Cast Iron And Why We Love It
The bleak midwinter is upon us, and although it’s currently mild, you can be sure we’ll have more cold damp weather that begs for heavy sweaters, heavy coats, and heavy cookware. Can you think of anything heavier than cast iron? Weigh the options…
When Artichoke first opened in April 2016, we stocked French enameled cast-iron cookware made by Staub. We soon added two lines of raw cast-iron skillets, grill pans, and griddles: Victoria and Finex. We’re very fond of all three lines, and we’re ready to help you find the range that is right for your kitchen.
Why cast iron? Cooks have long prized cast-iron pieces. They get passed down through families and snatched up at rummage sales. They have a certain old-fashioned charm to them. It is more than their rustic aesthetic, however, that makes these reliable workhorses a longtime staple in the American kitchen.
Cast iron performs so well in the kitchen because of the way the material responds to heat. First of all, cast iron pieces hold heat like nothing else. Like endurance runners, these pans are in it for the long haul. While it does take some time to coax them up to temperature, they ultimately commit to the pace and maintain it for the duration. This stubborn determination makes cast iron pieces especially well-suited for recipes like braises and stews that require long cooking hours over even temperatures. Further, cast iron can withstand even the highest temperatures. While softer materials may scorch or even melt, cast iron holds its form. Solid and heavy, these skillets are ideal for searing steaks and frying chicken, because you cannot harm their sturdy construction when you turn up the burner. So resistant are they to heat’s damaging properties, cast iron pieces can go right on the grill and over the campfire. There is a reason all of those cowboy movies show Tex and Dusty cozied up to the fire pit, singing old Western tunes while their cast-iron pot of beans bubbles over the open flames.
What we carry at Artichoke
We have a selection of fine cast iron products, from the very affordable and functional Victoria to the more unique artisan Finex and enameled Staub. We are sure you will find something to love and create memories with.
Victoria cast iron comes to us from Columbia. It is sturdy, well performing cast iron that will go to work in your kitchen every day. Victoria has been making cast-iron skillets, grill pans, and accessories for over 75 years. All Victoria pieces are pre-seasoned and ready for use. These skillets have a specially grooved lip to their pouring spouts, preventing drips and dribbles down the sides and on the counter top. We like the unique design of their drip catching lip on their pour spouts and their nice long handles. Best of all, they are exceptionally affordable.
Artichoke carries a wide range of Victoria products. Skillet sizes include: 6”, 8”, 10”, and 12”. The square grill pan comes in a generous 10” size. And we have two griddle sizes – two burner and one burner – each of which flips over to become a grill pan. The bacon press can also be used to weigh down grilled sandwiches, and they also have a great tortilla press.
Finex (pronounced Fine-Ex) cast-iron pans are made in the USA. Cast in Wisconsin, these exquisitely designed artisan skillets, grill pans, sauce pans and lids are finished in Portland, Oregon. Finex tumbles each piece in river rock to produce a unique color and finish. Artisans hand polish and season the cooking surfaces of each Finex pan with organic flaxseed oil. While traditional cast iron develops a nonstick cooking surface over time, the special finishing process means that these skillets are nonstick right from the start.
As beautiful as they are useful, the octagonal design allows for multi-directional pouring and every spout has a dribble-preventing lip. Perhaps best of all is the stainless steel coil handle that allows you to pick up the pan from the stovetop without a pot holder! Finex was featured in a New York Times article focusing on the resurgence of cast iron a few months back, and we agree it is amazing stuff.
Francis Staub designed his first enameled pot in an old artillery factory in 1974, merging cast iron’s utility with the latest technology available. Today the success of these designs has become the benchmark for enameled cast iron cookware and is the reference brand for some of the world’s great chefs including Paul Bocuse. Made in France, each Staub piece features a special black matte enamel interior for non-stick braising and self-basting spikes on the underside of the lids. Staub cookware excels in providing the perfect environment for slow-cooked, flavor-enhanced meals, and is at home on the stove top or in the oven. With a wide assortment of interesting presentation pieces in dynamic colors, Staub cookware easily moves from the kitchen to the table at home and in the finest restaurants worldwide – a testimony to their quality and endearing beauty.
Stay tuned for a discussion of how to care for your cast iron…