Compleat Idler, Education

Idler’s kitchen — Cast Iron

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

I thought I should talk a little bit about my preference for cast iron cookware, aside from my conservative if it was good enough for my grandparents it is good enough for me tendency. There are many ways of cooking and I tend to go with my region—my childhood was in the high plains more or less and all but two years of my adult life has been in the Southwest economic region. Cast iron was a fact of life in my grandmother’s kitchen and I got her stockpot when my mom passed. I own a number of skillets and three Deutsch ovens. The star of the show is my No. 7 skillet (which has nothing to do with Jack Daniel’s distillery license) by Griswold Iron Works. This brand is supposedly big with Buckskinners and the company has ceased to exist. The big name right now is Lodge which has introduced a line of iron-lined ceramic cookware for ceramic top stoves which my wife likes.

The advantages of cast iron cookware are consistency of heating, heat retention, and a better non-stick surface than teflon. The disadvantages are weight, time taken in maintenance, and the fact that my wife loves her ceramic top stove. I got around the stove a couple ways. I used to keep a two burner propane stove on the kitchen porch and now I have a one burner propane stove that I use on the counter. I also use this for other plans because gas gives better control.

So why do I use utensils that I cannot throw in the dishwasher or soak in suds and rinse clean which require that I have an extra burner that sets off the smoke alarm occasionally. The answer is results. I can scramble eggs at a low temperature without having to switch burners. I do not have to grease the pan when I brown meat or fix hamburgers. When I do a shepherd’s pie or blue cornmeal tamales, I can stick the pan in the oven without the handle melting. And I do not need to worry about aluminum and its ill effect on food—iron is a nutrient.

I do have some advice for my fellow cast iron users. Avoid the Chinese utensils. They cost less and are sometimes lighter—you can find them in proprietary brands. But the metallurgy is suspect and the Chinese use surplus ship hulls and vehicle hulls as sources of iron. I do not trust the metal.

Bon appetit.

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