My Favorite New, Old Pan

by Marina Chotzinoff

I finally gave in to my years-long fear of nonstick pans and stopped using the heavy duty pan we got a few years ago at a restaurant supply store in Madison. I can’t say this is the complete and total end of teflon in my world, but it seems a valid thing to stop ingesting. So I turned to an old standby: my dad’s 9″ cast iron pan.

The thing I remember my dad cooking most in this pan were burgers. Or, a burger, rather, just for him. He would buy the leanest hamburger possible, often grinding a good, lean cut of meat himself (with the grinder I still have and still use). He would then get the pan very, very hot and add the burger with no extra fat. It would sizzle angrily while he shook an appalling amount of salt over it- the extra granules dancing about in the dry pan. Once the bottom was good and scorched (practically blackened) he’d flip the burger, add a slice of Kraft American sliced cheese and put it in the salamander to brown and bubble. Sometimes he would eat the burger between slices of Pepperidge Farms’ Very Thin Wheat bread, but mostly he’d just put it right on a plate.

I love the size of this pan. You can cook small things for yourself, but it is big enough to make scrambled eggs for three as I did this morning. Unlike my own, large, cast iron pan, the seasoning is intact and has not been ruined by some well-intentioned dish washer. I will once again love my large skillet when I find time to re-season it. But for now, I’ve been content with the perfect heft, sizzle and cleanability of this classic.

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