I am hoping that some of you chowhounders can give me a little help with my present circumstance.
A little background: I have been cooking all of my life but never before used a cast iron frying pan. After reading a lot about them (much of it here on chowhound,) I decided to purchase a single small cast iron pan and see how I liked it before spending too much money. After deliberation and a lot of advice I decided not to go with something new but rather check all of my local thrift stores and a few garage sales. A few weeks ago I came across two matching blue Le Creuset cast iron pans at a local thrift store.
(I apologize but was unable to paste the pictures I took of these pans for you to look at. If anyone knows how to download a picture to chowhound, please let me know and I will add them.)
Too excited to give it much thought, I quickly purchased them for three and four dollars each. Having a Le Creuset Cast Iron dutch oven for the past ten years, I knew that I could always return them to Le Creuset for new ones even if the finish was not great.
Little did I know at the time that Le Creuset has changed their return policy (or, it may have always been this way but unknown to me.) If you did not purchase the items new they will not replace them for free. However, when I told them of my desire to return them, they offered me the following: if I pay to ship the two pans back to them they will sell me a 9” pan at cost of $33.75 and a 12” pan for $47.50.
Here is my quandary. I know this would be a really good deal for two new Le Creuset pans (currently selling on Amazon for $89.95 and $137.00 respectively.) However, my budget for buying even two or three cast iron pans was well below the hundred bucks I would now have to pay including shipping these heavy pieces. Of bigger concern to me is that even after reading a whole bunch about these pans, I am not entirely clear if they are just plain cast iron. I admit to getting confused when trying to read about Le Creuset. Is this cast iron? Some enameled cast iron? Is the enamel just on the bottom? Some threads say you season Le Creuset, others you don’t.
So. Finally to my question. What are my options and what do you suggest? I did try a quick cleaning of part of one pan with steel wool but it still has a slightly different look than what I expect cast iron to look like. Can this be stripped down? Perhaps with a special drill bit to clean the iron? Is it worth spending the money to get the two new ones? Would they do what I am looking for them to do? I am hoping to use these pans mainly for breakfast items and for cooking steaks.
I am appreciative of any help you can give me.