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Finding an old skillet still cast for the purpose of cooking |

Finding an old skillet still cast for the purpose of cooking

By Rennie Phillips

One of the main appliances in Mom and Dad’s house was the kitchen stove. Mom’s was a gas stove or range, and it had four burners on the top plus a griddle in the middle. Neat stove. We ate a boatload of pancakes fried on that middle griddle.Must have been a 42- or 46-inch stove. And from the time I can remember, Mom and Dad always had a cast-iron skillet sitting on their stove. I don’t remember what kind of skillet it was or even how big it was. I don’t think it was real big, so maybe a 10-inch skillet or so. That’s pretty much all Mom used.

I do remember them buying some of those Teflon-coated skillets. One had to use the special spoons and spatulas in them. I know I got chewed out a few times when I used a metal spatula. Marge tried these coated pans as well, but it didn’t seem like they lasted long. Seems like before you knew it the coating was coming off, and all that was left was pieces of Teflon stuck to a metal skillet that the food also stuck to. We figured we were eating the pieces of Teflon, so not real appetizing.

Mom and Dad, Marge’s folks and Marge and I also tried those electric skillets, which worked pretty good. I think they were mainly made out of aluminum. Most were pretty thick and warmed up fairly slow, so food didn’t stick or burn real bad if one was kind of careful. But they took up a lot of counter space or storage space. When we got married, Marge’s parents gave us a #7 Wagner cast-iron skillet. I’m guessing we still have it. We have a number of skillets now, so not sure which one is the gift from Helen and Keith. Unless they are abused, these old skillets will last for generations.

I spent time with Lewis Hamilton and Lendy Wiggins hunting and fishing. Both of them would bring a cast-iron skillet to cook breakfast or dinner, and man, it worked like a charm. Never seemed to stick. Most of the time they were cooking bacon or pork, and when there was enough grease they fried eggs. Both of them used Griswold. Right then I knew we had to have a Griswold skillet. Had to, no question about it.

We began looking in rummage stores, flea markets and antique stores, and we found and bought a few. Some were good buys, some weren’t. I bought a deep cast-iron baking dish with a lid. After trying it, I noticed a hair-line crack on one side. Doesn’t leak, but there is a crack. Lid is perfect, so still not a bad deal. Bought one Griswold in a flea market in Cape Girardeau. It was literally covered in a black, cooked-on mess. I took a chance. After a lot of cleaning, out came a nice Griswold.

It was about then that I discovered eBay, where there were pages and pages of Griswold pots and pans and skillets and all kinds of goodies. Somewhere in there the line between need and want got fuzzy, and the line between good deal and expensive got fuzzy as well. So we began to buy a few things on eBay — skillets, pots, waffle irons and griddles. Got real interesting.

About this same time we were going to a flea market in Illinois, and there was a guy there who had some serious cast-iron Griswold stuff. Man, he had a tall-ring #7 Griswold waffle iron that looked brand new. He had $150 on the waffle iron, which is a lot of money to spend on a waffle iron. So we’d go check out the flea market and I’d drool on the Griswold stuff, especially the waffle iron. Not sure how many times we went and checked it out. Then one time we went back and the store was closed and all his stuff had sold. The guy had died and the waffle iron was lost for good.

One showed up later on eBay. It was not as good, but not as expensive either. Didn’t make the same mistake twice. We went ahead and bought the waffle iron and use it every now and then. An old Griswold Abelskiver came up for sale on eBay, so I went ahead and bought that as well. My grandparents were Danish, and the Abelskiver was their way of making pancakes. My one sister has Grandma and Grandpa’s old Abelskiver. Neat. I wonder if Grandma brought that old Abelskiver from Denmark when they immigrated to the U.S. One thing I’ve got to do when we visit Nebraska is to have some Danish pancakes out of it.

Some would faint if they saw how we clean our cast iron. We use soap and water and a scratch pad, if it’s needed. Our skillets don’t seem to stick, so they must be seasoned real well. Every now and then we will heat up the skillet and wipe some oil in it, then just turn it off. After it cools, we wipe it down.

I think the best way to season a cast-iron skillet is to just use it to fry some bacon or sausage. Use it. One thing we do after cleaning — set it on the stove and heat it to finish the drying.

Most come with numbers on them. A #7 or #8 is a great size for normal use. You will hardly ever see a #9. My wife’s favorite skillet is a #10, while mine is a #12. If I had to buy just one skillet, it would probably be a #10. If you are buying it online or from eBay, I’d only buy one piece at a time so that it’s shipped alone. I ordered several pieces from one seller and, after banging around in shipping, one was broken and ruined.

There are some mighty fine new ones out there, but I’ll stick to the old ones. I just like the fact they are old.

Hope you can find you an old cast-iron skillet which you can use.

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