Step one: Start with a good quality cast iron pan. Think Griswold or Wagner and the older the better. Yard sales and antique shops should be perfect places to look. Yes, even the mildly rusted ones can be restored.
Step two: Take home and clean with salt.
Step three: Grease pan with Lard or Cisco. Cook in the oven for 2 hours at 300-350... This will stink up the house as the fat cooks down to cover the pan.
Step four: Enjoy! And do not skimp on using fats to cook with. Butter, Bacon grease, or Coconut oil are all great.
Step fiveish: Care. Only wash with water if you absolutely must. Then allow to dry on a burner or in the oven, then cover in a light coat of oil. Use only METAL utensils, the sharper the better. It is okay to destroy your inner finish as you are constantly rebuilding it at the same time. On an old pan it will season back to black in like three uses... The new Lodge junk is almost impossible to season IMO.
I switched from Calphalon Non-Stick years ago to cast iron and never looked back. Granted my daily is Stainless All-Clad, which still cannot see the dishwasher and needs its own care to be non-stick. People who have issues with SS cookware are probably cleaning it in the dishwasher which kills its micro pores with the harsh detergent... My well intentioned Mother-In-Law comes over monthly and screws up my cookware, it all bounces back. Moral of the story is that dishes go in the dishwasher, nothing else. (no knives!)
Now go forth and get your daily iron intake :)
[QUOTE=Pillow;959402]Step one: Start with a good quality cast iron pan. Think Griswold or Wagner and the older the better. Yard sales and antique shops should be perfect places to look. Yes, even the mildly rusted ones can be restored. [/QUOTE]
What makes "good quality" cast iron? I've always heard Lodge is good solid stuff made in the USA (except that their enameled pieces are apparently made in China). I have one of their skillets that I love and use daily but have not honestly heard of Griswold or Wagner.
Griswold and Wagner are old companies. They did it better, back in the day.
eBay is your friend, too.
[QUOTE=carlh;959453]What makes "good quality" cast iron? I've always heard Lodge is good solid stuff made in the USA (except that their enameled pieces are apparently made in China). I have one of their skillets that I love and use daily but have not honestly heard of Griswold or Wagner.[/QUOTE]
I think they're alright, but the old stuff is definitely better. The main difference I notice is that all my old inherited cast iron pans have a very smooth finish. The Lodge pans I've bought have a much rougher texture. You can guess which pans have the least problems with sticking.
[QUOTE=namelesswonder;959480]Griswold and Wagner are old companies. They did it better, back in the day.
eBay is your friend, too.[/QUOTE]Oh yeah. We've got 2 Wagners and a Griswold (9, 10 and 12-inch pans), plus a big Griswold dutch oven. They're awesome. I haven't been able to find a modern brand that can compare for smooth cooking surface or thickness. Lodge Logic is absolute crap in my experience. They don't machine the inside of their pans so you're left with all the lumps and pits from the casting process, which are just begging to get clogged with bits of gunk. The old companies used to mill them perfectly flat.
The only problem with old cast iron is that most of it is warped to one degree or another from decades of abuse...
Don't give up--I just bought the most awesome rusty piece of cast iron at a yard sale last weekend, and it is GORGEOUS. Silky smooth on the cooking surface, it makes my temperamental Lodge pan look like crap. (I have to re-season it at least once a month, it has that dreaded rough surface) It's also a perfect size--like a mini Dutch oven. 12", but more than twice as deep as a regular frying pan, and it has a lid. Can't wait to do a stir-fry in it, it's not quite a wok but pretty close.
When I seasoned it, I scrubbed it out really well with steel wool (yes, I used soap, but it came from a rather questionable looking "perpetual yard sale" out of a collapsing barn, and was really rusty/goopy), then coated it with bacon grease and stuck it in the oven where it proceeded to smoke up the whole house, I stuck a cookie sheet under it to catch the drips. It came out gorgeous, except the lid is really sticky, ugh. I made kielbasa and cabbage in it, usually when I use my Lodge pan I have to re-season it any time I make anything liquidy, but the yard sale pan wiped perfectly clean and smooth with hot water. SCORE! Next time I need to season it (if I ever do?) I will try using the grill outside, which I also got at the same yard sale for $20. :D
This is the site that actually made it click for me how to deal with my cast iron after trying to figure it out for years: [url=http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp]How To: Cast Iron Skillet Non-Stick and Lasts a Lifetime[/url]
I don't understand why the film of oil/fat residue isn't a hygiene issue, why doesn't the fat go off or pose a contaminant issue to next lot of food?
When you preheat the pan next time that should kill off anything.
Also, it's best to wipe on the oil while the pan is hot with an oiled towel rather than putting a lot of oil in the pan which leaves a gummy residue. Think of applying many thin coats rather than one big one.
I only use lard, and season on my grill outside, over lump charcoal, so it's hotter than hell.
THAT seems to polymerize the saturated fats MUCH better.