Cooking with Cast Iron

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Cast iron retains heat perfectly — and evenly — making it the the best cookery piece for searing meats at high temperatures (think: steakhouse crust in your own kitchen), stir-frying vegetables, and deep-frying fish. And once properly seasoned, a cast-iron pan is naturally nonstick, which is great for eggy dishes like the classic Spanish tortilla. Another plus: Cast-iron cookware works just as well in the oven as on the stovetop.

Le Creuset just may be the gold standard for cooking with cast iron. In fun colors such as orange (flame), blue (Marseille), red (cherry), and green (fennel), these skillets, pots, and Dutch ovens are lust-worthy kitchen items.

For classic and reliable cast-iron cookware, Lodge can’t be beat. Available in a variety of sizes and shapes (think griddles and cornstick pans in addition to the standards), home cooks and professional chefs have sworn by this respectable brand since practically forever — technically, 1896.

Other top quality cookware companies have been taking notice of cast iron’s durability and versatility, and now both Calphalon and Emeril by All-Clad include a complete line of cast-iron products.

At Williams-Sonoma, you can find Staub’s cast-iron cookware, which reminds us of Le Creuset’s pieces but in colors slightly more subdued. Great for stews and braises and steak house-like sears, cast iron will quickly become your favorite kitchen tool.

It’s no surprise that Rachael Ray’s extensive product offerings include an assortment of cast iron pans and pots in an array of colors and sizes.

The reigning king of Italian cuisine, Mario Batali, also has a sturdy line of cast-iron cookware. All shapes and sizes are available with a red exterior and ivory interior. Try whipping up pasta sauce or a rich Bolognese in one of these pots.

Scroll through the slideshow above to shop our stylish cast iron picks — once you start cooking with cast iron, we bet you’ll have little use for anything else in your kitchen.

— Stacey Gawronski, Lifestyle Mirror

More From Lifestyle Mirror:

• The Best Lasagna Recipe: 5 Versions to Try

• Marie Viljoen's Pork Belly Recipe

• Padma Lakshmi Shares Her Favorite NYC and New Orleans Spots

Cast Iron Skillet Recipes

Always preheat your cast-iron pan before adding the food you want to cook.

With a cast iron pan, you can begin your recipe on the stove top, and then move it to the oven to finish.

Do not use a cast-iron pan in your microwave. If you do, you will ruin your pan and also your microwave oven. The fireworks display that will result will not be worth the cleanup and replacement cost.

The first most common mistake of why people do not like cast iron is that they say everything sticks. If food sticks to your cast-iron pan, your pan is NOT seasoned right and you need to re-season it. Cast iron is a natural non-stick surface and if your pan is seasoned correctly it WILL NOT stick!

Check out my web page on restoring and seasoning Cast-Iron Pots and Pans.

Remember – Every time you cook in your cast-iron pan, you are actually seasoning it again by filling in the microscopic pores and valleys that are part of the cast-iron surface. The more you cook, the smoother the surface becomes!

Cast Iron Dutch Ovens

Before anyone ever thought of a crock pot, there was the cast-iron Dutch oven. Dutch ovens have been used for hundreds of years. Nothing will hold a good, even temperature better than the heavy metal of this monster pot, and it can go from stove top to oven to campfire without missing a beat.

Check out this very interesting and informative article on Dutch Oven Camp Cooking.

Iron Griddles

Want to make the greatest pancakes you’ve ever eaten? Want your French toast to have that crispy edge so prized at breakfast time? You need to get a cast-iron griddle pan and get it good and hot on the stove top.

They work fine on electric or gas ranges, or over a campfire if you are so inclined.

Cast-Iron Pans and Skillets

Choose the size most comfortable for you. I recommend the 10-inch cast iron frying pan as it is the best trade off of size and weight.

Personally, I own 10- and 12-inch models because on occasion, I am called on to feed large groups of people.

The Best Things to Cook in Your Cast-Iron Skillet

There’s a reason that cast-iron pans are a sought-after purchase — or find at garage sales and thrift shops — and why chefs and home cooks take great care to maintain their pans’ condition: A cast-iron pan is your kitchen’s ultimate workhorse. From achieving the perfect sear on steaks to evenly baking a batch of fluffy cornbread, your cast-iron skillet can make just about anything. Cast-iron pans are heavy-duty, too. Literally. Their heft and sturdy finish mean that they won’t chip or scratch or wear out like other cookware.

What’s so extra special about cast-iron pans is that they only get better with time as they get more seasoned. In this case, seasoning has nothing to do with flavor. Instead, it refers to the oil that gets baked into the pan over time. This keeps your pan rust-free and creates a natural non-stick finish.

You can buy your pan pre-seasoned to give yourself a head start (foods may still stick to your pan a little initially). The more frequently you cook with your cast-iron pan, the quicker you’ll build up its seasoning and the more easily foods will release from the pan.

If you buy your pan un-seasoned, you’ll have to take an extra step to season it before use. Scrub and wash the pan in hot, soapy water, then, using a paper towel, wipe it with neutral oil (like corn, vegetable or canola) and bake it in a hot oven, around 30 minutes at 450 degrees or an hour at 375 degrees (repeat a couple of times).

Maintenance is key: clean the pan while it’s still hot if you can (a little soap and warm water should do it, but try not to scrub away any of the seasoning layer), heat it on the stove just before it starts to smoke, and wipe the pan with a paper towel and a small amount of oil. Let it cool completely before storing.

We love our cast-iron skillets as our kitchen workhorse, and have a whole guide to 10 great things to make in your own cast-iron skillet. But here's a breakdown of what it can do, and what to try.

Because cast iron is such a dense metal, it may take a little bit longer to heat, but it boasts a superior ability to maintain its temperature once it’s hot. That consistent heat makes cast-iron pans ideal for searing proteins and achieving that coveted outer “crust” in dishes like Katie Lee’s Cast-Iron Skillet Porterhouse Steak. It also helps with even browning in dishes like Cast-Iron Skillet Provencal Pork Chops and Potatoes (pictured up top). Bonus: Your cast-iron pan goes easily from the stove top to the oven to help finish cooking proteins after you get the perfect sear or initial browning.

Dinner Cast Iron Skillet Recipes

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tenders

When it comes to getting dinner on the table while RV camping, we usually have one person working in the camper preparing something in the Instant Pot or on the stove and another person outside preparing something over the fire, grill or on our outdoor kitchen.

For this chicken recipe, I&rsquod recommend whipping up some rice in the Instant Pot and cooking these delicious chicken tenders over the fire or outdoor stove. And using tenders instead of chicken breasts is key to a quicker meal.

Are you new to using an Instant Pot in your RV? Be sure to read our Instant Pot + RVing tips and tricks article here.

Campfire Pizza

There&rsquos definitely something magical about pizza cooked over the campfire. It tastes amazing, it smells amazing and you can add your favorite toppings making it a very versatile dinner option.

This recipe uses pre-made pizza dough, which helps you whip up a campfire meal quickly and easily.

Pork Chops with Apples

These pork chops are cooked in apple butter (amazeballs), as well as a bit of brown sugar and chili powder for a kick.

This sounds like the perfect castiron skillet recipe for one of those cool camping nights.

Campfire Whiskey BBQ Chicken

Any whiskey fans here? How about BBQ? Combine the two to create this mouth-watering Whiskey BBQ chicken recipe cooked over the campfire.

Make the BBQ sauce at home and store it in a mason jar to make whipping this meal up easy. Or, you can always use store-bought BBQ sauce as well.

Pan-Fried Dover Sole

This cast-iron skillet fish recipe cooks up quickly for an easy campfire meal. Add the capers and lemon for some delicious flavor. And if you don&rsquot like Dover Sole, swap in another fish like tilapia.

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Grilled fajitas, sometimes with just veggies and sometimes with chicken, was always a go-to for us.

This recipe uses a fajita simmer sauce for ease and loads of flavor.

Chicken Thighs with Creamy Garlic Wine Sauce

Who says you can&rsquot get a little fancy with your campfire meals?

These chicken thighs cook up quickly in under 15 minutes and are braised in delicious creamy wine and garlic sauce topped with sun-dried tomatoes. Use a little wine for the sauce and enjoy the rest of the bottle with your meal. Yum!

Campfire Nachos

Burgers and hot dogs aren&rsquot the only easy thing to serve while camping. These campfire nachos are super simple to make. And who doesn&rsquot like nachos?!

To make these, just layer everything up in the cast iron skillet, cover with foil and cook over the grill or campfire for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melted.

Seafood Campfire Paella

What&rsquos on the menu for a camping trip to the Oregon coast? A meal using fresh mussels, clams, and shrimp. And if paella seems a bit intimidating to make while camping, don&rsquot let it. It&rsquos actually a relatively easy meal to make.

First, you cook the rice in a wine/broth mixture. It only takes about 15 minutes to cook rice over a campfire. The steam from the rice cooks the seafood very quickly and you&rsquore left with a beautiful dish you can eat right out of the pan. Plus you can enjoy a glass of the rest of the wine. Win-win.

Fiery Campfire Veggies

Veggies with a kick cooked over the campfire or grill? Yes, please!

These veggies are drizzled with olive oil and sriracha and then sprinkled with red pepper flakes for even more heat. After about 15 minutes cooked in the cast iron skillet, you have delicious veggies with a bit of crunch and spice.

Serve them alone or alongside a steak cooked up on the grill.

To make whipping this up at your campsite easy-peasy, chop all of the veggies at home before you leave.

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About Nikki Cleveland

Nikki is a writer and editor for Do It Yourself RV, RV LIFE, and Camper Report. She is based on the Oregon Coast and has traveled all over the Pacific Northwest.

Recent Cast Iron Acquisitions

Posted by Rick Mansfield

Last month, Kathy and I took a day trip to Tennessee, and while we were in Sevierville made the required stop for any cast iron aficionado at the Lodge Cast Iron Outlet Store. This is the second time we had been to a Lodge outlet store, with the previous visit made to the store in South Pittsburg, where Lodge is headquartered. If you&rsquore into cast iron like us (and if you&rsquore reading this, you probably are), you know that visiting one of these stores is akin to a religious experience.

Lodge has four factory stores, and of the two we&rsquove visited so far, the Sevierville store was clearly the nicer one. It was larger than the South Pittsburg location and had high ceilings and lots of bare wood walls and displays. It almost felt like being in a log cabin, but it was brighter and more open than your average cabin. It was a thrill to walk into a store dedicated to cast iron and see shopping carts. I immediately grabbed one, although we did not have a clear plan for what we were going to purchase.

As we went along, spending about an hour in the store, Kathy and I walked up and down every aisle, making certain we had missed nothing. We called a family member as well as a friend of the family asking them if they needed us to get them anything while we were there. They both enthusiastically gave us their &ldquoorders.&rdquo Some of the items we picked up were novelties such as a Lodge baseball cap. It&rsquos black with the Lodge logo on the front and the words &ldquo1896 * USA&rdquo on the back. I also got one of those rust eraser sticks I&rsquod heard about, but have not had a chance to use. I&rsquove got a couple of old cast iron chicken fryers that need cleaning up. I&rsquoll be certain to write about my results with the eraser when I&rsquove had a chance to try it out.

I was especially excited to find the cast iron casserole dish pictured to the left. To my knowledge, these are not sold on the Lodge website, although Lodge sells an enameled version of the same pan. This one, however, is non-enameled, bare cast iron (although pre-seasoned). A few months ago, I featured the larger enameled cast iron broaster pan in one of my posts, but this smaller cast iron casserole dish was something I&rsquod been wanting for a long time.

Also pictured here is a cabbage casserole which was the first recipe we tried in the new cast iron casserole pan. I plan on featuring this recipe a few months from now as we get closer to New Year&rsquos, but if you can&rsquot wait until then, be certain to shoot me an email requesting it.

I&rsquod also been wanting a lid for our cast iron wok for quite a while. I realize you may be thinking that a lid is not customarily used with a wok, and I&rsquod have to agree with you completely. But let me explain why I wanted one.

When Kathy and I cook dinner using our Lodge cast iron wok (see my original review here), we usually cook enough food for our dinner and then have enough food for leftover lunch the next day. You have to realize that this is not customarily the way woks are used. Most of the time a wok will be used to cook just enough food for one meal. So, if there are four people eating, the food in the wok will be divvied out among them with none leftover. But Kathy and I regularly need to make enough food so that we can take our lunch to work with us.

So, if we pack our lunches right away, we run the risk of our food for that night&rsquos meal getting cold. But if we leave the food in the wok, it tends to lose too much moisture while we&rsquore eating. Therefore, I needed a lid!

A few months back, I emailed customer service at Lodge asking them if they made a lid for the wok. They do not, which didn&rsquot surprise me. However, I was told that the 14&rdquo camping dutch oven lid fits perfectly. So, while in the store, I found one of these rather large lids and carried it over to a display where a few woks were sitting. I set the lid on top of the wok, and I was delighted to see that it fits perfectly! It&rsquos almost as if the lid was especially designed for the wok.

So, our cast iron collection has grown a little bit more. Because we have limited room, I decided long ago that I was not going to collect cast iron simply to collect it, although some people greatly enjoy doing that. Instead, all of our cast iron is what like like to call &ldquoin use&rdquo cast iron. We actually do use everything we have. I&rsquove shown a picture of our cast iron display rack before, but it&rsquos a bit more full since the last photos I posted.

What you see here is almost every piece of cast iron we own. Other than what you see here, I also have my main cast iron skillet that has a permanent place on the stove top. It the first cast iron piece I got back in the nineties. It is a Lodge 10.25" skillet that I received back before they began adding the extra grip handle and before everything came pre-seasoned.

I also have Kathy&rsquos grandmother&rsquos chicken fryers (two) in the back room waiting for me to find the time to clean them up and get them back into normal use. I don&rsquot yet know what brand they are, but I look forward to trying to figure that out. My only other not-pictured cast iron item is a Wagnerware cornstick pan which I will have to take that rust eraser to before I can re-season it and get it back into working order.

Finally, pictured below are a few shots of the same rack above, but slightly enlarged so that you can see some of the items we have. I&rsquom not showing these items to show off. I know of many cast iron collectors whose inventories are larger than ours. However, I also know that true cast iron aficionados enjoy looking at other folks&rsquo cast iron. So, enjoy and feel free to post any questions or comments in the comment selection of this post.

Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at[email protected].

Strawberry & Cream Croissant French Toast For Your Weekend Brunch

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“I love cast iron for pizza because the pan gets super-hot and holds heat so well — it really mimics a pizza stone,” says Katie Workman, the blogger behind The Mom 100 and author of "Dinner Solved: 100 Ingenious Recipes that Make the Whole Family Happy, Including You". Workman’s secret trick is to preheat the pan in a 450°F oven then add the dough without any sauce or toppings and let it cook for a few minutes to puff and firm up for a chewy, springy pizza. Next, add your favorite sauce and toppings and finish baking the pizza. It’s that easy.

Cooking in a Cast-Iron Skillet

Break out your cast-iron skillet for super-crunchy fried chicken, bubbling blueberry cobbler, gooey macaroni and cheese, and more.

Related To:

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Cast-Iron Blueberry Cobbler

Cooking this blueberry cobbler in a cast-iron pan gives the dessert crispy, caramelized edges and a chewy, berry-filled center.

Fried Chicken

Alex Guarnaschelli's trick to juicy chicken is marinating it in buttermilk, sour cream and Dijon mustard before frying.

Skillet Bacon Mac and Cheese

This mac and cheese, topped with crispy bacon and fresh parsley, is cooked in a cast-iron skillet for an all-over crispy crust and an oozing cheesy center.

Creamed Corn Cornbread

Sop up a bowl of chili with crumbly cornbread. Don't turn your nose up at the use of canned creamed corn — it helps provide moisture and extra texture to the otherwise-dense bread.

Burger of the Gods

Some of the best burgers pay tribute to simplicity, like Alton Brown's blend of chuck and sirloin with just a pinch of kosher salt. Sear the patties au naturel, and salute the simpler things.

Irish Soda Bread

Buttermilk and baking soda may help Kelsey Nixon's soda bread get its beautiful rise, but it's the abundance of ripe currants that puts it over the top.

AB's Chili Powder

Once you try Alton's homemade chili powder, you'll scoff at the store-bought variety. Roasting the dried chiles and cumin seeds before grinding releases their essential oils, intensifying their flavor and aroma.

Wild Mushroom-Yukon Gold Hash

Those with hearty appetites will welcome this robust hash of earthy wild mushrooms, diced Yukon Gold potatoes and plenty of fresh parsley and thyme.

Cast-Iron Tandoori Chicken

If you don't have a traditional Indian tandoori lying around your house, a cas-iron skillet is the next-best thing for achieving crisp-skinned chicken and tender meat.

Fresh Peach Crumb Coffee Cake

Coffee cake studded with juicy fresh peaches is an ode to summer, but in the off-season, you could substitute other fruit or frozen peaches.

Corn Tortillas

Once you get the rhythm of making corn tortillas down, they take only a few minutes in the skillet to crisp up. Fill 'em with anything your heart desires.

Summer Squash Casserole

At first glance, this looks like macaroni and cheese, but it's actually a bubbling skillet of breadcrumb-topped summer squash.

Sweet Potato Cornbread

Sweet potatoes give this cornbread a vibrant color and slightly nutty flavor. Slathering it in butter is not optional.

Tips for using a cast iron Dutch oven

For those who have never cooked with a cast iron Dutch oven, Peggy Farrell offers these tips:

Buy or find a good oven. She recommends people do their research, and if they inherit one from a parent or grandparent, they should make sure to clean and season it properly before they first use it.

Seasoning cast iron is basically coating it in oil and heating it — in an actual oven — to give it a black patina, help its nonstick properties and prevent it from rusting.

There are also commercial seasoning waxes, like the Seasoning and Conditioning Wax from Sheboygan’s Austin Foundry Cookware.

Farrell advises to start simple, with something that has a lot of fat, like bacon. If you start with something that is too acidic, you won’t get a good seasoning on your pot, she said.

Finally, Farrell suggests people take a class not just to learn, but also for the camaraderie.

“People come together around food. It’s a good place to meet new people," she said. “Food brings out that social side of us.”

Cook up this recipe on your next camping trip using charcoal or coals from a wood fire. This recipe comes from Peggy Farrell of Becoming an Outdoors-Woman.

This roasted apple, vegetable and kielbasa bake takes about 45 minutes to cook in a Dutch oven over a campfire. (Photo: Chelsey Lewis/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie

Courtesy of The Baker Mama

You're going to want to grab a glass of milk and a side of vanilla ice cream with this one! Get a fluffy gooey giant cookie that's way more fun than several individual cookies. The best part? You can make this recipe in the skillet from start to finish, no bowls needed!

Get the recipe from The Baker Mama.