Sunday, April 03, 2005

Extra Strength Vegetarian Lard

My mom gave me her old Griswold cast-iron frying pan. I am quite honored. She got it when she was first married - in 1946. She says it is just too heavy for her to lift anymore.

I wonder how many meals I ate that were made in that pan. Pork chops, meaty spaghetti sauce that was cooked for hours, pineapple upside down cake...

The problem is that it has lost its seasoning and is a tad rusty. After consulting a bunch of online sources, it seems the best way to season cast iron is with a heavy fat. Most sites recommend lard or suet and cautioned against vegetable oils, which can apparently break down and become sticky.

My vegetarian soul rebelled at the thought of smearing pig or beef fat on my cookware. First, I would have to go buy some and end up wasting a lot, since I wouldn't have any other use for it. Then my kitchen would smell like cooked animal grease, which I find pretty revolting.

Finally I found a website that mentioned a perfect solution - palm oil! I knew they were selling it at Whole Foods, so I picked some up. It is the stuff that they used to cook theater popcorn in until some guy who had had a heart attack took out full-page ads in the NY Times claiming it would kill you because it was so saturated.

The dude is right about the saturated part. It makes beef fat look light and fluffy.

From the Pritikin website:

Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LV/N, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida: "All these tropical oils are highly saturated fats. Like butter, cheese, and meat, tropical oils raise LDL cholesterol and clog arteries with plaque, increasing your risk of a heart attack."

"In fact, tropical oils can have more cholesterol-raising saturated fat than even butter," emphasizes Jeff. Coconut oil is 92% saturated, making it more saturated than butter, beef tallow, or even lard. Palm oil, though it contain less saturated fat (50%), is full of a type of saturated fat, palmitic acid, which appears to be most conducive to heart disease.

I tasted it and it left a nice greasy coating in my mouth that rivalled the last time I ate a piece of bacon ( I did it to freak my friend Steve out - he was tormenting me about being a veg about 5 years ago and I just reached over and ate a piece of his bacon. It was worth it just for the horrified look on his face.)

I will go try to season the pan and let you know how it comes out.


Anonymous said...

No, stop, wait! Palm oil will leave a coating if used at too high a temp. Use Crisco instead. It's veggie and while not healthy, at least it won't leave your pan with a permanent coating.

Suebob said...

OH NOOOOO Too late. I already did it. The inside seems ok. But it smells like movie theater popcorn!