Not long ago, I bought my friend a cast iron skillet for a wedding present. I suspect she’s still trying to figure out what to use it for. So in the name of research I bought myself one and have been loving it. My question is, what wouldn’t you use it for?
What to make in your cast iron skillet:
Any type of meat or fish cooks beautifully in a cast iron skillet. I’ve pan fried steaks, fish, sausage, and burgers. Basically, anything you want to pan fry, this is your pan. It’s also perfect for searing. I like to sear thick fish at high temperature on the stovetop for 1 minute on each side and then finish the cooking in the oven. The cast iron skillet gets really hot so it’s perfect for searing and it also cooks well in the oven.
This may be heresy, but I also stir fry in my cast iron skillet. I don’t have a wok because they’re too bulky and my non-stick skillet has lost its non-stickedness. The cast iron skillet can get really hot, so you can stir fry quickly at high temperature and nothing sticks. I made Korean pancakes in it, and will undoubtedly make my latkes in it next Chanukah.
This is just a small sampling of what I’ve used the skillet for so far. I believe that the only thing that should be avoided are acidic foods like tomatoes or lemon.
What size to get:
The only down side to a cast iron skillet is that it’s very heavy. If you need to lift the pan for some reason, e.g. to swirl your oil or to transfer ingredients from the skillet to another pan or bowl or serving plate, you (or at least I) need two hands. So for the sake of weight, you may want a 10 inch pan. But I opted for a 12 inch because it’s so much more useful. The extra surface area allows me to cook for my family in one batch.
How to use:
Today’s cast iron skillets are all pre-seasoned so I don’t think I did anything special when I first got it. When I’m using it, I preheat it on the stove for a few minutes and when it’s hot, I add a small amount of oil. I’ve read that as you use you skillet, it will build up seasoning and will be naturally non-stick but I don’t want to take the chance so I add a little oil. Nothing sticks!
How to clean:
I’ve read that you shouldn’t use soap — just wipe the pan out. But that does not seem very sanitary to me so I do use soap. I wash the pan like other pans, but I’m careful not to scrape it. It doesn’t necessarily look pristine — a la the day I bought it — when I’m done, but it’s clean. I dry it right away and rub a little canola oil on the whole pan with a small piece of paper towel. Just the smallest amount.
I’m pretty much down to only using my cast iron skillet and my Le Creuset dutch oven. There’s a reason they’ve been around forever while other cookware trends come and go.