Many people love cast iron pans, and for good reason: they're durable, oven-safe, produce a delectable sear, get better with each use, last a lifetime, and don't even have to be expensive. What's not to love?
With cast iron being very popular lately, lots of people are adding it to their kitchen arsenal. However, most people who've tried an inexpensive pan have been disappointed. Food sticks all the time and the pans are difficult to clean. Plus, the season doesn't seem to improve. But there's an explanation for this: the pan isn't smooth.
Before the 1950's, the insides of cast iron pans were ground smooth at the factory. This was standard practice, regardless the price of the pan. Manufacturers also used fine casting sand that resulted in a fairly smooth finish overall. So vintage skillets from an estate sale, antique dealer, or second-hand store are usually fantastic pans.
Starting mid-century, though, manufacturers (Lodge in particular) decided to skip the machining step to save money. Additionally, most makers now use very coarse sand for casting. These important changes in production create pans with a cook surface that's rough, full of pits and bumps. Consequently, food sticks badly, the pan is hard to clean, and it doesn't seem to build a season well
Smooth cast iron offers a completely different experience. A smooth cast iron pan can be the best pan you've ever had.
If you want to read more on this from an industry leader, here is a quick article on the topic, from the founder of Butter Pat (a maker of swanky pans).
What's special about Rock Island pans?
Rock Island pans give you the affordability of a mass-market brand (Lodge), with the performance of a high-end, specialty pan.
You can pay over $200 for a nice skillet from sellers like Smithey, Butter Pat, Field Co, or Finex. These are beautiful pans (well, maybe not Finex), but the only thing that makes them perform beautifully is their smooth cook surface. The rest of the pan is essentially the same as a Lodge.
8" - The small pan is ideal for smaller meals. A couple eggs, a two-egg omelette, single-serving portions.
10.25" - Not too small, not too big. The classic frying pan size works well for smaller families. Three fried eggs, a small pizza, the perfect-sized omelette. This is my favorite size.
10.25" Griddle - great for pancakes and crepes, you can also use this for eggs. Most popular use at our house? Griddled cheese.
12" - The full-size skillet suits large families well. To make a large pizza, a heap of scrambled eggs, a goodly portion of grilled peppers and onions... you'll need the large skillet.
Some things to consider: you can cook a small meal in a large pan, but not vice versa. However, the larger the pan, the longer it takes to heat up. So for a quick, small meal, a small pan is great. Also, the 12" pan is pretty heavy (over 8lbs).
What about shipping, cancellations, and returns?
Shipping: all prices shown here include the cost of shipping via USPS Priority Mail or UPS Ground. Due to cost, I ship only to U.S. locations.
Cancellations: you may cancel an order as long as it hasn't shipped yet. Please email me.
Returns: officially, I do not accept returns or exchanges, once an order has shipped. Cast iron is not cheap to ship and, barring damage during shipping, I know the pan I send you will work great. Still, if you have questions or need help, please contact me.After selling over 800 pans, I have not had anyone ask for a return or exchange yet, and I'm confident you will love yours, too.
How much actual cooking area does each size have?
The pans are categorized according to the outside edge.
Here are the measurements of each size of pan:
12" pan = 10" cooking area
10.25" pan = 8.5" cooking area
10.25" griddle = 10" cooking area
8" pan = 6.5" cooking area
What do you actually do to your pans?
I smooth the cooking surface so that it is ideal for cooking and seasoning. Remember, a smooth cooking surface is THE THING that makes for a great pan.
Where do you get your pans?
I buy new, Lodge-brand pans from retailers near me.