Cast iron skillets have always fascinated me with their rustic look and superior searing ability. However, the first time I used a cast iron skillet, I ruined it. After doing some research and learning from some cooking experts, I can confidently say that I used my first cast iron pan all wrong. Before you make the same mistakes as me, read the tips below for some cast iron care tips and some delicious dinner recipes to create in your cast iron skillet.
A Bit About Cast Iron
Just in case you haven’t quite jumped on the Cast Iron craze yet, let me fill you in on why folks keep tossing out their old pans just to replace them with cast iron.
Strong, Sturdy, Resilient: If you know the proper care tips, cast iron will last longer than any of the pans your keeping around your kitchen. That’s why you’re constantly seeing them in antique shops, garage sales, and auctions. They last! In fact, the more you use them, the better they’ll be.
Cooking Versatility: Instead of having 10 or more pots and pans, some folks decide to switch to a few pieces of cast iron cookware. It can be used to cook anything and on anything. You can use it on the grill, in the oven, on the stovetop, or even over an open fire.
Naturally Non-stick: By properly seasoning cast iron, you are adding a layer non-stick coating to your cast iron cookware. If you avoid aggressive scrubbing and follow the seasoning tips in the next section, your cast iron will continue to be your favorite pan for a long time.
Perfect for the Grill: Like I said, you can use cast iron cookware on any cooking surface, but they are amazing for the grill. Anything you would normally put in the oven or on the stovetop, put it on a cast iron skillet and set it on the grill. You get the awesome grilled flavor and no extra hassle!
To read some more benefits of using cast iron, click HERE.
Seasoning Cast Iron
If you decided to buy a new cast iron pan, you need to be sure to season your cast iron pans. Even if the product says it’s been pre-seasoned, you’re going to want to follow the seasoning tips below to ensure you have properly coated cookware.
Now, if you purchased an older cast iron skillet that looks like it might need some TLC, there’s still hope for you. Take a look at How to Restore Vintage Cast Iron Pans.
- Wash and Dry: There’s no way of knowing what that pan has been through before you bought it, so you’re going to want to give it a once over with soap and warm water. Then, dry thoroughly. Even after you towel dry, there will still be left over water, so it’s best to put the pan on a stovetop on medium/low heat until you can no longer see water on the surface. Turn off the heat and let the pan cool before handling.
- Grease: Now that your pan is all clean, it’s time to add that protective layer of oil. You don’t have to buy a special kind of oil just for seasoning. Use an unsaturated cooking fat, like vegetable, canola, or corn oil, for seasoning your pan. Take one tablespoon of the oil, thoroughly coat the entire surface – top, bottom, sides, and even the lip and handle. Spread the love with a Paper Towel.
- Remove Excess (Buff): It is important to make sure you don’t have excess grease lingering on your pan. This could cause hardened droplets or make your cooking surface all sticky, which is exactly what you don’t want. Take another paper towel and wipe the pan again. You should still be left with a shiny coated pan.
- Bake: Preheat your oven to 400ºF-500ºF. Put your cast iron pan upside down on the top rack. As a precaution, you can set a Cookie Sheet on the rack below to catch any oil that might drip off. Set your timer for 30 minutes – 1 hour (times vary depending on the person) and wait. The pan may smoke, so make sure your kitchen is well ventilated. When the timer goes off, let the pan sit and wait inside the oven with the door closed. Make sure to wear mitts when taking out the pan.
- Repeat: You will want to repeat steps 2-4 a few more times. Many cast iron owners say to do this about 3 to 4 times. After this initial seasoning, you can grease your pan once before cooking. As long as you use your pan consistently you shouldn’t need to season much after this.
Alright, now that you know how to keep your Cast Iron Skillet performing at the top of its game, it’s time to learn a few dinners to start cooking in it. The recipes below come from the magazine Cast Iron Classics, which is available at Rural King stores. If you enjoy these recipes, pick up a copy and look through all the appetizers, sides, dinners, and desserts you can make on cast iron.
Classic Fried Chicken – (Makes 8 Pieces)
- 1 1/2 Cups whole buttermilk
- 2 Tablespoons hot sauce
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 (3 1/2 lb.) Whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 Cup quick-mixing flour
- 1 Cup all-purpose flour
- 2 Teaspoons ground black pepper
- 4 Cups vegetable oil
- Stir buttermilk, hot sauce, and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt in a large bowl. Add chicken; cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
- In a shallow dish, whisk together flours, pepper, and remaining salt. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off excess. Place on a wire rack; let stand for 15 minutes.
- In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil on your grill/smoker over medium heat until a Deep Fry Thermometer registers 365ºF. Place half of the chicken, skin side down, in the skillet. Cover and fry for 5-8 minutes; uncover, and turn chicken. Fry until a Meat Thermometer registers 165ºF, 6-10 minutes more. Let drain on Paper Towels. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Need help finding a side? Try the Baked Beans from our Thanksgiving Dinner Post!
Pastalaya – (Makes 6 Servings)
Since this dish has some acidic food, it is best to make this after you’ve cooked on your cast iron cookware a few times. This will ensure you have a healthy coating protecting your pan.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 (1 lb) package smoked sausage, sliced
- 1 1/2 lbs large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 Tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon Creole Seasoning, divided
- 1 Cup chopped yellow onions
- 1/2 Cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1/2 Cup chopped celery
- 4 Cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 (28oz) Can whole plum tomatoes
- 1 Cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 Teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 Teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 Teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 (16oz) Box linguine
- Garnish: Chopped green onion, lemon halves
- In a 12″ Cast Iron Skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 6 minutes. Removes using a slotted spoon, and set aside. Add shrimp to skillet, and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon Creole Seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until just pink, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet; set aside.
- Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth, oregano, sugar, salt, and remaining 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning. Break up tomatoes using a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water
- Add sausage, shrimp, reserved 1 cup pasta water, and cooked pasta to skillet. Cook, stirring to coat pasta until shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Garnish with green onion and lemons if desired.
Orange-Chipotle Pork Tenderloin – (Makes 4-6 Servings)
- 1 (7oz) Can chipotle salsa
- 1 Teaspoon orange zest
- 2 Cups fresh orange juice, divided
- 1 Teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 Orange, halved
- Garnish: Fresh cilantro leaves
- In a large bowl, stir together chipotle salsa, zest, 1/2 cup orange juice, salt, and pepper. Add pork tenderloin, stirring to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat Grill to 400F. Preheat a 12″ Cast Iron Skillet on the grill for 10 minutes; add oil.
- Remove pork from marinade, discarding leftover marinade; wipe off any excess. Place pork in skillet with orange halves and remaining 1 1/2 cups orange juice. Cook, covered with grill lid, for 20 minutes. Turn pork; grill, covered, until a Meat Thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 145ºF, about 20 minutes more. Let stand for at least 5 minutes. To serve, slice pork; garnish with cilantro, and squeeze with charred oranges, if desired.
Well, you’ve heard how my first experience with cast iron went. How about you? Let me know what your first experience was like in the comments below!
Remember to join us every other Friday for more Grilling Adventures! Happy grilling!
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