Why the Cast Iron Skillet Is the Key to Better One-Pan Cooking

updated May 1, 2019
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One-pan cooking is everywhere these days — from one-pan pastas to sheet-pan meals. We are all trying to avoid washing multiple pans after dinner each night. A large cast iron skillet has been my secret to one-pan cooking since long before the one-pan cooking craze. The reasons are simple and straightforward.

Cast Iron Skillets Heat Evenly

Cast iron is a very dense metal, making it nearly impervious to damage and the king of holding on to heat. Even heating means that meats brown better and vegetables cook faster without having to constantly manage the heat source or rotate pans in the oven. Cast iron is ideal for frying and baking because it holds and distributes heat so well. The same cannot be said of your favorite pasta pot or baking sheet.

Strong and Sturdy: What Makes Cast Iron So Great?

Cast Iron Can Go from Stovetop to Oven

One-pan pastas rely solely on stovetop heat, while sheet-pan meals use only the oven, but one-pan cast iron cooking gives the best of both worlds. Brown chicken in the skillet on the stovetop, then add onions, potatoes, and carrots to the skillet and place the whole thing in a warm oven and you’ve got a complete meal from one pan. You can sear, roast, and even simmer in a cast iron skillet. Not all pans can claim that.

Cast Iron Is Naturally Nonstick

A well-seasoned cast iron skillet has a naturally nonstick surface. Few nonstick pans can go safely from the stovetop to the oven. Because cast iron is naturally nonstick, it is also easy to clean.

Cleaning Cast Iron Is Easy

Sometimes cast iron skillets get a bad rap for being kind of needy. Sure, you can’t clean a cast iron pan the way you clean nonstick or stainless steel pans, but a cast iron skillet is one of the rare things that actually gets better when you use it more. Regular use and cleaning of a cast iron skillet improves the skillet “seasoning” (a thin layer of polymerized fat that seals the iron) that makes it nonstick.

Get Some One-Pan Recipes for Your Skillet

What are some of your favorite one-pan meals to make in your cast iron skillet?