10 Top Recipes for Cast-Iron Pans
These 10 recipes will inspire you to pull a cast-iron pan—yours, your mother's or your grandmother's—off the shelf.
Caramel Pecan Skillet Brownie
Caramel in the bottom of the pan melds with the brownie, creating a dessert so rich and gooey that you need a spoon to serve it. Because cast iron holds heat, the brownie will still be warm when you go back for seconds.
Fish made easy! Start with a quick sear-one of cast iron's best tricks-to seal in moisture; finish by baking in the oven. A simple pickle relish tops the spice-rubbed fish with tang.
Cranberry Orange Upside-Down Cake
Invert this moist cake while it's still warm to reveal a fall kaleidoscope of glistening, tart berries and sweet mandarin oranges.
Bacon-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Frying bacon in the skillet, then tossing sprouts and red onion in the drippings before roasting means you'll only dirty one pan making this elegant side dish.
Southwest Corn Pudding
Buttery onions, cheddar and green chilies lace our stuffinglike pudding. Inspired by traditional skillet corn bread, this recipe works as a side or as a meatless main served with a salad or garlicky sauteed kale.
After searing a burger on cast iron (and tasting the crust that develops), you may never grill burgers outside again. We topped ours with herby veggies and feta cheese.
Sausage and Spinach Skillet Pizza
A hot cast-iron skillet mimics a pizza stone to create a crisp, evenly browned crust. We loaded our pizza with oozy red sauce and stretchy cheese. Fork and knife highly recommended.
Roasted Chicken with Sage Pan Sauce
This sage-infused, company-worthy fall recipe takes full advantage of cast iron's versatility. The pan goes from stove top to oven and back to stove top.
Cast iron's heat retention means oil holds a high temperature, so fried foods crisp quickly and evenly. These traditional Jewish potato-onion fritters have tender centers and lacy rims. Top them with sour cream or applesauce.
Cherries usually dot this French country dessert, but we opted for plump blackberries and a wisp of orange liqueur. Baked in a large skillet or a group of minis, the simple, eggy batter yields a texture between cake and custard.
Cast iron tips
Why use cast iron? A kitchen workhorse, cast iron moves from stove to oven to grill and even to campfire. It heats slowly but then stays hot, an ideal quality for roasting, frying, griddling, baking, broiling, braising and searing. Basic black pans are bargain priced, yet virtually indestructible. In fact, cast iron actually improves over time. Food particles season the porous iron, giving it a glossy sheen that's as nonstick as any modern pan.
Start by seasoning Many new pans come preseasoned and ready to use, but vintage pans (or newer ones that have lost their seasoned sheen) need TLC. Scour and wash the pan to remove dirt or rust. Using a paper towel, rub the clean pan inside and out with a thin coat of vegetable oil. Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any drips, then bake the pan upside-down on the top rack at 350° for 1 hour. Cool the pan inside the turned-off oven. Now you can cook!
Regular cleaning Fill the pan with hot water to loosen food bits, then scrub it with a stiff brush or scouring pad and rinse. No soap! Suds damage the seasoning. Place the clean pan over low heat on the stove top or in a warm oven to dry it fast and avoid rust. If you like, rub the warm, dry pan with a bit of vegetable oil to help maintain the seasoning. Store when cool. If the pan dulls or rusts, or you notice food sticking, just reseason as if it were new.
Made in the USA Colorful enamel-coated cast iron is beautiful and needs no seasoning, but it's expensive and can chip over time. For no-frills cast iron like the black pans we used, you can't beat Lodge Manufacturing, the only brand still made in America. Choose among skillets, casseroles, Dutch ovens, griddles and more. (423) 837-7181; lodgemfg.com
Iron 101 Food absorbs traces of healthy iron from the pan, which is good for your body. But cast iron also may discolor or impart a faint metallic flavor to acidic foods such as tomatoes, especially if the pan is not well seasoned. The reaction is harmless and doesn't always happen—it's not a factor with the recipes in this slideshow. Play with a pan to see what you like to cook in it.