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Old 08-05-09, 09:03 PM   #1
CrimsonEclipse
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Let's talk about cookware.

In my never ending quest to cook better... or to cook period, I've learned (first hand) that the teflon on cheap teflon coated pots and pans quickly flake and end up in my digestive tract. Not being keen (who uses the word 'keen' anymore?) on scrambling my DNA (or whatever it does) it occurred to me that there has to be a better, yet still inexpensive alternative.

So, (getting to the $#&* point) is there a type of cookware, specifically skillet and cooking pot, that is inexpensive... and safe.

I was thinking of cast iron cookware. But it once and it lasts 5 generations, make a great *thwong* sound on the craniums of intruders, and is supposed to cook well too. Not the $300/ sauce pan type, more like the $20, Target or thrift store variety, but not sure if there are any pitfalls to the old style skillet.

I'm open to other suggestions that are inexpensive, and non-toxic (i know kill the fun)

Thanks.
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Old 08-06-09, 01:06 AM   #2
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The cheap stuff is cheap because it sucks, how hard is that to understand. High quality cookware can be kept a lifetime, plus once you cook with copper you'll be jaded for life.
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Old 08-06-09, 01:20 AM   #3
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Teflon Pans Kill Parrots

Hello

It is good to hear you are looking into getting away from teflon, not only does it flake into food which is extremely toxic the vapors alone from the pan will kill a pet parrot

http://www.ewg.org/node/21780
PFCs: Global Contaminants: Teflon and other non-stick pans kill birds

Aluminum is also highly toxic so stay with the old style skillits they can actually help get iron into your diet and if you cure them properly with some regular use you can cook perfect eggs in them as well.

cheers
Johnny
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Old 08-06-09, 06:17 AM   #4
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Iron is a good choice, but again, go with only the good stuff. The $20 cast iron fry pan from Target is not going to be the same quality (i.e., content of the metal) as more expensive ones. Also, if you're a guy, you don't need more iron in your diet if you eat a balanced one.

Personally, I agree with the second poster- best to save up your bucks and get a really good set. I prefer All-Clad stainless (not the non-stick or brushed stainless). It's easy to clean, cooks fast (I do a lot of saute work), and is extremely durable. I bought a set about 15 years ago, and it's still working great and that's saying something- I cook on high heat and tend to be very hard on pots and pans. Yes, it's hella expensive (current price for the set I bought is about $600 on Amazon), so if you're in a hurry, why not look into the Cuisinart equivalent? It's going for (an unbelievable) $97 on Amazon right now. It won't be the same weight and balance as the All-Clad (which is really a professional set), but it will definitely serve your purposes. At that price, you should get the whole set, as a small open stock skillet can cost that much.

All that said- I'd still keep a 10 or 12-inch cast iron fry pan, well seasoned (so it's like Teflon) around for home fries. Ain't nuttin' like home fries cooked in cast iron.

Good luck!
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Old 08-06-09, 07:14 AM   #5
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I recently got 2 cast iron skillets (a 10 inch and a 14 or 16 inch). I got them from a local cooking store, and they were fairly cheap, about 35-40 and 50 dollars. They are not top notch by any means, but they cook great and are holding up well. They have been much better than my teflon stuff. Don't be too scared by the cheaper stuff, if that's all you can afford, then that's all you can afford. Odds are, it will still be worlds better than your current stuff. Even if you can get to the mid range stuff, it will be a good investment and probablly last a long time. Also, make sure to learn how to clean them properly.
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Old 08-06-09, 07:40 AM   #6
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I recently got 2 cast iron skillets (a 10 inch and a 14 or 16 inch). I got them from a local cooking store, and they were fairly cheap, about 35-40 and 50 dollars. They are not top notch by any means, but they cook great and are holding up well. They have been much better than my teflon stuff. Don't be too scared by the cheaper stuff, if that's all you can afford, then that's all you can afford. Odds are, it will still be worlds better than your current stuff. Even if you can get to the mid range stuff, it will be a good investment and probablly last a long time. Also, make sure to learn how to clean them properly.
They're actually pretty good ones if they cost that much. The last point is critical- cast iron needs to be cured before using it and cared for over its life by cleaning appropriately (no detergent, for example)- the instructions that come with the pan are usually pretty good. A properly cured and cared-for CI skillet, one that's been used regularly for 3-6 months will be better than Teflon in the nonstick department. I've fried eggs in mine without any added fat- pretty amazing, when you think about it, given how porous raw cast iron is.

One other point I forgot- CI (even when properly cured) should never be used with acidic foods, like juices, tomatoes, wine, etc. A cured pot or pan will lose its cure, and an uncured one will make the food taste like, well, iron. Use stainless, glass, or porcelain coated CI for acid foods. Whenever you see in a recipe to use a "non-reactive pan"- they're talking about anything other than CI.

Last edited by MTBLover; 08-06-09 at 07:44 AM.
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Old 08-06-09, 08:24 AM   #7
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I'm happy with my calphalon tri-ply set. Stainless steel so its non-reactive, but with an aluminum layer sandwiched in the bottom and up the sides. It heats evenly and I think its more efficient with the burner usage too. I've had eggs stick (no oil, and might have been too hot) but soaking the pan overnight and then cleaning it with a nylon brush removes everything. Copper is supposed to be a better metal for its heating properties, maybe a stainless steel/copper sandwich would be a good choice.

You might want to feel the weight of the pans in a store too, some people don't like the handles on the all-clad. On the calphalon tri-ply, the long handles have never been too hot to handle (and I'm sensitive to heat), but the short ones (on the large stock pot) do need some mittens or towel to hold after boiling water. Calphalon also has glass lids, vs. the solid metal of the all-clad.

If you're buying a full set of the high end stuff (all-clad, calphalon), a lot of places will give you a "free gift" of some kind, typically utensils or another pan. I lucked out and found my 13-piece set at a store that was closing, $300 out the door.

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Old 08-06-09, 09:28 AM   #8
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I use a cast-iron pan that my great grandmother passed down to my grandmother, then to my mother, then to me. No idea how old it is, but it's the best pan I've ever used.

I also have a new set of All-Clad stainless steel cookware that I use a lot. I like it because it has metal handles and can go from the stove top into the oven.
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Old 08-06-09, 08:59 PM   #9
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That's why I love BF... So much information.

Teflon, confirmed, no good.
Aluminum, not good (I suspected this, but wasn't sure.)

Please keep in mind that I am a beginner at best, so I'm going to use a skillet and small pot for heating a few items with the occasional "something complicated".

Is cheap CI THAT bad? Is it just harder to cook with or are there other problems? I mean the Cuisinart set is nice and all (Excellent Link MTB!!!) but do I REALLY need that much? (and a $600 set is just not going to happen)

I read the soaking CI is bad, and you need to keep it saturated (seasoned) which seems to mean you need to cook with oils and fats. I am trying to stay away from such things, are there alternative ways to keep CI seasoned?

Also, there seems to be several references of iron leeching into the food. As far as I know, I'm not iron deficient, so is this a problem?

Are older CI cookware made any differently, meaning, would a 100 year old CI pot contain dangerous chemicals or compounds, or anything else i should know about?

Once again, thank all of you for the outstanding information. It's really a big help.
Cooking AND eating healthy are both HUGE steps for me.

Cheers
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Old 08-07-09, 12:41 PM   #10
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I have All-clad and like it, but the do have the worst non-stick of any pan I've owned. The cheaper non stick has performed much better for me than my all-clad. Cooks magazine recently tested cat iron skillets and reccomended the pre-seasoned Lodge cookware.
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Old 08-07-09, 01:26 PM   #11
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okay, here's the real deal:

http://www.lodgemfg.com/

cast iron that is union-made in the united states of america. comes pre-cured (and the curing ain't all that bad, either). i have two, one of them for over ten years thus far.

oh, and the pans are about $25 each.
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Old 08-07-09, 01:34 PM   #12
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I was told by my doctor to cook tomato sauce in a cast iron pan in order to increase my iron intake. It does not change the flavor of the food and as long as you don't let the sauce sit in the pan, it doesn't remove the seasoning.

You don't need to cook with a lot of fats and oils to keep the pan seasoned. I wash the pan then heat it on the stovetop to dry it. When it's dry but still hot I wipe it with a little bit of oil on a paper towel, removing any excess. That keeps it well-seasoned.
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Old 08-07-09, 01:57 PM   #13
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It's actually a good way to get a little more iron in the diet- you just never know how much you're actually getting until you get your hemoglobin checked. Guys usually don't need to worry about this, though, and in fact added iron in the diet can be detrimental. Whether or not that's a good reason for guys to stay away from CI cookware is really quite arguable- I don't think it really matters that much.

If you're going to go CI, I'd go with the Lodge line, although being something of a purist, I've scrubbed the pans with steel wool (to get rid of the factory cure) to put my own cure on. You don't have to do this. Like cbad says, it's really simple and easy to keep a cure going- just don't scrub with Brillo .
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Old 08-07-09, 02:02 PM   #14
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just don't scrub with Brillo .
good poing, and one that bears repeating...

no.
soap.
ever.
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Old 08-07-09, 02:18 PM   #15
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I have found that abrasives aren't nearly as bad for cast iron as detergents are. There are some times that abrasives are a must, but detergents, never.

FWIW, my favorite abrasive is a pine cone and some alpine lake mud.
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Old 08-09-09, 07:52 PM   #16
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Someone gave me a really nice cookset for christmas a few years ago that is really heavy steel and coated with teflon and I have had none of the issues with flaking and things that I used to have with the cheaper stuff, doesn't even scratch if I accidentally use a metal spatula or something.
That being said, cast iron does beat pretty much anything else in existance, provided you don't have qualms about the whole no soap thing.
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Old 08-09-09, 11:26 PM   #17
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One of the best investments in cookware I ever made: http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products...d-handles.html They have others including cast iron, but you need gas stove for it.

UD
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Old 08-10-09, 06:27 AM   #18
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I like a big skillet. The pan I use the most is about 15 inches, steel, got it at a yard sale. Large iron skillets are a bit heavy. You prob have a restaurant supply store in your area. They will have some good steel pans.

Speaking of yard sales, I found the Joy of Cooking very helpful when I was learning to cook. I am told the new ones aren't as good, get one 20 years old, or older.


My wife does the dishes and washes both with dish detergent regularly. The pans
didn't fall apart.

See if your library can't interlibrary loan this for you
http://www.amazon.com/Outlaw-Cook-Jo...9908011&sr=1-1

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Old 08-10-09, 07:18 AM   #19
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The Calphalon One Infused Anodized (non-teflon) stuff is pretty nice, but can be pricey. I buy a piece at a time... as I need it. It isn't non-stick, but is easier to clean than other cheaper brands.

I also bought a few of Calphalon's cheaper "contemporary non-stick" skillets. Pretty heavy pans so still good quality, and the teflon (assuming it is teflon) seems better quality too.
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Old 08-10-09, 07:25 AM   #20
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The Calphalon One Infused Anodized (non-teflon) stuff is pretty nice, but can be pricey. I buy a piece at a time... as I need it. It isn't non-stick, but is easier to clean than other cheaper brands.
darn, i've been looking for a deal on one of those skillets, hoping it would be the non-stick solution for eggs without teflon.
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Old 08-10-09, 09:46 AM   #21
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I read that for an abrasive on cast Iron that kosher or coarse salt works well. I have tried it and it does work fantastic. Just use a little water and some Kosher salt with a paper towel and like magic, it's clean.

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Old 08-10-09, 10:09 AM   #22
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I read that for an abrasive on cast Iron that kosher or coarse salt works well. I have tried it and it does work fantastic. Just use a little water and some Kosher salt with a paper towel and like science, it's clean.

HDK
fixed.
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Old 08-11-09, 07:28 PM   #23
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Is cheap CI THAT bad? Is it just harder to cook with or are there other problems? I mean the Cuisinart set is nice and all (Excellent Link MTB!!!) but do I REALLY need that much? (and a $600 set is just not going to happen)

I read the soaking CI is bad, and you need to keep it saturated (seasoned) which seems to mean you need to cook with oils and fats. I am trying to stay away from such things, are there alternative ways to keep CI seasoned?

Also, there seems to be several references of iron leeching into the food. As far as I know, I'm not iron deficient, so is this a problem?

Are older CI cookware made any differently, meaning, would a 100 year old CI pot contain dangerous chemicals or compounds, or anything else i should know about?
I own about 25 pieces of cast iron cookware (for home and camping use). A QUALITY piece of CI will be extremely smooth on the inside. Once properly seasoned, this will give you a very slick non-stick surface. Cheaper cast iron is poorly cast and rough to the touch. The afore-mentioned Lodge cookware is so-so (still fairly rough) but is probably your best bet in terms of affordability. If you want the best for a cheap price then I would recommend getting the UN-seasoned Lodge cookware. Use a random orbit sander and 80grit paper and get the bottoms and sides as smooth as possible. Then go through the proper seasoning procedure (easiest to do outdoors on a grill). This will take awhile but will give you the best results. You can spend a little bit more and get the pre-seasoned cookware and live with a slightly less optimal non-stick finish until the seasoning gets built up on the pan. You can also go through the sanding procedure with cheap cast iron but that will take you a long time. Alternatively, try to pick up pieces at the Goodwill or local flea markets. Just be aware that if the previous owner cleaned it with soap then you'll need to sand off the finish and re-season the pot. Otherwise, everything will taste like dish soap.

NEVER use soap on cast iron cookware (just like baking stones). Also, do not let it sit in water for a long period of time (over night, etc.). The best way to clean CI is when it is warm (pores of the iron are still open and can release the dirt). Use a loosely balled up chunk of aluminum foil to scrape and clean the pot. The aluminum is softer than the CI finish and will rub off (i.e. no pot damage).

To keep the pot seasoned, wipe the pot down -very- lightly with Crisco after each use. For longer term storage, stuff the pot with some clean paper.

The downsides to cast iron are:
- Rusts if you don't take care of it (clean and re-season if it does)
- It can break of you drop it onto a hard surface
- Not lightweight (i.e. no flipping things in the air like a trained chef)

The pluses:
- Lasts forever and gets better with age
- Holds heat forever
- Very even heat (no hot spots, even on crappy stoves)
- VERY good at searing
- Can be used with charcoal, oven, or stovetop
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Old 08-11-09, 07:29 PM   #24
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Oh yes... it should be noted that some older pieces of cast iron can be quite valuable (people collect the stuff).
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Old 08-11-09, 08:30 PM   #25
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Oh yes... it should be noted that some older pieces of cast iron can be quite valuable (people collect the stuff).
Yes indeed- I understand there's a great market for older Wagner CI cookware. Back when I started cooking (well, when my parents were teaching me, back in the 50s), Wagner was about all you could get.
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