General Question

janbb's avatar

Is a cast iron frying pan really worth all the trouble?

Asked by janbb (57695points) 6 days ago

I just saw a video about caring for a cast iron pot that got rust on it. Scraping with salt and a potato, oiling and wiping clean and putting it in an oven for an hour. Then oiling again I think.

Are they really worth all the trouble? I’ve never had one.

What do you use it for yourself?

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31 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

It depends on your cooking style and how often/what you cook.

If you are only cooking a couple nights a week and it’s mac n cheese with fish sticks, then no, it’s not worth the trouble. And perhaps there’s something comparable in modern cookware for you.

janbb's avatar

@KNOWITALL I cook all the time. I don’t fry that much though. And I have a non-stick pan that I use for sauteeing.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@janbb For me, it’s more about the heat distribution while cooking. And it goes from top to oven, like for pineapple upside down cakes.
I have an amazing flat iron that makes perfect steaks in a few minutes every time, it’s really amazing. And once seasoned, clean up is really easy, hardly anything sticks to them.

For my frying, I use a baby fry daddy, not my iron skillet unless it’s fried chicken usually.

Plus you can use them as weapons haha!

Cupcake's avatar

Even if I only fried eggs in it, having a cast iron pan would be worth it.

If you’re not used to having/using one, there is a learning curve (both with cooking and cleaning/maintenance). But I think you’d find it well worth it since you cook a lot.

I’d encourage you to buy one and learn how to season it. Then season it before you ever cook in it. Even though they come “pre-seasoned”, it’s not quite enough (in my experience/opinion).

You can join a cast iron facebook group or watch some youtube videos. The techniques vary and at times seem opposing, but you’ll figure out what works for you.

canidmajor's avatar

I used to use one, but the fact that all my dish-cleaning habits were counter to everything you should do made it too much of a pain in the ass.
I can cook everything not in a cast iron skillet that I could cook in one.

If it’s enameled, then that’s fine. Easily cleanable.

hello321's avatar

I feel as though there is some kind of art/magic that is required to really enjoy the cast iron pan. And I’ve never been able to understand it.

A couple of months ago, I entertained the concept of using one because my wife uses one all the time. However, I really loathed the cleanup (or lack of) and care, and ended up going back to my troublesome stainless steel cookware.

I’m now contemplating getting a nonstick pan that I can use just for eggs, but I want to make sure I’m not getting some real unhealthy one.

janbb's avatar

@hello321 I have a newish non-stick that isn’t Teflon. It looks like some kind of ceramic inside and works well.

kritiper's avatar

Yes. Once properly seasoned, and NEVER WASHED WITH DETERGENT (!) food will never stick, it will never wear out, it will never have to be replaced.
(Did you know? The pioneers, crossing the western plains, scrubbed their cast iron with creek sand to get it clean?)

Dutchess_III's avatar

@kritiper… “Never wash” is a myth. I wash mine, then season it again. Works perfectly.
Let me go find a source.

One source.

jca2's avatar

My grandmother and my mother both had a bunch that they used all the time. They both made Jambalaya in the big cast iron pot which they’d start on the stovetop with seafood and sauce, and end up putting the pot right into the oven to bake.

My mom and my grandma would make chicken, pork chops, steak, etc. in the cast iron pans.

I bought one once and it rusted within a day or two (I know, my fault), and I returned it to the store. It’s not my type of cooking thing. My mother used to tell me all the time that food cooked in the cast iron tastes better.

I have some enameled cast iron (some Le Creuset and some imitation) which I don’t use but the LC was given by a friend’s mom who was looking to rehome it, and the imitation I bought on Amazon to make sourdough bread in. I never made the sourdough in it, but it’s supposed to be good for that.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

We have seven different cast iron pans and dutch ovens. I use them 6 or 7 times a month, we sear a thick steak, chop or fish fillet then roast it to serving temp in a 350* F oven !

We have a Wagner fry pan from my wife’s mother, probably from 1939 or 1940. Original non-stick. Bought a Chainmail sponge for cleaning

snowberry's avatar

I found a smooth-bottom fry pan at a second hand store. It seasoning came from decades of use, and it really is non-stick. I love it.

I bought a new bumpy bottom castiron pan that was “preseasoned”. It advertised that clean up was simple, and non-stick. I followed the directions exactly. Cleanup was a total nightmare because food stuck to every depression in the bumpy bottom. I don’t get how it’s supposed to be non-stick unless you ONLY use it to hold food that you’ve already encased in tin foil or maybe to deep fry stuff in (Ugh! I hate deep fried anything)! But cast iron looks great hanging on a wall though, and as mentioned previously, they make great weapons!

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III Well, if you want to go to all of that work…
We had cast iron skillets when I was a kid that were never washed in detergent, were easily cleaned, and nothing stuck to. Just wipe them out with a scrub pad, if they needed it, dry it with a paper towel, and you’re done. The heat applied when you cooked with them sanitized them just fine.
Just like back in the oooooold west…

(And a reminder: I have a dial-up modem, still (!), and it takes FOREVER to download anything from some site, so I don’t.)

KNOWITALL's avatar

@snowberry It’s probably one of those like Bass Pro sells, and you have to take the pre-season label with a grain of salt. Always pre-season at home first, no matter what.

I’ve got some nice fork and spoon cast iron wall hangers I don’t use or have up, if you’re interested.

snowberry's avatar

@KNOWITALL This was years ago. I may have pre-seasoned it before using it; I don’t remember. But I do remember that I did a ton of research on which product to buy, how to, etc. Regardless, it was a waste of time and money.

snowberry's avatar

THIS site sorts out a lot of confusion. You can use metal utinsils. You can use soap. It explains the difference between the glossy surface left behind on cast iron after years of use (a polymer that’s actually bonded to the metal), and the oil film you use to re-season it.

So to really make a bumpy bottom cast iron skillet non-stick, I’d have to figure out how to get this polymer to build up so the surface actually is non-stick and smooth enough so it can be cleaned without an hour’s worth of cleaning after use.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Iron skillets with the cooking surface ground smooth are good. Cheap ones with a cast rough surface aren’t great. It too me many years to realize why mine did not work as well as Mom’s.

The iron is great for getting a slow & low simmer, but so are steel or aluminum pans with a thick bottom. I use the cast iron for the oven, like for making steaks or corn bread. For sauteing I have a couple of restaurant-style non-stick skillets. They do have to be replaced after 5–10 years, even though to preserver them I use only plastic and wooden utensils.

filmfann's avatar

I have 5 or 6. I wouldn’t give them up!

JLoon's avatar

Worth all the trouble?

Yes! – And the great thing is the more you use them the less trouble they are. I was lucky enough to get an almost complete set from my grandmother that’s maybe 60 years old (only the griddle & 6in pan missing). Thoroughly seasoned & almost indestructible. Gotta agree that there is a slight learning curve, but not that difficult. And once you go iron, you don’t need to go back.

stanleybmanly's avatar

You gotta have 2 birdie, a big one and a little one. They’re dirt cheap, and there are a zillion used ones out there seasoned and awaiting adoption. Don’t make the mistake of acquiring any with attached handles. The ones cast as one piece (handle and all) will be utilized by your great grandchildren. How could you possibly arrive at such a ripe old age free of these? You LOVE food. It’s incredible.

snowberry's avatar

We recently moved into a house with a glass cooktop stove. The burners are hard to manage. You cannot use cast iron on it. I hate the stove, but it’s what I have. The cast iron is in the camper now.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Wanna sell it?

canidmajor's avatar

As you can tell, @janbb, there is a whole cult thing going on there. If you’re part of the club, there are probably t-shirts! ;-D

jca2's avatar

I just want to add that my mom washed it by boiling water in it and then wiping it dry. Some people say you don’t wash them, but she washed hers. You just can’t leave it wet, or it will rust.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@jca2 I do the same, let it sit a minute in boiling water and wipe out, dry on burner.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

A seasoned pan won’t rust. The iron is protected from the air (and moisture) by the baked-on coating.

I used to work for a blacksmith. We used a similar process of wiping hot iron with linseed oil. It makes a black shield against rust.

If an iron pan is rusty, it should be cleaned with steel wool, sandpaper, sandblasting, whatever, the immediately coated with a little oil and baked.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The wife wipes ours dry. When I do the dishes, I make certain the black skillets are “integrated” with the other dishes in the routine, so that I may congratulate myself on my correctness. But I never towel dry anything. I dry the skillets by placing them on low heat on the top burners of the stove. You can watch the puddles in the wet interiors shrink before your eyes. Cool!

kritiper's avatar

I got carried away.
We didn’t use paper towels to dry the skillets, just let them air dry, usually. There are times when a cotton towel may have been used to dry them.
And there were no paper towels back in the oooooold west…..

sadiesayit's avatar

I have a $15 cast iron that is technically a “low-quality” one. I got it about 8 years ago now, and I’m keeping it forever because of how easy it is to use (and because I know that it will only keep getting better—cast iron pans improve with age and use).

Maintenance is very minimal once you get into a groove with a cast iron pan. To be honest, I rarely even wash mine—only if what I’ve cooked leaves a residue that I don’t want to taste in the next thing I’m cooking—which actually makes it easier to use than most other pans.

Cast iron does cook things differently than stainless steel pans, but every new type of pan will cook things differently. That’s just to say when I started using it, it definitely didn’t feel easier. But as I got used to it (and as I used it more, improving the seasoning), that changed.

I use mine for everything, including things that I’ve read will “never work” with cast iron or that you “shouldn’t cook” with cast iron. I also take advantage of the ability to start something in a cast iron on the stove and finish it in the oven, something that isn’t true for many other pans. The only things I don’t use it for are things I need a pot shape for (like soup).

raum's avatar

worth = use – maintenance

Personally, I’m not the most skilled in the kitchen. And I’m not familiar with cast iron care. So it doesn’t seem worth it to me.

But I know plenty of people who wield some culinary magic with cast iron cookware.

So I guess it’s like a sword. In skilled hands, it’s worth it. But if you’re not trained in swordplay, it’s just a heavy hunk of metal.

raum's avatar

This seems pretty cool.

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