As a long time subscriber to the magazine, Vegetarian Times, one of my favorite parts to read is the contributors section. Each contributor is profiled and asked a few questions about what they love most about cooking, what inspires them, etc. Inevitably, someone is asked: “What’s your favorite piece of cookware?” And, just as reliable as the question, is the response: something really, really expensive. (As an experiment after writing that last statement, I went to my cookbook shelf, pulled out an old issue at random, opened it up to the contributors section and found someone who was asked this question. The guys response? A $300 Le Creuset covered pot.)
I love to cook. I mean, I really, really love to cook. What inspires me? Hunger mostly. But also a desire to eat well. And what is my favorite piece of cookware? It is not an expensive Le Creuset pot, or a fancy appliance that whips, blends or purees. No no no. My all-time, go-to piece of cookware is my 12 inch cast iron skillet. I love that skillet.
I grew up with a grandma that knew her way around a cast iron skillet. And to this day, I believe that what makes her breakfasts so tasty and enjoyable is her cookware. So, I was incredibly excited when she bought me my first piece of cast iron cookware. It was the 12 inch skillet that I mentioned earlier.
What makes cooking in a cast iron skillet so special? I’m so glad you asked!
1. This type of cookware gets really, really hot, so its great for searing, frying, or charring vegetables (like you would find in a fajita).
2. You can use it on the stove, then move it right to the oven to finish cooking. For example, I have a casserole recipe where I sauté all my veggies, grains and sauce together on top of the stove, then I spoon a cornbread topping over the filling and move the whole skillet to the oven to finish baking. One-dish cooking means a lot less clean up!
3. Clean up is a snap. You can’t use soap, so all you need is hot water and something to scrub with!
4. When you cook in a cast iron skillet, your food gets a crisp outer coating that adds flavor and texture.
5. The coolest thing about this kind of cookware is a little known health benefit. (Well, at least I didn’t know about it.) The skillet actually adds iron into the food that is cooked in it! When I was pregnant with my first son, my doctor told me to cook in my cast iron skillet as much as possible to help avoid iron deficiency.
♥I didn’t want to get you all excited about cast iron cooking but leave you directionless, so I will leave you with a few ways to use this type of cookware. Otherwise, I know the only idea that immediately comes to mind is cooking baked beans over an open flame, right? Well that just wont do, so here are a few things you could try if you are interested in venturing into cast iron cooking:
1. Make a pizza! I use the crust recipe found here and then top according to whatever I’m in the mood for!
2. Cinnamon rolls: This week, I used a recipe from the blog, Chelsea’s Messy Apron. This recipe is quick, easy, and a great way to start out cooking in a cast iron skillet if you’ve never used one before.
3. Roast potatoes: Again, this is a great way to use your skillet if you are new to cast iron cooking. Simply pour oil to coat the pan, sprinkle kosher salt (or coarse sea salt) and dried herbs of your choice over the oil (I use parsley and rosemary) and then spread quartered red skinned potatoes in a single layer over top. Bake in a 425° oven for about 40 minutes and you have potatoes that are wonderfully crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside!
4. Chocolate Chip Cookie: I will let you in on a little secret. I hate baking cookies. All that mixing and scooping just to have to wait on one batch at a time is too tedious and time consuming for me. So here is a way to get your cookie fix with half the work! There are a lot of recipes for making a chocolate chip cookie in your cast iron skillet, but I like to use one from Gimme Some Oven.
5. But my favorite way to use my skillet is…..to use it any way you would a normal skillet! You don’t need to wait for a special “cast iron specific” recipe, just take something you enjoy making and try making it in a cast iron skillet instead! If you do, be sure to let me know how it turns out. I’d love to hear from you. Enjoy!