Questions about cast iron cookware

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SEEING-TO-BELIEVE

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so now i’m writing a post in hebrew about using cast iron cookware.
i’ve some questions that i will glad to get some answers to.

  1. i know that stainless steel pans are much thinner than cast iron pans. can you properly brown steaks on stainless steel too? how it differs from cast iron browning?
  2. after soaking a rusted cast iron in vinegar and water for some time, can i use steel wool for scrubbing or will it work better with another sort of scrubber?
  3. what are the advantages and disadvantages of flat cast iron pan to one with strips?
  4. why do enamel iron cookware is so much more expensive than cast iron without the enamel?
any more information will be gladly accepted:rolleyes:
 

SEEING-TO-BELIEVE

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i will enter it soon
i've already did some researching in english but for now got stuck with these questions..


hopefully it will be answered after reading in the links.


the page i got a lot of information of is this one, but i've used others too
tnx
 

GotGarlic

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Be careful about who/what you choose as sources in your research. A lawyer may or may not have the expertise you want when you're talking about cast iron cookware. I have a few quibbles with her information. For example, on the one hand, she says it good to cook with cast iron because then you get iron in your food. Then she says not to use acidic foods in cast iron because they react and iron gets into the food. So is it a good thing or a bad thing?
 

SEEING-TO-BELIEVE

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ok
i just got it first when i searched with duck duck go


i've started to read what you sent.
it is interesting.
i'm not sure how easy it to find a "non sandy" cast iron pans in israel tho....


i think mine is not that sandy....


the first link is pretty long
 

GotGarlic

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ok
i just got it first when i searched with duck duck go


i've started to read what you sent.
it is interesting.
i'm not sure how easy it to find a "non sandy" cast iron pans in israel tho....


i think mine is not that sandy....


the first link is pretty long

The first link isn't always - or even usually - the most accurate.

The links I posted are long because the articles are thorough. They will answer questions you don't even know you have yet ;)
 

dcSaute

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you are waltzing into a virtual minefield.
the pros & cons of cast iron depend on a number of 'other' factors - this is the usual reason for the messy food fights that regularly appear on the topic.

for the same thickness, stainless steel does not conduct heat as well as cast iron. so thin stainless steel pans tend to have "hot spots" that burn small areas of food/steak/egg/whatever more readily.

so where do these hot spots come from?
on a gas burner, it will be lines or spots - following the design of the burner....
on an electric coil, the burn areas are spiral following, the coil design. . .
on a flat surface with embedded electric coils, as above - but fuzzier . . .
on an induction burner - depends on the pan, the induction technology, the size of the burner, the size of the pan, the . . . . you will find big pro-fans and big con-fans of induction - they throw contradicting "facts" at each other - and it's likely due to their specific equipment.


hot spots on cast iron are typically less noticeable but _only_ if the pan has been properly preheated.


enter the stainless steel clad (higher end) pans. they conduct heat better. the food fights continue....

one can sear / char steaks on any hot surface. cast iron has the 'advantage' that over time it acquires a carbonized non-stick layer - stainless (including clad) never gets there, so going super hot for a sear/char generally results in some degree of beef-glued-to-pan 'damage'

cast iron "smooth" versus "sandy" - many opinions. mine is that the old stuff, which was cast then machined smooth, is superior. the "sandy" refers to the pan surface texture. cast iron is "cast" in sand molds, so the surface is 'rough' like wet beach sand.
one should note, this problem is "severe" enough that there are companies that will machine a 'new' cast iron pan smooth, and there are companies producing 'the old style smooth' cast iron pans from scratch.
along with many internet sites which will show you how to make a modern sandy cast iron pan smooth DYI.

cast iron with 'strips' - aka "ribs" on the bottom. these are intended to create/mimic "grill marks"
if you want grill marks, use a grill. the ribbed cast iron pans are not especially good at that task.

enameled cast iron cost more because there's more manufacturing 'expertise' & actions needed to produce it, and it has a higher 'waste' factor. pieces that didn't go as planned....
 

SEEING-TO-BELIEVE

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well
thank you for your answers.
i will have to make a lot of changes in the article before i publish it again


interesting to know if there are a molded non sandy cookware in israel to buy from a shop.


i don't think i can make it flat by watching a video.
 

taxlady

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The "sandy" cast iron pans won't be as expensive as new, smooth cast iron pans. It takes extra work to make them smooth. The cost of the extra labour will be reflected in the price. But, yes, with grinding tools and some time and effort, it is possible to make a pebbly cast iron pan into a smooth one at home.
 

Absolutely

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Hi. Maybe I can help clarify some of the info from those article GotGarlic posted. (Both of the serious eats articles have some good information, but perhaps draw some misguided opinions from them. A little knowledge not well understood can lead down the wrong path)

Question 1. Browning in cast iron and stainless.

Steel is a moderate heat conductor, whether stainless or cast iron. Both similar, not amazing, but gets the job done. The biggest difference is their heat capacity. Cast iron pans are a lot of mass and as such can absorb a lot of energy. Stainless are thin and can not hold much energy. This means you need heat up a cast iron pan for several minutes before the whole pan is evenly hot, whether as a thin stainless pan is evenly hot quickly, seconds. At this point the pans may be at the same temperature, but the cast iron is holding a lot more energy... a LOT more, those several extra minutes more of heat getting absorbed. Think of it like a stock pot of boiling water versus a shot glass of boiling water, both are boiling, but there is just so much more hot water in the stock pot.

If you put a steak on both of these pans, the cast iron just has so much more heat energy stored that it can transfer to the steak than the thin stainless pan. The cast iron will "sear" the steak by adding a lot of heat very quickly. The stainless does this too, by with a lot less stored heat and thus a minimal, if even noticable "sear". However, when both pans have given all their stored heat to the steak, the are still getting new heat from the burner.

This new heat is also transferred to the steak, although slower as the heat conduction of both stainless and cast iron is only moderate. Over time the pans will both transfer heat into the steaks. Assuming the burner is hot enough, both steaks will undergo the high heat chemical reaction that causes browning.

So in conclusion, both pans will brown the steaks. Stainless a bit slower to start, but still works. Cast iron very fast at the start, causes noticable searing.

(Should be noted that more expensive stainless steel pans are often made of a sandwich layer of stainless steel on the top and bottom with a middle layer of aluminium or copper. This helps with even heating and improving the only moderate heat transfer of stainless steel with the significantly better performance of copper or aluminium)


Question 2. Cleaning a cast iron pan (?)

Cast iron pans are usually low cost, you can get them old and used often cheap. If they are rusted and the season is very damaged, you can give them a good INITIAL clean. Use whatever NOT corrosive cleaner or scrubber you want. You will have to reseason the pan though. The unsaturated oil /fat season procedure in the article works fine. (Though I would repeat it several more times personally.) If the season is not badly damaged, I would not soak the pan. Use some dish soap, a cloth and warm water to wash the rust off and then reseason the pan a few times to repair the season.

Cast iron reacts easily to many chemicals and even the oxygen in the air. The season coats the pan to protect it from the air and anything else it might react with. Be sure to use the oven season method at least once while the whole pan, top, bottom, and handle have some oil to season the whole pan to protect it. Just like rust under the paint of your car chips the paint off, so too will rust forming under the season of the pan.

Once a pan is well seasoned, it should resist (resist only) damage from soap and water. Soap actual bonds to oil and fats, so any free oils not altered in the seasoning process will be removed. Not actually helpful to maintain a good season. If you must use soap and water, dry it on the burner to prevent rusting and wipe it with a thin film of oil top, bottom, handle, the whole pan. Rust is the enemy. With a good season, you can often just wipe clean the pan once cooled.

(Use cast irons for cooking with oil. Try not to use them for cooking with water based liquids. Water and heat can damage the season. Acidic liquids WILL damage the season.)

Question 3. Flat versus ribbed pans.

Honestly, I think this is more about preference. Flat is versatile and can be used for anything fried. Ribbed is more for steaks, it gives those grilled sear lines on steaks, but makes the pan harder to use for other cooking when you would stir something. Personal preference. You spoke of steaks, so if that is your purpose, then maybe you would like the sear grill lines? Otherwise flat is more useful... and common, I rarely see those ribbed pans.

Question 4. Enamel versus seasoned.

Again this is mostly about preference. Seasoning or enamel, both protect the cast iron from rusting. Season can be restored and built up over years of use, but must be maintained and kept out of water. Enameled can be soaked in water, and scrubbed if required (only if really, really required, I would hate to damage an enamel pan), but they never develop a non stick season.

Enamel that is durable is not easy to make. Cast iron grows and shrink a lot when heating and cooling, all metal does. Cast iron enameled pans need the enamel and the cast iron pan to grow and shrink the same amount at the same temperature. Requires some detailed material science to develope and create compatible materials. Adds to the cost, a lot, remember cast iron is very low cost.

I hope this helps you choose the pan you need.



One last note relating to GotGarlic query about acidic food.

Rust is the enemy to the season of the cast iron. Acidic food would also damage the season. This is why to avoid acidic food. I suspect that the concern about iron in the food is a presumed or assumed risk, and hence a reasonable proposition as to why to avoid acidic food. The problem of a little knowledge without understanding. The true reason is the damage to the season of the pan.

True there are medical conditions requiring low or no iron diets, but in general iron is necessary for the body and is a part of many foods. Our bodies oxygenated red blood cells are red because they are partly rust, iron and oxygen.
 

buckytom

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As far as flat vs. cast iron with strips, I think you mean a skillet vs. a grill pan.

If so, I've found that cast iron grill pans are only good for looks. They don't really do anything to replicate the flavor of grillng. They just leave grill looking marks.

The big downside is that that are a pain to clean. You have to get the gunk out from between the ridges with destroyng the seasoning.
 

Chief Longwind Of The North

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As far as flat vs. cast iron with strips, I think you mean a skillet vs. a grill pan.

If so, I've found that cast iron grill pans are only good for looks. They don't really do anything to replicate the flavor of grillng. They just leave grill looking marks.

The big downside is that that are a pain to clean. You have to get the gunk out from between the ridges with destroying the seasoning.

I concur with BT. I saw commercials espousing the benefits of the grill ribs in their cast iron, stating that the marks give the meat flavor. Well, yes they do as mallard reaction takes place and produces the umami flavor where the marks are. However, that grilled flavor from cooking over charcoal, wood, or gas grills comes from fat dripping into the fire, burning off and producing smoke. Those smoke particulates sticking to the meat are what give the flavor.

Also, if the seared browning gives flavor, isn't it better to sear the entire meat surface, rather than just where the ribs touch the meat, like with a standard cast iron skillet?

I did get that fire grilled flavor from a grill pan with ridges, one time. I got the pan so hot that dripping grease burned off, creating the smoke. I had to open all of the kitchen windows, and air out the house.:ohmy::LOL: If you want grilled flavor, cook outdoors, over fire, where smoke isn't a problem.

And yeas, once very well seasoned, i have cooked many acidic foods, such as sweet & sour sauce, tomato based sauces, even recipes with lemon, or lime juice in both my cast iron pans, and cast iron Dutch oven, with no issues. The vessel must be well seasoned. Tip, for bad grease buid-up on the outside of the pan, place it into a plastic garbage bad overnight, with a saucer of ammonia. The crusty build up will come right off. You will need to re-season the pan.

Seeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
 
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