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A cast iron skillet is a kitchen essential piece of cookware that has been used for generations. Cast-iron is prized because it heats evenly and retains heat well—so your food cooks to perfection without burning or sticking to the pan. Because a cast-iron cooking surface takes heat very well, it allows cast-iron pans and skillets to be versatile and useful for frying, searing, baking, roasting, grilling and stewing.
Lets look at the cast iron skillet and how it’s made.
A cast iron skillet starts out as a molten blob of metal that is melted in an electric kiln to around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is then poured into a sand mold and then put under pressure before the metal cools and becomes solid. Once it hardens, it is then chiseled off the mold.
There are a few things to consider when choosing a cast iron skillet for your kitchen.
Even Cooking Surface and Pre-Seasoning
When shopping for a cast iron skillet, you want to look at the cooking surface. The cooking surface should be even and smooth.
Pre-seasoned cast iron skillets already come with a seasoned non-stick surface. If you happen to find a skillet that has not yet been pre-seasoned or are buying second-hand, plan to use a good quality oil or fat to create or repair the non-stick surface. Seasoning your cast iron skillet helps to keep food from sticking and burning. The pre-seasoning process involves applying a thin layer of oil or fat in several coats, heating the cast-iron skillet in a 350-degree oven and time. To get a good seasoning layer on my skillet for the first time, it took about an hour or applying oil, heating, re-applying, and re-heating.
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Second-Hand vs. New Cast Iron Skillets
A new pre-seasoned skillet comes with the benefits of being able to take it home, wash it, and apply a small amount of oil and start cooking right away. New skillets depending on size will normally range between $10 to $60 in price. Buying a second-hand cast iron skillet is easier on your budget but you have to consider what re-seasoning work you’d have to do to repair the non-stick cooking surface. One of my best skillets came from a second-hand thrift store for $5. With a little steel-wool, vegetable oil and time, I gained a versitle pan that can be used for years to come.
Cast Iron Skillet Size
You’ll want to consider how big you’ll need your cast iron skillet to be depending on what your cooking. If you’re cooking family meals or making large batches of food, then an 11 inch skillet may not cut it. Likewise if you only cook small portions and don’t have much storage space in your kitchen, then a 10 inch cast iron skillet might work better for you.
Don’t forget about your cooking surface too. I cook on a traditional 4 burner electric stove. When using a 12″ skillet, I can put it on the larger front burner but have to consider not being able to use the smaller back burner because of the skillets size.
Because cast iron is typically a lot heavier than other non-stick skillets, consider the length of the handle and additional grip surface. I use a Lodge 12″ cast-iron skillet and love it because it has an assist handle that makes picking it up easier especially when I am moving it from stove to oven. Most skillets at 10″ or larger will have an additional handle making the skillet easier to pick up. For my 12″ Lodge cast-iron skillet, I also purchased the silicon handle cover which comes in handy because it slips on to the handle and you can throw the cover in the dishwasher to clean it.
Here is a list of additional things to help you navigate cast iron so it can be your favorite piece of cookware in no time!
- You should choose a cast iron skillet based on the size of your kitchen and cooking habits.
- Cast iron skillets are durable, but they require some care to maintain their quality.
- If you’re looking for an inexpensive option – consider buying vintage or used cookware from thrift stores or garage sales to find your perfect match!
- The most popular brands of cast iron skillets include Lodge, Wagner, Griswold Manufacturing Company, and Camp Chef.
Cast iron skillets are some of the most durable cooking pans out there, and they can last a lifetime if properly cared for. They also offer more even heat distribution than their nonstick counterparts. If you’re in need of a new skillet, take your time to consider all factors before making your purchase decision.
What size cast iron skillet do you use? And what types of foods do you cook with it on a regular basis? Share any thoughts or questions below!