cast iron, best cookware ever. ~mike gradziel.
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As a mechanical minded cook with a preference for things rustic, practical, and durable, I love cast iron. I enjoy it so much I've posted this page to encourage the use of cast iron in your kitchen. Cast iron is the original non-stick material that can go in your campfire, under your broiler, on the stovetop or in the oven, and yes despite what they say you can put it in the sink and wash it with soap. You can broil your steak and then slice it to pieces right there in the pan, unless you have a nice smooth machined pan from ages ago, which you should save for eggs and crepes and delicate things, but with a rough and rugged one you can put knife to pan and know the nonstick coating can take it. It will probably last forever if you take care of it. The Romans had cast iron pans just like this two thousand years ago, and some of those have survived to this day in perfectly usable condition. Oil, heat, repeat, and the iron stays non-stick and cooks evenly at every meal.
cast iron tea kettle cast iron tea kettle 1960s original sarpineva iron pot from finland
My most prized posession in the cast iron category is this tea kettle. It is unusual and I have yet to see another quite like it. Just the right size for a cup of coffee or tea, it has a beautiful balanced appearance. In the beginning, when I bought it at a flea market, it was thick with rust, deeply pitted as if it had been left outside for a long time and possibly used as a flower pot. Here is proof that you can bring back almost any cast iron, and that after proper seasoning you can boil water in it with no greasy film in your drink and no rust. It had no lid, so Joy made me one from fired clay. My other prize is this iron pot by Sarpivena that Joy special ordered from Finland, an original from the 1960s. It makes the best braised chicken ever and is perfect for deep-frying.
pineapple bacon on campfire cornbread sticks broiled tomatoes
Here I show how to take a rusted old piece of cast iron and bring it back to like-new condition. I bought a small three legged sauce warmer for a dollar at an estate sale, cut off the legs, and turned it into a butter melting pan. I use it when making waffles. The thick pan prevents the butter from burning, and I never have to wash it since this is its only use. I just wipe it dry and set aside until next time. It's beautifully seasoned deep black now.
rusted three legged iron pan heavy rust inside the pan tools of the trade
step one: cut off the legs step two: grind smooth step three: wire brush
step four: sanding done sanding oiling the raw pan
I use my medium sized iron skillet most of all, for sauces and pancakes and bacon and anything that I want to sear at high temperature like scallops or fish or fennel. My iron muffin pan makes wonderful popovers and I have a little skillet that is the perfect size for frying hash brown potatoes in a bath of beef fat. After each use I warm the pans to dry them and then wipe them lightly with vegetable oil. When I cook fish or use strong spices, I wash the pan with some soap and hot water, boil a little water in them and rinse well, and then re-oil more thickly. Regular use maintains the polymerized hydrocarbon coating but with a new pan it needs to be built up from scratch.

This is easy: starting with the dirty pan you've wire brushed and sanded smooth, go directly to vegetable oil applied with paper towels. Let it soak in well and keep wiping it clean to lift away the dirt. Use a little soap and hot water to take off the outermost oil and dirt, then continue oiling and wiping. When the fresh oiled towels stay mostly clean, put it in your oven at 450 degrees F and leave it there with your outdoor-venting range hood fan on full blast. It's going to offgas a lot. Take it out every 30 minutes or so and re-oil it. Then leave it in for an hour or two, then shut the oven off and let it cool down overnight. It shouldn't be sticky when it comes out if you left it to harden long enough. It should have a shiny smooth coating. Some people say certain oils or fats work better than others. I've been perfectly happy with canola or corn or, in the case of baking pans in regular use, butter.


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