Let’s talk about how to buy cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens. Whether you are a first-time user or you’ve been using it forever, everybody needs a tip every now and again and I’m going to go through my top tips.
My number one tip for buying cast iron is where it is made. Now, I trust the cast iron from the USA rather than overseas cast iron. Overseas cast iron is made from automotive blocks which means it will warp, it wont heat even, sometimes it will even crack.
You can buy cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens everywhere these days. All cast iron was not built the same.
When you buy a cast iron skillet, you need to inspect it so make sure you take it out of the box. Don’t be shy, you need to see it.
First thing, look for that USA stamp. You need to inspect the cast iron really well. Make sure there’s no cracks, no blemishes, I want to make sure it is not pitted.
That’s really hard to tell on preseasoned cast iron but if you look, see if there’s any deep holes in there. Are there any cracks where the base meets the sides on the inside? Is the thickness of the walls uniform all the way around? Take a look at the handles, are they attached securely with no cracks, no blemishes.
Most reputable companies have quality standards so its not an issue with companies like Lodge. I trust that brand, its served me well. Never once let me down.
Now, when you are looking at old cast iron, the first thing you need to do is turn it over and look for warping. You want to make sure it wont rock because if its wobbling when it is sat down, there is a curve in the base. This will make it unstable and it won’t distribute heart well. If your looking to buy used cast iron, walk away from warped skillets and Dutch ovens. They are no good to you.
Where and how to buy cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens used
I find many of my pieces in thrift shops and antique stores. Some of my items have been handed down to me. If you have relatives that have good iron, be nice to them…it might end up yours!
Its also worth looking at eBay too…occasionally something of interest pops up. You need to be sure what your buying though, ask the seller questions and make sure you can send it back if your not happy.
What to look for when your buying new cast iron Dutch oven
It is pretty much the same what you need to consider when you are looking at a new piece of cast iron. With a Dutch oven, obviously you will be inspecting the lid and how that fits. The same applies with blemishes, pitting and cracks.
Don’t be afraid to take it out of the box. You need to see what you are buying. If you are buying it online, do your checks before deciding whether you want to keep it. That’s why I always check the returns policies before I buy. I don’t accept faulty goods.
With a new cast iron dutch oven, the first thing I do is check how the lid sits on the pan. I will then spin the lid on the base to make sure it goes around without any problems. It needs to go around freely.
You need to make sure the lid has a lip on it. You need it there to hold the coals in place. Some come without the lip, stay away from them. They are of no use. Make sure it has a lip.
Inspect the handle well by making sure both sides of the handle where they are attached has no obvious issues. You also want to run your finger around the lip on the inside where it is designed to sit on the oven. Make sure that there are no knots in there.
Looking at the inside, make sure there are no cracks…no humps, no bumps, no lumps, no contusions, no dimples, no impressions or depressions. Make sure the thickness of the walls are uniform all the way around.
“no humps, no bumps, no lumps, no contusions, no dimples, no impressions or depressions”
Lets now look at the legs, they are to sit the oven off the ground above coals. Some of the cheap cast iron has hollow legs. This is no good as after setting it down time after time in dirt, it will eventually rust and wear through.
With outdoor cast iron Dutch ovens, you need to consider the size. I always have a minimum of two. A 12” deep and a 12” shallow. If your feeding over 5 people, it needs to be this big at least. Even if your cooking for less people than that, I would still recommend the 12”, the leftovers save cooking further down the line.
For those that like to talk in quarts. A 12” deep holds 8 quarts. A 12” shallow holds 6 quarts.
My final thought…
Remember, you can buy things online but make sure you check it properly before you decide to keep it. Make sure you leave a little time before you need it just in case you do need to get a replacement.
I hope this post on how to buy cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens was useful to you. Leave a question in the comments if you want any more information.
That’s all for now folks.
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