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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)

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 sent me the information below from a 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 at

You are not alone in trying to keep them in tip-top shape so all of your dishes 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 retains heat well and can go from stovetop to oven … or place on the barbecue 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 nonstick 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. 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.

For the recipe for chocolate chip skillet cookies, visit Recipes courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen.

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 re-engineered 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.

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.

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.

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

Union League Café celebrates 25 years: 1032 Chapel St., New Haven. Throughout October, serving classics from the original 1993 menu in a three course, pre-fixe with wine pairings for $79 per person plus tax and gratuity ($55 per person plus tax and gratuity without wine pairings). Partnering with New Haven Farms and will donate 25 percent of proceeds from iconic confit de canard appetizer for the month of October. Menu and reservations at

Consiglio’s Cooking Demonstration and Dinner: featuring Angelo Durante from Durante’s Pasta and Master Cheesemaker Jeshar Zeneli from Liuzzi Cheese Oct. 11, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included).

Cooking Class: Ravioli Workshop: Oct. 12, 6:30 pm, Chef’s Emporium, 449 Boston Post Road, Orange, $59.99. Reservations at 203-799-2665. Reservations at

Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner: “What are you Wearing?” Oct. 12. Doors at 6 p.m., dinner and show at 7, Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489 $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included).

“Chefs Of Our Kitchen” celebrates Oktoberfest with BAR: Oct. 17, 6:15 reception; 7 p.m. dinner. Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 203-285-2617. Watch the famous BAR salad being made and learn about the beer they brew at BAR. $65 benefits Gateway Community College Foundation. Parking in Temple Street garage. Bring ticket for validation. Tickets at

Alforno Wine Dinner: Oct. 30, 6:30 p.m., Alforno, 1654 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook, reservations at 860-399-4166, $75, plus tax and gratuity. Complete menu at

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