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A Black Iron Haven
Instructional/How To

Why Cast Iron? Five Reasons

Posted by Rick Mansfield

Every now and then, someone asks me--“So what’s the big deal about cast iron?” There are plenty of other pans around. Plenty of other ways to cook. Why should someone entertain the use of cast iron cookware to begin with?

Here are a few reasons to use cast iron. Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of cooking in cast iron for a while, and this will help to push you over.

Macaroni & Cheese in Cast Iron
(1) Cooking in Cast Iron Makes Food Tastes Great. It’s easy to talk about food that tastes good, but I only hear about cookware that makes food taste better from folks who have switched to cast iron. Cast iron distributes heat evenly over the cooking surface, second only to copper pans. But cast iron has an advantage because its unique properties affects the texture of food cooked in it. Anyone who’s ever eaten a properly cooked piece of cornbread from a cast iron skillet can testify to this. Maybe it’s true that copper conducts heat better, but I never hear anyone bragging about cornbread made in a copper pan! I’ve begun cooking casseroles in cast iron for this very reason, but even sauteed vegetables and meats cooked with a light amount of olive oil produce results that pans of other materials simply cannot match.

(2) Cooking in Cast Iron Is Healthy. This is true for a number of reasons. First, cast iron pans are a great way to get trace amounts of iron into your diet (see the first question and answer here). Many have pointed to the rise of other materials for cookware (aluminum, chemically treated non-stick pans, etc.) in the mid-twentieth century as a direct correlation to the rise in people being diagnosed with iron deficiencies today.

There are also serious questions raised about the danger of cooking surfaces such as teflon when used at high temperatures (see MSNBC: “Teflon Chemical Cancer Risks Downplayed”). It is well known that fumes from teflon pans (and possibly other chemically treated non-stick surfaces) can cause the death of birds kept as family pets (see “The Silent Killer” by Joanie Doss).

Aluminum pans aren’t necessarily safe either. Though a definite causal relationship has not yet been established, a common factor seen in Alzheimer’s patients are aluminum strands found in the brain (see Alzheimer’s Society: “Aluminum and Alzheimer’s Disease”). Whether aluminum cookware is one of the factors in this is yet unknown, but some believe that heating foods at high heat in aluminum pans causes the metal to leech into foods. Note also that aluminum pans are almost universally used in restaurants where food is usually cooked quickly at very high temperatures.

On the other hand, cooking in cast iron negatively affects only an extremely small portion of the population--those who suffer from too much iron in the blood. This condition is referred to as hemochromatosis. This is not an issue for the average person, and for those who suffer from too much iron in the blood, I’d still recommend enameled cast iron for all the other reasons mentioned here.

Another healthy aspect of cooking in cast iron is that it is so enjoyable, you will be encouraged to cook at home more often, which is always healthier than eating out or warming up pre-packed foods in the oven.

(3) Cooking in Cast Iron is Versatile. Not only that, it’s durable as well. What other kind of cookware can move so effortlessly between the stove top and the campfire? Today, cast iron can be found in use from all sorts of people--from the gourmet chef to the campfire cook.

Although cast iron is making a strong return to America’s kitchens, it never left the campsite. It was cast iron that sustained America from the earliest pilgrims to the pioneers who traveled west. Cast iron is hardy and very difficult to permanently damage unless it’s downright abused. I’ve easily used some of the same pans in my kitchen when we’ve gone camping as well. Although most campers will want to obtain dutch ovens specific to the campfire, a lot of us can confess to throwing regular dutch ovens in the fire, too, with no harm coming to them because of it.

(4) Cooking in Cast Iron Is Responsible. You’ll want to see my post “Green Iron: The Environmental Benefits of Cooking in Cast Iron,” but needless to say, cast iron is perhaps the most environmentally friendly kind of cookware available. When treated well (and often even when not!) cast iron can last for generations. I regularly use my grandmother’s skillets (one of which is pictured to the right) which are at least 70 years old, but that’s nothing. There are cast iron pans from the 19th century still in regular use today! Older pots than that are around, too, and if most of them weren’t in museums, they would still cook just fine.

Before we started using cast iron as our main cookware, there’s no telling how many other pans we eventually wore out and then threw out. Non-stick heating surfaces on those other pans eventually started flaking, so we’d throw them out. But after switching to cast iron a few years ago, I fully expect to be using the same pans--including my grandmother’s--for at least another three or four decades (assuming I live that long). After that, I will pass them on to others, which leads to the next benefit of cooking in cast iron...

(5) Cooking in Cast Iron Creates a Legacy. In his book Dutch Ovens Chronicled, John Ragsdale points out that Mary Washington (the mother of George Washington) included her cast iron collection in her will (see p. 28). I’ve already mentioned that I regularly use two of my grandmother’s skillets and still assume I will be doing so when they are well over a century old.

We also have a couple of cast iron chicken fryers left to us from Kathy’s grandmother that I’m in the process of restoring. According to Kathy’s mother, her father used to often clean these pans by throwing them into a fire in the back yard!

Now think about it for a second. Do you really think that your aluminum pans, your chemically-treated non-stick pans, or your electric skillet will be in use too many years from now? Is there any chance you'd be able to will them to your family members? Would you even want to?

With cast iron, it's a different story.

When done with thought and care, the preparation and eating of meals together can be very intimate and memorable occasions. In today’s busy society, too often people don’t take the time to make a meal from scratch and sit around the table together. When I make my grandmother’s cornbread (see recipe here) in her skillet, I think of all the times I sat at her table eating her wonderful foods. That skillet is forever tied to her memory. I can’t use it without thinking of her. If I had to only keep one item in my cast iron collection, I would choose that one.

One day I will pass on my cast iron to others. I hope that when they use them, they will think of me and the good times we had sitting around the dinner table.

Perhaps you have a cast iron pan or pot from a family member who has now passed on. Take that pan down, relive some memories and create some new ones.

Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at

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Tip: Baking in Cast Iron is for More than Cornbread

Posted by Rick Mansfield

The other night a couple told Kathy and me, “We need to have you come over and show us how to do more with our skillet than just make corn bread.”

Oh where to even begin?

But many folks who use their cast iron regularly, don’t realize how versatile something like a skillet is for ordinary baking.

When it comes to baking and cast iron, I’m convinced of two things:
  1. Food tastes better in cast iron. If you’ve ever had macaroni and cheese baked in a cast iron skillet or a casserole cooked in a dutch oven instead of a traditional casserole pan of aluminum or glass, you know what I mean. Cast iron provides a texture to the outer layer of food that just can’t be duplicated in other pans.
  2. Baking is VERY “healthy” for your cast iron’s seasoning. If you only use your skillet on the stove top, you will probably have to re-season it (at least the inside bottom of the pan) more often than you will if you’re using it inside the oven, too.
So rethink how you bake in the oven. Do you normally grab a cookie sheet? Casserole dish? Pizza pan? Next time, take a look at your cast iron and see if you have something that might work instead. You may find that the quality of your food is a whole lot better!

Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at

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Can I Use Cast Iron on a Glass Top Range?

Posted by Rick Mansfield

I often have people email me asking if it’s okay to use cast iron with glass top ranges. Some range manufacturers include warnings against using cast iron with their products. And the RangeKleen fryer we reviewed last year had a warning against its use on a glass surface. Of course, we ignored that, and I’ll tell you why below.

What’s the big deal about cast iron and glass (or even ceramic) surfaces? Well, glass can get scratched. We live in such an over-protective culture that we often throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes when it comes to erring on the side of judgment. For instance, many schools have gotten rid of playground equipment because some children might get hurt on it. I got hurt on playground equipment when I was a kid, but I promise you, I’d rather have had it than to not have it. Ladder companies tell us not to use that top step as a step because some people have been reckless enough to do it and have gotten hurt. I wonder how long before you can’t buy a ladder. And just try finding a diving board for a backyard pool these days. You can find one, but it’s getting difficult.

Anyway, companies that make glass top ranges don’t want you to call them up complaining about how easily their surfaces get scratched, so they simply tell you not to put anything heavy on it-- especially cast iron! By the way, the heaviness of cast iron could also cause your glass top range to break if you dropped a pan, so this is another concern with the company.

Now, I don’t want you to call me up complaining about your scratched or broken range top either, but I can tell you that IF (this is a big if) you are careful, you can use a glass top range or stovetop with no problems. In fact, if you notice in most of my pictures, such as the one above, Kathy and I have a glass range right now. In reality, I much prefer a gas range, but this is just where we live right now and we’ve made do.

I can tell you that we use cast iron all the time on our glass top range. Cast iron works great on a glass top range. In fact because a glass range heats evenly and cast iron heats evenly, it’s a pretty good match. I would even guess that today, gas ranges are probably in the minority for most kitchens even though most of us who really “get into” cooking prefer them.

If you have a glass top range, let me offer a few suggestions for keeping it unscratched (and unbroken!) and in tip-top shape.

  1. Keep you range top CLEAN. Usually what scratches your range top is some kind of abrasive substance between the surface and your pan. Also, make certain that your cleaner is specifically designed for the range you have. Usually the manufacturer recommends specific cleaners. If yours doesn’t, check on the label of the product you are buying. Glass range cleaners can usually be found at appliance stores, home improvement stores, discount stores and more.
  2. By the same token, keep the bottom of your pan clean. If you’ve got gunk building up on the bottom of that pan, know that it can damage a smooth surface range.
  3. Don’t slide cast iron around on the surface. Sliding any pan around--cast iron or otherwise--is going to eventually leave marks on the surface of your range. Pick it straight UP. Which, of course, leads to...
  4. Set cast iron down gently onto your smooth-top cooking surface. If you’ve ever been burned by a pan coming out of a 400° oven, you know how easy it is to simply drop it on the floor or your range top. Use both hands and use pot holders that are thick enough. I’ve learned the hard way that those little mitts that fit over the the skillet handle is not enough protection for a pan that has been in a hot oven for any period of time. I also feel that the short handle on newer skillets across from the regular handle is genius. This really helps the cook use both hands when handling a hot skillet.
By the way, I ran a quick survey of our panelists in regard to what kind of range they use. JT and Pat use a gas range, but Kathy and I as well as Leila have a smooth top electric range. One great aspect of cast iron is that it is so versatile it can be used with just about any kind of heating source--open flame or flat glass or even coals from the campfire.

Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at

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Experimenting with Scallops

Posted by Rick Mansfield

The vast majority of my experience with scallops comes from eating them, not cooking them. I’ve also noticed that scallops are often the foil on Gordan Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen as he screams at the competing chefs that the scallops are either raw (undercooked) or like rubber (overcooked) before hurling them against the wall. So, in light of the fact that I do like scallops quite a bit, and because I took Ramsay’s rants on television as a bit of a personal challenge, I decided I would see if I could cook them myself.

I scanned the internet for methods as well as asking for input on the Castiron Cookware discussion list. I wanted to start out as basic as possible knowing that I can later expand from there. After reading as much as I thought was necessary, I settled on a very basic method.

First, I decided upon using a skillet a bit larger than my normal 10 1/4” that serves as my primary cast iron instrument. Having read that scallops need to have room when they cook, I chose a Lodge Pro Logic 12" skillet so that the scallops would not be crowded together. Also from my reading and discussions, I learned that the scallops I normally enjoyed in restaurants were sea scallops as opposed to the smaller bay scallops. Every source I read or person I talked to made preference for sea scallops over bay scallops.

The only daunting aspect to the scallops was the price. Keep in mind that we now live in Kentucky, so sea scallops are not a native resource. They have to be shipped in. Although I’ve now found a slightly less expensive source for scallops, the ones you are looking at in the picture above cost more than a dollar each!

As I mentioned, I chose a very basic method for cooking the sea scallops. I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the 12” skillet. Then I cooked the scallops about two minutes each side, lightly sprinkling them with salt and pepper. When cooked properly, the scallops will have a light golden brown color to them. The finely manicured hand in the photo above is not mine, but Kathy’s as I took the picture; but you can see the eight that have been turned and the four remaining to be turned.

On the night that I experimented with scallops, we had brave guests over for dinner who sampled them with me. I chose to make the scallops an appetizer rather than the main dish not only because of their price, but also due to the fact that I was experimenting with them. Nevertheless, they came out perfect which makes me really wonder about the competence of those competing on Hell’s Kitchen. I mean, I really cannot overemphasize how easy these were to prepare.

With the scallops, I simply provided two dishes of melted butter and garlic for dipping, one of which had a few drops of Habanero Tabasco. Everyone thought the scallops were great, even Kathy who rarely strays from steak, burgers, or catfish.

Now that I’ve successfully cooked the scallops with the most basic of methods, I can begin experimenting with new recipes. What about you? How do you prepare scallops? Do you have a favorite recipe? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at

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More on the Lodge Cast Iron Grill

Posted by Rick Mansfield

Last month, I posted a review on the Lodge Sportsmans Grill (LSG). Yesterday, I got an email from a reader named John. He wrote:

I recently got the Lodge grill due to my need for a grill. Your review was very handy in explaining what to expect (I ordered via Amazon). I even bought cinder blocks and tiles to create a very similar setup (see attached photo)!

Here is the picture of John’s cinder block setup and mine for comparison below it.

The LSG gets extremely hot, and it’s very important to have some kind of surface below it that cannot be damaged. If you place one of these grills on a wooden deck surface, it will definitely leave burn marks. Patio stones, cinder blocks, etc. provide good protection. Plus, it gets the grill off the ground which is easier on one’s back!

John asked a few questions in his email which are in bold below, followed by my answers.

I used it once and am trying to figure out how to clean the parts other than the grill top, which I cleaned inside. I will try the aluminum foil tip next time (I forget to line it before using). I read some guy used a shop vac.

The shop vac is ideal. Small shop vacs are available that would be perfect even if only used for the LSG (assuming you grill enough to justify the purchase). When I clean mine, though, I remove the top grill and set it aside. Usually the fire grate still has coals on it, although these are really nothing more than ash themselves. I try to carefully pick this up to include as much of the ash as possible and pour this off into a trash bag (it’s very important to make sure none of the coals are still live!). Then, I take off the draft door and the fire door and simply turn the fire bowl over, dumping out any loose ash. I also keep a little brush inside one of the cinder block holes that I use to brush out extra ash. It’s really not a big deal if there’s a coating of ash remaining on the sides. As long as the grill is not getting wet, the ash is not going to harm the inside of the fire bowl. However, ash can be very corrosive on cast iron if it gets wet. Of course, keeping any cast iron item out of a wet environment should be assumed anyway.

At the end of last summer, I gave the fire bowl a really good thorough cleaning with hot water and a scraper. Grease will build up and carbonize on the sides and in the bottom. This itself will not really hurt the grill, so I don’t worry about it during the summer months of prime grilling. At the end of this year, after two years of use, I may put the fire bowl in the oven and turn on the cleaning cycle. Afterwards, everything but the top grill can be repainted with black stovepipe paint to look as good as new.

How do you light the coals? I used a chimney starter and transferred them over when they turned gray. But I realize that probably didn't give enough time for the cast grill to get hot enough.

If you don’t use a chimney starter, the other obvious is charcoal lighter fluid. Some feel that lighter fluid can affect the taste of grilled food. This is definitely true if the lighter fluid is a cheaper brand. It may not be as true with some brands. Regardless, it’s worth the effort to experiment. Most folks like a chimney starter. When using one of these, after putting the coals on top of the fire grate, place the top grill in place and let it sit for at least ten minutes before placing anything on the grill. This should give it enough time to heat up.

Any tips on the using the draft door?

I always have the draft door slightly open to allow air to circulate underneath the coals. This allows them to stay very hot while cooking; but if the coals are too hot, I close the door to allow less oxygen to get to the coals.

This is probably completely obvious, but the product descriptions say there are 2 adjustable levels. Do they mean you flip the top grill over (so the feet are sticking up)? Or is there some other way that I didn't notice to change the height?

Yes, you’re exactly right. If the grill is turned over, it will be lower and closer to the coals. Honestly, I rarely do this because the grill gets so hot with the top grill turned up right. However, I’ve learned (the hard way) that when grilling round hot dogs, the lower setting keeps them from rolling off. However, you must use less charcoal if cooking something like hot dogs, brats, or even smoked sausages on the lower setting.

I hope that helps some. I know that John is going to enjoy his grill. I am sold on the LSG, and will never purchase any other grill unless I simply get a second one to use beside the first one!

Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at

Review: Lodge Sportsman's Grill

Posted by Rick Mansfield

Greg’s recent post about the Lodge Sportsman’s Grill over at Black Iron Dude made me realize that while I’ve posted pictures of my grill a number of times here on Cooking in Cast Iron, I’ve never offered a formal review. Perhaps that is because technically, I’d already written a review on about two months before we started this website.

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.

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.

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...

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

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Breaking in the New Wok

Posted by Rick Mansfield

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 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.

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.

MacGourmet users, click image to download recipe (or simply drag image to your MacGourmet recipe box).

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.

MacGourmet users, click image to download recipe (or simply drag image to your MacGourmet recipe box).

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

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Veggie Tales

Posted by Kathy Mansfield

Like most kids, I despised vegetables. In fact, I recall living solely on Spaghetti-O’s for a good portion of my growing up years. So, the fact that I will even go near vegetables as an adult is a minor miracle. All this to say, the following cast-iron vegetable dishes must be fairly tasty if I’m willing to put them on my plate. I hope you will enjoy them, too.

Mom’s Squash and Onion Sauté

Mom used to make this dish when I was younger, and I thought it looked absolutely disgusting, so naturally I refused to eat it. At some point in my thirties, I attempted the dish on my own with slight variations (sweetened, caramelized onions, etc.) and found a new favorite. Now Mom actually prefers my recipe!

  • 10 1/4” cast iron skillet

  • 4 large yellow squash, peeled and sliced fairly thin
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar or artificial sweetener
  • Salt to taste

Heat oil in 10 1/4 inch cast iron skillet. Sautee onions until almost caramelized.

Place squash slices on top of onions.

Cover and cook approximately 15 minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally to rotate onions to top of pile. Sprinkle sugar (artificial sweeteners such as Splenda work fine, too) after the squash has softened a bit. Add salt to taste. Cook until desired consistency.

(As you can tell from the pictures, I prefer mine cooked down quite a bit). Mmm, mmm, good!

MacGourmet users, click image to download recipe (or simply drag image to your MacGourmet recipe box).

Wendy’s Quick Green Beans w/ Shallots

My good friend Wendy Smith made this vegetable side for a meal while we were visiting in her home. As with the squash above, I’ve adapted the recipe to a more Southern-style “cooked until soggy” consistency rather than the healthier crunch to the vegetables and added good ole Southern-style non-healthy bacon (leave out the bacon for the healthier version).

  • 10 1/4” cast iron skillet

  • 1 package frozen green beans (small or medium bag)
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 slice bacon, cut into tiny pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar or artificial sweetener
  • Salt to taste

Heat oil in 10 1/4 inch cast iron skillet for medium bag of beans or 7 inch cast iron skillet for small bag of beans. Sautee chopped shallot and bacon bits until bacon is not quite crisp and shallot is almost opaque.

Add frozen green beans.

Cover and cook over medium low heat until beans are heated through. Sprinkle with sugar (I use Splenda).

Add salt to taste. As with the squash dish above, I tend to cook the beans to a nice, soggy consistency

MacGourmet users, click image to download recipe (or simply drag image to your MacGourmet recipe box).

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Kathy directly at

Who Cares about the Cold? It's Grilling Time!

Posted by JT McCubbin

Living in the upper, mid-southeast region of the lower, south eastern Midwest has its advantages. In Kentucky, we experience a great combination of all four seasons. Wonderfully long autumns and springs, and typically our extremes are short-lived. We get heat waves in July and August, but nothing like the summers of Texas and Florida, and when we get snow, it is enough for the kids to sled down the hill for a day and then it will usually melt within a day or so as the temperatures rise above 40 F. But when the Superbowl is over and the only remnants of the firewood stack are pieces of bark and bug dust, winter becomes agonizingly protracted and its wearisome grip quickly closes in.

Now, I am one who believes the natural ebb and flow of the seasons should be respected. It is the chill of winter which gives us the appreciation of the first warm days of spring. It is the blistering heat and humidity of July that provides the joy of donning our jeans and sweatshirts in autumn and stoking the bonfire for hotdogs and marshmallows. The heat and humidity of July is juxtaposed by the exquisite taste of home garden tomatoes, which is due precisely because we did not compromise and settle for store bought pinkish-white tomatoes in December.

So, fast-forwarding a little piece of summer into the bleak frigid cold of March’s desperate weeks might sound blasphemous, and we don’t take it lightly, but there are times when a lift to the spirit is necessary in order to loosen the stranglehold of cold bitterness around our souls.

One simple, yet effective means of brightening these dark days is to bring the pop and sizzle of meat on the grill indoors with our cast iron grill pan or griddle. Our collection includes a round grill pan and a two burner, two-sided griddle. Each has its own advantages and a drawback or two. The round pan isn’t large enough to cook for all four members of our family at one time, and the surface of the griddle side will suffer the direct flame of the gas grill when flipped to use the grill. However, the sharp ridges accomplished with cast iron far out-class the paltry bumps the aluminum pans attempt to pass-off as grill ridges. Do we really expect those pseudo-ridges to provide the grill lines necessary to bring the taste of summer to our mouths? This is where the cast iron grill pans cook like no other. So we have the grill, next comes the fare.

The hamburger is one of the most quintessential summer grilling foods. Yes, simple in its approach, we can complicate this summer sizzler to accommodate most any occasion. For our first foray into seasonal repositioning we will keep it fairly simple. We’ll dress the hamburgers with either cheddar or Maytag Blue cheese, and dress it up with lettuce, mayo, and stone ground mustard, but under no circumstances will there be a winter green house tomato.

An early frustration in our grill pan experience was having the food stick to the grill ridges when trying to turn the food. This frustration was overcome through having properly oiled ridges, technique, and patience; the most important being patience. Using a basting brush aids in the application and maintenance of oiling the ridges, and is the practice I typically follow. However, the oil can quickly drain away from the ridges. Alternately, apply a thin layer of oil to the meat in addition to the grill.

The next three steps are critical and valuable to grill pan success. First, the grill should be fully heated from medium-high to high prior to placing the hamburger on the grill. Lower heat settings will cause more of a boiled or stewed effect on the meat as moisture slowly leaves the surface. Second, while it may sound counter-intuitive, place the hamburger on the grill and press it down firmly onto the ridges, fully embedding the ridges into the surface. This not only helps the meat to release but provides the perfect grill lines for that grilling experience and flavor. Finally, by exercising a little patience, employing the “flip it once” approach, the hamburger will self-release as the process of charring begins between the contact points of the meat and ridges.

The grilling experience is complete with some thick-cut home fries (potato skins on please) and baked beans. So, while the freezing rain continues to bend the trees until the tips touch the ground, and the eaves groan under the weight of accumulating snow, we reach forward into spring, fire up the grill, and respectfully grasp a little portion of warming sun and bring it back to our table.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact JT directily at


Slow Cooker to Dutch Oven Conversion

Posted by Rick Mansfield

Slow cookers are wonderful things. Of course where I grew up, we simply called them “Crock Pots.” But since that’s a trademarked brand name, they are usually referred to as “slow cookers” when speaking of the devices generically. They are great for cooking an entire meal by planning a few hours ahead. Just throw in the ingredients, set the temperature, and let it go. However, as any cast iron aficionado will understand, sometimes you just prefer to break out the black iron.

And as any experienced cast iron cook knows, you don’t really need special cookbooks geared to cast iron cookware--although they are certainly nice to have. In reality, most recipes (with a few exceptions) can be cooked in cast iron. This is especially true of slow cooker recipes since a slow cooker is really nothing more than an electric dutch oven if you think about it. However, some conversion of cooking time is required.

Last summer, Kathleen Purvis of The Charlotte Observer wrote an article (no direct link remaining to my knowledge) on this exact subject that I saw reprinted in a number of papers around the country. To convert from cooking times from a slow cooker to a dutch oven, she offered this basic principle:

A recipe that is cooked on the low setting in your slow cooker will take about a quarter as long in a Dutch oven in a 325-degree oven (if it cooks for 8 hours on low, it will take two to three hours in the Dutch oven). A recipe that is cooked on high setting will take about half as long. But remember, that's only an estimate, so leave yourself a little extra time.

Although the math is pretty straightforward, I thought that some of you might appreciate a quick cheat sheet, so I created one based upon Kathleen Purvis’ suggestions:

12 hours/Low
3 hours/325° F
10 hours/Low
2 1/2 hours/325° F
8 hours/Low
2 hours/325° F
6 hours/Low
1 1/2 hours/325° F
5 hours/Low
1 hour, 15 min./325° F
4 hours/Low
1 hour/325° F
4 hours/High
2 hours/325° F
3 hours/Low
45 min./325° F
3 hours/High
1 1/2 hours/325° F
2 hours/Low
30 min./325° F
2 hours/High
1 hour/325° F
1 hour/Low
15 min./325° F
1 hour/High
30 min./325° F

None of the above times will be exact, so pay attention to the food cooking in your dutch oven that you don’t undercook it or overcook it. Kathleen Purvis also suggests adding more liquid to food cooked in dutch ovens because she says that more steam escapes from them than from a slow cooker. However, my experience has been just the opposite--the heavy lid of a dutch oven will sometimes hold in too much moisture. But your experience may vary, so be sure to watch out for this.

Finally, what about the obvious advantage that slow cookers have over dutch ovens when it comes to portability? Taking food in a dutch oven to the church potluck may not stay warm as long without the added heating element. Well, there is a solution for this; you can simply use a portable single burner such as the one from GE pictured below:

These single burners run a little less than $20 and can be used in the kitchen as an extra burner or even while camping (assuming you have access to electricity). Don’t expect them to get as hot as a burner on a stove, but they function well to keep things warm to hot, much like a slow cooker.

Earlier this week, we had about 15 people over to the house for dinner, and I needed to make room on the stove. As part of the meal, we were having Taco Soup. I had made it in advance, and it would have been very appropriate simply to transfer it to a slow cooker since I needed the space on my stovetop. However, I kept the soup in my new red enameled dutch oven I cooked it in, and simply moved it to the counter, sitting it on top of the single burner.

This worked out perfectly, and demonstrates quite well what you can do if you want to show off your cast iron at the next potluck, but keep it warm, too. In fact, as we were getting ready to eat the other night, one of our guests looked at my dutch oven sitting on top of the single burner and asked, “Is that some kind of new fancy Crock Pot?”

Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at


What Did You Say You Were Fixin'? (How to Cook Fried Okra)

Posted by Leila Wells

  • Cast Iron Skillet

One of my family’s favorite side dishes is fried okra. This underestimated vegetable of African origins is definitely a southern staple. Unfortunately, the most common method of serving okra is with a heavy breading. While it can still be tasty, the potential of the okra is wasted inside such doughy coatings. Cooking okra at home produces far more satisfying results than ordering it at the restaurant, but you’ll need a few simple pointers to fry okra up exactly right. (Incidentally, okra can add wonderful flavor to soups and can make an excellent combination with stewed tomatoes, but we’ll focus on fried okra today.)

Finding fresh okra is your first step. Typically, okra is in season year round in the south and from May through October in other areas. If, however, you are unable to get your hands on any fresh okra, pick up a bag of fresh frozen okra in the frozen food section of your local grocery.

Next, you will need cornmeal and oil. Typically, I use yellow cornmeal because I like the grainy texture. However, other forms of cornmeal will fry up nicely. I generally use vegetable oil, but canola oil will serve the purpose as well.

Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, you can begin. The amount of cornmeal you need will depend on how much okra you are cooking. You will need enough cornmeal in a bowl to coat the okra. If you have found fresh okra, you’ll want to make sure it is free of dirt. I recommend wiping the okra off carefully with a paper towel or an old towel. Running okra under water tends to make it slimy. Cutting the okra will also be a little slimy, so if you have allergies, you may want to wear gloves while cutting it. When the okra is clean, cut the ends off of the pieces and then slice the okra into small pieces of approximately 1/4 inch each. As you cut the okra, drop the pieces into the cornmeal. (If you are using precut, frozen okra, simply drop it into the cornmeal.) Run your fingers through the cornmeal and mix the okra into the meal until the okra is coated.

Pour enough oil into your skillet to cover the bottom. Heat the oil on medium-high heat. Heating the oil will take approximately 5 minutes. After a few minutes, test the oil by sprinkling a dash of water over the oil. If it pops or sizzles, you’ll know the oil is ready for the okra. Turn your heat down to medium. Using a long-handled spoon, carefully drop the breaded okra into the pan in a single layer. Do not “stack” the okra. Allow the okra to cook approximately 5-10 minutes (if it was fresh, longer if it was frozen) before stirring for the first time. Stir the okra slowly and periodically until it fries to a nice golden color. Once the okra is done, drop it onto a place covered by a couple of paper towels (to absorb excess oil). Salt and pepper the okra liberally. Continue cooking if you have more okra. You may have to add oil to the pan as you finish your okra. You may also need to scoop out the breading that has fallen in the pan as it can burn while you are cooking a second round of okra.

If you are not completely satisfied with your first effort at frying okra, please don’t give up! The most common mistakes when frying okra typically come from having your heat up too high or cooking the okra too long. You want to remove it from the heat when it has just become crunchy.

While okra makes an excellent side dish to most any meat, my favorite pairings are with grilled chicken, pork chops, or barbecued ribs. If you happen to be a vegetarian, you might especially enjoy fried okra with corn on the cob and stewed tomatoes.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Leila directly at


Tips for Cooking in Cast Iron

Posted by Rick Mansfield

Not too long ago, a friend of mine handed me a couple of cast iron skillets which were rusted and had odd stains and asked me what I could do to get them back in shape. If you’ve seen our first video podcast, you saw me use one of them as a demonstration for restoring a rusted pan. After I cleaned and re-seasoned the pans, I gave them two initial run-throughs--one in the oven with corn bread and one on the stove top with bacon.

After I gave the pans back, I offered a few tips for keeping them in good shape. Below is an adaptation of what I suggested. You should know that not everyone is in 100% agreement with all of these suggestions and that’s okay. These suggestions are what I do to keep my cast iron pans “healthy” and looking good.
  1. Use your pans and use them a lot.  If your pan has just been seasoned fresh (as opposed to factory pre-seasoned) or re-seasoned it will probably be a shade of brown, BUT it should be completely black within a year if it is used frequently. There's very little that cannot be cooked in cast iron. Rethink the kinds of pans you use. If you normally cook something in the oven on a cookie sheet, it might cook just as well in the skillet. On the stovetop, skillets can be used for much more than frying, but obviously, they're good for that, too. Breads and desserts cook well in cast iron skillets, too.
  2. I would recommend that you keep them handy, either on the stove top or in the oven when not in use. Don't stack them or place them under other pans in the bottom of a cabinet. Cast iron pans stacked in closed up cabinets for long periods of time often develop rust rings where one pan is sitting on another. If you do need to stack your pans, put a cloth between them or a pan protector.
  3. Since cast iron distributes heat so well, under normal situations, you don't need to turn a stove burner above a "medium" heat. Always let the pan heat as the burner heats or let the pan heat in the oven as the oven heats. Don't put a cold pan on a hot surface or a hot pan in cold water. Either has the potential to crack or warp the pan. 
  4. The seasoning/carbonizing process needs to continue, so, I would recommend that initially (perhaps a year or so), avoid highly acidic foods in the pans such as tomatoes, wine, and citrus fruits. 
  5. Avoid metal utensils that can scrape and damage a pan’s seasoning. I use a lot of wooden spoons and silicone spatulas that can withstand high heats. See Delia’s post, “Spats & Spoons: What’s Best for Cast Iron?
  6. When you clean them NEVER* use soap as it both breaks down the seasoning and can change the taste of the pan. Clean them with hot water and a good stiff brush. If food is stuck on them, use the kind of scraper that you can get from Pampered Chef for baking stones. Don't worry about sanitary issues in regard to not using soap. Heating a pan on a medium heat will raise the temperature to nearly 350 degrees which is more than twice the temperatures needed to kill any microbes. *Some on our panel of writers will disagree to the NEVER in my first sentence. Once a pan has reached a “mature” seasoning after much use, a mild dishwashing soap will usually not harm it. However, I just prefer cleaning my pans the old fashioned way with a good brush and hot water.
  7. After cleaning a skillet, you need to prepare it for it's next use. Make sure it is dried thoroughly. Sometimes placing it on a still warm burner or in a still warm oven will help with this. After the pan is dry, wipe a thin layer of cooking oil over the entire cooking surface to prepare it for the next use. I use olive oil because I cook primarily with olive oil and it will not turn rancid if left out in the air for long periods of time (of course, if you use your cast iron regularly, there’s no such thing as a “long period of time” ). 
  8. If your pan starts to show signs of rust, significant loss of seasoning, or gives off a metallic taste in your food, it needs to be re-seasoned.

This may sound like your pans will require a lot of high maintenance, but not really. All of this becomes simply routine. Most modern pans wear out, but cast iron is designed to last beyond an entire lifetime. There's no reason that with the proper care, you wouldn't be able to pass these pans on to your children or grandchildren years from now

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at

Spats & Spoons: What's Best for Cast Iron?

Posted by P. Delia Hollenbeck

Tools are important. Quality counts. The question has risen before as to what is the best kind of utensil to use in our cast iron cookware. This was especially true for me after I had gone to all the trouble of triple seasoning my new bare metal, deep sided cast iron skillet (I think that it would be called a chicken fryer if it had a lid to go along with the high sides). Now I know that several seasonings are fine, but not the same as, say, a year’s worth of regular use and the accumulated seasoning that would naturally occur from cooking with oil. So what can I do to really keep the seasoning even and not scratched up?

The utensil choices I have available--already in use in my kitchen--are heavy duty hard plastic, wood, the black plastic kind that can be used on non-stick pans, and lastly, stainless steel. Now I use any and all of these on my regularly used, heavily seasoned skillets. I don’t gouge, scrape or mutilate the pan surfaces when I cook. However, I know that newly seasoned pans are still undergoing that heating and hardening process known as seasoning, and the seasoning is still tender, if I may use that term.

My wood utensils are spoons. The black plastic spoons and spatulas melt (the edges fray) in cast iron if we’re not careful of the heat. The heavy duty hard plastic ones are too thick for turning eggs, and so that leaves metal. Well, maybe…and maybe not.

The newest innovation (that I have found so far) is the high heat rated silicone. I found a spoon and a pancake turner in that medium in the gourmet kitchen section of my favorite department store. I made sure the tag on them said they were good for 450 to 500 degree heat. You might ask how I know to do that. Well, I had bought a silicone bowl scraper--the kind with the wood handle--and used it to keep a pan of beans from scorching. It ultimately did not stand up to the temperature. A friend kindly told me that I was too frugal (she was too kind to say cheap?) and I should have bought the higher priced silicone that was high temperature rated. So now I read the tags and go for quality.

I can say so far, so good. No melting and no frayed edges of spoon and spatula. I am more comfortable using them as they continue to prove themselves worthy. The new seasoning is progressing well, by the way.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Delia directly at


Video Podcast 1: Seasoning, Restoring, and Cleaning Cast Iron

Our first video podcast is available for download. We had to start somewhere, so it seemed to make sense to start with “Seasoning, Restoring, and Cleaning Cast Iron.”

You can click on the above image to take you to the podcast, and you have the option to view it in a variety of sizes, but medium is default. Once you are at the podcast page, if you want to download it to your computer, click the download button that will look like this at the top of the screen:

Clicking the download button (only works once you are on the podcast page--not here), will give you a variety of sizes and formats in case you want to take the video podcast with you on your iPod, for example.

In the future we will have the video podcast availabe for subscription via iTunes, but it’s not quite set up yet, and we didn’t want to wait to make it available to you. Right now, running at 20 minutes and 40 seconds, our video is also too long for YouTube, but we may edit it into a part one and part two and make it available that way as well.

We have lots of ideas for future video podcasts, but we want to hear from you. Please give us your thoughts in the comments below and feel free to offer suggestions for future video podcasts.


Cast Iron Accessories

Posted by Kathy Mansfield

What girl doesn't enjoy accessorizing? Well, I've discovered ways to do just that with my cast iron cookware. I think my first cast iron accessory was a simple potholder to fit over the handle of our skillets. I was forever burning my fingers when grabbing onto the handle of a skillet while cooking bacon or eggs. I happened to see handle covers while shopping one day, and my worries were over. We now have 5 or 6 of the handy pads, and I keep them on my main skillets on top of the stove. We've recently purchased a couple of fajita pans that came with pads decorated with hot peppers. The Lodge Outlet store in Tennessee has many designs available, but I've seen the handle covers in most cooking stores. It is an invaluable resource to me.

Another accessory I came upon recently was cookware protectors from Pampered Chef. These are fabulous! Since trapped moisture can cause cast iron to rust, it’s very important to keep at least a minimal amount of air flow between a lid and a pan or pot when not in use. My husband would place old towels between our dutch ovens and their lids. Since we display most of our cast iron, this was not acceptable to me! The cookware protectors from Pampered Chef come in two sizes: 16" diameter and 20" diameter. Each size fits nicely on our dutch ovens.

Last, but not least, is another Pampered Chef product. It's not quite an accessory, but more like a necessity -- a nylon pan scraper. These were originally marketed through Pampered Chef to use as scrapers for their baking stones, but we've discovered they work great on our cast iron because even the best seasoned cast iron can occasionally have stuck on food. We keep one handy on the sink at all times. A package of 3 only cost a few dollars. They are dishwasher safe and fairly indestructible.

No, I don't sell Pampered Chef, but I sure am pleased with the great products I've discovered through that company to help keep our cast iron looking fabulous in every season!

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Kathy directly at