Casually Satisfying – Cast Iron Cooking

cast iron

A Cut Above

No wonder top chefs swear by this staple – it retains heat and cooks food evenly.  Plus, it can last a lifetime if you treat it properly (see 10 reasons to own one below).

Steak & Frites

Or mashed, boiled or baked.
Or mashed, boiled or baked.

This casual, simple and tasty meal adapted from a restaurant in Chicago calls for Flat Iron Steak but I’ve used it on other cuts like rib-eye and T-bone.  Let steak reach room temperature prior to cooking so the center won’t be cold.  After cooking, wait about five minutes before slicing to keep juices in.  Serves 4.  Pair with a hearty Shiraz or Cabernet – either will go well with this peppery steak.

3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 tsp. each black pepper, smoked paprika, crushed fennel seeds and kosher salt.

4 flat iron (top chuck) steaks, about 1 ½ lb.

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Combine 1 Tbsp. olive oil with the seasonings.  Spread paste over both sides of steak.  Let sit 20 minutes.  Heat remaining olive oil and butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook steak 10-12 minutes, turning once or until instant-read thermometer registers 140F for medium-rare.steak  Slice & pour sauce over top.

Crispy Salt and Vinegar Potatoes

Use Yukon Gold and slice as thinly as possible.  Sprinkle with some sea salt & olive oil.

Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 375F until cooked through and crispy – about ½ hour.  Toss with some malt vinegar and chopped chives.  Tip: Cook them as closely to serving time as possible so they don’t get soggy.

10 Reasons to Own a Cast Iron Skillet

1) Made of Iron. This thing is sturdy. You can drop it and it won’t be damaged. You don’t have to worry about scratching it or discolouring it (it’s black already you see). It’s possible that it can rust, but you can easily clean it. Cast iron skillets will take any and all abuse and still last forever. In fact, your skillet will probably outlast even you.

2) It Can Take The Heat. Most cookware comes with heat warnings. Even most stainless steel cookware isn’t supposed to go over 450/500 degrees in an oven. Cast iron? I mean… yea… eventually it’ll melt. But seriously you can cook on an open campfire with this thing. Try that with a non-stick pan. Oh wait. Don’t. I don’t want any lawsuits.

3) It’s Non-stick. Speaking of non-stick, cast iron skillets are non-stick if you season them correctly. Season your skillet by wiping it down with a thin layer of canola oil and then baking it in a 250 degree oven for about 90 minutes. Let it cool and wipe it down and this will be as good as any non-stick pan out there. Go ahead. Try a fried egg on it.

4) It’s a Grill. For the city folk, having a yard is not always an option. But because you can get a cast iron skillet really hot, it can effectively be used as a grill. For example, I cooked this steak in my cast iron and it was just as good as if it’d been cooked on a grill. Perfectly medium rare with a really nice crust.

5) It’s Economical. I think some people are actually turned off by cast iron because they think it’s cheap as in low quality. But the reality is that they just happen to be cheap to make which makes them economical, but not cheap. If you pay more than $40 for one, you are getting super-screwed. Not to mention that a lot of people sell perfectly good cast iron skillets at yard sales just because they don’t know how to season them.

6) It’s Versatile. You can make hundreds of completely delicious things in this one pan.

7) Save on Soap. Once your skillet is seasoned, it actually hurts it to wash it with soap. The soap will break up the tiny oil molecules that are embedded on the pan and make it not-so-non stick. It’s also possible that the next thing you cook it will have a slightly soapy taste to it! So save on the soap. If you need to scrub your cast iron pan, use salt!

8) It’s Vitamin Rich. This is a stretch, but since it’s made out of iron, a little bit of mineral iron does get transferred over during cooking.

9) Heat Distribution. This is maybe one of the most important reasons you should own one of these guys. People spend thousands on pots that evenly distribute heat. A cook’s nightmare is a pan with a really bad hot spot on it so half of your food is burned and the other half raw. Cast iron does such an amazing job of evenly distributing heat that you’ll never have this problem.

10) It’s Sexy. Call me crazy but I find these things kinda hot. There’s something rustic about them. Like a guy with a great beard. When you see someone working with a big heavy pan, it’s a turn on. Or at least… that’s what I tell myself.

The best way to care for your cast-iron pan

The trick to keeping cast iron in good shape: seasoning, a process that protects the metal from moisture (which can turn it rusty) and creates a non-stick surface.  Lightly coat the bottom of your skillet with vegetable oil, heat over a medium flame, then dry with paper towels while the pan is still hot.  The toast temp will help the porous metal absorb some of the oil.  Each time you use and season the pan, you will be reinforcing the non-stick surface.  When it comes to cleaning, steer clear of dish-washing soap, which can strip the coating.  Instead, just wipe down the pan with paper towels before it cools.  To loosen stuck-on-food or remove rust stains, heat the pan, cover the inside with oil and use a handful of coarse kosher salt, then scrub with an old dish towel.  Give it a quick rinse with hot water, and dry immediately.

kind of crazy
kind of crazy

Want something different for the person who has everything? Buy them a cast-iron pan in the shape of their  home state (obviously USA customers only).  You heard right.

Made-to-order cast-iron skillet at FeLion Studios, from $150/state –

Allow up to eight weeks for delivery.

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Reasons taken from