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The Kitchen Cabinet

Upscaling Cast-Iron Cookware

November 05, 1987|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

Some like it hot and sizzling, so they go for timeless, earthy, cast-iron cookware. But some who like it hot and sizzling go for good looks too. And no rusting, please. Now that we know grandmother's heavy metal works, could glamour in a rugged-looking black cooking utensil be far behind?

In the case of one beautiful cast-iron collection, acceptance in the New York Museum of Modern Art more than proves recognition. The creativity of a renowned British master craftsman is reflected in the handsome contemporary design of Victor cast-iron ware (from $30 to $60), imported by Chantry Ltd. from England.

Ten years in the making, the savvy line started with Robert Welch's affinity with cast iron. The designer/silversmith has created a whole generation of classic cast kitchenware, ranging from traditional scales, coffee grinders, cookbook stands, trivets, cast-iron tape dispensers, meat or pudding presses, salt mills, nutcrackers and cookware.

Made of solid cast iron, the surface of each jet-black cooking utensil is oil-fired to produce permanent pre-seasoned characteristics. Rich-looking in its shiny-oiled appearance, the non-stick, rust-free cookware improves with use, building up a lasting non-stick surface.

All Do Double-Duty

Round and oval Victor casseroles come with two handles while the saucepans have long handles. All have flat bottoms as well as flat-topped lids that double as an extra fry pan or baking or gratin dishes. Snug-fitting and heavy, the lids make it possible to cook "waterless."

One of our favorite pieces is the grill pan that has ridges and a spout that allows the fat to drain off. The ridges also produce attractive dark striping when you are grilling steaks, chicken or fish.

The shallow, flat-bottomed skillets are available in two sizes and have long wooden (ash) handles. Other winning pieces are the rectangular trivet with concentric pattern and the circular table-top dish warmer.

The cookbook stand ($45) is practical for keeping the pages of a cookbook (a small book or one as large as the LaRousse Gastronomique) from flipping. Available in black, red or white enamel finish, the unit comes with a pair of cast-iron weights, a sturdy base and an acrylic backrest.

Beauty is not only skin deep in the Le Creuset Glissemail (pronounced gliss-a-my) from Schiller & Asmus Inc. (from $30 to $68), the hot new cast-iron skillet in town. And we mean hot. Sporting a stunning porcelain enamel surface in glorious colors, this French beauty is tough. Turn up the heat for fajitas, Cajun blackened fish or seared steak, and you'll get what you want in no time, without ruining your pan, or your food.

Le Creuset Glissemail is a new-formula hard porcelain enamel finish created with a high surface tension that resists damage caused by high cooking temperatures and thermal shock. Like other Le Creuset cookware pieces, the Glissemail skillets are handcrafted one piece at a time. Molten iron is poured into individual sand molds, then each piece is hand-coated with enamel and fired in furnaces to 1,600 degrees.

Providing even heating for browning and sauteing, the Glissemail line of metal- and wooden-handled skillets, fry pans and chicken fryers comes with a smooth gray interior surface. The units are available in sleek colors of cobalt blue, slate blue, two-tone flame and red.

Glissemail, which does not have a non-stick coating, is surprisingly easy to clean. For those who prefer a non-stick quality, opt for the black Castoflon finish in traditional Le Creuset pieces. Castoflon is a process that forms a strong bond between the Silverstone surface and the cast iron underneath. For more information, call Le Creuset's toll-free number, (800) 334-1798.

Aside from promoting even heating, all cast-iron cookware is appropriate for induction cooking. Another great advantage is the cookware's heat retention properties, which save energy because after the food reaches the desired heat to cook, the temperature can be reduced to a simmer or low.

The Victor Cast Iron Collection is available at Let's Get Cookin' (Westlake Village), Bullock's, Recipe Box (Arcadia), Erewhon Natural Foods (Los Angeles) and Faire La Cuisine (Malibu).

The Le Creuset Glissemail and Castoflon cast - iron cookware is available at Kitchen, Kitchen (Rancho Mirage), Cook's Corner, What's Cooking (Manhattan Beach), Martinel (Los Angeles), the Kitchen Cupboard (Seal Beach) and Montana Mercantile (Santa Monica).

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