April 6, 2010

Make It Last - Item #1: Cast Iron Skillet

A big part of not buying anything is making what you have last. If an item is not broken or dangerous, keep using it. Pay no mind to fashion or fad. It is the best way to lower the cost per use of any item - make it last, use it many times. A cast iron frying pan is a good example.

We have had a cast iron skillet for over 20 years, and that was after Linda's mom used it for decades before gifting it to us. It is as good as new. With proper care cast iron cook wear can last several generations. It doesn't get much more cost effective than that.

Cast iron boosts the iron content of cooked foods, especially acidic foods like tomato sauces. When seasoned this versatile cookware is as non-stick as chemical-coated fry pans. Lard is often recommended as a good agent for seasoning cast iron.

Over the years we have used our trusty skillet to make nachos, hash browns, omelets, grilled sandwiches, pancakes, fry bread, stir-fries, tomato sauce, soy sauce/sesame seed tofu and more. In our meat eating days we made nice blackened fish with the cast iron fry pan on a medium to high burner. Our bomb-proof, heavy fry pan has gone camping with us, although not backpacking for obvious reasons.

There are many good cast iron frying pan and dutch oven recipes on the net. I found the following recipe for Indian naan bread that works well in a heavy skillet:

Nann Recipe


  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
  2. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  3. During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.
  4. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.

Enjoy your naan bread, and remember to put your cast iron skillet in your will for the next generation to enjoy.


  1. Anonymous5/02/2010

    Yay for cast iron!!! We read "Death by Rubber Duck" (it's like scarier than any horror film) and decided not to cook with our "non-stick" skillet anymore. We have replaced it with a large,deep cast iron pan with a lid....in the ordering info they called it a "multi-purpose" pan (in French it translated as "fait tous" which sounds cooler) and we really do use it for everything. You can save a little energy too because it retains heat so well. Plus, I get in some weight lifting when I take it in and out of the cupboard! :-D Keep blogging! It's good to get encouragement from a sensible voice!

  2. Congratulations on your switch to your healthy "fait tous". You will enjoy it for a lifetime of cooking. Thanks for your encouragement. You are obviously a sensible person yourself.

  3. We love our cast iron pans. It's so great to cook with and I will never go back to anything else. Have you read The Family Frying Pan by Bryce Courtnay. It's pretty neat.
    Hope you guys are well. Black eye and all.

  4. Geneviève,

    Cast iron cookware can last generations. Same with a properly prepared wood cutting board. Thanks for the reference. Linda is doing great, as am I. No more black eyes for now.

  5. Some 40 yrs ago I purchased a made in North American cast iron frying pan. My first frying pan. It is still in use, with my ex. I kept the small & large one, he got the middle sized one. I only gave it to him because we split on good terms.

    Made in North America cast iron cookware can still be found in thrift stores for a very reasonable price. They are great. They do become a tad heavier when you get older but I like to think of it now as my weight training exercise. If I can lift the frying pan, I'm good to go.

    Cast iron cook ware is still being made by Lodge in the U.S.A. & can be found in some specialty stores. They make great gifts & something someone can keep forever. No need to use those plastic lined frying pans, they just wear out & need to be replaced. when those came on the market I was always a little leary about the coating coming off so I stuck with my cast iron frying pan & have saved a lot of money over the yrs.

    1. Good choice! Cast iron cookware is 'buy it for life' stuff.

  6. We still have my grandmother's cast iron skillet. She passed away at 75 years of age and the skillet became my father's. I'll have to ask if she was the one who purchased it originally and when. The best part - it has history. We can cook with it and feel a family tie across the years.

    1. Adge,

      That is a beautiful story. It is nice to have things that are both functional and meaningful.

  7. We recently cleaned out some storage of my mother after she passed away. In the garage we found 3 cast iron skillets, an 8", 10" and 12". They were rusted and dirty. I told my husband I wanted them. My son said, "Mom, those are gross. Just throw them away." I told him to give us a week and see what he thought. We cleaned them up and did a six coat seasoning of flax oil. They look brand new, even better than some of the new stuff we have found. (we season all new stuff too, even it if says preseasoned. lol) My son didn't believe they were the same ones we found. We absolutely LOVE cast iron. Love the way it cooks and how food tastes. This is a great recipe. Thank you for sharing.

  8. It's awfully late to comment, but I can't lift the darned things!

    1. Bec,

      What about a little cast iron skillet? But you are right - they are very heavy. Cook and exercise at the same time!


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