Sunday, October 03, 2010

My cast iron rule

This blog article began as a comment to the Ramblings on Cast Iron blog. After typing three paragraphs on my thoughts about purchasing cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens on eBay, I converted my comments into a blog post here.

I occasionally browse the cast iron listings on eBay, mostly for fun. I've never purchased any cast iron from the on-line auction site. Shipping is just too expensive, especially since many of the vendors seem to be located east of the Mississippi and I'm in California.

Any cast iron piece in my collection must be functional and ready to use. That's my rule. There are no idle pieces in my collection. Each piece must serve a function and be able to work over a hot bed of coals. You won't find any museum pieces in my modest collection (12 skillets, 13 Dutch ovens and two or three trivets).

When I purchase a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven (a rare event these days), I don't want to screw around with heavy cleaning or reconditioning. I leave that for others. Plus, I just don't have the time for the lengthy process.

This rule saved me from purchasing a $510 Griswold 20-inch cast iron skillet last year, a piece that I'd love to own. Two factors attract me to the skillet. It's size makes it the perfect cooking vessel for a crowd. The 20-inch skillet will make quick work of a big batch of cottage fried potatoes for a hungry crowd of campers.

The mammoth skillet was manufactured in a time when durability and quality meant something. While I find the contemporary Lodge 17-inch skillet is an acceptable replacement, the larger vintage Griswold or Lodge 20-inch skillet would be the perfect addition to my battery of cast iron cookware.

(For readers that feel compelled to advise me buy the Bayou Classic 20-inch skillet, please save your words. I won't buy it.)

If you feel the need to purchase cast iron through eBay, click over to the Ramblings on Cast Iron blog. "And I've found that many (eBay) sellers don't know much about what they're selling," warns greenturtle, the Ramblings' blogger. "Often, the description of the size and volume is listed incorrectly."

As a buyer, you need to do your homework. "And always search online for the current market price," adds greenturle. "Some sellers vastly overcharge." Armed with common model and size information, you'll also know that the "8" on the handle is the model number, not the diameter, for instance. The Lodge No. 8 skillet (SKU L8SK3) is 10-1/4 inches in diameter, not 8 inches.

Unless you're a serious collector of cast iron, my rule will serve you well. Avoid eBay and make sure each purchase is ready to work. If you locate a 20-inch Griswold skillet for a reasonable price, buy it. Make sure it's ready to fry up a huge batch of sausage gravy at your next family reunion breakfast.

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