Classic cast iron: Robust stoves steeped in family history, advantages | Tulsa World Magazine
I have a modest collection of cast iron cookware, and I’m happy to say I didn’t pay for it. I inherited all my well-worn skillets from my grandmothers and a big Dutch oven with a cast iron lid from my mother-in-law. I also took away a few pans from my mother, whether she knew it or not. There’s no better gift to receive than a well-seasoned piece of kitchen history.
I can only imagine the meals my pans have produced in their past lives. Countless batches of fried chicken descended on my paternal grandmother Louise’s kitchen in Jackson, Mississippi. My mother’s mother, Jessie, did almost everything in her cast iron skillets, even in the Florida heat that permeated her kitchen daily. These meals represent decades and decades of cornbread, chicken and dumplings, pork chops in mushroom sauce, cobbler, skillet cakes and more. And now, every time I retrieve a pan from the cupboard, I remember long-lost family members.
Nowadays, however, cast iron can sometimes get a bad rap. It is cumbersome to manage and requires occasional care. Does keeping cast iron pans in the shape of a boat require a bit of work? Absolutely. But season these casseroles with a little elbow grease, and they’ll love you right away with every dish you cook in them.
People also read…
Cast iron is an excellent conductor of heat, which means it holds temperature well, allowing for nice searing and a natural non-stick ability if your pan is well seasoned. Could these recipes be made in other pans? Indeed, but the result may not be so impressive.
Some health professionals also claim that cooking in cast iron has health benefits. If your skillet is seasoned well, you can cook with less butter or oil. Another advantage of using cast iron pans instead of more modern non-stick pans is that you avoid the chemicals used in the coating which are released when the pans are heated. Cast iron can leach valuable iron into your food, a benefit for those who might be iron deficient.
The benefits don’t stop at health. Cast iron pans are versatile and relatively inexpensive – you can get a brand new Lodge pan for less than $30, while an equivalent size in stainless steel can cost upwards of $150. Scour local estate and yard sales to find well-worn (and often well-seasoned) cookware for even less money.
The cast iron kitchen is thought to be a thing of the past, but it could well be on a renaissance, thanks to the popularity of the Yellowstone series. If you watch the show, you’ve probably seen the Dutton family cook, Gator. Gabriel “Gator” Guilbeau isn’t just the show’s cook, he’s also responsible for feeding the cast and crew during filming. His meals may consist of fifteen 25-pound turkeys on the smokehouse, vats of crawfish stew and other large feasts, but not every ranch has its own chef. Most eat modest cuisine inspired by the old days of wagons.
Wagon carts were the first food trucks, using cowboy cooking to bring food to workers on the move. These recipes may be inspired by cast iron ranch cooking, but they can all be prepared in any home kitchen, no cart required.
mountain man breakfast
Traditionally, this recipe is prepared in a large, deep cast iron pot suspended over the campfire.
8 ounces bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces ground pork sausage
16 ounces frozen hash browns, thawed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can chopped green chilli
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1. Heat a 10-inch or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, leaving some bacon fat in the pan and reserving the rest in a small bowl.
2. Crumble sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in the onion, bell pepper and green pepper and continue cooking until the peppers and onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Season the mixture well with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper and transfer to a bowl.
3. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon drippings to the empty skillet. Add the hash browns and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown. Turn off the heat and spread the potatoes in a single layer. Stir the crispy bacon into the sausage mixture and spread the mixture in a layer over the potatoes. Whisk 6 of the eggs in a bowl with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper until smooth, then stir in half the cheese. Pour evenly over sausage mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake until egg mixture is set, 30 to 40 minutes. Crack the remaining eggs on top and cook until the whites are set, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.
Perfect Seared Steak
Follow these simple rules to end up with a spectacular steakhouse rib eye at home: Leave steaks at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking, which allows thick steaks to cook more evenly. Let the steak sit for a good while (5-10 minutes) before slicing, this gives the juices a chance to settle amongst the steak.
1 rib eye 1½ to 2 inches thick or sirloin steak
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
A few sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary, optional
1. Pat the steak dry with paper towel, brush it lightly with oil, then season the steak very generously with salt and pepper.
2. Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Add the steak to the hot skillet and cook until a brown crust begins to form on the underside of the steak, about 1 minute. Flip the steak and cook for 1 minute more. Keep turning every 30 seconds until a nice crust forms, about 4 minutes.
3. Add butter and herbs (if using) to the pan and continue to cook, basting the steak with the pan juices and turning the steak often until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the steak registers 120° to 125°. F for medium-rare or 130°F for medium. The steak should be medium-rare at this point – continue cooking an additional minute on each side for medium doneness.
4. Transfer the steak to a plate or cutting board and pour the pan juices over it. Let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes before serving or slicing.
Grilled Peach Pie
Take advantage of a hot grill to cook your dessert outside. Replace peaches with berries when in season or with apples or pears in the fall.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, plus more for the pan
7 cups peeled and sliced peaches (or two 20-ounce bags of frozen sliced peaches, thawed and drained)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Generously ground nutmeg
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat (350˚ to 400˚) or heat an oven to 375°. Butter a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet.
2. Add the peach slices to a large bowl along with the sugar, flour, cinnamon, cloves, salt and nutmeg. Stir to combine until everything is evenly coated. Transfer the mixture to a buttered 10-inch or 12-inch cast iron skillet and scatter the butter cubes over the top. Cover with foil. Place skillet on grill, cover and cook until bubbling and hot, about 15 minutes.
3. While the peaches are baking, prepare the cookie filling. Add flour, sugar and baking powder to a medium bowl and whisk with a fork until well combined. Make a well in the center and add the cream and melted butter. Stir until the mixture comes together.
4. Remove the foil from the pan of peaches and spoon a spoonful of the cookie mixture on top. Discard foil and cover grill. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove skillet from grill and let stand 10 minutes before serving.
*Adapted from Southern Living