Therefore, I want to revisit some of what I wrote last year on Amazon, making a few modifications and updates now that I’ve had this little cast iron wonder for a little over a year.
I've always been particular to charcoal grilling over gas. But in my adult life, I've previously been satisfied getting the cheapest charcoal grill available and using it until it fell apart. Now, however, since I have the Lodge cast iron Sportsman's Grill (from this point forward, simply LSG), I anticipate that this will be the last grill I ever own. Because it's cast iron, as long as it's well cared for, it should last a lifetime.
My wife got me this grill for an anniversary present. Having developed a passion for cooking in cast iron like many of you, I had been eyeing it for quite some time. When it arrived, it came in a box unassembled, but I had it put together within a couple of minutes. All of the pieces simply stay in place with gravity with the exception of the bottom which is screwed into the fire bowl.
I enjoyed this grill so much last year, I believe we grilled out more last summer and fall than in the previous five or so years combined. While almost anything can be cooked to perfection on the LSG, I’ve also since discovered Omaha Steaks. We enjoyed them so much last year, we had to adjust our monthly grocery budget just to make sure we could place at least one modest order a month. I’ve known for a while that their steaks and burgers are great, but on Memorial Day earlier this week, I also discovered that Omaha Steaks also carries some of the best hot dogs and brats I’ve ever tasted. The brats were much more flavorful than many I’ve tried, and the hot dogs were three times the size of a normal frankfurter with great taste to boot.
Three brats, four burgers, and one ribeye--merely part of all that we grilled on Memorial Day this year.
Here are some things I've discovered over the last year or so cooking on my Lodge Sportsman’s Grill:
1. If you're going to use this grill a lot, you don't want to have it sitting on the ground. Or at least I don't with my sore back! So rather than finding some weatherproof pre-made table, I constructed a little grilling platform out of cinder blocks and patio stones. As you can see in the pictures, it looks much more attractive than it sounds. The materials cost me merely $17 and I guarantee you I have a more sturdy grilling area than anything I could have purchased. There’s no strong wind that’s going to blow over this grilling stand! Plus, I can temporarily stow tongs and spatulas in the open spaces of the cinder blocks.
2. Because cast iron heats evenly, the entire top grill is hot. I don't have to worry about colds spots on the grill as I've had to in the past assuming that I’ve distributed the charcoal fairly evenly. I read about one user of the LSG spraying the grill with olive oil-flavored Pam, which I often do, too. And with the oil based marinade I sometimes use, food sizzles when I set it down on this grill, just like when I put it in a cast iron skillet. I never get tired of the sound of cast iron sizzle whether it comes from a skillet or the LSG.
3. Speaking of a cast iron skillet, this grill is the best of both worlds. The grates of the top grill are flat on top and the slits are fairly narrow. It really is like grilling and cooking in a skillet combined. By oiling the grill before use, I've yet to have anything stick to it. And the slots are much more narrow than grills I've used in the past, so the danger of a burger falling through into the coals are a thing of the past.
4. The LSG will cook just about anything you throw on it. I’ve cooked steaks, burgers, chicken, pork chops, brats, hot dogs and more. I really like the control I get over the food. So many times with a traditional charcoal grill, I've scorched food if I wasn't paying attention. Because this is made of cast iron and because of the flat cooking surface, it's much easier to control the cooking. Pork chops I cooked on the grill were nicely browned on the outside, but not burnt and juicy inside. The burgers were perfectly done as well. It's much easier to control the fire on this grill than others I've used.
5. Warning: be careful with perfectly round hot dogs. There's no side to the grill surface and a round hot dog can simply roll off if you're not careful. Hot dogs that are a bit squared are much easier to control, and it helps to not crowd them so that they can be turned over. Notice the attractive brown (but not black and scorched!) stripes. Another solution as suggested by Greg on Black Iron Dude is to simply turn the top grill upside down so that there’s a small protrusion at the edges to keep your dogs from falling off. I haven’t tried this yet, but now I wonder why I hadn’t thought of that!
6. Don’t think that this grill is not up to cooking for large groups--it is! My wife was concerned that the grill was so small that we wouldn't be able to adequately entertain guests. As you can see here and in the pictures in our gallery, I easily fit eight quarter pound burgers from Omaha Steaks on the grill. That's perfectly adequate for any entertaining that we will do, and even if we have more folks over, two or three rounds of eight won't take that long.
7. Due to the LSG's flat surface on top, I could easily cook in a skillet or dutch oven on top of this grill without the pan wobbling. I’ve cooked food in 8” skillets, 10 1/4” skillets, sizzle skillets, and even dutch ovens. It’s the perfect grill to take camping as it allows for a wide diversity in what kinds of food can be prepared.
When camping, the LSG can be used with a dutch oven as an alternative to placing the dutch oven directly into live coals.
“Mountain Man Breakfast” made in a dutch oven on top of the LSG.
Baked beans in a rolling boil right next to hamburgers. The beans are in a 10 1/4 Lodge skillet
Cheeseburgers and corn on the cob (yeah, I know that’s not a cast iron pan, but it wasn’t my pan!)
Mushrooms & onions in olive oil on a sizzle skillet
8. To clean the top grill, I've used a stiff plastic brush and the nylon scrapers you can get from any Pampered Chef rep for cleaning a baking stone. As with any cast iron, you don't want to use soap as it can strip the seasoning or even leave a soap taste. I simply take the top grill to the kitchen sink and scrub it down with the brush and hot water. I use the scraper to get any food between the slots. It can be a bit tedious to clean between every groove, but it's really not difficult to clean.
9. It may not be clear from the pictures, but the coals sit on a removable fire grate about an inch and a half above the bottom of the grill. This allows for air flow under the coals via an adjustable draft door. As the coals turn to ash, some will fall through the grate.
10. For cleaning the bottom part below the fire grate, I've experimented with lining the bottom with aluminum foil to make removing the ashes a bit easier. I did this a lot when I first bought the grill, but I do it less often now. If you try this, you want to be careful not to let the foil block the vent behind the draft door so that you can have air circulating under your coals. After I lift out the ashes, I've simply been sweeping out the ash dust that remains. As with any grill you don't want to leave heavy amounts of ash in place as it can become corrosive if it mixes with moisture.
11. As mentioned above, I clean the top grill like I would any cast iron skillet. If necessary, the grill top could even be re-seasoned in the oven or perhaps simply by covering it in a thin layer of lard or other cooking oil and placing it over hot coals. I haven’t had a need to do this yet, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
12. For the start of this year’s grilling, I covered the bottom part of the grill with black stovepipe paint. The idea of painting cast iron would certainly be taboo for many, and I would agree if we were talking about the cooking surface. However, everything below the top grill--the fire bowl, the bottom, the fire grate, the fire door, the draft door--never comes into direct contact with food. Interestingly, when a LSG arrives brand new, every piece of the grill is covered in Lodge’s pre-seasoning. Again, this makes perfect sense for the top grill, but not for the rest of the grill. By this spring, the bottom part of my grill had lost all the pre-seasoning in quite a few places (the grill does get extremely hot, after all). I even had a couple of minor rust spots. While I could have simply re-seasoned it, this seemed neither practical or necessary. Instead, I cleaned everything really well before my first grilling of the year, and then I covered everything except the top grill with black stovepipe paint that is good for up to 1200° Fahrenheit. I am very pleased with the results and the painted grill makes it look brand new again. If this is something I need to do every year or two, I don’t mind at all. And my hunch is the paint will act as a better protection from weather than the mere pre-seasoning from Lodge.
This is a shot of my grill that I took last week. Even though I’ve had it for over a year, it still looks
brand new because I completely painted everything but the top grill with black stovetop paint.
13. If you're going to keep the grill outside, you must get the Lodge Sportsman's Grill Cover. The cover is long enough for the elastic bottom to fit under the legs of the grill keeping water out from all sides in the case of rain. Outside of that, I’d recommend bringing the grill inside if it’s not going to be used for a while, perhaps during the winter months.
Again, I'm thoroughly delighted with this grill, and as I said anticipate it will last me the rest of my life. That is, unless I decide that I need two of them. While grilling on Memorial day (steaks, burgers, brats, and hot dogs), I thought to myself, maybe I just need a second LSG to fire up beside the first one...
14. For travel, I purchased a couple of extra patio stones that I'm keeping in the back of my truck. This grill is portable enough that I’ve taken it with me on a number of occasions. But what do you do if you’re through tailgating and the grill is still hot? The extra patio stones were the answer. This way when the grill is hot after I've cooked with it, I won't have to worry about the hot feet eating through the liner in the bed of my truck. I can simply set it on the patio stones.
15. Yes, you can carry it with the handle, but it’s only balanced if all extra pieces are removed. Don’t try to carry this grill by the handle for any long distance if it is fully assembled. The grill becomes much lighter and easier to carry if the top grill, fire door, and draft door are removed first. Then it remains fairly balanced simply with the wire handle itself. However, I would note that I was grilling one time last fall when a sudden downpour threatened to end our grilling all together for the day. With the careful help of a friend, we picked up the grill with live coals and carried it (protecting our hands with gloves and hot pads) through the house to the front where I had cover from the rain.
Have questions about the Lodge Sportsman’s Grill? Want to share your own experiences? Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his book Cast Iron Cooking: From Johnnycakes to Blackened Redfish, A. D. Livingston famously says, “If you’ve got a dutch oven, you don’t need no damn wok.” And while in essence that’s true--that you can cook just about anything in a dutch oven that you can cook in a wok--it doesn’t mean that a wok isn’t of tremendous value or even that a wok won’t be a better choice for any kind of stir-fry dish.
Kathy and I have been having our own “Asian night” for a while. A few years ago, her brother, Clark, gave me a traditional steel wok. We’ve used it for stir-fry on many occasions, almost always with rice and whatever leftovers were in the refrigerator. Lately, we added a very basic egg drop soup to the menu as well, and at this point I decided I really needed a second wok.
Of course, if I was going to buy a wok myself, knowing that Lodge makes a cast iron wok, I knew this was the one I had to have. In looking at customer comments on Amazon.com and other places, while some folks raved about the Lodge cast iron wok, I also discovered there were wok purists who decried it for being too heavy or that the cast iron was simply not the right kind of metal for stir-fry.
If you’re reading this post, you would probably agree with me that most food is simply better in cast iron! With this assumption in hand, I ordered the Lodge cast iron wok.
My first impression regarding the new wok was how large it was! In the picture above, you see it next to a standard 10 1/4” cast iron skillet. The weight of the cast iron makes for a pan that stays still. I don’t have to hold on to one side of it as I stir.
And as I’ve mentioned before, unfortunately, our current home has an electric range (never again!), but the diameter of the base is small enough that I can actually use the wok--as big as it is--from the smaller burner. As with any wok, by concentrating the heat at the bottom, food that needs less heat can be pushed to the sides.
Cast iron required: cast iron wok
When I make stir-fry, I usually start with sesame oil which I allow to get hot at the bottom of the pan over a medium heat. The sesame oil will give a dish a nice Asian flavor. As I mentioned, we often add whatever is available from leftovers, but if we are including ingredients like uncooked bacon, shrimp, or even raw vegetables like onions (green, white, or yellow) or broccoli, it’s best to add these ingredients first to the oil. I want to always be careful that any meat is fully cooked. Any meat or raw vegetables should be added before the rice which should already be cooked. When adding broccoli, I generally cook it to a bright green, but Kathy often wants it cooked a bit longer.
At this point, I will add in rice that is already cooked. Usually we have leftover rice from another meal, which is often our excuse for stir-fry in the first place. Soy sauce is added to taste. Now the primary purpose is to heat the rice to the same temperature as the rest of the ingredients. The final touch is to add a bit of egg. If raw egg is added to the mixture at this point, it will simply be lost. A better method is to lightly scramble a couple of eggs in another, smaller skillet and right before they are a the point I might serve them as a breakfast item, I take them and add them to the stir-fry, mixing them in without mixing them so fine that they are lost. White pepper and a little more soy sauce or even sesame oil can be added if necessary to taste.
EGG DROP SOUP
Cast iron optional, but a wok (steel or cast iron) is a nice touch
We now use our original steel wok for the egg drop soup. Technically, you don’t need a wok to make egg drop soup, but it certainly seems appropriate to make it in one. The recipe is a very basic one by Rhonda Parkinson which I found a while back on the internet. Although cast iron isn’t really required, I include this recipe here for the sake of completeness. This recipe is basic and easy to make, and to us, it’s as good or better than any egg drop soup we’d get in a restaurant.
- 4 cups chicken broth or stock
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1-2 green onions, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- Salt to taste
- A few drops of sesame oil (optional)
In a wok or saucepan, bring the 4 cups of chicken broth to a boil. Add the white pepper and salt, and the sesame oil if using. Cook for about another minute.
Very slowly pour in the eggs in a steady stream. To make shreds, stir the egg rapidly in a clockwise direction for one minute. To make thin streams or ribbons, gently stir the eggs in a clockwise direction until they form.
Garnish with green onion and serve.
THAILAND PEANUT PESTO (shown here with optional shrimp & broccoli)
Cast Iron Required: Wok
Another recipe we’ve made recently in the wok is Thailand Peanut Pesto which I found on the Tabasco website. This recipe requires one to make a homemade peanut sauce which is just as good as anything I’ve ever had in a restaurant. Kathy generally doesn’t care for peanut-flavored Asian recipes, but she loves this one.
- 1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
- 1/3 cup Tabasco brand Soy Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Original Tabasco brand Pepper Sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup sesame oil
- 1 pound bowtie pasta, cooked according to package instructions
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
Place peanuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. With motor running, add remaining ingredients except pasta and green onions, one at a time, through feeder tube. Process until a thick, smooth paste has formed.
Transfer mixture to a bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Toss with hot cooked pasta and garnish with green onion.
Makes 4 servings.
Try adding vegetables such as steamed broccoli or snow peas to this, or turn it into an entrée by adding cooked chicken or shrimp.
Ultimately, I’m quite pleased with the cast iron wok from Lodge. It’s heavy so that it doesn’t move on the stovetop while stirring food in it, and everything I’ve cooked in it has been wonderful so far. Whether you are a cast iron aficionado or whether you simply enjoy Asian food, I highly recommend this wok for your cooking enjoyment.
Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at email@example.com.