Thursday, July 28, 2011
What's in a Skillet?
I was so upset reading the above article the other day that it actually kept me up at night. I allowed myself at first to agree with him on having an extra skillet around. You know like if you are backpacking and plan on frying up some fish you don't want to backpack a 5 lbs cast iron skillet when a light weight aluminum one is available. Then yes there is the "seasoning" of the skillet (everyone has a different opinion on what seasoning is), so if it is new then you do have to break in the cast iron first. His last point of a cast iron skillet is not non-stick like a non-stick skillet is, and that you have to be a rare camp cook that can make eggs over easy in cast iron was my over the edge point of reading.
Above is a fresh, non-seasoned cast iron skillet
The skillet above is bare metal seasoned.
Now the art of using cast iron in the woods or even at home is being lost. Just look on the web for cast iron and all sorts of "vintage" and "old timer" tag lines come up when shopping online for them. So you start to get the feeling that cast iron cooking is starting to be like the tube TV or the typewriter, and it is which is a shame. I think the article was meant well for novice campers and weekend drinking parties but, there is no substitute for a cast iron skillet or any piece of cast iron in that fact when cooking.
I want to explain why cast iron is the best and do some comparisons. First is the titles vintage, and old timer. These are used because most cast iron is handed down from generation to generation and it lasts forever. When something like that happens it is because of quality build or has no better substitute. Cooking pans have changed over the years and yes there are products out there that are better than cast iron just not at the cost of cast iron. You can buy a lodge number 12 skillet new for 25 dollars. A comparable number 12 non cast iron skillet of quality starts at 40 dollars and easily gets to 100 dollars before you actually get to the items you would hand down to your grand children.
Here is a nice rusty cast iron skillet.
The worst part of cast iron is the smallest amount of neglect turns to rust. Now you can always cure the rust it just takes time and elbow grease. Then there is the iron part which if you have any issues with iron then cast iron is not for you.
Cast iron is one of the best metals for its efficient use of heat. A cast iron skillet heats up evenly so if you are cooking crapes it gives them that golden brown all across. Not just on one side or uneven like many other lesser skillets. So lets say you own a real nice car, maybe a Cadillac. You love your Cadillac because it is high quality, leather, fast, comfy all sorts of others stuff. Then one day someone says to you "know what, you should think of getting another car because your Cadillac is big and it takes you 20 extra seconds to park it." So you listen to this persons advice and get a real small car, lets say a KIA Rio because it is small and now look at how efficient you are at parking. Then 3 years down the road your Cadillac still is real nice and holds up but your efficient parker Rio is now starting to wear down. The engine has a knock, the door handles are loose and the seats have stains. With this example lets look at how much better you were off with the second car? Not much, and so goes with the bringing an extra skillet on a camping event because you are lazy and don't want to spend the 5 extra minutes to properly clean out your cast iron. It is just a waste of space and money. Now if that is the case they do sell enameled cast iron which is for those that hate cleaning cast iron but love the quality of cooking with cast iron. Go figure, someone already made cast iron for wusses.
Above is enameled cast iron