Cast iron skillets are remarkably versatile. They come in many shapes and sizes, from pots to dutch ovens to griddles, all waiting to be used for a variety recipes. They have been utilized in kitchens for hundreds of years, which lends a hint as to why they are so useful. They have been prized for their durability and their ability to cook in high heat settings, like over an open campfire or under the broiler. Rarely do you hear a tale of a non-stick pan that was passed down from generation to generation like cast iron skillets are. Ready to superfood your kitchen supplies? It’s time to ditch your potentially toxic non-stick pans for heavy duty, long lasting cast iron skillets.
Cast Iron vs. Non-stick pans
No one will disagree that non-stick pans are more convenient than cast iron skillets. They are typically easier to clean and they cost less. Sometimes they are even easier to find at the market. What is still up for debate is whether or not the chemicals that make up the coating on non-stick pans should be anywhere near your food. The EPA has stated that teflon, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and florinated telomers (items found in non-stick pans) are dangerous and can cause a number of health risks including cancer. PFOA is also used to make nail polish, house cleaners, and shoe cleaners. Additionally, people who use metal utensils to cook with run the danger of scraping the non-stick surface off of the pan and directly into their food.
Keep in mind that before non-stick skillets became popular in the 1960s, cast iron was arguably the most trusted and used cooking utensil. Cast iron has remarkable heat retention, which makes it ideal for creating an even cooking area on the skillet or in the oven. It was widely used directly over or even on the fire for many years. Cast iron skillets are simply melted and molded iron. Nowadays, you can find many cast iron skillets at thrift stores, which is great news for frugal folks as well as those looking to lessen their impact on the environment.
Cleaning & Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet
If you’re lucky, you’re the recipient of a well seasoned cast iron skillet that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Whether or not this is true, knowing how to season a cast iron skillet is an essential skill to have as the owner of one of these amazing pans.
You’ll know it’s time to season if the pan is rusty or if food begins to stick to the surface of the pan when you cook. If you just purchased a brand new skillet, you may have to season it a few more times in the beginning. Remember that every time you use the pan, it’s being seasoned as well. Knowing how to properly clean & season your pan will extend its life drastically, and you will be oh so happy you learned the proper way. Check out this great tutorial on how to do both of these important things (with photos!) here.
Note: this tutorial uses shortening to season, but we highly recommend coconut oil. It works great!
Put That Skillet to Use!
Now that you’ve mastered the art of caring for your skillet, it’s time to get cooking! You’ll be blown away with all the different foods you can make, from Chicken Pot Pie with Garlic Biscuits to Seared Sweet Potato Salad to a delicious frittata! Don’t stop at the savory foods though… cast iron loves to make sweet treats like this Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake.
Another great way to use your skillet is by making the”Everything but the Kitchen Sink” breakfast. This is a wonderful recipe that’s highly customizable. It’s ideal for using the last bits of food in the refrigerator that you don’t want to go bad. Don’t feel limited to the ingredients in this recipe, get creative!
Tip: It’s important to heat the pan slowly to reduce hot spots and create an even temperature throughout.
- 4 eggs (optional)
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)
- 4 medium sized firm potatoes (avoid russet potatoes as they fall apart easily)
- 1 medium onion (any kind, diced)
- 3 cloves of garlic (diced)
- 4-6 leaves of kale or chard (washed, thinly sliced)
- 1/2 a zucchini (sliced)
- other vegetables of your choice – for ex: asparagus, tomato, spinach (diced)
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Melt coconut oil on medium heat.
- Add onion and stir until translucent, about 6-8 minutes.
- Add 1/2 garlic and reserve the rest. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute
- Add potatoes and turn heat to medium low. Stir every few minutes to begin to brown outsides of potatoes. After about 5-7 minutes, add about a tsp. of water and cover cast iron skillet with a lid. Let potatoes steam, just long enough so they begin to get soft, about 3 minutes.
- Uncover and stir around. Add the rest of the vegetables and seasonings.
- Turn on broiler.
- Saute for about 5-7 minutes more, stirring every couple of minutes.
- Turn off stovetop and create little “nests” where you will crack the eggs (if using). Crack eggs into each nest and transfer to oven on the medium rack.
- Check in about 5 minutes. Egg whites should no longer be translucent. If they still are, keep the pan in the broiler for a few minutes more. If you like the yolks cooked more, keep the pan in the broiler until you are happy with the consistency of the yolk.
- Remove and top with cheese (optional).
- Serve on a trivet directly on the table.
What’s your favorite way to use a cast iron skillet? Got any favorite tips and trick for this superfood kitchen tool? Leave a comment below so we can all learn from you!