It is not always possible to buy cookware and not be disappointed. To make it easier for customers to choose, we are launching a new section called “Tests,” in which different types of products will be tested while cooking various dishes. We will try to complement the subjective impressions of the experience of using cookware with the information that can be obtained by objective methods.
As the first sample for the test, a 26cm cast iron Lodge wok was chosen. The Lodge is a cheaper alternative to le Creuset. This product may well be considered as one of the options for a universal pan “for all occasions” with an unlimited life span, and we were interested to see how it would behave in different cooking modes.
Let’s start with the specifications. The Lodge frying pan (item L8DSK3) has a claimed diameter of 26 cm. The exact distance between the walls was 25.5 cm, which, however, does not prevent you from using a third-party glass or metal lid with a 26 cm diameter with the frying pan. The bottom has an outer diameter of 18cm. The height of the frying pan is 8cm.
The thickness of the bottom of the frying pan is about 6 mm, the walls about 4 mm. Useful capacity of the frying pan is 2,5 liters. The weight of an empty frying pan is 3,4 kg.
The frying pan has two one-piece handles – one long, one short. This is convenient because the frying pan is heavy and it is not safe to handle it with one hand. The product is suitable for use on all types of stoves, including induction, but manufacturers of glass ceramic cooking surfaces do not recommend using cast iron because of the risk of scratching or breaking the surface of the stove. You can also cook in the sauté pan in the oven, on the grill and on the fire.
The shape and size of the skillet makes it possible to use it for cooking a variety of dishes. You can roast, stew, bake, and bake pies in this sauté pan. About how the pan copes with the preparation of various dishes will be discussed below, and we will begin with a description of the problems encountered during the use.
Problem #1 is the short-lived nature of the factory tempering.
From the factory, the Lodge skillet, according to the manufacturer, comes out ready for direct use. It’s technically uncoated cast iron, but the surface of the cookware actually has a protective film that forms as a result of firing the pan with oil. This is what most manufacturers do, the main reason being to protect cast iron cookware from corrosion from the moment it leaves the factory to the moment the user purchases it. Such a film does not create additional non-stick properties, protects against corrosion rather poorly (after washing the pan should be thoroughly dried).
The oil film quickly enough begins to break down and crumble. This is easy to detect, just run a white cloth or tampon over the oiled surface of the frying pan – and you can clearly see black crumbs of different sizes on it. As you continue to use the frying pan, the rate at which the film crumbles increases.
Solution to the problem. It is impossible to clean the frying pan from the factory oil coating; neither brushes, brushes, nor sponges with abrasive can cope with it. You can’t clean the surface with sandpaper either, because cast iron is porous. The best cleaning method we have tested is a drill or screwdriver with a cord brush made of copper-plated metal wire. Twenty minutes of work and the inside of the pan turns a dark gray with a matte sheen (the natural color of cast iron). After cleaning, the cast iron immediately begins to oxidize, so it is better to wipe the frying pan well, oil it, and re-roast it.
In principle, according to the manufacturer, any type of vegetable oil can be used for roasting; in America, olive oil (refined) or rapeseed oil are most commonly used. We tried refined sunflower oil and refined rapeseed oil. We liked rapeseed oil better, because sunflower oil leaves the surface of the pan a little sticky, while rapeseed oil dries out completely.
The baking process itself takes some time, the pan should be put in the oven for an hour, then it should be allowed to cool down completely, and preferably the whole process should be repeated a few times. We tried an alternative and quicker method, we just kept the frying pan with boiling oil on the fire (as usually they harden frying pans of carbon steel), visually the surface of the pan is not evenly colored, but from the point of view of corrosion protection, it gives the same result as the long hardening in the oven.
The repeated layer of oil, unfortunately, over time also begins to flake and crumble. In this case, you can re-do the hardening and cleaning procedure.
Problem #2 is stains and streaks on the inside surface.
A new frying pan has a black uniform matte color. But as the pan is used, spots appear on the surface – all shades of brown or iridescent. Similar stains also show up as the re-hot frying pan begins to be used.
Solution to the problem. It is theoretically possible to restore the uniformity of color by deep cleaning and re-hotting, but there is no point in doing so. The best thing to do is to ignore those spots.
Problem #3 is the appearance of rust on the surface.
Rust will inevitably appear if the pan is not well dried after washing, or if the air is very humid.
The solution is to be sure to wipe the frying pan after washing it and put it on the fire for one or two minutes to allow the moisture from the surface to evaporate completely. It is better to store the dishes in a dry place, if the humidity in the kitchen is very high, you can grease the frying pan with vegetable oil before storage.
In general, compared with other types of cookware – stainless steel or aluminum with nonstick coating – a cast iron frying pan is more demanding to care for, requires more time and attention. It can only be washed by hand, you can not leave cooked food in it for a long time (and the food will spoil, and the dishes will corrode).