Pictured above is my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. She lived to be one hundred and seven years of age and kept house well into her nineties. This skillet is old, but it’s also good as new!
This Famous Piqua Ware #7 was made by the Favorite Stove and Range Company founded in 1887. Stoves were their primary product, but they also produced the Piqua line of cast iron pans. They were named after the town, Piqua, Ohio, and produced from 1910 until the company closed in 1935. That makes this family heirloom at least eighty-four years old.
Cast iron skillets are the original non-stick pans, pre-teflon and other coatings and alloys available today. All you have to do is season them properly and take a little care when cleaning them and they literally last forever.
My better half was never a fan and ours sat in the cabinet for years upon years until I ran across it while searching for something. It was the right size and I wanted to make a grilled cheese sandwich, just like my grandmother used to make for me. In case you’re wondering, yes, I was spoiled rotten. It might be my imagination, but that grilled cheese I made with this pan tasted better than anything made with our newer ones.
Cast iron pans are heavier than the aluminum, steel and bi-metallic or alloy pans favored today, but none can replicate the superior cooking characteristics. They will outlast anything made today and are versatile pans that stand up to the flames of my outdoor grill as well as indoor on the electric range.
How to clean a cast iron skillet
Many shy away from cast iron believing they are hard to clean. This is not true. You can wash them with a gentle soap and water, and dry them carefully. Then place a little oil in the pan and re-coat using a paper towel. When finished it should feel smooth but not oily. Don’t use heavy duty detergents and scrubbing agents that will remove the pan seasoning. If you don’t season it again before use food will stick!
My favorite cleaning method is to pour out any residual grease, and wipe it clean with a paper towel. Then use a little salt and finish scrub with another paper towel to remove any bits of food. Then wipe it clean again. Avoiding the use of water allows your seasoning to remain. The residual oil acts as a natural rust inhibitor and a moisture-free cleaning ensures it will not rust.
If you don’t have one, you need one and if you inherited one as we did, don’t let it rust away in your cabinet.
How to season a new skillet
- Use flax seed oil
- Pour a couple tablespoons into the pan and thoroughly rub it into the surface until it has a dark matte finish
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and bake it face down for an hour
- Let it cool and repeat up to 4 more times to build up nature’s own non-stick coating
And just one more thing…
While googling around I discovered that pans like mine are quite valuable. I found them for sale at a range of prices from $80 to $280. So if you’re not going to use that antique, sell it to someone that will. It deserves to be used.