How to Find That Vintage Cast-Iron Pan

Chef Roy Choi’s instant ramen.

Men in the kitchen, and those who deal with men in the kitchen, occasionally have questions about recipes, cooking and food. They send them to I answer their queries herewith.

Is it worth trying to buy vintage cast iron? I have a small heirloom Griswold that feels far smoother than any new cast iron. But tracking down stuff on eBay feels risky and expensive. If I’m looking to invest in a 12-inch skillet, which direction should I go?

In the direction that leads you to junk shops in towns not known for antiques. Because you’re right. New cast-iron pans have a roughness to them that only years of use can wear down. And vintage ones sold online are pricey indeed, notwithstanding the risk in purchasing them surface untouched.

Using my method, one of these days you’re going to run into your quarry for $10 or less, and you’re going to bring its sheen back with fine emery cloth and lots of elbow grease, and you’re going to cook with that smoothness for the rest of your life, and every time you do you are going to remember the moment (in my case, in a church basement outside of Rehoboth Beach, Del.) when you first saw its form.

What kind of dude who cooks likes gadgets? Is a gadget home cook a true chef?

True chefs are the ones who invent recipes and cook them for money. The rest of us (the dudes, anyway)are just men who cook. And some of those do like their gadgets: immersion circulators, for instance, or those hard-won cast-iron pans, expensive knives, impressive grill setups, pig roasters and espresso machines.They’re trying to fill holes in their lives, generally, with hobby tools meant to capture the sensation their fathers or grandfathers felt in the garage when they fired up the soldering gun to build a radio or used a grinder to burr down the brake pads on a DeSoto. Don’t judge them. They could be playing golf.

What should I buy for a kitchen starter kit? Fashion sites always talk about the male suit starter kit, but what about the kitchen?

You might start with a cast-iron pan, like that fellow in the first question. You can accompany it with an omelet pan, a Dutch oven for pasta and braises and roasting alike, a real roasting pan and a medium-size saucepan. That and a chef’s knife in the 8- to 10-inch range, a paring knife and a good bread knife are a good start.Add a big wooden spoon and a fish spatula for turning things over, and you are well on your way.

I am college student moving into my first apartment. I would like to know if there are dishes I could make that are healthy, low-budget and not too complicated.

You have come to the right place! NYT Cooking has a trove of recipes to fit your budget and needs. Start with the dead-easiest on the site, for the chef Roy Choi’s perfect instant ramen. Make ramen as you ordinarily would. Then slide an egg into the broth and add American cheese. Scatter sesame seeds over the top and begin to enjoy life on your own.

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