Lots of pans have handles constructed from a metal core and bakelite overlay, so you don't need to use a pot holder. Did you ever try to drill bakelite? It will shatter and destroy the handle. Drilling holes is not the solution.
I have a skillet from one of those Sale-A-Day outfits (not *oot) on which the bakelite handle spontaneously broke. It shattered worse during the repair attempt and is now in queue to be refitted with a generic repalcement bakelite handle from Ace Hardware.
The cracks are reported to be three radial cracks originating near the center. If you heat the pan in order to braze it, they will continue to "run" or extend. Before attempting to braze the pan you must drill a "stop" hole to relieve the stress--a 1/16"" hole clear through the pan. This is true for welding any unterminated crack in cast iron, engine blocks for example.
I've had good luck steel-welding cast iron using a 1/16" regular (4019 ?) rod or stainless rod and low (e.g., 70 amps) current, but your mileage may vary.
Ann - if your pans are from the '70s they should be finished (or cast) fairly smooth and cook just as well as the old Griswolds and Wagners but they'll be heavier. I know - our daily use workhorse cast iron is no-brand 70's vintage also. Back in those days you could go into any hardware store and get no-brand made in USA cast iron cookware that functioned very well but wasn't quite up to the old Griswold/Wagner standard.
I reserve the Griswolds/Wagners I've found for "special" use. My wife has the habit of putting the washed cast iron on the burner for a few minutes to dry and she turns the heat on high (electric stove) as it takes a few mins to heat and she's occasionally forgets and leaves them on too long and has almost ruined them (they'll warp) so I don't take chances with the true classics.
The newer stuff, even from Lodge, has a "pebblely" rough finish that doesn't cook or is non-stick as well as the smooth finished older ones. I reserve those and any throw-away imported ones for my Boy Scout troop use and let the boys learn on them! I'm happy to support Lodge and buy their stuff as they're the last ones in the US but I do wish their stuff was more comparable to the classics.
And yes, there are some Japanese cast iron works that have apparently been around for centuries that produce argueably the finest cookware (some say better than Griswold/Wagner) and they're extremely pricey, I've heard into the hundreds of dollars.
As far as having food stick while using cast iron, if you heat it too high you'll burn the seasoning off. Sounds like that fella's mother-in-law was doing that, or it was really poor quality cast (too pebblely).
Interesting point, Ann, about the too rapid heating, although I have not done that. But I recall that my old mother-in-law complained that she did not like them because they always rusted. If one does not pay attention to what is cooking in a cast iron pan it is possible to burn things badly enough for them to stick, which she did quite a bit. But under those same conditions a teflon anti-stick pan would produce toxic smoke, and be ruined, usually. She was one of very few who did get things to stick to an anti-stick pan.
I also prefer cast iron to modern "non-stick"--it's the original non-stick surface. But many people don't know how to use these pans without breaking them, usually by heating them up too fast and/or too high.
Thanks, thrashercharged, I've been told that before about old cast iron. My pans are from the 70s, but I bet they'll still last longer than what's out today. I mentioned Lodge because they're the last manufacturer left standing of any worth, at least in the US. There's also some pricey Japanese cast iron becoming more available, such as this: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/komin-fry-pan/?pkey=cfry-saute-pans My guess is this is better stuff than Lodge.
Actually if you really want great cast iron cookware you need to look at the antiques instead of the newer Lodge. The newer Lodge stuff is ok and at least still made in the USA, but frankly it's far inferior to the "good stuff" made by long gone companies such as Griswold, Wagner, Wapak, etc. The best cast iron was made before 1960 and the older the better.
Classic cast iron had a much smoother, glassy cooking surface due to their use of "jeweler's sand" and was actually much lighter than today's heavy weights. You'd think the lighter weight wouldn't heat as evenly or hold heat as well but apparently they used much better quality iron back in those days (esp from the Sidney and Erie, Ohio area) and were able to make them thinner and still cook well. Also, the quality of the casting is better (especially on items from the 1930's and 40's) with much less casting flash and machined edges.
If your cast iron doesn't have a country of origin, it's likely the better stuff from pre-1960 as that's about when country of origin started to be put on merchandise. If you like cooking on your newer cast iron you'll love the antique stuff. Do an internet search on "vintage cast iron" for more info and images. Hit the garage/estate sales, antique stores and flea markets (or bite the bullet and pay more on eBay) and get some old Griswold and/or Wagner and you'll see what I mean.
Fifty-six-year-old Pasquale Russo has been doing metalwork for more than 30 years in a tiny southern Italy village. Many craftsmen like him brought with them fabrication skills when they came from the Old World to America.
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