Secrets to Using a Cast-Iron Skillet

Ingredients for cooking and empty cast iron skillet
Ingredients for cooking and empty cast iron skillet

Inexpensive and durable, naturally nonstick and nearly indestructible, cast-iron skillets are a kitchen essential.

They last for generations, so the same skillet that brought you grandma’s juicy fried chicken now helps you whip up a decadent Apple Pecan Skillet Cake. The best part? The more you use it, the better it gets.

Cast-irons season over time. The oils and flavors from everything that’s touched its surface help the skillet become naturally nonstick. Regularly seasoning your cast-iron skillet will keep it in prime condition to bake for years. Here’s a quick how-to:

1. Wash the skillet with warm water and a sponge or stiff brush. Only use soap if you’re preparing to season it. Otherwise, use only water!

2. Rinse and dry the skillet thoroughly, then coat it with a thin layer of vegetable oil or shortening.

3. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour. Let the skillet cool completely, then store away.

Here are four ways you can put the cast-iron to work in your own kitchen.

Searing and Sautéing

Take advantage of cast-iron’s reputation for being stovetop and oven-friendly. Begin cooking dishes in the piping hot skillet on the stove, and finish the process in the oven.

Braising that Bursts with Flavor

Since cast-iron skillets heat evenly, and at a steady temperature, they’re perfect for braising meat or vegetables in stock and spices. Try this Braised Winter Vegetable Gratin as a comforting side dish.

Baking – Browned and Buttery

Because the surface of a cast-iron heats evenly and continuously, breads come out toasty and moist, while pies swell with rich, golden crusts. Baking with cast-iron creates sweet and savory dishes that everyone will enjoy. We love the rustic touch of Skillet Buttermilk Biscuits, slathered with warm honey butter. You could also pair a hearty stew with this Easy Mexican Cornbread or finish off a meal with this Blackberry Lime Cobbler.

Frying – The Golden Standard

With cast-iron’s steady, even heat, just an inch or so of oil is all it takes to conjure up some Home Made Corn Dogs or Fried Chicken Wings, two of the most delicious comfort recipes we know.

Using a cast-iron skillet with some of your favorite recipes can open a new world of flavor to your food. A cast-iron skillet that’s well-used and well-loved is more than a kitchen utensil – it’s a treasured family heirloom.

Top 3 Biscuit Mistakes

Skillet-Biscuits-Full

It’s almost Sunday morning – time for biscuits! The mouth-watering smell of rising dough fills the house. Every second the aroma strengthens, enticing you to nibble on that flaky, buttery goodness. The timer goes off and you eagerly open the oven door, only to feel your mitt-clad hand lower and your mouth dry up. The dough is all spread out and hard as a rock, not to mention the burnt bottoms. Something obviously went wrong, but you followed the recipe to the letter. So what happened?

Even the best cooks have their moments. Environment and equipment play just as important of a role as ingredients and recipes. That’s why the baking experts here at Clabber Girl have come up with some clever solutions to the most common biscuit-baking mistakes.

1. I could build a house with my biscuits! They’re just too hard.

Overcooking or high oven temperatures yield brick-like biscuits that can appear to look just fine on the outside. Sometimes, using too many dry ingredients can harden the dough, too.

Solution: Lining your tray with parchment paper can help reduce the hardness. Also think about reducing the heat or cooking time. If this is a repeat offense, your oven is likely the culprit. Placing a thermometer inside will reveal if your oven needs calibrating. Try tweaking your process with these simple Skillet Buttermilk Biscuits.

2. My entire baking tray morphed into one giant, shallow biscuit. How do I keep my biscuits from spreading?

Using too much butter or hot baking trays can cause the dough to glide across the pan like molten lava. Overeager cooks too impatient to let the oven adequately preheat can also incur the dreaded biscuit spread.

Solution: Let the dough cool in the fridge for about 20 minutes before baking and make sure your baking pan is cool or, at least, room temperature. Try your new techniques on these savory Cheddar and Chive Drop Biscuits, the perfect companion for soup night. If your biscuits still spread, try substituting half the butter with shortening. They’ll have the same rich flavor, minus the soft spreading agent.

3. My biscuits have the perfect shimmer of light brown on top, but the bottoms are burnt to a crisp.

If your oven is too hot or you’ve placed the tray too close to the heating element, your biscuits can look golden on top, but black on the bottom.

Solution: If your oven doesn’t heat evenly, try turning the tray at the halfway point and also place it on the middle rack, not the bottom. Parchment paper can also help prevent burnt bottoms. Pick up a roll as you grab the ingredients for Clabber Girl’s incredible Smoked Bacon Biscuits.

Biscuits are a food that should make you just as happy baking as eating. Few things are as disappointing as a baking disaster. Making these few simple adjustments can turn your biscuit breakdown into a kitchen conquest!

Biscuit Techniques

 

Basic-Biscuits-FullLight, tender and flaky biscuits are the result of a few simple techniques. For some experienced bakers a great biscuit is easy to achieve but for novice bakers it could become a challenge. It really doesn’t have to be difficult and as a matter of fact, when making homemade biscuits (a quick bread), one key element in the process is to simply not to do too much. That’s right; too much mixing and your biscuits may not be light enough. Too much kneading and they could become tough little hockey pucks. Not to worry; we have a step by step guide for the perfect biscuit. As far as which recipe to use, if you don’t have one in mind we do! Our favorites are Old Fashioned Biscuits (on the back of the Clabber Girl can for many years), Baking Powder Biscuits (a little more flavor and with more ingredients) and Old Fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits (wonderful flavor, tender crumb).

To make your biscuits:

Assemble your ingredients: read your recipe, understand the directions and have all ingredients on hand right next to the mixing bowl. Make sure you start with fresh ingredients; check the shelf life. Remember, when measuring dry ingredients, especially baking powder, you should use only dry utensils when measuring and replace the lid immediately afterwards. Don’t sit the baking powder can next to the sink, or by moisture.

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly before cutting in shortening/fat/butter. This is to ensure that all ingredients are incorporated evenly. Remember that you shouldn’t do too much mixing after the wet ingredients are added. In order to ensure the baking powder is incorporated evenly, this is the time to mix well.

 

Cut in shortening – many bakers choose to refrigerate their fat prior to using in biscuits or pies. To cut the shortening or butter in, you can use two knives and cut crosswise to incorporate, others use a pastry blender (preferred) because it will do so more evenly in less time. The little pockets of shortening will melt in the oven, helping to make the biscuit tender.

 

Coarse crumbs are not all completely even, and depending on the amount of shortening/butter/fat you use, the result should be something like this, below:

 

Add liquid – mix just to incorporate. Remember not to mix too much, since over-mixing will break up the little shortening beads and cause the gluten in the flour to stretch, causing the biscuits to be less tender.

 

Knead the dough – at Clabber Girl we usually knead by folding over no more than four times. Place a cup or so of flour on the board, gently pat the dough on top and sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough with your fingers; fold over once, turn over and press down gently. Do this no more than four times so that you don’t over-handle the dough.

 

Pat out the dough for rolling. Dough should be rolled to about 1/2-inch in height.

 

Cut with a biscuit cutter – make cuts close together so that you don’t have to re-roll your dough very much. This hastens your prep time and also eliminates over-handling of the dough.

 

Place cut biscuits on prepared pan. Placing them close together helps each biscuit raise a teeny bit more, and also makes the sides a little softer.

Putting your biscuits farther apart on the baking pan helps make a crust on all sides. It’s all a matter of what you prefer.

 

Bake according to recipe directions. Sometimes you are asked to brush the tops with butter before baking, which helps the tops brown and adds a little more crispness as well as flavor.