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What's Cooking?: A Well-Seasoned Cast Iron
Quite a few of my colleagues and friends have approached me about cast iron cookware. My own cast iron collection includes 3 skillets of varying sizes, one flattop, a griddle skillet, and a Dutch oven. All are manufactured by Wagner. It is well used every day in my home, more than any other cookware I own. As you can see, I’m a big fan of cast iron and I prefer it over some of the more expensive cookware. It is inexpensive and very durable. Another benefit is the natural source of iron it provides to the food. I value this versatile cookware that has great heat retention and can bake, stir fry, braise, stew, pan fry and deep fry to perfection any food you cook on it.
Cast iron was first invented by China in 4th century BC. It later became a major industry in England in the 1700s. Established manufacturers in the United States include Griswold of Erie, PA which was later acquired by Wagner of Sidney, OH, whose foundries closed down in 1999. My first skillet was purchased in 1975. My pastor who lives in PA has a unique cast iron skillet that is unusually lightweight with a very smooth surface. It was previously owned by his 101-year-old mother. Based on some research by the logo “Erie” stamped on the bottom of the skillet, I suspect it was manufactured in 1865-1909. That is the only lightweight I’ve ever seen so far. It is my hope he will remember me when he wants to be rid of it. Now that Griswold and Wagner no longer exist, I am always on the lookout for good cast iron cookware made by them. I accidentally found a 6 ½ inch skillet by Wagner in a thrift shop, purchased for $5.00. What a valued find! Some have become collectibles.
There have been common complaints about the care of the cast iron and the problem with rust. The key to the care of this cookware begins with the initial treatment of seasoning it. The purpose of seasoning cast iron cookware is to create a sealant by rubbing oil or shortening onto the pan then follow by intense heat in the oven or on the stove top. The next important step is not to wash the pan in detergent after each use. That’s right, no soap because it will remove the sealant. Instead, wash it in very hot water and dry it thoroughly. Grease the pan after each washing. After doing this a few times, there is no need to season it unless the seasoning is removed. Your pan will not rust and will provide the beautiful browning, naturally non-stick and even heating surface it is known for. By the way, this is the same procedure used for seasoning the carbon steel wok. I personally do not care for the pre-seasoned ones that are being sold today. My cast iron is dependable like a well-seasoned friend, if you would excuse the pun. It will not disappoint you if you take care of it…..like you would a friend.
The Everything Cast-Iron Cookbook by Cinnamon Cooper
Betty Crocker’s One Dish Meals: Casseroles, Skillet Meals, Stir-Fries and More for
Easy Everyday Dinners
One Dish Meals by The Culinary Institute of America
The Best Skillet Recipes by The Editors of Cook’s Illustrated
The Dutch Oven Cookbook: Recipes for the Best Pot in Your Kitchen by Sharon Kramis Hearne
*Griswold Cast Iron Cookbook: Timeless Recipes from America’s Original Cookware Crafters
by Joan Pruess.