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Cast iron and carbon steel cookware: or I'll never trade in convenience for quality (and health) again! (1 Viewer)

BobO'Link

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One day my wife came in from "yard sale" shopping with a friend and had a half dozen or so cast iron pots and pans. She started to apologize for the purchases when I stopped her with a "You'll never hear me complain about you purchasing cast iron cooking items, especially when they're bargains." She'd picked up a couple of hundred dollars worth of pans for around $20. They looked a bit rough but simple, quick, cleanups were all that was needed to make them fully serviceable with a couple needing seasoning. One was the round griddle she now uses for biscuits and scones:
1659047380629.png

She calls it "the best yard sale purchase ever!" She also uses it to make quesadillas and small pizzas.

Another purchase that day was one of these:
1659047496242.png

It's quite heavy but those dual handles make moving it about much easier. It sees lots of use frying things.
 

BobO'Link

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Nothing like cornbread cooked in a CI pan. Crispy bottom/sides, soft inside... yum! My wife thinks I'm crazy (OK... maybe she's right... but not for this...) as whenever we have cornbread with a meal, dessert is *always* a slice of cornbread crumbled into a glass with milk poured over. Eat it with a spoon (I guess you could use a bowl but we, and everyone else I've seen eat this, use a glass). I grew up eating that - my dad used buttermilk (blech!) for his. Her dad and grandfather ate cornbread w/milk, too, so she's no stranger to the dish.
 
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Carlo Medina

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Egg update, since I know eggs (and how they release) are often the gold standard to measure how "nonstick" a surface is.

So I used my 10" Smithey today on an omelette. It's actually a little too big for the job of a one-egg omelette, an 8" would have been better, so it was a little unwieldy. I couldn't pull off the omelette flip due to the pan being too big, so I had to use a spatula to tri-fold it.

To recap: I seasoned the Smithey 2X quickly upon unpacking with BuzzyWaxx and stovetop to smoke point. Then have cooked with it maybe a half dozen or so times since, each time using a small amount of oil or fat (usually grapeseed or canola oil, or ghee/butter). Every time it released whatever I was cooking (meat, fish, etc.) like a champ. I didn't re-season after each cooking session, just used hot water, light chain mail on a couple of occasions, lightly soaped sponge for the others, and then reheat the pan to over 212F after drying to make sure that no water was left on it. And then my Smitheys essentially live on the stove top as it gets me motivated to do more cooking vs. eating out/ordering in.

This morning I decided I'd give it the egg test. It was a less than optimal test which actually my carbon steel pan didn't pass a few months ago (it may now, with more seasoning on it due to use). I use about a tbsp of canola oil to sauté my spinach, then without adding any more oil I add the egg (scrambled with milk, salt and pepper) and hope for the best (in the old days when I used nonstick this wasn't an issue). As I mentioned, due to the pan being too big for a one-egg omelette, I had to use a spatula to do the tri-fold method vs. flipping it (which, for a light nonstick pan is easy, for a 5lbs pan might sprain my wrist and elbow).

Anyway here's the result:
IMG_2231.JPG

Fully released, no sticking whatsoever (the tiny bits you may see in the pan are where bits of the omelette were broken off by the spatula during turning, not due to sticking).

I have full confidence if I wanted to do a sunny side up or over easy egg, I could do it in this pan with just a little oil or butter.
 

John Sparks

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I remember when I was a young kid and we had a large cast iron skillet. One day I thought I'd clean that caked on grime with a screw driver and hammer. I had just started when my mom walked in...the look on her face. She went on to sxplain how many years it took to season that pan...boy did I feel bad. Whew, no spanking that time!
 

Carlo Medina

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Several weeks into owning the Smitheys and they continue to shine. All the heartache (okay, elbow-ache) I had with the Lodge early in its life in my kitchen is absent with the Smitheys. They have surpassed my Lodge in food release already, and likely were already better on the day I bought them, but I was just paranoid and seasoned them anyway before first cook. Harkening back to something Josh said:
Stainless gets a lot of use, too. There are some things that I just don’t think I can prepare as well with any other type of surface, particularly dishes where I’m sautéing a piece of chicken and then making a reduction or quick pan sauce. I think on average a stainless does the best job of accumulating the fond from cooking meats that can be transformed into a flavorful sauce.
I have now decided to enter the "grown up's stainless steel" world. My one SS frying was a budget Emeril pan, which has always been tough for me to cook with. Probably due to a combination of both user error, and the pan being meh (it has the heating plate bonded at the bottom and very thin flared sides which led to uneven heating).

I was originally poised to get the All-Clad D3 which is by just about near universal acclaim the "pro's tool that is also affordable for home use". Even though All-Clad offers the D5 at a higher cost, most pundits think the D3 is actually superior in use because it heats up faster, weighs less (the D5 approaches carbon steel pan weight), and called out A-C for the wisdom of putting a SS layer between two aluminum layers (the whole point of putting AL in there is for even heat conduction, which SS is bad at, so why put a SS layer in the middle?).

After doing some exhaustive research, I decided on going a different route, only because if there's one thing in common that I love about both my Matfer Bourgeat carbon steel and my Smithey cast iron pans, it's the welded handles which leads to no rivets on the cooking surface. Over the years, no matter how much I clean around the rivets, they start looking grungy after a time. Even if I've managed to get every bit of food off, over time my pans rivets start to show wear (like rust or exposed unfinished metal). I wanted that in my first "big boy SS".

So yesterday I ordered from Amazon (should arrive tomorrow) the Demeyere 9.5" 5-ply SS pan. Unlike the D5, there are three layers of aluminum in the middle, no SS in the middle, so it's more like a "slightly thicker D3" than it is a D5. It has the welded handle for a completely smooth cooking surface. And it has some sort of "Silvinox" coating:
Silvinox® is a unique electrochemical surface treatment system that enriches the material by removing any iron and impurities from the surface. This makes the stainless steel easy to clean, and provides a higher resistance to fingerprints, harsh detergents or strong acidic foods. The products retain their silvery-white color, even after years of use.
So it doesn't claim (and reviews support this) to be more non-stick than regular SS, but it does claim that it keeps the SS looking smoother and newer, and some testers say it releases "slightly better" than All-Clad in head to head tests. I went with the 9.5 because I generally cook for no more than 2 people at a time, so 11" and 12.5" tend to be too much pan for most tasks I do, but if I end up liking the Demeyere I will likely get a larger pan "just in case".

The good news was the Demeyere was in the same ballpark as the All-Clads (the 9.5" was $120, and the D3 10" with lid (mine doesn't come with one) is currently on sale for $100. So there's a little price premium with the Demeyere, and they're a lesser known brand, but the hardcore cooking sights seem to really respect the brand and the product. We'll see this week when I cook my first meals on it!
 

DaveF

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I’ve got All Clad D3. My caveat to them is the handles are lousy. The rivets don’t bother me but they’re a design fact to keep in mind if that bothers you.

If I were buying tri-ply today, I’d look for All-Clad with dual handles. Or one of the newer brands with better handles.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I have now decided to enter the "grown up's stainless steel" world.

Nice!

Speaking only for myself, I tend to like a heavier stainless pan. Part of that is that the stove I’m stuck with is a very high heat stove, so for a thinner/lighter pan, even the lowest setting produces extremely high heat in the pan - there’s not enough range of temperatures possible for me with a thin pan, where the heat goes from “blazing hot” to “instant burn” instead of a full range of low, medium and hot temperatures. I could buy a diffuser to put over the gas to absorb some of that heat but since this isn’t my forever home, and I’ve had the issue at other dwellings as well, I just tend to stick with the heavier ones.

But whatever your needs or stove quirks, it’s a wonderful addition to your lineup - congratulations!
 

Carlo Medina

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Thanks! I think from what I'm reading the Demeyere is the "in between" for the D3 and D5. What you're talking about, Josh is exactly the critique those who prefer the D3 to the D5 levied against the heavier/thicker pan. But it sounds like it fits your use case perfectly.

From what I can tell the Demeyere has three distinct layers of Aluminum, which combined are thicker than the one aluminum layer in the D3 but not as thick (and without the SS layer) of the three inner layers of the D5. Just looking at the weight the Demeyere 9.5" is 2.67 lbs. In comparison my cheapo Emeril 8", which has a thick core glued to the bottom, is only 1.8 lbs. In comparison, the 6" Smithey cast iron is 2.6 lbs and the 10" Smithey is 4.6 lbs so it'll be nice to have a 9.5" pan with the weight of the 6" Smithey--which I find to be a nice heft while also being very manageable.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I don’t want to clutter up your cast iron thread with stainless recipes but when and if you ever want a few simple pan sauce dish recipes let me know - something like a chicken Marsala with chicken cutlets and mushrooms and a little wine sauce is a simple and quick weeknight meal once you get the hang of it.
 

DaveF

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Nice!

Speaking only for myself, I tend to like a heavier stainless pan. Part of that is that the stove I’m stuck with is a very high heat stove, so for a thinner/lighter pan, even the lowest setting produces extremely high heat in the pan - there’s not enough range of temperatures possible for me with a thin pan, where the heat goes from “blazing hot” to “instant burn” instead of a full range of low, medium and hot temperatures. I could buy a diffuser to put over the gas to absorb some of that heat but since this isn’t my forever home, and I’ve had the issue at other dwellings as well, I just tend to stick with the heavier ones.

But whatever your needs or stove quirks, it’s a wonderful addition to your lineup - congratulations!
Since I like spending other people’s money… :) Less than $50 gets a copper diffuser plate to help tame that stove for a few years until you get the house and stove you really want.
Amazon product
 

Josh Steinberg

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Pans I have work right now but will keep in mind if that changes - thanks Dave! :)
 

Carlo Medina

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@Josh Steinberg Don't worry about sending this thread in a different direction, I think the first two pages will be more than enough to get the original point home. I also in the future plan to buy a carbon steel wok, and will likely just add it to this thread. I think the overriding goal of this thread is just trying to steer people away from the "ease of nonstick" cookware which have been shown to release toxic chemicals into the body, and to show that other safer forms of cookware can do nearly as good a job, and in fact do other things that nonstick cookware simply can't do (like, in the case of SS, fond, and in the case of all three CI, CS and SS, provide the restaurant-quality sear on meats).

I think the first thing I'm going to make on the Demeyere will be something relatively simple: fried salt/peppered pork chop, with a wine reduction sauce from the fond with some garlic and thinly sliced mushrooms thrown in and then poured over the chop.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I think the first thing I'm going to make on the Demeyere will be something relatively simple: fried salt/peppered pork chop, with a wine reduction sauce from the fond with some garlic and thinly sliced mushrooms thrown in and then poured over the chop.

Sounds perfect! Bon appetite!
 

Mike Frezon

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@Josh Steinberg Don't worry about sending this thread in a different direction, I think the first two pages will be more than enough to get the original point home.
I hope, then, you don't mind me asking this question, Carlo... :D

But does anyone have experience with these--Round Pie Irons (for cooking over open flame)? The ones made by the Rome company are the originals, I guess. My wife just got us a couple and I am left wondering what sorts of things we should try to make in them...

Amazon product

Note: We did NOT get ours through Amazon. We originally tried, but they only had third party vendors and the first one got very hinky so the sale got terminated and we went a different route.
 

Carlo Medina

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I have not used/seen that, Mike, hopefully someone else has experience with it.

But it reminds me, in my effort to be fully rid of nonstick cookware, I am looking for a waffle iron that isn't "nonstick" or ceramic coating (ceramic is likely safer but can still chip or crack and become unsafe). I'm starting to see videos on old-school cast iron waffle irons.

Time for me to start looking for some modern models.
 

Carlo Medina

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Also a Demeyere made dinner tonight looks to be in jeopardy. Amazon tracking at 11pm last night had it at a sorting facility within 8 miles of me in LA. Somehow, a 2am update this morning has it in a sorting facility has it in Berkeley…MO. Not even the Berkeley in my state, although that’s also 400 miles away so not sure it would be much better.

wth Bezos?
 

Josh Steinberg

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But does anyone have experience with these--Round Pie Irons (for cooking over open flame)? The ones made by the Rome company are the originals, I guess. My wife just got us a couple and I am left wondering what sorts of things we should try to make in them...

Oooo! I’ve seen those but never had a chance to use one. Let’s just put it this way… my childhood camping experiences were unique, and as an adult I’ve come to understand that what my family called “camping” is not what everyone else would call “camping” :D

So I think the deal with those is that they’re great for things where you want to heat something evenly or keep it contained when using an actual fire for cooking. There’s a lot you can do with a cast iron pan sitting on or over an open flame, but it’s not a closed environment so there are some things you can’t do as well - anything you’d normally need to bake.

If you have one of those doohickeys, you can essentially bake things with a campfire. Cinnamon buns, dinner rolls, things like that. You should also be able to make small pies - line each side of the contraption with pie dough and then add either a sweet or savory filling and it’ll bake - so you could do a small cherry pie over a campfire, or put some leftover stew into a pie crust and wind up with a pot pie.

I’m looking forward to my boys getting older so we can attempt a camping trip. Seems like that would be a fun thing to have for that kind of adventure!
 

Carlo Medina

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Amazon may end up losing a sale here. Since I'm an impatient person, I've been doing more and more research and finding additional reviews that prefer the Atlantis/Proline (and it's slightly updated Silver7 Sur La Table exclusive variant) to the Industry 5.

I've noticed a 3.5qt saucepan in the Proline/Silver7 family that is on sale, and is at a local Sur La Table. That SLT also has the 9.5" Silver7 frying pan. I may drive there tonight (after dinner/traffic dies down) and I'm fairly sure I'll pull the trigger on the saucepan, but I may if I like the feel of the 9.5" fry pan come home with the set. In which case I will just cancel the Amazon (or immediately return it at my local Amazon center).

The Amazon tracking still says "arrives today by 10pm" but the last tracking update says 2:05am Berkeley, MO. Would love to see them get it from there to here in 7 hours. Could it be done? Sure. But highly unlikely.
 

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