From tasty to sweet, the variety of meals you can whip up in a cast iron pan is endless. Yep, it’s time to ditch your flimsy aluminum bowl for this powerful kitchen hardware. What draws an avid cook to this kitchen tool is its ability to warm up quickly and, more importantly, to retain that heat. Unlike traditional skillets with protective rubber handles, the entirety of a cast iron pan gets hot, so don’t grab the handle without a thick towel or oven wick – otherwise you can sweat the palm. This skillet will help you dress meat or fish, throw in a veggie-filled stir, make delicious sweet desserts, and may even help you land the perfect pancake flip.
Before you hit a specialty cooking shop to buy your very own cast iron pan, you can have a few tips on how to properly cook and care for it. We spoke with Dan Harris, the executive chef for 4 star restaurant group, for tips on how to best cook and bake with a cast iron pan.
Why is a cast iron pan good for cooking?
“Cast iron is a great investment for home and restaurant cooking,” says Harris. “They allow for a smooth cooking surface that can get ripping hot, providing an astonishing sear on the outside of steaks, pork and tuna. Cast iron also holds the temperature extremely well and creates a non-stick surface which is excellent for skin on fish. “
Why is a cast iron pan good for baking?
Harris says the versatility of a cast iron skillet allows them to make an excellent swap for a baking dish as well, “whether it’s cooking and caramelizing fruit before baking a crumbly, quick braising or – my favorite – making the best cereal bread, “he said. “Adding the dough to the preheated cast iron allows for a golden crispy crust with a buttery, creamy dough inside.”
Why preheat your frying pan before cooking or baking with it?
Unlike pans made of aluminum, Teflon or stainless steel, Harris cast iron pans say the superior choice is because of their ability to hold on to the heat. The preheating process (putting the frying pan on the stove burner for about 10 minutes) is an important step to loosen the heat-absorbing forces of the pots.
“By preheating the pots, you optimize their function of caramelizing proteins, browning crust for bread and breaking down the fruit. Aside from being good for warming and storing heat, cast iron is incredibly easy to clean when it’s hot and can last forever if is properly cared for, “Harris says. Speaking of how to properly care for your cast iron …
How do you properly care for a cast iron pan?
As is the case with any saucepan you cooked raw meat in, or anything that has left bits of charred food or an oily residue, clean it thoroughly after each use. To best clean a cast iron pan, wash the pan with a stiff mask brush and warm water. If the pan is sticky from making a fruity dessert, you will throw some kosher salt in the cleaning process and then wipe it down with a paper towel. Finally wipe the frying pan and then apply a light coat of oil with a paper towel before storing it in a dry place.
Why not store leftovers in your cast iron pan?
“Cast iron hates moisture,” Harris says. “Storage of food in cast iron [is a common mistake] it will lead to rust and [it] breaks down all the spice that developed in the pan, reducing their life span. “
How do you spice up a cast iron pan?
The best way to spice up a cast iron pan is to essentially clean it and then apply an unsaturated oil (think canola or vegetable oil, but preferably grapeseed oil) to the entire pan, including the bottom and handle. Then you want to preheat the frying pan and then pop into the oven with the open portion of the frying pan down and bake it at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. Make sure to put a draped aluminum foil backing plate on the rack under the skillet to catch any drops of oil. It is recommended that you repeat this process again to increase the life of your pan.
Our favorite cast iron pan recipes
Now that you have gained a wealth of knowledge about care and maintenance of cast iron, let’s talk about what kind of recipes you can make with such a flavor enhancing skillet. We rounded up some recipes to help you get the most out of the versatile kitchen tool.
From breakfast to dinner for dessert, here are the 28 best cast iron recipes you can make.
RELATED: Easy, healthy ideas with recipe for 350 calories you can make at home.
A cast iron pan adds the perfect bit of crust to this steak, giving it a nice sear. And shallots and red wine add lots of flavor to this magnificent dish.
Get our recipe for steak in a red wine bakee.
If you do not make burgers in a cast iron pan, you will miss it. The pans provide meat with the perfect amount of crust, making home users as delicious as the restaurant.
Get our recipe for a crushed A.1. Swiss Burger.
Need something for the burger? These mushrooms are absolutely delicious when cooked in a cast iron pan.
Get our recipe for Simple pan-roasted mushroom.
Real cheese lovers know that baked mac and cheese always trumps the boxed version. But baked mac and cheese in a cast iron pan? Now it’s a recipe for a delicious side dish.
Get our recipe for Copycat Cracker Barrel Mac and cheese.
Start your day off with this spicy egg recipe. With pancetta, garlic, crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes, this is a great dish that is perfect for a weekend brunch.
Get our recipe for Eggs in Purgatory.
There is no better way to black fish than to cook in a cast iron pan. This recipe makes black tilapia even more delicious by pairing it with coriander, garlic and lime.
Get our recipe for black Tilapia with garlic lime butter.
If you haven’t tried cooking quesadillas in a cast iron pan, it’s worth a shot. They are great for blasting the tortillas while warming the fresh ingredients.
Get our recipe for crispy quesadillas with guacamole.
Looking for a side dish that can be added to a breakfast or brunch spread? This stew is the perfect solution.
Get our recipe for a plant-based lentil and kale dish stew.
Cast iron tips are good for meat burgers, but they also work well with veggie burgers. And who says you can’t have a plant-based burger for breakfast?
Get our recipe for the best ever breakfast Veggie Burger.
With red wine and lots of vegetables, this meal bursts with flavor. And a cast iron pan will brown the chicken thighs perfectly.
Get our recipe for Chicken Cacciatore.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Cast iron buckets are the best way to black fish. Add avocado to this sandwich for a little extra pizzazz.
Get our recipe for a black fish sandwich with avocado and cabbage.
Cast iron pans are an easy way to make delicious egg recipes, and you can’t go wrong with this simple frittata.
Get our recipe for an egg and herb release.
This chicken is packed with spinach and peppers, but what’s on the outside also counts. A cast iron pan will give these prosciutto-wrapped chicken breasts a perfectly golden crust.
Get our recipe for The Crispiest Stuffed Chicken.
You do not need a smoker at home for delicious breast. A little olive oil and a cast iron pans are all you need for perfectly browned meat.
Get our recipe for brisket breast with horseradish cream.
A good frying pan takes pancakes to the next level, giving them a down home. Top these with fresh fruit slices for a delicious breakfast.
Get our recipe for plant-based whole grain pancakes with cashew butter.
Cut tuna provides an unforgettable fish taco. This recipe is so flavorful that you won’t even miss the beef taco.
Download our recipe for spicy tuna and avocado-fish tacos.
Cooking meat in a cast iron pan is always a good idea. This recipe takes things a step further – you prepare the veggie-based breakfast hash in the same skillet as the sausage, and let the flavors permeate throughout the meal.
Get our recipe for Breakfast Hash with sweet potatoes and chicken sausage.
Like pancakes, French toast is delicious when cooked in a cast iron pan. This recipe includes bourbon for an extra kick.
Get our recipe for Vanilla-Bourbon French Toast.
Grilled cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Pair it with tomato soup for a nostalgic dish that is perfect for lunch or dinner.
Get our recipe for grilled cheese and tomato soup.
You’ve probably heard of fish tacos, but what about quesadillas for seafood? The flavors of this shrimp quesadilla all come together nicely, especially when the tortilla is perfectly crispy.
Get our recipe for a crispy Chipotle shrimp Quesadilla.
Don’t live in Philadelphia? That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a delicious cheese steak! This recipe is the next best thing for a trip to the legendary cheesesteak vendors that the city is known for.
Get our recipe for Philly Cheesesteak With Caramelized Veggies.
This Spanish-inspired dish takes you on a journey, and you don’t even have to leave your kitchen to do it. Chorizo and dark beer add unexpected flavor to this poultry dish.
Get our recipe for Basque chicken.
Get a taste of southern cooking for your kitchen with this classic catfish recipe. The tomato sauce gives the seafood an extra kick.
Get our recipe for Southern style Cornmeal catfish with tomato sauce.
One of the best things about cast iron buckets is that they are excellent in the oven, in addition to the stove. Bake these cheesy potatoes in a cast iron pan for a delicious, bubbly side dish.
Get our recipe for Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin.
Why go to Chipotle when you can make a delicious burrito at home? You can’t go wrong with this flavorful Carne Asada version.
Get our recipe for a Carne Asada Burrito.
If your dinners at home tend to include mostly chicken and beef, try this pork chop recipe. Pork is as juicy as other meats, especially when paired with this tasty fruit.
Get our recipe for Teriyaki pork chops with sautéed apples.
Don’t go out to a Mexican restaurant when you can make these enchiladas at home! With only five ingredients, this recipe couldn’t be easier.
Get our recipe for Chicken Mole Enchiladas.
The steak and eggs are delicious for brunch or for dinner and this recipe is pickled with flavor. If you haven’t tried chimichurri sauce with steak, this recipe will be a game changer.
Get our recipe for steak and eggs with chimichurri.
Pan pizza is a concept that may sound strange, but when you think about how the cast iron evenly cakes any kind of food it comes in contact with, you can begin to imagine the crispy dough popping out of your frying pan. Make it cheesy and blurry with this recipe and you forget about buying that pizza stone.
Get the recipe from Laughing Spatula.
Want a new way to make dessert? You can use a frying pan to bake the best peach cobbler you’ve ever tasted. The buttery pie dough used for a cobbler is perfect for the cast iron pan because it gets perfectly crispy all around. Not to mention, the peaches in this recipe taste heavenly with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon.
Get the recipe from prescription Runs.
You will want to take a glass of milk and a side of vanilla ice cream with this one! Get a fluffy gooey giant cookie that’s way more fun than several individual cookies. The best part? You can make this recipe in the frying pan from start to finish, no bowls needed!
Get the recipe from The Baker Mama.
If you loved the cookie in a frying pan, wait until you try this dense, fudge-like brownie recipe. Is it us, or was a cast iron pan made for chocolate?
Get the recipe from Sally’s baking addiction.
Cooking these sliders on the pan is simple and you can never go wrong with the minimad! The pan is a great tool for burgers in general, it cooks the cookies perfectly and melts the cheese to bring them all together.
Get the recipe from The Baker Mama.
Time to try a new lasagna recipe because this one is for the books. This skillet only takes a total of 20 minutes to prepare and cook on the stove. The forehead does a wonderful job of making it quick and easy.
Get the recipe from The creative bite.
This recipe combines two wonderful Middle Eastern staples – crispy Persian rice (tahdig) and shakshuka. Rice plays a part of tomato sauce and you get a perfectly crispy base with nested eggs.
Get the recipe from My name is Yeh.
Further reporting from Jordan Summers-Marcouillier.