Jeff Rogers is a cast-iron enthusiast who lives outside Atlanta, Georgia. Here are a few dos and don’ts from the Culinary Fanatic himself.
What do I need to watch out for when collecting vintage cast iron?
WARPING When hunting for cast iron, bring something with a straight edge so you can test the surface of the piece. I use a credit card, but something like a 6-inch plastic ruler will work even better for larger pieces. Simply hold the straight edge to the surface, inside and out. If you see any light at all underneath the straight edge, then the piece has either a convex or concave warp.
CRACKS When selecting a vintage skillet, make sure to examine it very closely, inside and out, in a well-lit area. If the skillet has a lot of gunk on it, a crack will be literally impossible to detect.
RUST Normally, I don’t fool with rusted skillets. If you’re thinking of purchasing a rusted skillet, try to be sure it is just light surface rust, and that it has not caused any serious pitting on the cooking surface. Once restored, a rusted skillet can be great for cooking, but the depth of the rust will determine if it is collectible or not. My final rule of thumb is this—if the price is high and something keeps you from determining the actual condition of the piece, always walk away.
Can I cook on a glass-top stove?
Cast iron is a versatile cookware and can be used on just about all types of stoves and cooking surfaces. The only risk when using a cast iron skillet on this type of stove is obvious—drop it and you’ll shatter the glass. I would use the same type of precautions with glass tops that I use with electric coils. They can get hotter than expected with cast iron, so watch your heat. Also, when moving a skillet on a glass-top, pick it up–don’t slide it.
What foods should I avoid cooking in cast iron?
If you have a piece of cast iron that is extremely well seasoned, you can get away with cooking just about anything on occasion. I stay away from using acidic foods like tomatoes, vinegar, citrus, and things like wine. In a newly seasoned skillet, these ingredients can spell disaster for the seasoning in your skillet, and for the flavor of your foods. I also avoid things that are water-based and have to simmer for a long time. The better your cast iron is seasoned, the more you can get away with.