

Back before Ben Franklin invented the Franklin stove, most kitchen cooking was done at a fireplace. Some large fireplaces had a brick oven on the side, but many kitchens used a dutch oven for baking bread and such. That's what it was designed for. Its really not needed today when everybody has a thermostat controlled electric or gas oven.

 
Amedean Messan
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I would buy a Lodge Logic skillet and grind or sand it down like below. They're cheap and made in the US. They also test the skillets in their quality control procedures for toxic heavy metals. I wish they polished their skillets, but there is a workaround like in the videos. The end result is the same of the best brands without the added cost.



 
Amedean Messan
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I found a video on how they are manufactured. It specifically mentions the testing of the alloys which may or may not be performed by other manufacturers. I personally would not want lead or other unsafe metals in my skillet.

 
Leila Rich
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Bob Knows wrote:Do NOT use heat to dry your cast iron. I have seen far more good iron pans destroyed by being forgotten on a stove than from rinsing. Iron will warp or even crack by being put on a fire empty and forgotten. Getting an empty pan too hot is a good way to burn all the soaked in oil out of the iron and have to start over seasoning it even if it doesn't warp. Soak it for a while, then rinse it with hot water, scrub it gently with a Scotch-brite sponge and dish soap, and leave it tilted on its side in the dish rack to air dry. Don't ruin your pan by putting it over a fire empty. Dish soap will not wash soaked in oil out of the iron, but dry heating over the stoave will burn it out.

Welcome to permies Bob, and I'm glad you're passionate about cast iron too!
I happily do pretty much all the things you warn against...
and basically none of the things you advocate
So I suppose it's all about learning what works for us.
By the way, I agree on avoiding drying a pan on high heat-I rinse mine and turn the stove on high;
but as soon as the water starts to evaporate, I turn the heat off and leave it to dry/cool.
I do it while doing the dishes so there's no risk of me wandering off-
I'm notorious for it and if I don't have a little 'routine', carbon will ensue :
If I had a woodstove, I'd have to be really careful.
 
Craig Dobbson
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Leila Rich wrote:I rinse mine and turn the stove on high;
but as soon as the water starts to evaporate, I turn the heat off and leave it to dry/cool.
I do it while doing the dishes so there's no risk of me wandering off-
I'm notorious for it and if I don't have a little 'routine', carbon will ensue.



Me too. I've left a pan on the stove a few times to dry like that. If by chance it is set there too long, you'll smell it before the damage is done. Hopefully
 
Bob Knows
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Leila Rich wrote:
By the way, I agree on avoiding drying a pan on high heat-I rinse mine and turn the stove on high;
but as soon as the water starts to evaporate, I turn the heat off and leave it to dry/cool.
I do it while doing the dishes so there's no risk of me wandering off-
I'm notorious for it and if I don't have a little 'routine', carbon will ensue :
If I had a woodstove, I'd have to be really careful.



If you always stand there and heat the iron gently it will work, Leila, (My wife does it that way all the time too). But it takes time standing there and remembering to take it off. It also has a risk that you may get interrupted by a phone call, pet, or something else. I've seen too many damaged, warped, or cracked cast iron pans over the years to recommend this method. Setting it on its side to drip dry always works, is easy, takes only one step and you are done, and has no risk of harming the pan if you get interrupted.

The most important thing for people to learn about cast iron is that its not oil on the surface but oil soaked into the porous crystal structure of cast iron that makes it a good non-stick material for cooking. Over many years I've heard so many people and read so many "authoritative" articles from people who had been told wrong.

Bob

 
Bob Knows
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Amedean Messan wrote:I would buy a Lodge Logic skillet and grind or sand it down like below. They're cheap and made in the US. They also test the skillets in their quality control procedures for toxic heavy metals. I wish they polished their skillets, but there is a workaround like in the videos. The end result is the same of the best brands without the added cost.




I've been tempted to sand down a Lodge skillet too, Amedean. The new ones should be polished at the factory like Wagner used to do, but apparently they save cost by shipping them out rough. I have resorted to just starting to use my new pan with the new rough surface. The steel spatula ended up polishing it smooth before I noticed what was going on.

In theory you could get some fine iron filings in the food, but iron is actually non poisonous and necissary for humans to consume in small quantities. I don't really know if iron from a pan is a form that can be absorbed by our bodies or not, but iron is not toxic and might be absorbed if we are anemic.

I guess my point is that I'm too lazy to go to the trouble of sanding or polishing a new pan. After a couple of months it comes out the same anyway. Happy cooking.

Bob
 
Bob Knows
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:

Me too. I've left a pan on the stove a few times to dry like that. If by chance it is set there too long, you'll smell it before the damage is done. Hopefully


My wife has a recipe for burned rice. Put the rice and water in a pot on low heat. Sit down by a computer or TV. Go rescue the burned rice when the smoke drifts into the other room before it starts a fire in the kitchen.

Bob



 
Kenneth Miller
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Brett Andrzejewski wrote:I found a Wagner cast iron skillet on Craigslist locally. I just had to drive to pick it up, no shipping and handling.

I also have been painfully working with a non-machined cast iron skillet. After about 3 months of cooking (mostly greasy foods and a flat stainless steel spatula) the surface is getting pretty smooth. I can get eggs to not stick, but they don't slide around just yet.


Does it require any pressure from your stainless steel spatula to work a Loge skillet smooth?
 
Myron Weber
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Kenneth Miller wrote:Does it require any pressure from your stainless steel spatula to work a Loge skillet smooth?

From my experience (4 Lodge items used for many years) - pressure is not needed, just patience. It won't hurt the skillet if you want to try, but might damage the spatula. My brothers inherited the well-seasoned cast iron ware that we grew up using (I was out of the country - no foul play involved), but I have never felt that the Lodge is inferior in quality.
 
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