STARGAZER CAST IRON SKILLET SKT-105-01A

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.

Update: 1/20/2018

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.

Update 1/21/2018

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.

 

1,713 total views, 5 views today

STARGAZER CAST IRON

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.

Click here for the Stargazer Website.

 

322 total views, no views today

DUTCH OVEN COOKING COMPETITION Sept 16 2017


It’s nearly that time of year again.  Camping and Dutch Oven Cooking Competition at Cathedral Gorge State Park near Panaca, Nevada.

Link to the official State Park information

Actual competition cooking is on Saturday September 16, 2017

A group of us camper/Dutch Oven cooks have been attending this event for years.  The rangers at this State Park make this the best cooking competition we have ever competed in.  Aside from the awesome prizes the rangers solicit from supporting businesses, they just make this plain fun.

This is not IDOS sanctioned and the rules are lax.  Just plain old fun!  Be prepared to come up against a lot of very good cooks.  The competition is tough!

Be prepared to arrive early and to stay until after dark.

Even if you don’t participate in cooking.  The whole day can be taken up hiking early in the morning, then wandering around watching the cooks prepare the food.  Judging and serving food to the public, is early evening.

Buy your raffles tickets and take a chance on winning prizes and supporting a great event.

Many of us start arriving Thursday and Friday to also spend a few days camping.  Sites are first come first served.  Though the rangers have always made room for everyone even if it means “dry camping” off the edge of the pavement near the picnic area.

This time of year expect warm days and cool nights.  The Milky-way will blanket you in the sky above.  The coyote’s will sing you to sleep at night.

630 total views, 2 views today

CORN STICK PAN verses CONVECTION

Las Vegas in the middle of summer is easily hitting 110°F daytime temperatures. For some that is not conducive for enjoying a hot bowl of Chili. Many reserve that cuisine for chilling winter days.

Not me. I enjoy Chili year round. Then Chili isn’t at it’s best, unless you have cornbread as a side to accompany it.

On a hot day outside I often drag out the crock-pot to make a batch without heating up the kitchen. While I am a cast iron connoisseur, I am certainly not firing up some charcoal and Dutch Oven cooking when it is a scorching +110°F outside either. Thinking about getting the kitchen oven up to 425°F for a batch of cornbread doesn’t sound too appealing either. That heats the whole house up.

This is where vintage Cast Iron meets the modern Counter-top Convection Oven. The combination works well together and doesn’t kick my air conditioner on more than normal.

Now I am sitting back enjoying a bowl of Chili. Dipping my hot buttered corn sticks in some maple syrup. What a killer combination. Both in the cooking technique, as well as the food paring.

651 total views, 3 views today

CHUCK BOX 2

This is “Chuck Box V.2” for me.  My current upgrade, from previous Stanley “Fat Max” tool boxes that I used for several years.  My latest upgraded version uses these Rigid Brand Stackable and Wheeled tool totes, shown in this article..

Ever since covered wagons,  I would imagine the Chuck Box has been a common term.  Before that, I am sure migrating people had a simpler and smaller means of transporting some of their precious spice items.  Those items that were not easily obtained foraging natures surrounding supplies.

If you have camped many years you have probably changed out your own method of carrying your own staples.  Having your items with you, rather than being dependent on an inconvenient source to purchase (forage) your own items while camping.  I say this is version 2 for me, but that is version 2 in a recent sense.  In reality I have tried numerous configurations over  a  lifetime of camping.  All common containers many people use, such as Tupperware or plastic shoe boxes.

My current method is “Rigid” totes.  I hope people viewing the blog take the time to forward us photos of your own “tried and true” method. We want to add them to this article. So tell us a little about yours and about yourself.  Or what you think of ours?

Ours does not have the “coolness ” factor of a handcrafted wood Chuck Box, but they are highly functional.  The boxes have been along on multi-day trips, Dutch Oven Cooking events, and regular campground camping.  We have ours loaded so we are not wanting of anything.

We use 3 Stack-able and Wheeled totes made by Rigid.  Finding ours at Home Depot for about $130.  They seal well against rain, have latches to slow down critters, carrying handles, and side handles that also serve to latch all 3 together as one unit.

The totes are often left on the picnic table at all times (unless in bear country) and they have never had the critters get in them.  They also sit out, getting rained on at times.  When we return home from camping, the used items are replenished.  Everything is kept inside the house so the ingredients are always fresh and ready to go for the next trip.

Dry Ingredients such as flour, pancake mix, etc is rotated when we replenish.  We dump the unused portion out on foil. Refill the used portion from new supply in the house, then dump the older ingredient now on the foil, back in on top to fill our camp container.

 

The top box is all spices and several small containers of Crisco.  This box is equipped as well as my home kitchen.

 

 

The middle box is the dry ingredient box.  Larger containers of things like Flour, Sugar, and Coffee.  In in their own larger screw lid containers.  There is also extra room for cookbooks and bags of backup items.  A couple containers do double duty.

 

The largest box, on the bottom is also wheeled and has a telescoping handle to assist in wheeling all three boxes as a single unit.  This bottom box is my catch all for small cutting boards, utensils, knives, and silverware.

Here is a list of items in my three boxes.  I cook with large groups and can cook or bake anything with what I carry.  Adjust your items to suit your needs.

Top Box

(8) 1/4 Cup containers of Crisco
Spray oil
Salt
Pepper
Cilantro Flakes
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Italian Seasoning
Paprika
Corn Starch
Baking Soda
Baking Powder
Nutmeg
Cinnamon
Ginger ground/powder
Nutmeg ground/powder
Clove ground/powder
Burger Seasoning
Chili Powder
Cumin Powder
Vanilla Extract
Sage
Dry Milk
Cayenne Pepper
Bay Leaves
Vegetable Oil
Dry Yeast

Middle Box

Flour
Sugar
Powdered Sugar
Coffee
Brown Sugar
Vanilla Coffee Powder
Buttermilk powder
Oatmeal
Cornmeal
Pancake Mix
Cookbook(s)/Recipes

Bottom Box

Utensil Box
Mixing Bowl
Cutting Boards
Hand Mixer
Tongs
Serving Spoons
Several sets of Knife, Spoon, Fork
Oval Metal Plate
Butcher knife
Bread knife
Paring knife
Can opener
Wine/Bottle Opener
Measuring Cups
Measuring Spoons
Whisk
Scissors
Pot holders
Ladles
Wooden Spoons
Spatula
Biscuit cutters
Rubber Batter Scrapers
Butane Lighter Sticks
Spare Lantern Mantels
Aluminum Foil
Plastic Wrap
Sifter
Small Vegetable Oil
Vinegar
Agave Syrup
Pancake Syrup

1,195 total views, 2 views today