See our Stake Anvil article and the request for more information.
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See our Stake Anvil article and the request for more information.
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After collecting way too many pieces of cast iron it is rare for me to have one cry out “Take my Money!”
This vintage (Circa 1920) Wagner deep skillet was a score from an Estate Sale today.
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I was pleasantly surprised today when my new skillet, the SKT-105-01A , was delivered.
My intent is to document its arrival, my opinion of the product, how well it seasons, and how well it cooks.
The cost was a bit pricey but it is USA made and I really wanted to check out the smooth interior surface. The outer surface is more rough but still smoother than most cast iron being produced today. The interior appears to be milled smooth on the bottom, sides and upper edge.
The exterior bottom appears to have the writing cast or engraved. With the bottom then partially machined, or it is a very smooth casting. The exterior sides and top and bottom of the handle are a fairly smooth cast surface.
The cost was $80.00, minus a $12.00 veterans discount, then tacked on shipping of $10 for a total cost delivered of $78.00.
The only negative so far is the wait time between ordering, shipping, and delivery. I placed my order on line and it was confirmed 12/13/2017. Delivery was today 1/20/2018.
Regarding the lag in shipping. Stargazer was up front when ordering and made it clear delivery would be delayed due to back orders and the Christmas season. They communicated well and advised once shipped, and advised again the day it was out for delivery.
The skillet came packed well and secured well in the shipment box. A lesson some of the eBayer’s selling cast iron need to follow. It would be difficult for it to arrive damaged unless the delivery service miss handled it.
In the box it was wrapped and securely taped tight. The cast iron had a liberal coating of food grade mineral oil.
Following the enclosed directions I scrubbed the piece with soapy water and heated it to dry.
A thin layer of seasoning has been applied and the skillet is now in the oven getting its first coating of seasoning baked on.
Check back for follow-up on this Stargazer skillet.
Normally I am a “Crisco” seasoning person. I have used it for decades with excellent results. I use it because it is always on hand at home or when camping
I have some Crisbee product that I used on a griddle with great results. So I thought the seasoning on my Stargazer would be done with Crisbee.
Whatever your preferred product, apply it to warm cast iron (not hot). You can do this preheating the oven to 200°. Use a lint free cloth to apply product. Some paper towels are awful for this process. They leave behind fibers.
Coat all surfaces very lightly with seasoning product. Wipe away any excess. Place back in the warm (about 200°F) oven. Not in a hot oven.
Once the piece is in the oven adjust the temp up to your desired seasoning temperature. Set a timer for your seasoning bake time. I prefer 90 minutes.
Once the bake time is over shut the oven off. Do not open the door even to peek. Set your timer for 90 minutes and allow the oven and cast iron inside of it to cool down naturally together.
My first coat I was a little disappointed. The surface did not come out uniform. Even though the raw iron, as arrived with a layer of protective mineral oil, was well cleaned with hot soapy water several times. In hindsight I wished I had used #0 steel wool during my soapy hot water cleaning.
Mineral oil (which Stargazer’s inserted leaflet indicates) verses a Vegetable oil coating may make a difference? I have even dealt with other cast iron that comes new with a paraffin coating that needed burned off.
Doing the initial cleaning, if I was doing it again, I would do two 2 hot soapy scrub baths. Changing the water completely between the two, and using a scrub brush, then #0 Steel wool during the initial cleaning.
Something to consider should you be reading this and plan on seasoning something smooth or something with mineral oil on it.
I kind of expected it on this smooth surface though. I have had lots of experience seasoning and have seen this happen before.
I have noticed this same effect on other vintage cast iron that has a super smooth finish. Regardless of the seasoning product being used. So I am not overly concerned. The brown color on the first coat is normal None of this uneven seasoning can be felt with a finger. My solution from past experiences when dealing with extremely smooth surfaces, is to this is to use #0 steel wool.
Worst case scenario might be after evaluating the second coat. I might have to strip this bare again and start over. In hindsight, I am not so sure I did a good job of getting the factory protective coating of mineral oil off? Or if this is a smooth surface issue. I will know soon enough. Stripping it is no big deal if it comes to that.
Evaluate your initial seasoned coating.
First your initial baked on coat of seasoning should be hard. Not sticky or gummy even to the slightest degree.
If this layer of seasoning isn’t hard and firmly adhered you need to go through the baking stage again at perhaps a higher heat, or for a longer period (without applying additional seasoning product).
If you start using steel wool lightly and it starts loading up with residue, stop and repeat the bake cycle. That is an indicator of seasoning that has not been heated to the proper heat polymerization point.
If you have “pooling” (puddles of concentrated seasoning. These normally are sticky or gummy to some degree, you have applied too much seasoning. I would consider stripping it and starting over. A bad base coat will give you problems.
I had no problem with the first coat on this, not being hard and well adhered. On the smooth interior surface I can take the #0 Steelwool and hand/finger buff with almost as much pressure as I can muster, and still not cut through the seasoning unless I stay in one spot for a long time. I concentrate a little more on the spots I call “alligatoring”. Then lightly buff the entire surface to uniformly rough it up. This buffing is nothing you can see. I can not see scratches with my naked eye. This is all done by feel. It provides something for the next coat to grab.
While I am at it, I hit the whole exterior surface lightly, just to knock off anything thing there. Lint is the most common thing.
The piece is then washed a couple of times in hot soapy water. Rinsed and dried. I immediately place it in a 200°F prewarmed oven for several minutes. When it is warm and completely dry I remove it and spread a very thin layer of seasoning on all surfaces of the skillet.
It is put back into the 200°F oven, upside down. I crank my oven temp up to my desired seasoning temperature (This temperature varies product to product, and your actual oven output – read about Polymerization Temperature). I then set my timer for 90 minutes and bake at that temperature.
Once the bake cycle is complete I turn the oven off, leave the door shut, and reset the timer for and addition 90 minute natural slow cool down cycle. Once that is complete this seasoning coat should be complete.
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A wind screen or windshield is often necessary to properly cook in the outdoors. Especially if you are cooking on some type of raised platform. A platform such as a cook table, or a camp stove placed on a picnic table.
While both cook tables and camp stoves may come with their own shield, they are often too low, and inadequate.
This DIY project was thought out to use readily available materials. With the idea in mind during fabrication, to use the simplest of tools found in nearly any household. Best of all, workable by nearly anyone with minimal tool handling skills.
This DIY project shows the basics of building a Windshield for your Camp Stove or Dutch Oven. Numerous modifications could be made to suit your personal needs.
I prefer the higher shield as shown. Both for use, and for ease of construction.
The long sides of mine are made from a 18X25 inch cookie sheet. The smaller ends are 13X18’s cookie sheets. These sizes will avoid the need to make any cuts concerning the cookie sheets. These cookie sheets are clamped together with easy to fabricate aluminum angle clamps.
The clamps are snugged up using Thumb Bolts and Wing Nuts. No tools are required during set up.
While an electric hacksaw, drill press, and drill press vise, makes for an easy job of it. A simple hacksaw and hand drill will do just fine. Since the DIY clamps are soft aluminum, any required drilling is fairly easy. Do practice tool safety to protect body parts during fabrication. Eye protection is mandatory.
My initial build was a Windscreen for my Partner 4 burner stove. Made with three 18X25 cookie sheets. I later bought the 13X18’s for use when Dutch Oven cooking on a metal Dutch Oven Cooking Table.
For the Dutch Oven Cook Tables that are wide and rather narrow front to back. Two sets of an “L” Shape configuration can be arranged to adapt to most Dutch Oven Cook Tables. They can slide to adjust for whatever width table you may have. The two longer rear cookie sheets can be clamped together with a C-Clamp or Spring clamp.
In a good wind you might have to use small bungee cords to hold the shield down to the table. (Bungee attached at points away from high heat of course)
*Something simple with minimum amount of complex fabrication.
*Free standing without the use of supports.
*Large enough to surround on 3 sides.
*When not in use, something that stores flat for storage and transport.
*Easy to setup without the use of any tools.
All objectives were met. I am sure a good scrounger or person that has usable used material can beat what they cost me. For this article, all parts were purchased new, at full retail prices.
Additional benefits are this Windscreen is also easy to clean, and if not being used as a shield, the trays can be used for other purposes such as food prep, as serving trays, or perhaps other functions I am not even thinking of.
(3) 18X25 Cookie Sheets ($6.75 each) (For a 25X25X25 setup)
(1) 18X25 Cookie Sheet ($6.75) + (2) 13X25 Cookie Sheets (2 Pack $10.25) (For 13X25X13 Setup)
(2) Aluminum Angle 1/16 inch 1×36
Both cut in half to make (4) 18 long pieces of angle ($5.37 each)
(4) Thumb Bolts 1/4inch, 20 thread, 1 ½ inches long ($1.18 each)
(4) Wing Nuts ¼ inch, 20 thread ($0.55 each)
These are local all new material prices. Cookie Sheets from Costco or Sams Club. Or a local restaurant supply retailer. Hardware was obtained from Home Depot. A good scrounger might be able to find this material at a thrift store or garage sale for much less.
FABRICATION (Read through this before starting)
Cut the two 36 inch Aluminum angles both in half to create (4) 18 inch angles. Make sure all pieces are of equal length. Trim if necessary.
Mark the 18 inch angle aluminum at 2 inches in from both ends. Keep these pretty exact so pieces will be interchangeable with each other during set-up. Meaning the holes will line up with one another. Its critical, that the distance measurement between the drilled holes on one piece of aluminum angle, is that same measurement on all pieces of aluminum angle.
If you decide to make additional wind screen parts in the future be sure to use one of your existing parts as a pattern. That way they will be interchangeable.
Stack 4 of your 18 inch aluminum angles together. Clamp in a vise if available to avoid having the stack twirling around and hitting you during drilling. If no vice is available use another method and proceed with caution. Drill a hole at your 2 inch marks, and drill down through all 4 angles stacked together. You start the hole on the inside of the V of the the angle. Use a 5/16 inch diameter drill bit.
Make sure the drilled holes on the first end of the stack do not become misaligned. Then Drill the other end at your mark using the same method.
The idea is to create 4 identical parts that can be interchanged even if flipped around or used with any other piece. Identical meaning the measurement distance between the drill holes are equal on all angle parts you fabricate.
Clean up any drill burrs and sharp edges with a wire bush, wire wheel, file, sandpaper, etc.
Insert your Thumb Bolt through a stack of two angles. The Flattened Thumb end of the bolt should be on the inside of the V of the angle aluminum. When held in place with a finger the angle aluminum prevents the bolts flattened thumb head from spinning. (No wrench required)
Loosely thread the wing nut on the threaded end of the bolt.
Repeat the bolt insertion and wing nut on the other end of the two aluminum angles.
Hold 2 of the cookie sheets up in a vertical position, with the top cooking surface side facing each other in an “L” shape.
Slip the clamp over the joint of the cookie sheets. One angle of the clamp with be on the inside of the cookie sheet joint. The other angle of the clamp will be on the outside of the cookie sheet joint.
Tighten the clamps wing nuts when correctly positioned. Repeat for the other corner to create a three side wind screen. (No tools required)
The whole set-up pretty much stores flat when not in use.
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Stargazer gave us authorization to use some of their photos and info. The images and their story is lifted off their website. We would like to extend a huge thank you to Stargazer’s Luke Trovato for corresponding with us and authorizing the use of their images and text.
Also today I placed an order for one of their skillets. We will have a future article to let you readers know how this all went. We also intend to do some cooking as soon as it arrives. We will be putting the cast iron through its paces.
I personally am drawn to the Stargazer brand Cast Iron due to the fact this is made in USA. Secondly I own numerous vintage skillets such as Griswold, BSR and the like. Vintage pieces from back when the cooking surfaces were smooth, compared to other rough modern Cast Iron Cookware.
I am very curious to test out this surface. As a member of an active Dutch Oven Cooking group I often cook in competition. There isn’t an event that goes by that we aren’t discussing Cast Iron. The cooking surface is often a topic. All of use have wondered why no one was producing smooth cast iron cookware like the “old days”. We also all want USA made.
I just hope they start producing some Dutch Ovens too.
Check out our story at this link. Or new skillet was delivered. The Cooking and the Testing. Most importantly the tasting!
The Stargazer Story:
In the cast iron marketplace, we’re the new kid on the block. Stargazer Cast Iron was founded in 2015 by three old friends with a shared vision: creating the best cast iron cookware around.
It started with an obsession. Peter Huntley, professional designer and hobby cook, went searching for the perfect skillet and came up empty-handed. Dissatisfied with the options on the market, he turned to vintage cookware to find the quality he was looking for. After nearly a year of collecting, restoring, and cooking with vintage cast iron, he saw the untapped potential and decided it was time for something new. He created a unique cast iron skillet from the ground up: reimagined, redesigned, and revitalized. Huntley enlisted the help of two friends to bring the vision to life and Stargazer Cast Iron was born.
Our cookware is made using the same proven materials and manufacturing processes that were used over one hundred years ago, now aided by CNC machining for unrivaled precision. Our designs are practical and our quality is second to none. We believe we have created the finest cast iron skillet available today, or anytime for that matter.
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