Cast Iron is Very Versatile
The very first piece of cookware I ever used was a cast iron skillet, learning to make omelets when I was 4. The pan has been passed down and is still going strong. You might think of cast-iron when it comes to pan frying chicken or making eggs but I use mine all the time when baking and making desserts.
My Dutch oven gets a workout as a deep fryer for doughnuts and fritters, my griddle gets used almost every weekend for pancakes but it’s my skillets that get the most attention.
Whether I am roasting fruit in the oven, sautéing on top of the stove, making cornbread or upside down cakes, I reach for my cast-iron pans before any others. You can also start something on the stove and transfer to the oven with ease. For the Caramelized Vidalia Onion Bacon Cornbread below I fried the bacon in the pan, went on to caramelize the onions stovetop, then transferred the pan to the oven to bake the cornbread.
When making pizza, we like to preheat the pans in the oven first,
whether we are using a skillet as seen above or the flat side of the double-sided grill/griddle, below.
Most of my pans are seasoned from years of use, but you can buy amazing pre-seasoned cast-iron from Lodge Manufacturing Company as seen in these images.
This 100-year plus company has operated a foundry in South Pittsburg, TN for generations surviving two World Wars and the Great Depression and is still producing amazing cast iron bakeware and cookware. They coat their seasoned products in vegetable oil and bake them at a very high temperature, which creates a natural nonstick surface. Mine worked great right out of the box after a quick hot water hand rinse and dry.
If you need to season or re-season a cast-iron pan, follow these directions:
- If you are buying new un-treated cast iron simply hand wash with water and dry. Then coat with a very thin layer of vegetable oil on all surfaces, inside and out. Some manufacturers recommend solid vegetable shortening (we prefer oil). Set pan upside down on top rack of oven preheat to 375°F. “Bake” the pan for at least an hour, turn oven off and allow pan to cool in oven. Store in dry place once cooled.
- If you have a piece of cast-iron that has rusted, food is sticking or it has somehow otherwise lost its seasoning, follow above directions with the following exception: any rust must first be removed with a heavy-duty sponge or scrubber. Wash pan in hot soapy water and dry before seasoning with oil as described above.
- We use hot water to wash out well-seasoned pans and don’t use soap. (Many manufacturers claim there is no need for soap). Never place in dishwasher or use metal scouring pads, which will remove seasoning. Coating with a thin layer of oil after every use will help reserve the seasoning.
With care cast-iron pans will last many lifetimes and are possibly the most versatile cooking pots and pans you can own. They heat very evenly and you can even use less fuel as they heat up quickly and then retain heat, allowing lower cooking temperatures. A good place to start is with a 9 or 10-inch skillet and then expand from there.
Images: Dédé Wilson