3 Surprising Things That Are Totally Better in a Cast Iron Skillet

published Jun 24, 2018
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

As a cast iron-loving cook, I sometimes get weary of all the rumors about things you should not cook in cast iron pans (spoiler: there is nothing you can’t cook in your cast iron if it is well-seasoned). Cast iron skillets are classic cookware, often passed down through generations because they are nearly indestructible and get better the more you use them.

It’s time we start using cast iron cookware outside of one-skillet dinners and searing pork chops and steaks, because eggs cooked in a butter-slicked cast iron pan will change your life. Here are three things that are actually better when cooked in cast iron.

Why Is Everyone So Precious About Their Cast Iron?

Cast iron lore has a lot in common with the elementary school game telephone. The message usually starts off as one thing — in this case it’s well-meaning advice — but it slowly morphs into something else down the line. With the cast iron pan, that well-meaning advice has turned into hard-and-fast rules.

For example, you’ve probably heard that you should never, ever use soap on cast iron, but truthfully you can use soap occasionally as needed without ruining your pan. The same thing happens with certain foods. If one person really struggles with cooking eggs in their cast iron and swears them off, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be right for the rest of us!

Here is a thing about cast iron: It doesn’t want to be treated too delicately or taken too seriously. The trick with each of these supposedly fussy cast iron foods is to try them and make them each your own. Cooking in cast iron is much less about mastering a recipe and much more about adapting recipes for your specific pan and your stovetop. You’re building a long-lasting, loving relationship.

A Mini Guide to Cooking with & Caring for Cast Iron

Still a little timid about cast iron? Here’s everything you need to know about seasoning, cleaning, and storing your new kitchen BFF.

Check out our favorite pan: Lodge 10-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet

3 Things That Are Totally Better in a Cast Iron Skillet

1. Baked Goods: Chewy, Crispy, Golden Perfection

I’ve been baking my Southern biscuits in cast iron for at least five years now and my biscuits are tastier for it, but there are plenty of other breads, pastries, and even giant cookies that benefit from a cast iron pan too. Cinnamon rolls rise and bake up fluffier when insulated by cast iron. Focaccia and other yeast breads will get a crisp bottom when baked in cast iron (and can be served directly from it.) And this giant skillet cookie above? It gets its gooey, chewy, texture from being baked directly in a cast iron skillet.

Here’s how to try it: Your first assignment is to bake a batch of biscuits in cast iron. This quick and easy recipe will show you why baking in cast iron isn’t fussy — it’s better. The biscuits will have a deep golden bottom and will stay warm longer once out of the oven.

Then bake up a deep-dish skillet cookie and see how cast iron’s heft makes for a gooey center but a crisp edge on this giant chocolate chip cookie.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

2. Eggs: Fried or Scrambled

Oh, how I wish big food magazines would stop telling people that they can’t cook their eggs in cast iron! Namely because it is false, but also because eggs cooked in cast iron are so damn delicious.

Fried eggs develop lacy whites and just-set yolks with the right amount of butter and/or and the right timing. Scrambled eggs will finish creamy and tender (and stay warm!) when cooked with sufficient fat in a well-seasoned cast iron pan. Frittatas alone are a prime example of why every kitchen needs a cast iron pan to go from stovetop to oven.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you need an heirloom, perfectly slick cast iron for these things, either — just make sure you are generous with the oil or butter for cooking.

Try this: A lacy fried egg is the place to start with eggs in cast iron not only because it is low-commitment (you might waste a single egg figuring out how much heat and oil you really need before you get it right), but also because it may possibly change your life.

Next assignment? Frittata! Try these baked eggs before you get into the slightly riskier endeavor of scrambled eggs in your cast iron. We’ll totally admit that scrambling eggs in a cast iron is a pro move — but with enough fat and a super-hot pan, you can master that as well.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3. Pretty Much All Fried Foods (Yes, Even Fish)

Hot fat is always going to benefit your cast iron pan. While I prefer to use a Dutch oven for big-batch frying (i.e., fried chicken or doughnuts), making a few batches of latkes, schnitzel, or fried green tomatoes will help season your skillet and can even bring it back from the brink of rust and needing a re-season.

The fat that makes fried foods tastier also protects the skillet from absorbing odor — so ignore harsh rules that tell you to never cook fish in your skillet or to buy a pan designated to savory and/or sweet cast iron creations. One well-maintained pan can do it all.

Fry away: Chicken schnitzel happens regularly in my kitchen and it’s one of my favorite ways to season a skillet. Yes, you’re greasing up your skillet well, but you also get what is basically super-crispy chicken out of the deal too.

Contributor Patty Catalano swears that a few batches of latkes brought her cast iron back from the brink of re-seasoning, so consider making a few batches if your pan is looking dry. And never underestimate the power of bacon!

Are there any foods you cook in cast iron that you’ve been warned not to? What’s your favorite recipe that breaks cast iron conventions?