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View Full Version : Is inexpensive cast iron safe?


B3
04-16-2010, 03:46 PM
A few months ago I was walking through Sam's and found a 12 inch cast iron skillet for less than $30. I stopped walking and started looking for the catch. That couldn't be actual cast iron, right? It felt heavy enough to be.

http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/navigate.do?dest=5&item=484455 (This page is for either the dutch oven or the skillet.)

After about 5 minutes of inspection I figured it was worth the $30 and I bought it for at least frying chicken. Now that I've used it several times, and having never used a cast iron skillet before, I'm wondering what the differences are between the nice stuff and this "bargain." Does it cook differently? Worst of all... is it safe to eat out of?

K-Barbecue
04-16-2010, 03:49 PM
Some say the small amount of iron that cooks into the food is acually good for you. I use lots of cast iron and love it.

Bluesman
04-16-2010, 03:52 PM
Odd as it may seem. In another life I worked in a machine shop, were we machined tons of cast iron. The shop foreman would strain the cast iron chips off into a botlle of water and then drink the water. He's dead now, not sure if it was the cast iron, the water..or maybe becasue he was old. :rolleyes:

K-Barbecue
04-16-2010, 03:56 PM
Odd as it may seem. In another life I worked in a machine shop, were we machined tons of cast iron. The shop foreman would strain the cast iron chips off into a botlle of water and then drink the water. He's dead now, not sure if it was the cast iron, the water..or maybe becasue he was old. :rolleyes:

Must have been the cutting oil :crazy:

Chef Jim
04-16-2010, 04:19 PM
Season it, work with it and then think of what it might have cost a hundred years ago. You probably overpaid.

BobBrisket
04-16-2010, 04:48 PM
For comparison, a Seasoned Lodge goes for about 35 or so. I say you did well. THe more you use em, the better they get.

WestTexAG
04-16-2010, 04:52 PM
The main concern with the cheap cast iron is that it usually comes from China. They have no regulations on the materials they use for castings.

chambersuac
04-16-2010, 05:04 PM
It is very dangerous. Send it to me for proper disposal :) You should be okay. Use it a few times. If you're still alive, it's good - if not, return it :) LOL

landarc
04-16-2010, 05:55 PM
Worse come to worse and you lose your mind and you can just cut the handle off that sucker and use it as a heat sink in your kettle or smoker.

justjack
04-16-2010, 06:13 PM
Must have been the cutting oil :crazy:
You don't actually use cutting oil on cast iron, do you? I never have, not even when cutting with HSS.

BluesDaddy
04-16-2010, 07:44 PM
A few months ago I was walking through Sam's and found a 12 inch cast iron skillet for less than $30. I stopped walking and started looking for the catch. That couldn't be actual cast iron, right? It felt heavy enough to be.

http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/navigate.do?dest=5&item=484455 (This page is for either the dutch oven or the skillet.)

After about 5 minutes of inspection I figured it was worth the $30 and I bought it for at least frying chicken. Now that I've used it several times, and having never used a cast iron skillet before, I'm wondering what the differences are between the nice stuff and this "bargain." Does it cook differently? Worst of all... is it safe to eat out of?

Well, a Lodge 12" Cast Iron (made in America) is $18.95 at Wal-Mart. The 15" is $35. I suspect you got a 15" and not a 12"?

maxwell7
04-16-2010, 07:48 PM
:clap2:I have skillets,bean pots,fish friers,dutch ovens etc.! Do fur trade reenactments and find nothing tastes as good as something cooked in cast iron--have some lodge as well as taiwan, great for cooking!!!If youpick it up and it feels like aluminum in weight---well, maybe rethink!:doh:

K-Barbecue
04-16-2010, 09:39 PM
You don't actually use cutting oil on cast iron, do you? I never have, not even when cutting with HSS.

Dunno here...... I'm not a machinist ?:-D

Learnin Querve
04-16-2010, 10:35 PM
Just don't wash it with soap.

Chris

justjack
04-16-2010, 11:06 PM
To be honest, I'd be pretty sketchy about cheap chinese iron ware. Cast iron by its nature is extremely porous, and some of the impurities that may be found as an inclusion in the metal that might come from a Chinese foundry really don't bear thinking about.

My 0.02c of course.

tjus77
04-17-2010, 06:25 AM
from an old timer I learned from, the only real difference in cheap CI and expensive CI is the fit of the lids and how porus they are. If the skillet is not that porus, don't worry about it. If it is, it just won't be as non-stick as it could be and yes if made in China it might be a little less that pure, but the way things are made here in the US now, I'm not so sure you wouldn't have the same with made in the USA.

Once it has a good seasoning on it, it doesn't matter anyway. my .02

thirdeye
04-17-2010, 07:48 AM
A few months ago I was walking through Sam's and found a 12 inch cast iron skillet for less than $30. I stopped walking and started looking for the catch. That couldn't be actual cast iron, right? It felt heavy enough to be.

http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/navigate.do?dest=5&item=484455 (This page is for either the dutch oven or the skillet.)

After about 5 minutes of inspection I figured it was worth the $30 and I bought it for at least frying chicken. Now that I've used it several times, and having never used a cast iron skillet before, I'm wondering what the differences are between the nice stuff and this "bargain." Does it cook differently? Worst of all... is it safe to eat out of?

I think the main thing to check out is the country of origin, and do a visual to access the surface quality. There have been some issues with some China foundries, the most recent I remember was the recall of some of the Paula Dean cast iron skillets. (they were prone to cracking and shattering)

Cast iron cookware is made all over the world, and I would suspect that occurrences like the one mentioned above are rare.

Wallaby
04-17-2010, 08:03 AM
I don't buy new CI. Hit almost any estate sale, yardsale or flea market and you will find great old CI for less than half of the new price. The older stuff is lighter and has a better surface finish.

Mike

mj5580
04-17-2010, 08:20 AM
My first dutch oven was a $20.00 10 inch chinese knockoff. I still have that one as well as a lodge and a campchef. whether its a skillet or a dutch oven the main thing is to season it well and use it to learn how it cooks. I too have noticed that cheap cast iron has poorly fitting lids as well as varying thickness of the casting when compared to the name brands but just use and learn how it cooks, above all have fun with it.

Chuckwagonbbqco
04-17-2010, 02:49 PM
I am missing the chromosones that cause catironitis. I am also missing the chromosones that cause one to want to cook over fire. As a result of these 2 inflictions I have a 30 year collection of cast iron and BBQ collection.

The main difference between fine quality cast iron and inexpensive cast iron is the finish. Cast iron was the original "non-stick" and vintage "Griswold" cast iron is thinner than todays production, and has a smooth glossy finish. I saw some 10 dollar skillets at "Big Lots" store last night and the cooking surface looks like coarse sandpaper---hard to get "non-stick" out of that even with excellant seasoning.

Do not be fooled by antique stores selling modern production pieces at a "high" antique price. Look for names like Griswold or Wagner. Look for a smooth, slick cooking surface.

thirdeye
04-17-2010, 06:16 PM
I am missing the chromosones that cause catironitis. I am also missing the chromosones that cause one to want to cook over fire. As a result of these 2 inflictions I have a 30 year collection of cast iron and BBQ collection.

The main difference between fine quality cast iron and inexpensive cast iron is the finish. Cast iron was the original "non-stick" and vintage "Griswold" cast iron is thinner than todays production, and has a smooth glossy finish. I saw some 10 dollar skillets at "Big Lots" store last night and the cooking surface looks like coarse sandpaper---hard to get "non-stick" out of that even with excellant seasoning.

Do not be fooled by antique stores selling modern production pieces at a "high" antique price. Look for names like Griswold or Wagner. Look for a smooth, slick cooking surface.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v377/thirdeye2/Cooking/CopyofDSC08113a.jpg


Some of the bottoms of my old cast iron pieces have a better finish than the cooking surfaces of ones I see in the stores.

caliking
04-18-2010, 12:45 AM
I too have been tempted - saw some inexpensive cast iron ware (dutch ovens, skillets, etc) at Academy Sports last week. Was tempted, but then passed on it. I think what worries me is what was used to make it pre-seasoned in China. Lodge claims to use veg oil. I'll just save up my birthday money to but a Lodge DO.

I did find a great 10" skillet for $3 at an estate sale recently. Score!

BluesDaddy
04-18-2010, 08:30 AM
I was looking at my cast iron the other day. I purchased all of them over the last 30 years not really knowing anything about cast iron. I have an 8", 10" (the oldest, it is 30 years old purchased when I had my first "real" kitchen but no cookware), 14" skillet and a 12" dutch oven (indoor not a campfire one). I can't read the bottom of the 8" or the 10" and the 14" simply says "Made in the USA". Given the age of them, I expect they all were. Much to my delight, the dutch oven is actually a Wagner. I have no recollection what I paid for any of them, but all were purchased before domestic iron and steel started going through the roof, so I imagine not much, relatively speaking. If buying new, buy American. But check out flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales as well. My oldest daughter and I were in a Goodwill before she went back to college one year and came across an old 10" cast iron skillet for, IIRC, around $8. Needless to say I bought it for her. She's now married and got a ton of cookware for her wedding, but still has (and uses) the 10" cast iron.

bigabyte
04-18-2010, 08:42 AM
Iron is an element, so iron is iron is iron. The only difference will be quality of craftsmanship.

B3
04-19-2010, 01:20 PM
Comparing what I have to the picture (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showpost.php?p=1253894&postcount=21) thirdeye posted above, my surface has a much rougher finish. It does seem to release food well though.

Thank you all for your replies. I now know something about cast iron! (I used to know nothing.)

1FUNVET
04-19-2010, 02:02 PM
I don't buy new CI. Hit almost any estate sale, yardsale or flea market and you will find great old CI for less than half of the new price. The older stuff is lighter and has a better surface finish.

Mike


That's where i shop. :thumb:

jswordy
04-19-2010, 04:15 PM
I reckon I am picky about what I eat off, cuz I will not use foreign cast to cook my food. There is too much of a chance for, uh, intentional impurities to be in the metal, and as already said, the metal does transfer to your food. If China will put cheap impurities into kids toys to save money, they will do it with your cookware, too. The high heat of frying can especially leach those nasty heavy metals out.

Your best best for Lodge brand is to go to the South Pittsburg, TN, Lodge factory store and get the seconds they have there. Cosmetic blemishes, big savings. I just bought the large size Dutch oven there for $46. Also bought a 16" cast iron pizza pan, excellent for oven and smoker; I think it was $18 or so. Bet you can't get out of there without dropping $100, even if all you buy is seconds. I love the place.

Even Lodge has gone to China for its fancy enamelware cast iron (which I will not use; see above, same holds for enamel coatings) but the black iron is still made right in Tennessee.