There have been so many posts recently about cast iron cookware that it got me thinking about the pros and cons of new pre-seasoned pans VS Grandma's pan, washing with detergent VS water wash only, first use etc. Lots of conflicting information has been swirling around and I'm curious if there really is one single answer that is absolutely correct. Curiosity really did kill the cat and has gotten me in trouble over the years but in this case, neither maturity nor caution did occur. I went ahead with my hare-brained scheme.
I bought a brand spanking new 10" pre-seasoned cast iron skillet and used it head-to-head with my 50+ year old seasoned 10" beauty, cooking the exact same things twice for this entire week. The results are more than surprising to me.
To make the experiment more slanted than it ought to have been, the first item I chose was cornbread. Eschewing common wisdom to cook a lot of high-fat foods in the new pan, I figured baking something would be the first, last and only test with an easy-to-pick winner.
The products were identical in all aspects. The new pan did not stick as I'd expected, nor did it have a lackluster crust. As I said, the two pans of cornbread were absolutely identical. Even my Yankee husband was impressed.
Next, I threw caution to the wind and decided to make plain, old red spaghetti sauce. If anything could be guaranteed to fail, an acidic food ought to be it. +/- 1 TBLS of olive oil in each pan, 1 chopped onion to soften, garlic, bay leaf ..... deglazed w/ red wine and added a large can of Roma tomatoes w/ juice. Simmer for an hour -- you know the drill.
Identical products! I was fully prepared for a mouth-puckering distasteful bite but was disappointed (?) with a pleasant product. Granted, they both needed some further attention before serving, but they were the same sauce.
By Day Three, I'm getting discouraged. Can all the pre-seasoning business be just an urban myth designed to make cooks everywhere feel like we're doing something important?
I decide to brown floured chicken thighs in butter & oil. They're wonderful.
Day Four is a blur and I don't remember exactly what I did but know that it was cabbage prompted by Dommy!'s request on this board for some interesting variations. I do recall deglazing with vinegar and liked each, identical product.
OK, now it gets serious. I am cleaning the pans the same way, a hot water rinse & dried over a flame. Stack them using old potholders as a buffer between pans, like I do with all the others.
The cleaning must change.
On Day Five I cook bacon & fry eggs in the bacon fat for breakfast - what could be more "black iron skillet friendly" than this favorite? To make the challenge slightly more interesting, I decide to move the eggs before they're properly set. This is designed to guarantee failure and it does succeed - in both pans! Each egg sticks.
The pans must be cleaned. I fill each with some water and over low heat, scrape off the stuck egg. I wash the new pan with Dawn liquid detergent in hot water, drying as before over a flame. I rinse out the old skillet and dry over the flame. Tomorrow will be the real test to prove my long-held theory of the importance of pre-seasoning.
Day Six: Hash Browns!
Absolutely identical product!
Hands in the air in defeat, I tip my toque to whatever-the-hell is being done to pre-season cast iron cookware and decide to humbly retire from the world of science. Somebody knows something I'll never know.