Friday Favorite: Why I Love Cast-Iron Cookware

CATEGORIES: Informational Posts, Kate

Note: This post is not sponsored–it’s simply an informational post in the vein of what used to be “The Scoop”–kitchen products we use and love!

We frequently get asked what our favorite cookware is. Usually, the person asking is either someone who’s getting married (or buying cookware for someone who’s getting married) or someone who’s looking to replace the stuff they got for their wedding 10 years (or more) before. P.S. I kind of wish there were 10-year-anniversary showers, for when all your wedding towels have fallen apart and you realize those dishes you thought were super adorable when you were a child bride were actually kind of a terrible life choice. 

I’ve tried it all. I’ve had cheap non-stick pans. I’ve had nice, hard-anodized pans. I’ve had stainless steel pans. And if I were to do it all over again, I’d skip over an entire boxed set and just buy things piece by piece. Instead of the box, I’d get a 12-inch non-stick or stainless steel skillet with a lid (for stovetop casseroles, browning meats, cooking rice), a 1-quart stainless steel saucepan (for boiling small amounts of liquid), a 2-quart  stainless steel saucepan (for heating larger quantities of liquid), 1 or 2 8-inch non-stick omelet pan(s) (for omelets, a single grilled cheese), a 7-ish quart enamel Dutch Oven (really, you could forgo the 12″ skillet and just use this–you can do everything the 12″ skillet does with this, plus make soups, cook whole birds, deep fry, go stovetop-to-oven, cook pasta, etc.; the Lodge brand is great and gorgeous and a fraction of the cost of the Le Creuset, but the Le Creuset is the Le Creuset). 

pots and pans

That said, if I had to pick ONE type of pan to have in my kitchen, it would be a couple of cast iron pans.

final cast iron skillet

I probably use them 95% of the time. I use them for sweet stuff (like cinnamon rolls). I use them for searing meats. I use them when it’s too rainy or cold or I just don’t feel like firing up grill. I use them for outdoor cooking. 

So why do I love them? First of all, they’re cheap–a 10.25” pre-seasoned cast iron skillet runs about $21 and if you take care of it, it will literally last a lifetime (that cannot be said for just about any other pan I’ve ever owned.) The more you use it, the better “seasoned” it becomes and it actually begins to form its own naturally nonstick surface. You can easily and safely go from stovetop to oven (so you can sear a pork tenderloin on the stovetop and then pop it in the oven to finish cooking without having to worry about whether the pan or any parts are oven-safe, or at what temperature they stop being safe. It’s iron. It’s all oven safe.) It conducts heat evenly, leading to beautiful browning when you sear meats or bake breads. You can make deep dish pizza (or a whole bunch of individual deep dish pizzas! Or pizzookies! Or brownie skillets!) Plus, once it’s well-seasoned, cleaning it is a breeze (in fact, you shouldn’t really use soap, although I’ve been known to add a drop or two of dish soap in more dire situations and we’re still going strong.) You can use them for outdoor cooking, you can use them as actual kitchen tools (like weighing down a piece of meat while it cooks or smashing stuff. Have I ever smashed something with a cast iron pan? No. Could I? Yes.)

So what are the downsides? You can’t put them in the dishwasher. And they’re a little finicky to care for–you need to dry them completely and keep them lightly oiled, at least in the beginning, so they don’t rust. They’re very, very heavy–like, break-a-floor-tile-if-you-drop-it heavy. But even with those minor drawbacks, there’s not a single piece of kitchen equipment I could recommend more. 

So what are some of our favorite recipes where you can really use cast iron? Besides the pizzookies I talked about earlier, there’s this Honey Orange Pork Tenderloin, this Cajun-Style Hash Brown Skillet, and these hash brown potatoes and these Cat Head Biscuits–if you listen really closely, the Cajun-Style Hash Brown Skillet is probably calling your name and saying it wants to be made this weekend…

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21 comments

  1. I grew up with my family ALWAYS using cast iron. So, when I got married, I got a iron skillet, iron flat skillet, and two other smaller sized iron skillets. When I open my oven door where they are stored it almost topples the oven over. Love it!! (from a true southern girl)

  2. Several years ago my in-laws bought me several pieces of Le Creuset cookware including the dutch oven and cast iron skillet. When I got them I didn’t know what to use them for so they sat/hung decoratively on my pot rack for a long time. It wasn’t until the past year or so that I started using them and I LOVE them! I wish I had know how wonderful cast iron is to cook with. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love my cast irons! I inherited one from my mother that is about 18″ diameter. It is so heavy I can barely pick it up. I can’t imagine what it would weigh with a big roast or a turkey in it! LOL!

  4. I love love love my iron skillets. In fact my husband gave me one for our first Christmas the first year we were married. I thought it was the most unromantic gift ever at the time. Little did I know it would become the most used and appreciated gift he ever gave me. I wrote all about that first Christmas in this frittata post. http://www.homeecathome.com/the-home-economist/easy-spinach-and-bacon-frittata This iron skillet honey cornbread recipe is amazing and is one of my popular posts. http://www.homeecathome.com/the-home-economist/honey-cornbread-in-an-iron-skillet The iron skillet is my most versatile and most used pan in my kitchen too.

  5. I just picked up a cookbook by Cook’s Country called Cook It In Cast Iron and alot of the recipes are for the oven and they have been easy!!!! and I have made four things so far randomly and all have turned out great….especially the Salmon recipe. Just sharing for anyone who wants to experiment.

  6. I love Le Creuset… but I’ve owned and thrown away several cast iron skillets. Bloggers always sing their praises so every couple of years I buy one, thinking this time will be different, that I’ll find a way to actually CLEAN it. If you can’t use soap, how on earth are you actually supposed to clean it??? I’ve always followed the cleaning instructions, thought they were disgusting, and thrown the pan away before the next use. I don’t want today’s cinnamon rolls to taste like last week’s sloppy joes. I’ve read all kinds of half-measure, fuzzy non-specific cleaning explanations on the internet but sorry I can’t get behind these things, much as I want to!

    1. I never do sweets in them for that very reason! I do love them for cooking in general though. I may buy one just for sweets though. The “seasoning” of the pan gives extra flavor to what you’re cooking which is great, unless like you said, your cinnamon rolls taste like sloppy joes.

  7. This may be a dumb question but can you use cast iron pans on a glass top stove? For some reason I thought you could only use them with a gas stove.

  8. Cornbread is my favorite thing to make in my cast iron skillet! We use ours for everything though.

  9. I have a griddle, a 12-inch and a 9-inch, plus an enameled Dutch Oven (Kirkland from Costco). I love them all. I bought a chain mail scrubber from Amazon for cleaning it and it is great for scrubbing off stuck on food without damaging the seasoning.

  10. I bought a 10″ to make a upside down pineapple cake and it came out beautiful. My cousin loved the cake and said it was the best she ever had. I bake cakes and cupcakes out of my home and the skillet is one of the best investmentshe I’ve made since I’ve started.

  11. I don’t own any cast iron skillets because I don’t understand the “seasoning” thing. Do you have to season it after every use? And if you can’t use soap how do you clean off greasy film from meat? Please fill me in folks, I really want one!

    1. Most pans come pre-seasoned now (so they’re black instead of silver.) The seasoning is just a combination of heat + oil that forms a waterproof, non-stick surface. I I usually do end up using a drop or two of dish soap and very hot water to wipe it clean and then I dry it right away. If I’ve done something that messes with the surface (sometimes eggs will), I’ll add a thin coat of oil to help moisturizer the pan. Hope that helps!

  12. I wish i could love mine, we season them every time, never use soap and always dry completely. We’ve tried everything to make them non stick: bacon, lard, several oils, lodge brand products, but try as we might they still stick horribly. We cook eggs every morning and I always go for my cheap non-stick because I know my eggs will turn out and I won’t have to spend 20 minutes scraping the cast iron.

  13. I love my cast iron pans. I found that the more I used it the less my sweet things tasted savory and vice versa. I always add a bit more oil before cooking, oil not non-stick cooking spray. Give it a few tries. Even the lodge “pre-seasoned” variety take some tlc. I use a brillo pad to get out the scrub out any hard to remove bits and pieces. You can also add water and bring it to a boil. That helps a lot. I don’t ever do eggs though. Eggs are about the only thing I use my one non-stick pan for.

    1. It doesn’t for me because I literally use them almost every day. But. If you’re only using them a few times a year, it probably would go rancid. I just use peanut oil.

  14. Salt is what I use, along with hot water and a scrub brush, to clean my cast iron. Dry and rub some neutral oil around with a paper towel, That is how to clean it, easy peasy. And sometimes a bit of a soak or a drop of dishwahing liquid if it’s really messy. But salt is the best!

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