Monday, April 28, 2014

Classic Lodge skillet located at Eagle Point antique shop

Chef Steven and his assistant scramble
eggs in the Daybreak Camp
Lodge 20-inch skillet.
I introduced my perspective on collecting cast iron cookware on these pages some five years ago. A self-imposed spending limit of $100 restrained me from investing hundreds of dollars in cookware that I’d never use. Any new purchase -- mainly cookware capable of feeding a crowd -- had to fill a specific need in my outdoor kitchen. Functionality was my watchword. Any piece must be ready to work, I reasoned. There are no museum pieces in my outfit.

With more than two dozen cast iron Dutch ovens and skillets in my modest collection, I saw little need to expand my holdings as I rarely use the entire collection in one setting today. Yet, for some time I’ve felt that one skillet was missing from my collection.

My introduction to Lodge’s heavy 20-inch skillet came in the Daybreak Camp kitchen in 2002. Unknown to me, Lodge had discontinued production of the skillet sometime before I first saw it. For the next seven years I put the camp’s skillet to work frying potatoes and scrambling eggs for one week each July. A pall of sadness fell over me each time I left the skillet on the range for the next group.

I’ve been searching for the skillet since then. A number of leads in the intervening years came up empty, including a call to a Bishop, California, hardware store that forgot to pull its webpage ad after they sold the last unit. Discouraged, search efforts waned over the past five or six years. I felt that I’d missed my chance to ever own one.

Scrambled eggs ready for campers on
Independence Day 2006.
Then, by chance, I found a 20-inch Lodge skillet (model 20SK) Saturday at an Eagle Point, Oregon, antique shop on Saturday. Debbie and I stopped at the Butte Creek Mill to briefly meet fellow Dutch oven cook Ron Clanton of the Rogue River Dutch Cookers. As we waited for Ron, my wife drifted to the antique store, located next to the water-powered grist mill.

Curious as to where Debbie had disappeared, I walked to the antique shop and found her. And I found my skillet! Inside, I saw several cast iron bean pots and skillets. Then the massive skillet jumped out at me as I rounded the corner toward the back of the shop. Its rusty hulk was propped against a vintage piece of furniture. As I inspected the skillet, I immediately realized that I was holding the object of my decade-long search.

The skillet is in decent condition. Though rusted inside and out, there is little pitting on the cooking surface. It looks like most of the rust is on the surface. I should be able to remove it with steel wool and wire brush. It’s my project for the first week of camp, when Debbie and I work alone in the kitchen. Once cleaned, it’ll receive a coat of shortening and an hour-long bake in one of the convection ovens. I’ll give the skillet a test run when the cooks arrive next week.

A rare find, my "new" Lodge 20-inch
skillet needs a bit of elbow grease
and seasoning in a hot oven before
I put it to work.
As it turned out, Ron missed our appointment because he was sick. Yet, the missed opportunity to meet and share our love for outdoor cooking opened into the chance to see the great millworks in Eagle Point and trace of Southern Oregon pioneer history. And I acquired a great piece of cast iron cookware, one that I would’ve missed had Ron been well.

With a $55 price tag, I acquired a great piece of cast iron cookware for well under my price cap. The skillet will serve me well at Oakland Feather River Camp and on the range. The Lodge skillet will certainly feed a crowd. And it’ll soon take center stage on my sauté line, next to 14- and 17-inch Lodge skillets.

Thank you, Ron. I plan to bring the skillet to Eagle Point next November for the annual Gobble ‘Till You Wobble (link takes you to the 2013 event) at the mill. We’ll see you to cook, talk about shared craft and enjoy some wonderful Thanksgiving vittles!


  1. Replies
    1. Very sorry I missed you two, but happy the failed meeting paid off for you, Looking foreword to cooking with you in November.

      The Outlaw Gourmet.
      Don't rob your self of good cookin'

  2. Thanks Ted and Ron for your comments. I plan to clean the skillet and re-season it next week. Stay tuned.

    Ron: As I said in the blog, we are planning to come up to the Gobble event in November.