Cast iron cooking pan

*Updated in August, 2019

Most households have at least one cast-iron cooking pan, often because it was inherited, or because an inhabitant knows about its cooking benefits.  That pan is valuable and more useful than you think, even in a world of non-stick Teflon surfaces.

Cast-iron pans made by Griswold and Wagner Ware were very popular in the first half of the 20th century and are now sought after by antique dealers and collectors.  In general, older pans are better made than newer ones.  Teflon pushed cast-iron to the back of the line when it became ubiquitous in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Why should a cast-iron pan be considered an essential part of every kitchen?  The short answer is because cast-iron conducts and holds heat better than any other kind of pan.  The longer answer is that cast-iron is also affordable, durable and once well-seasoned it becomes non-stick.  Unlike Teflon pans, cast-iron pans are free of toxic chemicals.

How to season a cast-iron pan:

If it is a new pan it might be pre-seasoned.  If it is, you’re done! If not, it’s easy.

  • Lightly coat the pan with oil or fat – anything is fine.  It can be lard, flaxseed oil, or bacon grease, whatever you have.
  • Bake the oiled pan at a high temperature (500°) for 30-40 minutes.
  • Repeat those steps several times.

How to clean a cast-iron pan:

  • Don’t ever put a cast-iron pan in the dishwasher.
  • Do not soak the pan in water.
  • Rinse it out quickly with soapy water.
  • Dry pan immediately.

A few notes:

  • New cast-iron cooking pans are gray.  They turn black with seasoning and use.
  • Some pans may need re-seasoning.  This will be the case if you see any rust or if food is sticking to the surface.  Use kosher salt to remove the rust or food before re-seasoning.

Where to buy a cast-iron pan:

Tag sales and flea markets are the best way to get older, well-seasoned cast iron cookware. Ebay is another good source.

Lodge Cast Iron has been making cast iron cookware since McKinley was president.

American Culinary Corp. sells Wagner cast-iron.

The Field Company  was started by 2 brothers in Maine. They’re making excellent products with innovative ideas.

For more information, visit A Sharp Eye’s newer article,

Cast Iron Skillets – the (new) coveted pans