Smooth vs. Textured Cast Iron

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My first cast-iron skillets were family hand-me-downs—big, nondescript pans with smooth interiors. When I ordered a small griddle from Lodge last year, I was surprised to find the cooking surface had more texture. The first time I used the griddle, I was afraid my pancakes would stick, but they flipped cleanly. I figured that the texture was less important than the pan’s seasoning; if that was good, then the pan would be nonstick.

An old, polished skillet (L) and a new, textured skillet (R).

I didn’t realize this was a point of contention, if not confusion, among cast iron users until I read an article a couple weeks ago by a collector. The author talked at length about her opinion that smooth skillets are more nonstick than textured pans. She even referenced methods to polish textured pans to make them smooth. After a quick search online, I found many similar articles, all espousing the benefits of polished skillets. I decided I needed to dig into this smooth vs. textured issue, so I reached out to my contact at Lodge, the oldest cast-iron cookware manufacturer in the U.S. Here’s what I learned.

 

The Reason for Texture

Cast iron manufacturers can produce pans with smooth or textured interiors. Lodge skillets are textured on purpose. The company states the texture allows the oils to adhere to the skillet’s cooking surface during the foundry seasoning and later, when the user cooks on it and maintains it at home. While Lodge did produce polished skillets for many years, they were discontinued due to poor sales in 1998. Polished skillets were never a major part of the company’s business, representing less than 2% of sales when they were discontinued.

A Polished Trend

Why do people prefer smooth pans? It seems nostalgia is to blame. Those of us who love cast-iron cookware have our favorites, and those tend to be the pieces our grandparents and parents used the most. While your favorite pan may have been polished by the manufacturer, it may also have lost its texture over time due to regular use, especially if metal utensils were used in it. If the pan was refurbished to remove rust, that process would also have smoothed out any of its original texture.

While a smooth texture may make the pan a little harder to season, the nonstick coating is reinforced with regular use and proper maintenance. That means the pan you use every day probably cooks just as well today as it did when your grandmother first started using it—if not better.

The Fried Egg Challenge

In the cast-iron community, there is something called the Fried Egg Challenge. It’s simple: if you want to know how well a cast-iron skillet is seasoned, you fry an egg on it. Ideally, the egg should flip easily and slide right off the pan. If the egg sticks anywhere in the pan, you know you need to perform some kind of maintenance, such as a light seasoning.

In the following video, a member of the Wagner and Griswold Society (a group devoted to cast-iron and aluminum cookware) conducted the Fried Egg Challenge on a very rough Griswold skillet. To his surprise, the rough surface didn’t have a negative effect. In fact, he states the textured pan works better than polished skillets. (Interestingly, he seems to believe the rough texture is a result of disuse. Although he refurbished the pan himself, he didn’t go so far as to polish out the texture.)

 

Planning to Polish?

Step away from the drill! If you polish your own pan, you could end up removing too much of the cast iron. This would make the pan too thin or uneven, which would negatively affect its cooking ability. Since cast iron is a hard but brittle substance, you could even break the pan. If you’re still bent on polishing your textured pan, contact a member of the Wagner and Griswold Society or someone knowledgeable in your area.

It’s All About the Seasoning

In the end, a well-seasoned pan has more nonstickability (my new term) than a poorly-seasoned pan, regardless of texture. If you’re using your grandmother’s smooth pan, then keep using it and take great care of it. If you buy a new pan, don’t be afraid of the texture or in using metal utensils in it.

Now get out your pan and keep on cookin’ in cast iron!


Want to know more about cast-iron cookware and how to care for it? I provide all the details you need in my upcoming book, Modern Cast Iron: The Complete Guide to Selecting, Seasoning, Cooking, & More (April 2020). The book even includes a personal tour of Lodge’s new foundry in Tennessee. In the meantime, stay tuned here for more info on cookin’ in cast iron!

To the Mom Who Doesn’t Have it All Figured Out

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Credit: Courtney Wahl Photography

I love this picture of our family! The sun is shining, we’re all smiling, and I’m actually wearing make up!

On days like that one, I think I might just have it all together. Okay, not “all” together, but mostly together. Gordon wasn’t sure what was going on, but he was amenable. When he fussed a little, I knew what he wanted. When we went out for lunch (an anomaly), Gordon slept the whole time. I may have even done a load of laundry that day, and I’m pretty sure we had dinner. I totally “mommed” it!

Other days don’t come so easily, though. On those days, I can’t figure out why Gordon is crying. I can’t make bottles fast enough, or anticipate his moods, or have the energy to sing “The Wheels on the Buss” a fifth time. Laundry piles up, toys are everywhere, I’m a hot mess, and Robby has to make dinner. Now that Gordon is getting older (five months already!), these “off days” come less frequently. Still, there are times when I’m at a complete loss.

Mother’s Day brings to mind brunches, pretty flowers, and gift cards lined with platitudes. A mother’s life, however, is much harder and more difficult to describe. Sure, we talk to other moms about “mom life,” from the best toys to the secrets of getting a little one to sleep through the night. But we rarely, if ever, talk about the hard stuff…you know, the emotional toil of being a mom.

I know women who suffer from postpartum depression. They carry a heavy burden every day for a year or more after their little ones are born. Others struggle to keep their sanity and patience as they battle severe sleep deprivation for months on end. Single moms do double-duty, while the rest of us try to figure out how to keep our hubbies happy, as well as our babies. All of us deal with doubt, second-guessing, and even fear as we grapple with the heavy weight of raising a perfect little person in a fallen world.

“Tiny Human” by Imogen Heap, is the only song I have ever heard that captures these emotions. The video, below, is a bit artsy, but I think it’s perfect. Imogen gets it. She understands what it’s really like to be a mom, and she’s not sugar-coating it. Still, she declares that she couldn’t imagine life without her little one, and neither could I. (Get “Tiny Human” on Amazon. Also check out my last post for a link to Imogen’s “The Happy Song,” one of Gordon’s favorites.)

From time to time, I’ll share with you my experiences and what I’m learning as a first-time mom. But please don’t ever think that I have all the answers or I have it all figured out. Because here’s the truth you won’t find on perfect Pinterest boards, fancy Facebook posts, or glossy Instagram images:

NO MOM HAS IT ALL FIGURED OUT. We’re all just doing the best we can.

This Mother’s Day, I encourage you to turn off the social media for a day. Enjoy the flowers and cards, and savor brunch with your family. Pamper yourself as much as you can, because you deserve it.

Later this week, start building a network of other moms you can rely on when you need a break or a sanity check. Start by calling a friend and having a heart-to-heart. Tell her what you’re struggling with, and listen to her problems. I’m sure you’ll discover that you’re not alone. Then make an agreement to touch base with one another regularly, just to check in. I text with a couple mom-friends often, and it’s been extremely helpful! (And texting is easier than calling when you have a napping baby.)

Whatever your personal struggles are, I assure you that you’re “momming it” just as well as anybody else out there! And, in case you wondering, you’re the perfect mama for your little one…that’s why God put you two together. (Tweet this.)

Now, go change that diaper. Then have a happy Mother’s Day!

Top 5 Musical Faves Your Little One will Love

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When my sister Madeline was little, she used to have a plastic heart-shaped locket. I think she kept a picture of me in it for a long time (which is super sweet!). What I remember most, though, is the song it played: “You are My Sunshine.” This was in the 90’s, though, before kids’ toys became what they are today. Even at 10 years old, I thought the sound quality of that locket was annoying. Madeline loved it, though, so we heard a lot of that song (and I still think of her whenever I hear it).

It’s no secret that babies love music and other soothing and fun sounds. This week, I thought I’d share with you Gordon’s favorite song, musical toys, and apps. If you have a little one, check these out. If you don’t, keep them in mind for your next baby shower.

The Happy Song by Imogen Heap

A friend of mine shared this one with me, promising that it would put a smile on Gordon’s face, no matter what—and she was right! He loves the funny sounds (“ping ping, a submarine”) while I enjoy the soft melody. A lot of children’s songs grate on my nerves, but not this one—even after playing it a dozen times in a row.

Sadly, this song is a single and appears to be the only one the artist has made for children. However, that means you can get it on iTunes or Amazon for $1 and you don’t have to buy a whole CD.

 

My First Bible Songs by Shiloh Kidz

If you’re looking for a collection of those VBS songs you sang as a child, check out My First Bible Songs by Shiloh Kidz. The songs are upbeat and catchy, perfect for road trips or when you’re trying to get the energy out of your rambunctious little one.

The CD comes with a padded, illustrated board book with the words to most of the songs printed. This is a nice feature, especially for older kids who are learning to read and want to follow along with the music.

 

 

 

VTech Sleep Soother

Although Gordon can fall asleep in a crowd of noisy people, sometimes he needs a little help drifting off when the house is quiet. That’s when I turn on the VTech Sleep Soother. It’s a small noise machine that features white noise, ambient sounds, and soothing melodies. I’m surprised at the quality of the sounds, especially the songs, but I appreciate the volume button more than anything. Most machines are way too loud for me to fall asleep to, but I’ve personally enjoyed this one. Another nice feature is that it uses an included USB cord to charge, which is nice because I don’t have to buy (and throw away) batteries. If that weren’t enough, it has a flexible hook and a Velcro strap, so you can attach it to the crib, car seat, or play yard. When we go to Grandma’s house, this little monkey goes with us.

(We have an older version, but this newer one has a night light, which would be really helpful.)

 

Summer Infant Slumber Buddies Projection and Melodies Soother (Dozing Hippo)

Last year, Robby bought me this hippo Slumber Buddy as a sweet Mother’s Day gift—just weeks after we found out I was pregnant. The Buddy plays three different songs (which are pretty good) and two sounds: flowing water and a heartbeat. The night light is my favorite feature, though. It doesn’t just glow; it projects light in the shape of stars and planets on the ceiling (something I loved as a child!). You can choose between four different colors or allow it to switch between them automatically. It also has a timer, which you can set to go off after 15, 30, or 45 minutes. Oh, and last but not least, it’s super-snuggly. This little hippo is sure to be one of Gordon’s favorites.

 

Baby Sleep Sounds Guva Plus App

As far as lullaby apps go, we love Guva! We use the free version of the app, which has dozens of beautiful sounds and melodies. My favorite sound is “deep water” because it makes me feel like I’m sleeping under the waves. Baby Jones’ favorite is “rain,” which sounds like an actual recording of a summer rainstorm. When nothing else works, I turn this on, and Gordon is out like a light!

The only downside is that it’s an app on my phone, and I don’t want it running all night. I may upgrade for $4.99 so I can set a timer, unlock the rest of the sounds (like “cat purr”), lullabies, as well as various “shushes.” You can even record your own sounds with the upgraded version, a feature I haven’t seen elsewhere. The animations are also neat, although Gordon is too young for screen time, especially before bed. If you have a little one, or you struggle to fall asleep at night, check out Guva!

Unfortunately, this app is only available for iOS, but I’m sure there is something comparable for Android phones, as well.

Looking for a faith-based lullaby CD? Check out this post about our favorite, Hidden in My Heart. And don’t miss this post with resources to help you start blessing your child today.

Does your little one have a favorite song, musical toy, or app? Please share it in the comments for the rest of us!


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