Monday, February 7, 2011

Confessions of a Cast Iron Skillet Hoarder

Cast Iron skillets and cookware hold a fascination for me that at times is bordering on obsession. If I see a rusty old iron skillet at a garage sale I feel sad that someone is tossing it out. Do they not know what they are throwing away? We were at an estate sale once and all of the china, costume jewelry and linens were hugely overpriced. As I was walking through the sale I noticed a cardboard box under the table. Being the person I am, I had to see what was in that box. When I pulled away some old plastic bowls, I saw something black, greasy & rusty. My heart started to race because I knew this box contained a treasure that no one else cared about. I unearthed two iron skillets that had letters on the bottom and I could see a G, an I and a D. Being an iron skillet nut I knew these were Griswold skillets and from the look they were old. I ask the person running the sale how much she wanted for the skillets....she said "oh, I'll take a buck a piece for those old things" I had to turn around to keep my feelings to myself.

When I look at these skillets I always imagine the person who owned them. I see them cooking for a houseful of kids or maybe using them in a cafe. Maybe a chuck-wagon cook used them on the wagon trains crossing the plains. Maybe some young bride that knew no better gave them away for a new shiny aluminum skillet cause it was all the rage! I have been lucky enough in my life to have been taught to cook with iron skillets. And now I have inherited most of those from our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. I don't have to create fantasy meals in my mind of what these black jewels held, I experienced it first hand.

When our son was young he was in Cub Scouts and we continued our love of iron cooking with the Dutch Oven. There is something about building a fire outside and cooking a cobbler in an iron pot. It's not a fancy pastry but there is nothing like it in the world. Little boys are fascinated with cooking outside and that worked out fine for myself and my husband because we are too!

Many people don't want iron skillets or cookware because they are afraid that the food will stick, that they are hard to clean and that it will affect the taste of the food. I agree there are special ways to care for cast iron but once it's "seasoned" it's just the best thing in the world.
Highly acidic food such as tomatoes will cook darker, but if you cook them on lower heat they will be fine. I can scramble eggs that are light and fluffy in my skillets because they are treated and seasoned well. The longer you use an iron skillet the better it cooks. This is my treasured corn stick pan that belonged to my husbands grandmother. I just baked cornbread sticks, removed them and washed with it in warm soapy water. I place it in a 200 degree oven and let it dry then rub it lightly with a paper towel with a tiny bit of canola oil. Now it's ready for the next time I want to make corn sticks. It's that easy!

This website will help you with the care & cleaning of your iron
If you don't have any of these old iron skillets, go to an antique store and rescue one..or two..or three...! They will be so happy to be providing someone with delicious food again that they will serve you for a lifetime.


  1. I just started cooking with my new cast iron skillet last night! I can't wait to get it good and broken in.

  2. I'm so ashamed to say I don't even own 1 cast-iron skillet!

  3. J Wells, congratulations, once you get a well seasoned cast iron skillet, you will treasure it!
    Feast on the Cheap,go to thrift stores, antique stores or junk stores and rescue one of these!,If you get an old one, search online for a site that shows you how to clean and restore the skillet. There is a particular way to season an iron skillet that will give you incredible results.

  4. I am a hoarder of cast iron, too! What if they stop making cast iron skillets one day -- what will we do? I got one real cheap at a flea market last year, not for a buck mind you, but $5.

  5. Do a search for cast iron hoarder. I doubt you'll find one. Collectors yes but hoarders no. Let's see some of your hoarding pictures!