We have the best no-stick pan

summary: a well seasoned cast iron pan is the best kind of no-stick pan; brief review of “A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove” by Laura Schenone; how to clean and season cast-iron; (click on image(s) to see larger view and more photos)

cast iron pan This morning, as T was preparing our breakfast omelette (bacon, onion, yellow pepper, cheese), I read aloud the last few pages of A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove by Laura Schenone. It’s a great read, in spite of Schenone’s tendency to go a little overboard with the notion that women have always done all the cooking and have invented everything of interest in the kitchen and for dining.

Laced throughout the narrative are wonderful illustrations, photographs and recipes. Particularly fascinating are the accounts of how people lived (and the influences they had on each other) in America when first arriving, when travelling across it during Gold Rush times and with the sudden influx of immigrants from all parts of the world.

There are a number of recipes we’re planning to try. (We already made black-eyed peas and rice, based on the Hoppin’ John recipe on pages 78 and 79.) There are also a number of recipes we’ll never try – like the 1884 Angel Cake that calls for eleven egg whites, the 1905 Stewed Celery with White Sauce, or the circa 1970’s recipe for Blueberry Cream Salad made with canned blueberry pie filling.

Another recipe we’re not planning to try is MFK Fisher’s Zucchini Frittata. There were cries of outrage and gasps of horror as I read the following:

[I]n her wartime book “How to Cook a Wolf”, Fisher told women that despite rations and short budgets, they could still live and eat with grace and gusto. Out of her recommendations was this frittata. “With a glass of wine and some honest to God bread it is a meal. In the end you know that Fate cannot harm you, for you have dined.” You can’t go wrong [following MFK Fisher’s basic wartime recipe for Zucchini Frittata]. And to make things easier, we now have the benefit of no-stick pans – a great breakthrough for frittata making.

-Laura Schenone, “The Blackout Cupboard”, A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, p. 304

My cries of outrage were at the inclusion of tomatoes and zucchini in an egg dish (way to ruin all three ingredients!). Cooked zucchini and tomatoes… in eggs. Brrrrrr.

But there were agonized shrieks in stereo of “what’s wrong with cast iron?!” when we heard the words “benefit of no-stick pans”.

WHAT is this fascination with no-stick pans?

And yes, I have to admit it. We too used a no-stick pan for years. Always making sure to use wood or plastic so as not to scratch the delicate surface. And when the inevitable happened and the last no-stick pan we had got bad;u scratched, we came to the sudden revelation that we didn’t have to replace it. We already had two different sizes of perfectly good “no-stick” pans in the drawer under the oven.

cast iron pan Well seasoned-cast iron. You cannot beat it.

Sure, it’s heavy. And the handle gets hot if the pan is put in the oven. But once that pan is seasoned, eggs do not stick. Nothing sticks.

Of course, one cannot wash it in the dish washer (if one HAD a dishwasher…), nor can it be washed with soap. Or, rather, if it is washed with soap, it has to be re-seasoned before using it again.

But cast-iron is very easy to clean. All that’s required is hot water and a brush. Then to immediately hand dry the inside to prevent it from rusting.

Incidentally, we have also successfully used our stainless steel frying pan for preparing omelettes. But, our favourite omelette pan is our little 8 inch cast-iron pan.

Yup. Cast iron is wonderful. Why would anyone use anything else?


edit 25 June 2011:

To season cast-iron:

  1. Hand wash (by scrubbing) the cast-iron pan with hot soapy water (dish soap) and dry the pan completely with a dish towel. If the pan is old, use a dish towel you don’t care about to dry the outside. The pan is likely to stain the towel.
  2. Pour a small amount of vegetable oil (sunflower, safflower, canola) into the pan and rub the oil in all over. (Use a clean dry dish rag or paper towel.)
  3. Place the pan upside down on a cookie sheet and put it in a 200F oven for an hour or so.
  4. Turn the oven off and leave the pan inside to cool. It will be very hot!! Once the pan has cooled, wipe out any excess oil and the pan is ready to use.

After using, wash seasoned cast-iron with hot water and dry it well before putting it away. If you feel you really must wash an already well-seasoned cast-iron pan with a small amount of dish soap, you can safely skip the oven step above. Dry the pan on the inside with a hand towel. Using a clean dry dish rag or paper towel, rub a tiny amount of vegetable oil into the pan, then place it on the stove over medium heat for 5 or 10 minutes. This will dry the outside of the pan AND re-season the inside. (Remember to turn the stove off!)


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2 responses to “We have the best no-stick pan

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    I’m with you all the way … except for the Angel Cake. I use 12 egg whites in mine and it’s one of my very favorites!
    The cast iron is a total winner. Heavy yes but keeps the arms in shape especially if you knead dough as well ;-)

  2. T

    I’ve found that rather than hand drying with a towel, after serving the food, I immediately go to the sink, scrub the pan clean then place it on the already hot stove. In essence, it dries itself.


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