Fashioning Cast-Iron Pans for Today’s Cooks

One of the oldest cooking tools in the kitchen is the cast-iron skillet.  These pans are sometimes passed down through generations because of their beauty and usefulness.

In the last five years, three new companies have begun to produce cast-iron skillets, promising to make improvements with a combination of handwork and modern technology.  Finex, Borough Furnace and Field Company got initial funding on the Kickstarter funding website.  Hundreds of small backers will eventually receive pans in return for their financial support.  The Finex 10-inch skillet sells for $165; the Borough Furnace model sells for $280, and the Field skillet sells for $100.

A well-used, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is an all-purpose pan.  Nonstick to cook eggs, hot to sear anything and useful for roasting, stewing, simmering and baking.  The nonstick surface of a cast-iron pan is achieved with natural ingredients like flaxseed oil and lard, rather than synthetic coatings like Teflon.

People are willing to pay a hefty premium for these cooking tools because of their craftsmanship.  The modern-day skillets share qualities of those made between the 18th and 20th centuries: light and thin with a smooth cooking surface.

How about cleaning and seasoning?  Skillets of the past had natural coatings formed by cooking with fat, and bonding fat molecules to the metal surface.  Use the pan often for projects like frying, cooking and browning.   Scrape the cooking surface clean, rinse with hot water, add a drop of soap and put in back on the stove over low heat until dry.  Store dry skillets in a cupboard or oven to protect them from dust.

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