The Magic Ingredent

The Challenge

by Ben Huberman

What’s the one item in your kitchen you can’t possibly cook without? A spice, your grandma’s measuring cup, instant ramen — what’s your magic ingredient, and why?

I hadn’t thought much about it since it’s been hiding in a cabinet for a couple of decades, till I heard an interview on The Splendid Table podcast a few months ago. That episode got me thinking and searching. Now I use it almost exclusively. When I say it, I really mean them. I have two but normally only use the larger sister, letting the little kid brother wait for special times.

“What is it you ask?

6" Wagner 10" Grizwald and Wagner lid

6″ Wagner 10″ Grizwald and Wagner lid

Yes Cast Iron Skillets. After I listened to the podcast I dug into the cabinets and found the 10″ skillet and searched YouTube for some guidance on seasoning it. I watch a few and found them are quite similar. Thoroughly clean the skillet then coat with Crisco and bake in a hot oven for a few hours. Let it cool the repeat a few more times. After seasoning the large one I remembered that I had a small one. I dug the kitchen cabinets again, and found it. I repeated the seasoning process on the smaller. Now about once every 2 or 3 weeks, if the oven is hot I will wipe the pan with a light coating of Crisco and bake it at 400°F for about 2 hours. The next morning I’ll take it out of the oven and wipe it clean, ready to use once more.


Now that I have two seasoned frying pans I hardly even think of using a “non-stick” pan, except for a “ceramic” coated pan which I reserve for cooking eggs. Yes I do rinse with soapy water, and occasionally need to use a scrubby to loosen some slightly stuck food.

I do cook some scrambled eggs in the smaller pan, but I find it’s a bit small for any serious cooking, even for one person.

The lid, yes I found that I still had the “Wagner Drip Drop” lid, also Cast Iron. The underside is ribbed so any condensation will drip back into the pan and baste food. So for much of the cooking I find that medium-low (4 out of 8) on my gas range is ideal. Cast Iron is not a great conductor of heat, so hot spots do occur but if it centered over the burner the heat is well distributed, or adjust the position so that the items that need more heat are over the heat, while the rest is simmering in the same pan. The results of this is that I have only one pan to clean up, and the entire dinner is ready at one time.

Where’d They Come From?

There are no date marked, indicating that they were made before 1960. I remember my Mom cooking with the large one and the lid. The smaller one I don’t remember at all. They may have come to Mom from my Grandmother.


About Mike

I'm an avid bicyclist, that also enjoys Kayaking, Nature Photography, Cross Country Skiing and Geocaching. There's nothing more boring than sitting indoors in "good" weather.
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One Response to The Magic Ingredent

  1. rogershipp says:

    I remember the cast iron skillets of my mother’s as well. Good cookin’!

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