Awesome Shit: Cast Iron Skillets

This is probably not the kind of “awesome” topic you’d expect from me, but I have to give a shout out to nature’s original non-stick cookware.  Those of you who exercise cooking skills regularly more than likely have at least one, and if you have invested large amounts of your disposable income in the latest trend-tastic cookware set endorsed by some Food Network personality, you’re a retard.  Sorry, but you’re really a waterhead.

I probably should qualify “retard” here.  If you are an organo-macro-vegge-vegan-probiotic type (not that there’s anything wrong with that) who thinks deep frying happens in distilled, triple-filtered water, I got it, but please don’t make me eat any of it.  Enjoy your twigs with free-range, non-abused, humanely-slaughtered rice.  Expensive cookware that must be replaced every five to ten years is probably the best option for you.  Actually, if you’re in that category you probably ought not even have a kitchen much less cookware.  Please go burn disposable income in a haute restaurant and stimulate the economy.  Caveat: admittedly, some good stainless pots (the straight-side, deep things used to mainly boil water and shit) are good to have around when you don’t need cast iron.

On the other hand, if you like things made out of cows, pigs and stuff that goes on four legs, know what lard is and are not afraid to use it, regularly prep a skillet for frying with butter, margerine or olive oil, and can see the benefit of having a piece of cookware that you can bequeath to your spawn in your will, cast iron is for you.  Properly used and cared for, your item of cookware cast in iron will outlive you, your kids, the Zombie Apocalypse and will do equally well at performing non-stick surface tasks.  The great thing – no, things – about this stuff are many…

It is non-stick.  It becomes more non-stick over time with proper maintenance too.  This means soap never touches it.  Ever.  Seriously.  All that is required to clean your skillet is hot tap water and a green pad (without soap).  I know of people who have decades-old cast iron that has never touched soap just like me.  If you’re worried about influ-salmon-osis, pop the puppy back into the oven and heat it to 225 or so.  That even helps the oil soak in better, and will kill the wee beasties you are freaked about.  In fact, you should do coat it with oil and do this periodically just because.  This process of building up coal-black impervious coatings on the pan is called seasoning.  I have a eight-inch skillet my great-grandmother used and it actually repels water, in the entire kitchen.  It’s kind of a dehumidifier.

Cast iron won’t break.  Well, ok, I suppose it is possible to exert enough force to cause the pan to shatter, technically.  Technically.  But how awesome is it when an item of cookware can also be used not only as a weapon but as a bullet-repellent as well?  I am sure there are at least one or two people who have had to tighten handles on lesser cookware.  Cast iron handles don’t do that because, well, they’re cast into the pan.  No screw, no sweat, all awesome.

They provide a good workout.  A 12-inch skillet loaded with food is a challenge even for my wrist and arm (not that I’m bragging here but I have loaded ammo in tanks and shit and done it fast and well), so I like to think I’m burning some calories before I shovel even more down my pie hole.  As some wives out there may be able to tell you, swinging one like a tennis raquet does carry the potential of shoulder damage.  And if you’re rocking a cast-iron dutch oven, forget about it.  If your shoulder joint can swing a cast iron item, then you, my friend, are invincible.

I’ll go ahead and reiterate that there are some kitchen functions that don’t get solved with cast iron, just as there are some woodshop challenges that cannot be overcome with a router (not many, but yeah, there are a few, like nails).  However, whether you’re a hardcore foodie or a disaster of an amateur and danger to others and self with a kitchen knife, you really need at least two good cast iron skillets.  At least if you’re in the latter category, you can’t break it.

Fried chicken just isn’t the same cooked in anything else.

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28 Responses to “Awesome Shit: Cast Iron Skillets”

  1. John Erickson Says:

    Ah, but you only touched on cast-iron skillets’ true wonders. They can cook on gas, electric, or flame. Yes, they are indeed bullet-proof, at least to pistols, and in addition, they are fantastic weapons – smack some SOB in the back of the head with one of these babies, and he AIN’T getting back up! They also can be used as a helmet, and can even be an emergency E-tool. (Especially if they’re like the one my dad used on vacation. Roll out of the motel at 0500, drive for 2 hours, then pull over at a roadside picnic bench and cook fatty bacon, then using the grease to cook runny eggs. Never washed, never cleaned, and was slicker than axle grease on ice on Teflon.)
    Get 4, and rotate using them. Then, you also have a breast-and-back armour (2 of them), a helmet (1 more), and a weapon for when the Zombies come.

  2. Awesome post. These days, we leave frying up chicken to our carnivorous friends . . . and use our cast iron cookware to make the bestest cornbread this side of ANYWHERE.

    BTW: If you aren’t already hooked up with Greg and Katherine’s food blog, you might want to take a peek:

    http://rufusguide.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/katherine-salmon/

  3. agree wholeheartedly, cast iron is the best…i have 4 of ’em…two for meat (chops) one for chicken (fried) and one fro only salmon (it smells like it). and they’re always good against burglars.

  4. I love my All-Clad, but I gotta say I love my cast iron too. Makes the best cornbread. Great post.

  5. I gotta get me one o’ dem. Been meaning to. Made cornbread muffins for the first time this summer (during a week of thunderstorms and resultant forced-agoriphobia) and, tho I had no cast iron skillet to do them Little House on the Priaire-style (posted about this, too, was very moved) They came out well. I don’t know how my germophobic mind would do with not using soap suds to clean it, though. Would suds ruin it? (I’m already starting to feel the touretic lice crawl on the insides of my skin)

    • Germs: you learn to deal. As I said, pop it in the ovenator at about 225, which should kill the nasty stuff. You will do well, just practice with a regular, known recipe first.

  6. It even works on the glass-top monster stoves. I know because I have one. You just can’t move the pan around or shenanigans will ensue. Using cast iron on my glass-top means my food cooks evenly whereas I’ve actually warped three of those lesser types you mentioned because my stove gets too hot for them. I would be in need of some serious culinary intervention if I managed to warp my cast iron.

    • I’m guessing you’re talking about induction ranges… never used one but hear they’re awesome.

      • Nah. Plain electric glass range. The one that’s just a small step up from electric coils. Oh yeah, I actually cook on that shite. I only have a griddle right now because my husband likes steel (no matter how many of them warp, that’s what he keeps wasting money on). My brother has a whole box of cast iron that I gave him a few years ago so I could avoid moving it from place to place. I need to get that back. Lodge Logic ain’t cheap.

        An induction range is my dream range, though. My stove top stays hot for a while after I’m done cooking. So to make sure my cast iron cools off quick I put it on a hot pad somewhere out of reach of the munchkin and the hubs, and make sure he knows not to try to touch it for a bit. The pan will actually cool off faster than the stove will, depending on what I’m cooking at the time. If I’m baking, forget it. The stove is hot. Induction ranges don’t do that since the magnetic fields only heat the metal, and not the actual stove surface. It’s why you have to have magnetic pans if you have an induction top stove.

        • I’d just buy one cast iron every six months or so depending on your resources. You really only need four or five basic pieces.

          • Yeah… but those basic pieces were all in that box. Dutch oven, a couple skillets, I think one of those pans that made corn shaped corn bread. And a bigger griddle than the one I have. I could be a little off on that, it’s been a few years since he took it. All I really remember was that it took both of us to carry it down the stairs from my apartment to his truck. It was a lot of cast iron.

          • Go to Cracker Barrel. They sell separate pieces, and you can have a kick-ass meal.

          • Yeah, but these are freeeeeee. And Cracker Barrel’s on the other side of San Antonio. Armadillo’s is closer. No cast iron, but really good burgers that I don’t have to cook. Besides, my brother lives about 15 minutes away. All I have to do is go get the box, or just the pieces I want. It’s just a matter of catching him when he’s off work and not interrupting the newly-engaged bliss…

          • Oh, well then. Context always helps my advice. I defer to your solution.

          • Crap. They did just build a Cracker Barrel off SW Military, that would make it only a little farther than my brothers. But free trumps mileage. 🙂

          • Free is always more awesome.

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