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.

10 Cooking Tips for College Grads

 10 Cooking Tips for College Graduates

1. Get yourself a slow cooker. Sure, it’s not glamorous, but with this kitchen workhorse you’ll have the next best thing to Mom’s home-cooking ready and waiting when you get home.

2. Invest in a few good knives. Nothing makes chopping more frustrating and downright dangerous than cheap, dull cutlery. The basics–a paring knife, serrated knife and chef’s knife–will make meal prep so much easier and safer!

3. Plan ahead. Lack of planning will break your food budget faster than you can say ‘Chinese take-out.’ Get in the habit of making a weekly menu, and planning your shopping list in advance. Take advantage of sale items–if ground beef is on sale, buy extra, cook it all at once and designate half for burritos and the other half for a meaty lasagna.

4. Think high protein, low cost. We’d love to eat fresh salmon and steak every meal, but let’s face it, we’re paying off student loans now! Stretch your budget by choosing less expensive cuts of meat and incorporating other protein sources like beans and quinoa.

5. Buy in-season. Choosing produce in season is not only cost-effective, it also guarantees the most flavorful ingredients. Check your grocery or farmers market to find out what is in abundance.

6. Get your java fix at home. A daily coffee shop habit can add up in a hurry. Purchase good quality coffee beans, a grinder, and make your morning cup at a fraction of the cost. Check out roast master Chris Weber’s tips for perfectly brewed coffee.

7. Know the pantry staples. A well-stocked pantry is the key to kitchen flexibility. Building your stash of staples will mean fewer trips to the grocery store, and make it easier to try great new recipes on the fly. 

8. Master a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. Few foods are as comforting as homemade chocolate chip cookies. These all-American treats are a cinch to make, and will give you instant kitchen cred at the office pitch-in. Once you’ve mastered the basics, customize with cranberries, pecans, and more. 

9. Ask for help. There’s no shame in asking an experienced cook for guidance! Most people who enjoy cooking enjoy sharing their knowledge, so don’t be shy. 

10. Experiment.  Make recipes your own by experimenting with ingredient substitutions or adding your favorite spices. Adapt dishes you like to meet your individual taste. Get your creative juices flowing in the kitchen!