Hmmm, the decision to choose the right skillet or pan can occur every day. While your eyes scan the selection of cookware hanging from the pot rack, you consciously choose the one that is not cast iron. Beyond the excuse that it’s very heavy, the weight of the pan should not deter you from embracing its functionality and use. In fact, once you learn how to season, it will become the “first” pan you choose, time and again. In addition to the ease of cleaning, cast iron is durable, and ideal for cooking diverse meals on the stove top and in the oven.
Whether you have inherited your grandmother’s cast iron pan or bought one from Le Creuset, the magic of ownership begins with “seasoning” and the lesson learned from not washing it with soapy water. Creating a perfect “non stick patina” will ensure ease of use and the promise of never “accidentally” burning dinner. The first step is to lightly coat the pan with oil and allow it to “bake” in a 400 degree oven for one hour. The pan can be scraped and scoured with a stiff brush, rinsed with water, and greased with shortening while the pan is still hot. Alongside copper pots and pans, your cast iron will improve with age and use.
Understanding Cast Iron
The first food connected to cast iron is usually steak. And, yes, it is ideal for searing. One of the benefits is its “high volumetric heat capacity,” which means the pan will retain its heat. It is good to remember that cast iron needs a pre-heating stage. If using the stove top, rotate the pan for an even distribution of heat for at least ten minutes. Baking, on the other hand, requires at least 25 minutes in the oven.
Cast iron also creates a higher capacity for heat energy, especially if compared to stainless steel. We think a pan can only cook if food is touching the surface; yet, cast iron’s heat surrounds the pan while the food is above.
Cooking and Baking Possibilities
Considering the amazing virtues of cast iron, imagine what it can do for pastas, casseroles, and desserts.
- Cooking pizza on the stove top is an excellent choice for a skillet. Begin with high heat. Once flipped, the heat can be reduced to medium. You’ll notice golden and toasty spots on the sides; yet, in cast iron, it will not burn. Add your toppings and allow five minutes to cook.
- If you are thinking about a meal comprising roast chicken, potatoes, and vegetables, save time and cleaning a number of pots by baking out of one pan.
- Lasagna is a delicious meal of comfort. Add the words “homemade in cast iron” and the implication also includes “easy to make” and “very little mess.” Once the meat is browned and removed, the steps of preparation begin. No need to clean; instead, you are ready to start. The extra sauce added to a “Skillet Lasagna” helps cook the “no boil” pasta to perfection, and add extra flavor to an already wonderful meal.
- While we often think it’s the ingredients that make the meal, the pan carries some “weight,” too. In this case, cast iron is the perfect heat source for crepes. Two tips for success: Make sure your pan is well seasoned and pour the batter in a spiral, starting in the center.
- To prove the diversity of cast iron, the news that you can bake brownies and a chocolate chip cookie, as well as apple pie, cake, and cobbler in a skillet may be of interest to you… and everyone in your home who may be tempted by a warm dessert.
This humble pan may encourage you to make homemade, satisfying meals and crowd-pleasing desserts. How long until your skillet or pan remains in a new location – the stove top?