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Care and feeding of your cast iron frying pan (plus perfect recipes … |

Care and feeding of your cast iron frying pan (plus perfect recipes …



  • Chocolate chip skillet cookie, top with ice cream for an extra-decadent treat.

    Chocolate chip skillet cookie, top with ice cream for an extra-decadent treat.


    Photo: Photo Courtesy Of America’s Test Kitchen /

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Chocolate chip skillet cookie, top with ice cream for an extra-decadent treat.

Chocolate chip skillet cookie, top with ice cream for an extra-decadent treat.



Photo: Photo Courtesy Of America’s Test Kitchen /


FOUND: Elana Keyes of Guilford wrote, “How do you season a cast iron frying pan? I’ve tried several different methods and to no avail; everything sticks! I’ve tried oiling the pans in the oven for an hour at 500 degrees and inverting the pan. I’ve tried it on the top of the stove. Please help!

Elana, good news! My friends at America’s Test Kitchen www.americastestkitchen.com sent me the information below from the August November 2003 issue of their magazine “Cook’s Illustrated” that should assist you. For everything you wanted to know about caring for your cast iron skillet but were afraid to ask, check out their video https://bit.ly/2zRoh4q.


I guarantee you are not alone in trying to keep them in tip-top shape so all of your recipes come out perfect. If you haven’t subscribed to their magazines or their cooking newsletters, I highly recommend you do. If you are not familiar, their PBS television show is all about culinary education; it is not a reality cooking show with all of the “heated” time-based competitions. You will learn cooking techniques to enhance your culinary skills.


Steps: “1. Rub the pan with fine steel wool. 2. Wipe out loose dirt and rust with a cloth.3. Place the pan on the burner over medium-low heat and add enough vegetable oil to coat the pan heavily. Heat for 5 minutes, or until the handle is too hot to touch. Turn off the burner. 4. Add enough salt to form a liquidy paste. Wearing a work or gardening glove, scrub with a thick wads of paper towels, steadying the pan with a potholder. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the pan is slick and black. 5. Rinse the pan thoroughly in hot water, wipe dry, and then coat with a thin film of vegetable oil, wiping off any excess with paper towels.”






I enjoy cooking in cast iron pans because it is able to withstand high heat, especially when frying, searing or blackening. It also retains heat well and can go from stovetop to oven…or place on the BBQ or over a campfire. Cornbread and cobblers are easy to bake in cast iron; I find it makes a moist corn bread. Just be careful, the handle gets hot.

Cast iron cookware has been around for hundreds of years and was quite popular during the early part of the 20th century. Most kitchens had one; they were durable and fairly inexpensive. During the mid-1960s they began to decline in use when Teflon and non-stick pans were the craze. Grandma’s hand-me-down cast iron pans were popular tag sale items and plentiful at secondhand shops. As author Stephen King said, “sooner or later, everything old is new again.” This holds true here, too. Cooking with cast iron is hot again (no pun intended). Displays of the cookware, and magazines and cookbooks devoted to this style of cooking are plentiful.


If there is only one book you want to have on the topic, “Cook It In Cast Iron: Kitchen-Tested Recipes from the One Pan That Does it All,” by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen (2015, $29.95) is the one. Before getting into the recipes, the information at the beginning talks about cast iron discoveries, why a cast iron skillet belongs in every kitchen, evaluating cast iron skillets, the science of seasoning and how to maintain your cast iron skillet, troubleshooting, and busting myths. The cast iron personality test helps you determine which pan is right for you. Each recipe has a headnote, “Why This Recipe Works.” It provides useful and interesting information about the preparation of the dish. It is one of the features I enjoy in America’s Test Kitchen publications.

Now let’s get cooking with these recipes from the book. For the recipe for chocolate chip skillet cookies, please visit https://bit.ly/2yfH3QX. Recipes are courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen.

Baked Brie with Honeyed Apricots

Why This Recipe Works: Baked Brie topped with jam or fruit—we like dried apricots and honey—is a popular party snack, and for good reason. When the cheese is warmed, it magically transforms into a rich, dippable concoction. Baking the cheese in a cast-iron skillet seemed like a no-brainer; since the skillet holds onto heat so well, it would keep the cheese in the ideal luscious, fluid state longer than any other pan. For sweet and creamy flavor in every bite, we reengineered the traditional whole wheel of baked Brie by trimming off the rind (which doesn’t melt that well) and slicing the cheese into cubes. The result? Our honey-apricot mixture was evenly distributed throughout the dish, not just spooned on top. We finished the dish with an extra drizzle of honey and some minced chives to reinforce the sweet-savory flavor profile. Be sure to use a firm, fairly unripe Brie for this recipe. Serve with crackers or Melba toast.

¼ cup dried apricots, chopped

¼ cup honey

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 (8-ounce) wheels firm Brie cheese, rind removed, cheese cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Microwave apricots, 2 tablespoons honey, rosemary, salt, and pepper in medium bowl until apricots are softened and mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring halfway through microwaving. Add Brie and toss to combine.

Transfer mixture to 10-inch cast-iron skillet and bake until cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons honey and sprinkle with chives. Serve. Serves 8 to 10.

Spinach and Feta Frittata

Why This Recipe Works: Frittatas are similar to omelets but much easier to make: All ingredients are combined at once, so you need much less hands-on time during cooking. For a perfect, tender frittata packed with flavor, we started with 10 large eggs mixed with half-and-half. The water in the dairy helped create steam so the eggs puffed up, and the fat kept the frittata tender. We used the microwave to quickly wilt fresh spinach and then drained it to keep the frittata from becoming waterlogged. Feta cheese and oregano added great savory flavor. Actively stirring and scraping the egg mixture during cooking kept the eggs from becoming tough and ensured quicker cooking. Shaking the skillet helped the eggs distribute properly, and cooking the frittata on the stovetop created some nice browning on the bottom. We then transferred the skillet to the broiler, where the high heat helped the frittata puff a little more and set without overcooking the bottom. The cast iron was perfectly at home under the broiler, unlike nonstick pans with plastic handles and coatings that shouldn’t be exposed to intense heat. Once we moved the skillet from the broiler to a wire rack, the residual heat from the cast iron helped the frittata finish cooking.

11 ounces (11 cups) baby spinach

10 large eggs

3 tablespoons half-and-half

Salt and pepper

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (¾ cup)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped fine

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano or ¼ teaspoon dried

Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Microwave spinach and 1/2cup water in large bowl, covered, until spinach is wilted and decreased in volume by half, about 4 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave and keep covered for 1 minute. Carefully remove cover, allowing steam to escape away from you, and transfer spinach to colander set in sink. Using back of rubber spatula, gently press spinach against colander to release excess liquid. Transfer spinach to cutting board and chop coarse. Return spinach to colander and press second time.

Using fork, beat eggs, half-and-half, 3/4teaspoon salt, and 1/2teaspoon pepper in bowl until thoroughly combined and mixture is pure yellow; do not overbeat. Stir in 1/2cup feta.

Heat 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in spinach and cook until uniformly wilted and glossy, about 2 minutes.

Add egg mixture and, using heat-resistant rubber spatula, constantly and firmly scrape along bottom and sides of skillet until eggs form large curds and spatula leaves trail on bottom of skillet but eggs are still moist, 1 to 2 minutes. Shake skillet to distribute eggs evenly. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4cup feta and gently press into eggs with spatula.

Transfer skillet to oven and broil until center of frittata is puffed and surface is just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes; when cut into with paring knife, eggs should be slightly wet and runny.

Using potholders, transfer skillet to wire rack and let frittata rest for 5 minutes. Being careful of hot skillet handle, run spatula around edge of skillet to loosen frittata, then slide frittata out of skillet onto cutting board. Cut frittata into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6

What chef would you like me to interview? Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products do you have difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me: Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at gw-stephen.fries@gwcc.commnet.edu or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. (Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to stephenfries.com.)

See this week’s culinary calendar.

Category: Skillets  Tags: ,  Comments off
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