While a cast iron skillet is an incredible tool to help you get dinner on the table, I'd argue it's equally useful when it comes to desserts; these days I find myself using it more for baking brownies and apple crisp then searing steaks. In fact, a cast iron skillet really can be a key tool in helping beginners become better bakers. Why is that? Here are four reasons.
1. It Gives You More Control
Since a cast iron skillet can be used on both the stovetop and in the oven, you utilize both functions to help control the baking process from start to finish. The apples in an apple crisp can often remain too crunchy when tossed directly in the oven in a baking pan, but if you make that crisp in a skillet, you can sauté the apples first before adding the crumble topping and transfering the pan to the oven, which ensures the fruit will be cooked just to your liking.
Or, if your cornbread never achieves a golden, sturdy crust when made in a baking pan, you can use a cast iron skillet instead. Get the pan nice and hot, then pour the batter in and transfer it to the oven. The hot pan will help create the ultimate crisp top.
2. It Makes Things a Lot Less Messy
A cast iron skillet keeps that pile of mixing bowls from accumulating in your sink, which is something both novice and seasoned bakers can get behind. With its ability to be used on the stove first, before going into the oven, you can do things like melt the chocolate for brownies and make the caramel for a classic French tarte tatin right in the pan before adding the other ingredients and baking.
3. It Holds Heat & Makes Things More Foolproof
One of the big reasons cooks like to use a cast iron skillet is because it provides a even, steady heat, which makes things like searing meat a whole lot easier. This reason is why bakers should love it too. Cast iron's ability to retain heat ensures the upside-down cake you're baking will be tender and evenly cooked without burning the sugary glaze, and your giant chocolate chip cookie is gooey throughout with nice chewy edges.
4. It's Just More Fun
I honestly think one of the big reasons baking with a cast iron skillet can make you a better baker is that it makes for a unique presentation, which can really just make baking more fun. That can inspire you to bake more often and therefore improve your skill. Baking a skillet full of caramel- or speculoos-swirled brownies that you can pile with a few scoops of ice cream and bring straight to the table to let everyone dig right into is the ultimate way to do dessert. Or bake an easy blueberry-studded breakfast cake Saturday morning instead that's sure to inspire you to get up early to bake it again next week and try it with raspberries or strawberries.
There's an effortlessness to cast iron baking, and that can be encouraging. One triumph in the kitchen inspires the next, so let a cast iron pan help you get there!