The Kitchen Tool all the Cool Kids Have

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Cast Iron Frying Pan

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If you own a kitchen but don’t own one of these, you’re not right in the head. It’s as simple as that. Now, in case you’ve never heard of a cast iron frying pan and that’s the reason you don’t own one, let me enlighten you.

A well seasoned cast iron pan is completely non stick. Food just slides right out of it, yet for some remarkable reason it browns things beautifully.  They heat so evenly you never get hot spots and they retain their heat.

Plus they look really cool.

Just owning a cast iron pan makes it look like you know what you’re doing. I’m far more impressed with someone who has a banged up old cast iron pan than someone who has kitchen filled with Le Creuset.  Don’t get me wrong, Le Creuset is FANTASTIC.  But it’s pricey.  And do you know what Le Creuset’s iconic casseroles and pots are made out of?  Cast iron.  Yes m’am.

And here’s the greatest part about cast iron pans.  If you’re going to buy one, the less you spend the better it will be.

You can buy a new cast iron pan for about $50.  You can buy an old cast iron pan at a garage sale for about $2.  Buy the old one.

The more used a cast iron pan is, the better its non-stick properties will be.  Don’t be disuaded if it has a teensy bit of rust on it.  You can easily just scrub it off.

Cast iron pans are the best way in the world to cook a steak.  Yes.  It is true.  But perhaps the best use for a cast iron pan is a little unorthodox.  Unusual.  Weird.  The thing I covet most about my large cast iron pan is its weight.

How often have you been cooking something and you find yourself pressing it down with a spatula to make sure it browns evenly on the bottom?   Enter, the cast iron skillet.  In the words of a soft spoken socialite I once met, “it’s built like a brick shit house”.  Er no, she said it’s “remarkably substantial”.  Oh well, same sentiment.

Here’s how it works.

Fry whatever it is you’re gonna fry in the pan.  Could be chicken, steaks, quesadillas, hamburgers … you get the picture.

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Place your cast iron pan on top of your food.

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ANY CHARA CTER HERE

Sit back … relax … have a peek at the newspaper. Maybe practice moonwalking.   A minute or two later, lift the pan off and check your food. It will be perfectly and evenly browned.

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ANY CHARA CTER HERE

Flip your food over and do it again.

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ANY CHARA CTER HERE

Perfectly, crisp, browned chicken.  Plus, now you can moonwalk.

How to season your cast iron pan … next week.  Now Beat It.


43 Comments

  1. Lisa says:

    Perfect! I practice dance moves ALL THE TIME while cooking! I think I’m one of those ninnies that sold my cast iron pan at a garage sale when I moved. Must start hunting for another!

  2. You must have a video camera in my kitchen. How else would you know that I moonwalk between flips of perfectly browned protein?

    xo
    Kate

  3. Janelle says:

    Brilliant idea…who needs a ‘spensive panini press? I bet this trick would work just as well.

  4. Christina S. says:

    I’ve been using cast iron *almost* exclusively (I have a small smattering of stainless steel sauce pans and stock pots, too) for about a year now and I’ll never go back to tephlon stuff. I kept finding chunks of tephlon in my scrambled eggs (even though I NEVER used metal!!). The taste of eggs made in cast iron… it’s divine.
    Thanks for spreading the cast iron love; I think more people need to know about it. I do think they are making a come-back, though. I’m trying to assist an apron come-back, too. 🙂

  5. Theresa says:

    how best to clean a garage sale find cast iron pan? cause I would love to get more. Have a little pan from forever ago,( have a 40 yrs old chipped Lr creuseT too0

  6. I love my 20-yr. old cast iron pan! It makes the best cornbread EVER — crispy on the outside, perfectly moist in the middle. (I despise the word ‘moist.’) Never thought to use it as a food weight, though. Great tip! As usual Karen, you are the bees knees.

    • Karen says:

      That is a favourite! I love skillet cornbread. Still looking for the perfect recipe and the perfect texture of cornmeal but … I’m workin’ on it. Weekly. 🙂 ~ karen

      • Langela says:

        I don’t know how it compares to store-bought, but I use popcorn and grind it in my grain mill for my cornmeal. It has a sweet taste and makes delicious cornbread.

        • Karen says:

          Langela – I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone like you. 🙂 – karen

        • Langela says:

          Thanks! :o)

        • Langela says:

          Oh, the popcorn is the unpopped kernal not the white, fluffy, delicious stuff, for those who might be scratching your head at my tip.

        • HeidiRenee says:

          I would be very interested in hearing more about grinding popcorn to make corn meal – can you please explain what type? this is fascinating! we live in the maritimes and access to good cornmeal is a constant frustration – if I could make my own – oh dear!!!

  7. Todd@PhitZone says:

    We bought two cast iron pans when we moved to Texas. One is your standard, run of the mill, flat bottom. The other is ribbed… for pleasure. No moon walking in our house. It’s all east coast swing.

    To Janelle, yes, the combo of these two pans make a fine panini.

  8. susan w says:

    I had two pans- a ten inch and a six inch. believed they were indestructible and immortal. Apparently not. I don’t remember what I did to the the little one (cold water on hot pan maybe?) but it cracked! Now I have only one.
    I am sad.
    and hunting.

  9. shirley huang says:

    Makes me wanna go out and get one now… Thanks.

  10. Katie says:

    You forgot to mention the self-protective properties of the cast-iron skillet. “Remarkably substantial”? Imagine that particular brick shithouse upside a nasty intruder’s head. 😉 Possibly more effective than a carving knife, without the pesky manslaughter charges after the fact.

    I need to get a small one to go inside my purse.

  11. Paulina J! says:

    Can’t wait for the “how to season your cast iron pan” next week! The one I have was a bit rusty and my husband ALMOST through it away. How dare he! Anyways, want to see if what I’m doing is correct.

  12. kasia says:

    Cast iron pans are so underrated! I always thought seasoning it and taking care of them was a hassle – until I tried it. Nothing to it! Of course I have one big one I can barely lift with two hands, but it never hurts to combine cooking and exercise!

    Thanks for your blog! You humor makes my day 🙂

  13. Patches says:

    So funny! Never thought of that use for them! I asked for a set of cast iron pans the 1st Christmas after I moved out of my parents house. My kitchen just didn’t feel right with out them! The new ones my parents bought me aren’t quite as good as their old, well-seasoned ones, but it’s better then nothing!

  14. Nitpicker Mike says:

    I don’t get it. What’s the pan on the bottom? Is it cast iron too, or do you fry your chicken in the cast iron pan, transfer it to the lesser, non-cast iron pan on the bottom then weigh it down with the cast iron pan?

    • Karen says:

      Nit – The bottom pan is a regular Teflon pan. This is what I cooked the chicken in. Once I put the chicken in the Teflon pan I placed the heavy cast iron skillet on top of it. You could cook the chicken in a cast iron skillet, then place another cast iron skillet on top, but I don’t have 2, 10″ cast iron skillets. I have a 10″, an 8″ and a 6.5″. In this instance, it was more important to use the weight of the cast iron skillet than to use it as my actual pan. You can use bricks wrapped in aluminum foil to the same effect but that’s a little cumbersome. Plus if you do it enough times your house will fall down. ~ karen

  15. shari says:

    How do you season a cast iron skillet? Do they some pre-seasoned? I want one in my stocking this Christmas. Better make myself a bigger stocking. . .
    shari

    • Karen says:

      Shari! I’m going to do a post on how to season a cast iron skillet (old or new) next week. They do not come pre-seasoned, UNLESS, you buy an old used one. Then it might be preseasoned, if it was used a lot. You’ll still have to clean and re-season it though. ~ karen

  16. velvet says:

    i LOVE my cast iron pan. and i love this blog.

  17. vegeater says:

    i COMPLETELY agree. Cast iron is the truest true cookware. I have two cast iron items: 1) a small frying pan. It lives on our stove in perpetuity and is used almost daily to fry eggs or grill sandwiches or other small batches of stuff. The other is my “Cajun Special” Dutch Oven (made in Mamou, LA).

    I would strongly argue that a nice-sized Dutch Oven is even more versatile than your classic frying pan. BECAUSE, it has a LID, and a HANDLE, and it goes in the OVEN and on the STOVETOP. It can do everything the skillet does, plus everything a casserole dish does, plus everything a soup-pot does! the ULTIMATE.

    pardon all the capitalization. I am passionate about my cast-iron.

  18. Ana says:

    I just noticed what the image for this post was. Fonzie! haha I totally LOL’d. Must remember to check that when using the FB link.

  19. Amanda says:

    My cast iron skillets are perpetually perched upon one of the six burners of our fantastic vintage Magic Chef stove. I can’t imagine cooking without them. Great post, Karen!

  20. Alisha says:

    Mmmmm Frittatas made in a cast iron skillet are second to none!

  21. Diana says:

    My favorite skillet cornbread recipe is courtesy of Alton Brown (search for Creamed Corn Cornbread at foodnetwork.com). My southern friends even like it!!!

  22. Lisa says:

    My mom gave me her cast iron skillet once she thought it was too heavy for her to keep lifting. It really is heavy, but I just leave it out on my stovetop all the time!

    Now the cast iron dutch oven that I just bought – THAT sucker is heavy.

    I clean all my cast iron that I purchase at flea markets, and I re-season them. Waiting for the next post!

  23. Rhonda N. says:

    Preach on, sister. A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is all you need.

    I personally don’t care for Lodge. I somehow got my hands on a Wagner pan, and always keep my eye out for more, and do searches on ebay for them on occasion.

  24. den says:

    cast iron pans make the best heirlooms (aside from jewelry, of course, assuming your ancestors were the collecting type). they’re awfully heavy though and quite pricey, but hey, it’s an heirloom!

  25. Pam'a says:

    And, double secret *extra* bonus: You actually get some IRON in your diet from cast iron pans. You know– The kind that keeps you from being anemic. (I’m not aware of a corresponding benefit from Teflon flakes.)

  26. Lesley McKinney says:

    yes! yes! more about iron skillets please. i am a total amateur but it is the only pan i have. i tossed all of my old ‘nonstick’ ones during an unexpected move last year. i am pretty sure i have done everything you are not supposed to do to an iron skillet. but i love it, i just need iron skillet 101.

  27. Alexia says:

    But wait – I have a ceramic flat top cookstove – can you use cast iron with those? Because I vaguely recall there being rules about what kinds of pans could be used with it….

    • Karen says:

      Alexia – I can’t say for sure, because I have a gas stove but to the best of my knowledge as long as the cast iron pan is flat on the bottom it should be fine. It’s the same as using any other metal pan. You just have to make sure there isn’t a ring or ridge along the bottom preventing the entire bottom surface from touching the stove. So, flat bottom cast iron pan = O.K. for ceramic cook top. I believe. 🙂 ~ karen

  28. Paula says:

    I love this blog. This post revitalized my interest in cast iron skillets. And then I was lucky enough to score a 9″Wagner at a recent estate sale — in good shape, no rust. I did a rinse, wash and stove top reseasoning. It’s ready to go. But I was stopped by Alisha’s post on frittatas! I make them all the time and want to make one for myself in my new 9 inch lovely. Question — Do I oil the skillet, cook the frittata a bit on top of the stove to set up (as I do now) and then put in oven or under broiler. I’m assuming it will cook differently in the cast iron skillet, but my concern is whether I should oil lightly in the beginning to make sure the frittata slides out? Same for cornbread I assume. Help — thanks.

  29. maureen says:

    tip for washing cast iron…use salt and oil to scrub. i have a large and a small one, perfect for the weight trick. i used to have a medium one, but one of my kids snagged it. i also have a teeny one, just big enough to cook an egg, but too small really to put on an element. i’ve had mine for at least thirty five years and my dad bought them for me at a garage sale.

  30. Donna T says:

    VERY late entry here… but there really are “pre-seasoned” cast iron skillets and pots out there. I’ve found them in the sportsman’s warehouse stores — you know, the places men like to hang out and drool over a million different shapes and sizes of fishing poles and lures, and every piece of camping and hiking gear on the planet? Yep, they have ’em, AND some even offer “outdoor cooking classes” using your pre-seasoned cast iron!

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