It’s the Little Things: The Only Pan Every Cook Needs

My kitchen is full of utensils. As a professional recipe developer and food writer, I can argue that this is for the job. But most of all I use a cast iron skillet.
The cast iron skillet is one of the most versatile and reliable kitchen appliances for any cook, and unlike most electronic kitchen essentials, it can last for generations. (I’m looking at you, fryer.)
Because it can withstand high temperatures and retain heat so well, I love that cast iron can be used both off the stovetop and in the oven. It’s great for frying steak or chicken breast, as well as scrambled eggs, vegetable stews, making homemade tortillas, and even baking fruit pies.
It’s also inexpensive, so collecting cast iron can become an obsession. I love restoring old cast iron pans I find in antique stores, but aspiring cast iron chefs can get a Lodge Pan for less than $30, made in Tennessee at the oldest and oldest iron foundry in the country.
Despite what you may have heard, I can assure you that cast iron pans are very easy to care for. All you need is hot water to clean them and some kosher salt to wipe off any stubborn debris. How about sustainable development?
Frustrated cooks often ask me what they can do with a scratched non-stick pan, and I wholeheartedly recommend cast iron as a solid alternative. Unlike non-stick pans, the surface of cast iron pans does not deteriorate over time. In fact, the non-stick properties of cast iron improve with repeated use, as the oil used in cooking becomes part of the pan itself.
There is also no need to worry about using metal utensils on cast iron. If you accidentally scratch the surface, you can easily season the cast iron skillet with heat and vegetable oil.
One note: don’t cook highly acidic foods like tomatoes, vinegar, wine, or citrus fruits in the pan until you’ve seasoned the pan. The acid will be eaten at the end, but a well-seasoned pan will allow a little simmer with these ingredients. (For foods that take longer to cook, such as ketchup, use enameled cast iron cookware, such as a roasting pan.)
For most dishes, a 10″ cast iron skillet with high sides is a skillet you’ll want to use over and over again. Once you start using it, you’ll find it eats a lot on the stovetop (or in the oven), but here are a few tips.
No need to take out the casserole when preparing this hearty rustic dish. Sauté the minced meat (or lentils, veggie option) and vegetables in a saucepan of wine and broth, then pour over the mashed potatoes and place in the oven.
Although the names are often used interchangeably, shepherd’s pie traditionally refers to the lamb-based dish, while homemade pie refers to the beef-based versions. For a variation known as Cumberland Pie, sprinkle the mashed potatoes with grated cheese and breadcrumbs.
While many recipes call for making the pasta separate from the cream cheese sauce, you can do it all in a cast iron skillet for a creamy, crispy dish in one pan. Who needs boxed macaroni and cheese when you have a stovetop option?
When you want macaroni and cheese in the middle of summer, you don’t need to heat the oven. Use a cast iron skillet to cook baked pasta and grilled cheese dishes.
While roasting a whole chicken is always convenient, bone-in chicken breasts and drumsticks are perfect for cast iron skillet dishes because the cuts are easy to get crispy.
The easiest way is to place the chicken, skin side down, in the oil, heat over medium heat (this will take three to four minutes), then set aside and sauté the vegetables a little in the skillet. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up, and roast at 400 degrees F until the chicken reaches 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.
The variations on this meal template are nearly limitless, but you can start with chicken and wild mushrooms, Greek legs with olives and lemon, or fried chicken and potatoes with gravy.
If you want a thick, chewy crust for a family pizza dinner, ditch the baking stone and use a cast iron skillet instead. Preheating the pan in the oven gives the dough a sizzling surface and helps the pizza rise to cushion height.
If you are using store-bought pizza dough, bring it to room temperature before stretching. This helps prevent the dreaded rebound reaction that prevents the dough from completely filling the mold.
Or, for a pizza that takes you back to the days of red checkered tablecloths, Tiffany-style lamps (and Book It! for millennials), make your own pizza dough.
Weekend breakfasts or weekday dinners, take out your cast iron skillet and cook up an impressive Dutch baby. These family-friendly pancakes are baked in the oven and deflated to create a bowl-shaped pastry that pairs perfectly with sweet or savory toppings.
Try the sweet Dutch baby with maple buttermilk topped with berries and cream, or the savory Dutch baby with boiled eggs and ham.
Whether you prefer to sweeten it with sugar or honey, top it with fresh corn or jalapenos, or brush it with butter, cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet is even better for its crispy brown crust.
Preheat a skillet in the oven, then add just enough oil or fat (such as drizzles of bacon) to coat the bottom of the skillet before pouring in the batter. Any cornbread recipe that fits in a 9″ skillet can also be used in the skillet. Try this crunchy version with polenta and millet.
This traditional Persian rice is known for its crispy, golden base, which is easy to achieve in a cast iron skillet. Because it retains heat, the pan helps the rice cook crispy without burning or burning.
Serve with rice as a side dish or with turmeric, chickpeas and vegetables or spiced chicken as a main dish.
If you’re making a large Oreo brownie or chocolate chip cookie in a cast iron skillet, does that count as one serving? Whether you love crunchy, chewy edges or a sticky, rich center—or both—these desserts are sure to please. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
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Post time: Aug-18-2022