Gear: Cast Iron Loaf Pans

The first cast iron loaf pan I bought was an experiment. I didn’t know that I’d use it much, but I’d read online that I might be able to get crispier crusts on my banana bread with a pan that had better heat retention than the aluminum ones I’d been using.

The second cast iron loaf pan I bought was also an experiment. I didn’t know that I’d use it much, but my daughter suggested that I try baking sourdough in a “real bread shape” instead of dome loafs and rather than split my recipe and make less bread, I doubled my pans and tried just cooking two smaller loaves.

A year and a half later, experimenting complete, I can honestly say that these two pans are the most frequently used pieces of cast iron in my collection.

This specific style of pan (the L4LP3 Logic Loaf) comes from Lodge and is no longer manufactured (from what I can tell) having been replaced by an updated design.

Each of these two pans are a 10 1/4 inches long by 6 1/8 inches wide by 2 7/8 inches deep rectangular cast iron shell perfect to hold and proof half a batch of my sourdough bread or a full recipe of banana bread batter.

I use these pans so frequently, and in fact rarely even put them back into the cupboard, because almost fifteen months ago having been sent home from the office to “work from home” during the pandemic, I started baking bread on the regular.

Sourdough folks will online often compare photos of their loaves. Big dome loaves with a perfectly formed ear and baked to a perfect golden hue grace social media. These are gorgeous masterpieces of bread art (and they likely taste good too!) But my two modest loaf pans land upon my countertop a pair of neatly shaped sandwich bread loaves hot from the oven and tasting just as amazingly. Where my Dutch Oven is the artisan tool I use to bring forth an occasional sourdough creation, my two loaf pans are my workhorses, functional and simple, getting the job done two or three times per week.

Of course besides sourdough and banana bread, these pans have a list of other uses.

We take them camping and with a blend of meats, veggies, starches and sauce (covered with aluminum foil) make for a one-dish campfire casserole.

In them I’ve cooked pastas, meatloaf, pastries, potatoes, squash and more.

Any recipe that calls for a loaf pan in our house these days defaults to the cast iron while their flimsier cousins collect dust in the cupboard.

I bought these two pans as experiment not knowing if a heavy, sometimes-awkward replacement for our old loaf pans would bring any additional value to my cooking. I would say that after a couple years of experimental data, they definitely do… and I’m not looking back.

Cast Iron Care Checklist

Kinda surprising actually that I haven’t written on this topic yet, but here goes…

If you’ve been thinking about investing in a cast iron cookware collection, your new pans and griddles need a small collection of tools to live their best life with you.

As with many hobbies, there are expensive and cheap versions of available care accessories. Many companies will happily sell you branded tools, purpose-made implements, and specially crafted concoctions. Most of these items are important to care for your iron, but the pricy version of it is not. Cheap or free alternatives often exist. After all, cast iron cookware has been common for hundreds of years, but imported organic flaxseed oil probably has not.

Ten of the tools I keep handy to maintain my cast iron collection are:

Seasoning Oil – Personally, I lean heavily on canola oil for a post-cleanup wipe-down because we always have it in quantity and handy, but I also keep a bit of shortening or leftover bacon grease in the house for my purpose-seasoning efforts. There are numerous products on the market that are labeled as cast iron seasoning products (and I intend to buy some and try them) and many people online swear by flaxseed oil (but it is expensive). Whatever your oil of choice, this tool is a must for ongoing maintenance of your pans.

Heavy Duty Paper Towels – If I’m feeling flush, and I happen to be near a hardware store there is a brand of blue, commercial grade paper towels that are just about perfect for cast iron clean up. If I don’t have these around, plain old paper towels are a must for our supply closet.

Coarse Salt – The first time I tried it I was amazed by how much basic post-cooking cast iron cleanup could be accomplished with a quarter cup of water and a tablespoon of coarse salt. A few minutes of simple soaking usually means that with only salt and elbow grease I can clean up almost any pan. For anyone new to cast iron who is skeptical about the no-soap approach, try a salt scrub and your uncertainty will be alleviated.

Stiff Bristle Brush – To help with the salt scrub (as above) a good brush is also a must. We use our Lodge-brand brush so much it rarely even makes it back into the drawer.

Plastic Scraper – For slightly tougher clean-up jobs, I keep a couple of these in my collection. They are also invaluable for scraping out bits of set fat or other pan leftovers that don’t make it onto your plate, either by design or because you’re just too full to eat it.

Chainmail Scrubber – An optional big gun in your arsenal in the war on pan clean up is a heavy-duty scrub pad. I rarely use this personally but for those deeply stubborn bits (or when I’ve let my daughter cook and there are bits of burnt food clinging to the pan) a coarse, seasoning-safe scrubber is worth investing in eventually.

Heavy Duty Oven Mitt – It probably goes without saying, but the best way to use and care for your cast iron is to make it hot. Over a flame, from the oven, or atop a burner, you can neither use it nor care for it if you can’t touch it. Get yourself some serious mitts that will allow you to hold, lift, move, and carry a hot pan without grilling your digits.

Storage Rack – Sure, you could stack your pans one on top of each other — like an animal! Or you could invest in an elegant way to give those pans a way to stack or hang in style. There is probably something to be said about preserving seasoning and preventing damage this way, but the simpler reason is that if you can access them, you can use them.

Self-Cleaning Oven – A dual-purpose tool, a hot oven is vital for seasoning new pans or touching up the ongoing effort to keep your season even and strong. Additionally, a self-cleaning oven can get hot enough on the clean cycle to obliterate all the seasoning layers on a pan that needs a refresh. This is controversial and you shouldn’t do this with antiques or anything you can’t easily replace. Whenever we run the self-clean on our oven, I always toss in a pan or two that are starting to chip or build up seasoning in weird ways. This strips them clean and allows for start a fresh on bare iron.

Fire – Heat is heat, but nothing beats cooking over real fire. Plus, if your pans could talk, they would thank you for the chance to touch some real flames. Not everyone has access to daily fire in the form of a gas stove or barbecue, but taking your pan to a campout or picnic with some burning wood is what your cast iron cookware was made for.