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Say I have Lodge cast iron skillet. I've had it for a while, but just recently started using it more (it's 12" and I don't often need a pan that big). One thing I've noticed about it is the cooking surface is rough - kind of like...well, like cast iron. When I was a kid my family had a couple of cast iron skillets that saw everyday use, and as I recall the cooking surface on those was really, really smooth. Not a bump on them. I don't think my memory is failing me on this, because I spent a lot of hours using those pans, and even more cleaning them! Is this something that just happens with years of use, or did I just get an inferior pan?

BTW 1996maroonzjf, I like your tripod setup, but it looks like the grill would swing a lot. I would think it would take one hand to hold the pan steady when you were doing anything with it. How do you like it? Is it hard to work with?
A lot of people don't believe it but the lodge stuff is an inferior product to the old stuff. I have a few old pans I got from my grandma, who got them from her aunt I believe, and they have a machined surface. You can see that they were turned on a lathe to get rid of the casting marks. A lodge pan may smooth out over time, but it is my belief that you would be better off buying old cast iron with an already smooth bottom. This is going to be more beneficial if you are trying to cook things that like to stick a lot, like eggs, etc. Bacon, steaks, etc. probably aren't going to make a lot of difference. I've been trying to avoid cooking with teflon over the last few years and pretty much only use cast iron and stainless, with a couple of exceptions, one being my backpacking pot that I like the non-stick for easy cleaning in the woods.

From Rich Soil's cast iron article: http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp#good

start with a good piece of cast iron cookware

I bought a brand spanking new "Lodge Logic" cast iron skillet at some department store. After seasoning it, I used lots of oil ... sometimes food stuck to it, sometimes it didn't. I gave google a big workout and I found lots of internet forums to ask lots of questions. The most common feedback was to take a close look at the cooking surface of this new skillet. It's rough. Apparently, long ago, there were two grades of a cast iron skillet one could purchase. The first is where molten iron is poured into a mold and that's it. The second is where they take the first and machine out the cooking surface to make it much smoother. But that machining process usually doubles the price.
Today's new cast iron cookware is all the first kind. The surface is rough. I shopped around for a long time to try and find something new with a machined surface. The closest thing I found was a griddle made from sheet steel.
Many of the experienced cast iron folk recommended buying a heavily used skillet. The most popular brand being "Griswold" - a company that went out of business in the 1950's. Not only were these skillets machined, but if they were heavily used, their cooking surface would be downright glassy!
I bought a Griswold number 10 cast iron skillet for $20 plus shipping on ebay. This was a huge improvement over the Lodge cast iron skillet. I have to mention that I tried to buy a Griswold cast iron skillet for a friend a few months ago and the price was more like $50! But I easily found other old (Wagner) cast iron skillets for $15.
Time passed and I thought "Why not take the Lodge cast iron skillet with the rough surface and grind it down myself?" I bought a bunch of sandpaper designed for use with metal and figured 20 minutes with my different power sanders and some elbow grease should make it right as rain! Three hours later I had burned through way too much sandpaper and the results were so-so. It was a messy, icky experience that left me numb and wobbly with a ringing in my ears for a few days. The skillet worked okay for a few weeks and then cracked.
I think a person could buy a new cast iron skillet, follow all of the advice on this page and if used twice a day for six months it would probably be just as good as an old skillet. The most important ingredient would include the use of a stainless steel spatula with a flat edge: as it is used over and over, it will take the "peaks" off as the "valleys" fill with "seasoning"(more on the spatula and the "seasoning" below). It's just that the first few months will have more frustration than if you started off with a great cast iron skillet.
My impression is that general consensus to get the best cast iron skillet is to buy a Griswold cast iron skillet from ebay (try for a number 10 cast iron skillet for about $40 plus shipping). The other techniques are just too much work or add too much frustration. I've bought cast iron cookware with a lot of crusty stuff that I managed to get off with a fire. And I've bought cast iron cookware that was seriously pitted that seems to work okay - although I far prefer the cast iron that is not pitted. I see ads mentioning "no warp" or "not warped" or "level" and am grateful that I have yet to encounter this sort of thing. There are people that collect Griswold cast iron cookware, so there are sometimes pieces that have something interesting going on that sell for something like $500!
This might be a good time to point out that I picked up a Wagner cast iron skillet for a dollar at a yard sale a couple of years ago. It seems like the iron is a little thinner, but it works great! It might not be widely considered the best cast iron skillet, but it is widely considered to be far better than the "lodge logic" stuff found in stores today. A Wagner cast iron skillet usually runs a lot cheaper than Griswold on ebay.
 

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Some CI i have found at flea markets and yard sales

Here are some more i just finished

#11 unmarked Griswold NES Pan

Made before 1920

Before





After





#8 Griswold Sm. Logo
Very minor wobble, pitting on cook surface at 2 oclock
Made between 1939 and 1957
Before



After







#2 Wapak Scotch Bowl Slight wobble and minor pitting inside

made between 1903 and 1910

Before





After







 

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I agree. I love CI as it looks good, will not break and can go from stove to oven to table
See my above comment about thrift shops. You dont need to spend alot.

Here are my users



#6 #7 #8 Chicken fryer unmarked Wagners from the 60s

2 skillets were $10 for both at a flea market. The chicken fryer was bpought with another pan at a flea market. Both for $45. The other pan is worth about $250

#5 Wagner from the 50s..... $2 yard sale
#5 BSR from the 50s $6 yard sale
#4 Unmarked, believe its a Wagner...... free with other yard sale purchase
#8 with hammered sides, believe its a CHF from the 20s-30s.....$8 flea market
#10 Lodge very new model....... yard sale for $5
#8 Sidney Griddle from 1897-1903..... craigs list $15
#10 Favorite Piqua Smiley from 1916-1935.......craigs list $20

Also have a #8 Dutch Oven by BSR made in the 40's. Paid $20 off Craigs list

I use the griddles for pizza

I also have about 20 pieces that are collectable and are on eBay or about to be listed.
If anyone is interested in seeing those, let me know

As yp can see, you don't need to spend a lot of money for quality cookware
 

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phitmein said:
Hotshot, everytime I see your brick countertops I fall all back in love with them again . And, as per your nom de plume, are you running NOS in something Hotshot ? Life I hope . ;)
It's related to my trucking business. You've likely heard of oil field related trucking referred as Hotshot, right? We don't do much oil field related work but We run a lot of Hotshot style trucks hauling lite weight full loads, LTL freight, and vehicles all over the Western half of the country.

www.flatbedcarrier.com
 

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I ran a grinder and a flap disk on the bottom of my brother's Lodge. It did seem to help a bit.
 

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That sounds like it would work much better than the belt sander. I may give that a try, thanks.
I actually watched him cook bacon on it tonight. He said the first pound stuck on his first cook but the second pound cooked quite well tonight. This was after 3 or 4 seasonings.
 

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If abrasives harder than cast iron must be used on the inside of a skillet, I would recommend steel wool, hammering, or scraping with a flat tungsten tool. A microscopic look at sanded surfaces even in the 600 grit and above range shows that the jagged silicon carbide and aluminum oxide boulders that are bonded to the paper wreck havoc on the surfaces they abrade. It may feel smooth to the fingers, but it looks more like a carpet under magnification.
 

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I actually watched him cook bacon on it tonight. He said the first pound stuck on his first cook but the second pound cooked quite well tonight. This was after 3 or 4 seasonings.
Bacon is always a tough one for me. I've pretty much just started cooking it in the oven on parchment paper in a cookie pan. I'm too impatient when cooking it on the stove. If I cook it nice and slow I don't overheat the grease on the bottom of the pan and it stays nice and slick. If I cook it fast enough to not lose my mind I end up with overheated sticky grease adhered to the bottom of the pan which means I have to clean the pan before I can cook eggs in it without it sticking. Pretty much negates the benefit of using only one pan.
 

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Bacon is always a tough one for me. I've pretty much just started cooking it in the oven on parchment paper in a cookie pan. I'm too impatient when cooking it on the stove. If I cook it nice and slow I don't overheat the grease on the bottom of the pan and it stays nice and slick. If I cook it fast enough to not lose my mind I end up with overheated sticky grease adhered to the bottom of the pan which means I have to clean the pan before I can cook eggs in it without it sticking. Pretty much negates the benefit of using only one pan.
You might try scraping the bacon residue over to the side of the pan with a stainless steel spatula. Then float your egg on the bacon grease.

For my part, I rather prefer bacon in a non-stick pan since it is best cooked in its own oil.
 

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You might try scraping the bacon residue over to the side of the pan with a stainless steel spatula. Then float your egg on the bacon grease.

For my part, I rather prefer bacon in a non-stick pan since it is best cooked in its own oil.
But I can cook a whole pound at once in a baking sheet and by the time you are done it is floating in its own oil. Don't even have to flip it. I just need to get something to keep my grease in, I haven't been saving it since I moved.

The tough part then is getting the grease into a vessel to save it without spilling it all over. :drool:
 

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But I can cook a whole pound at once in a baking sheet and by the time you are done it is floating in its own oil. Don't even have to flip it. I just need to get something to keep my grease in, I haven't been saving it since I moved.

The tough part then is getting the grease into a vessel to save it without spilling it all over. :drool:
I can cook a pound at a time. It doesn't need to touch the pan.

Take the bacon out with tongs.

I let the fat cool down a little and pour it into a coffee cup, cover with Saran Wrap and put in the frig. Always have a nice pure white cup of bacon fat on hand for saute or other tasks. The non stick pan avoids the messy foil and I after pouring off the fat, just rinse it out with hot water.
 

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Bacon is always a tough one for me. I've pretty much just started cooking it in the oven on parchment paper in a cookie pan. I'm too impatient when cooking it on the stove. If I cook it nice and slow I don't overheat the grease on the bottom of the pan and it stays nice and slick. If I cook it fast enough to not lose my mind I end up with overheated sticky grease adhered to the bottom of the pan which means I have to clean the pan before I can cook eggs in it without it sticking. Pretty much negates the benefit of using only one pan.
FYI
Any pan that is hot enough to cook bacon, is too hot to cook eggs. That's why they stick. Either let it cool with the heat at 3-4 or use 2 pans.


 

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There is a difference of opinion on this issue.

Many fine cooks take the hot oil, turn the gas down (You have to get rid of that electric. No one can cook well on electric) and drop in the egg(s). They brown around the edges and get a little crispy. It is those crispy edges that many think define a really good fried egg.

Then as the oil cools down they cook at the proper temperature. A gentle rollover and then the decision to have thick yolk or very runny. My preference is thick but flowing.

PS: nice flip.
 

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The albumin like stuff on your salmon can be avoided by brining before cooking. That also has the advantage of a mild salty season. And, I start my salmon face down in a smoking hot skillet to give the top a little sear. One can also put the torch to it like they do in fine restaurants. Glaze then torch. $8 salmon filet becomes $28 entree.
 

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wilson1010 said:
The albumin like stuff on your salmon can be avoided by brining before cooking. That also has the advantage of a mild salty season. And, I start my salmon face down in a smoking hot skillet to give the top a little sear. One can also put the torch to it like they do in fine restaurants. Glaze then torch. $8 salmon filet becomes $28 entree.
I've done both ways, we were in a hurry, when you brine, what concentration do you use and for how long?
 

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I've done both ways, we were in a hurry, when you brine, what concentration do you use and for how long?
I never know. So, I just sprinkle some kosher salt in a bowl and add cold water. If I had to guess, its probably a level tablespoon to a pint (16oz) water. 5 minutes.

What I'd like to know is what glazes the restaurants use to get that crisp top but without some distracting flavor. I tried honey and a propane torch and didn't like it.
 

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