Why Every Kitchen Needs a Cast Iron Skillet

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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If deliciousness had a sound, it would surely be the sizzling of a hot skillet. Whether you're preparing fajitas or omelets, a stir fry or a frittata, the skillet is just as essential an ingredient as the meat or veggies.

While there's no shortage of skillets to choose from, not all of them are created equal. You can opt for the traditional coated non-stick version, durable stainless steel or, of course, cast iron—otherwise known as the Cadillac of skillets.

Valued for its strong heat retention and durability, cast iron cookware was used as far back as two thousand years ago, when pots and cauldrons were often placed inside the hearth or fireplace. The cast iron skillet was introduced in the late 19th century, around the time when kitchen stoves started to become prevalent in homes. Cast iron took a backseat to coated non-stick cookware in the 1960s and 70s, but its popularity has surged again in recent years as more people discover its many benefits.

Benefits of Cast Iron Skillets


Not only are they sturdy and durable, cast iron skillets could be good for your health. They don't produce the toxic fumes that can come from coated non-stick cookware, and the extra iron intake can provide a boost of energy and immunity. You can add a light coating of vegetable oil to create a natural baked-on seasoning, which also protects the skillet and creates a non-stick surface. Clean-up is easy, too: simply hand-wash with hot water and use a stiff brush or sponge to remove food, then dry right away. Skip the dishwasher, as it can strip the skillet of its beneficial seasoning.

5 Skillets We Love


Ewei's Homeware 12-inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet ($23.99): This one gets rave reviews for its durability, quality and pre-seasoned, non-stick surface.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Lodge Cast Iron Square Grill Pan (starting at $15.72): The ribbed bottom allows you to grill indoors all year round. It's perfect for preparing burgers, fish filets and chicken breasts.
 

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Lodge Cast Iron Covered Deep Skillet (starting at $37.22): The extra depth of this skillet eliminates cooking splatter, and the lid is designed to keep foods moist.
 

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Lodge Cast Iron Cornbread Wedge Pan ($17.18): The divided sections are great for cornbread, scones, frittatas and hash brown wedges.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Cast Iron Pizza Pan ($29.95): Pizza delivery will become a thing of the past with this multi-purpose tool. It's also great for making pancakes and crepes.


Photo courtesy of Amazon

5 Scrumptious Skillet Recipes


Not sure how to get started with your new skillet? With these sizzling recipes, you can easily whip up delicious, nutritious meals without producing a slew of dirty dishes.

Chorizo Breakfast Skillet: This super simple, protein-packed breakfast is dairy- and gluten-free.
 

Photo courtesy of Avocado Pesto

Cajun Chicken Pasta: This low-carb version is made with zucchini noodles in a spicy cream sauce with fresh bell peppers.
 

Photo courtesy of Gimme Delicious

One-Skillet Mongolian Beef with Broccoli: Who needs a Chinese restaurant when you can prepare this delicious, savory dish on your stovetop in just 20 minutes?
 

Photo courtesy of The Seasoned Mom

One-Skillet Skinny Seafood Alfredo: This protein-packed dinner is ready in just five minutes, and proves that comfort food doesn't have to send your calorie count through the roof.
 

Photo courtesy of The Seasoned Mom

Skillet Veggie Lasagna: This skillet vegetable lasagna is chock-full of delicious veggies. Cook the veggies, noodles, sauce and cheese on the stovetop, then move the skillet to the oven for a quick broil.
 

Photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

Do you have a cast iron skillet? Share your tips and favorite recipes in the comments.


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Comments

  • 73
    While working, I severed a hotel kitchen where the cook/chef used one of these. It was a big old thing filled with fat. I don't think it had been cleaned out since the hotel was built in the 1500. This put me off for life and I use Stainless Steal Saucepans and Frying pans. They heat evenly and are easy to clean - 6/25/2017   4:01:01 AM
  • NASFKAB
    72
    thanks for listing the skillets by name good to know which ones to buy - 5/7/2017   12:48:12 AM
  • SUSANBEAMON
    71
    I learned how to cook with and care for a cast iron skillet when I was a child. - 5/4/2017   1:21:14 AM
  • 70
    I am a cast iron cookware junkie, I have 29 pieces of cast iron. A 4 inch cast iron skillet is ideal for a single serve pannekuchen or fritatta. Chili, gumbo, jambalaya, the list goes on and on. Haunt your thrift stores to find cast iron cookware. You want to look for Griswold, Wagner or Lodge to get the best quality. - 4/26/2017   4:34:39 PM
  • 69
    Cast iron skillet are wonderful! - 4/26/2017   8:57:19 AM
  • 68
    I love my cast iron skillet! I can't wait to try some of these recipes! - 4/26/2017   8:37:37 AM
  • 67
    I can't wait to go by a cast iron skillet and try all these delicious recipes! - 4/26/2017   8:21:27 AM
  • 66
    :-) - 4/26/2017   8:21:27 AM
  • 65
    Love mine too. Have a few. - 4/26/2017   5:56:26 AM
  • 64
    Love mine, have several - 4/26/2017   3:12:59 AM
  • 63
    I have 2 cast iron skillets and a Dutch oven. Love them! I bake cornbread in my skillet, too! Gets a really nice crust! Yes, glass stovetops don't like them and the manufacturers say not to use them, but as long as you don't slide it, it shouldn't cause a problem. - 4/25/2017   11:53:29 PM
  • 62
    Nice! - 4/25/2017   11:39:32 PM
  • 61
    So just how skinny is the alfredo, it would be a lot better to tell us the calorie count per serving. It's a pain to add up all the ingredients and decide by 4 - 4/25/2017   10:29:31 PM
  • 60
    I bought a cast iron skillet 3 months ago to help with iron deficiency anemia. I have not needed iron supplements since using this skillet. I love the way food tastes, easy cleanup, and I just rub with oil, on a warm burner once a month to keep it seasoned. - 4/25/2017   6:48:12 PM
  • 59
    nice - 4/25/2017   4:27:29 PM
  • 58
    Awesome - 4/25/2017   1:42:02 PM
  • 4LMHJCR
    57
    Unfortunately, my mother tossed out / gave away her cast iron skillets because they started to get too heavy for her to use. I so wish that she would have asked me if I wanted them before doing that. Would have loved to have had them and all the seasoning and care that were already put into that set of 3 cast iron skillets. Looking to purchase one now, just hate the thought of all the seasoning that will need to be done. Will have to check out the one that is already pre-seasoned.

    Just came across some enameled cast iron skillets so I think that I will have to look into getting one of those to try out. Thanks for this awesome article - 4/25/2017   11:13:51 AM
  • TCLADY
    56
    I have cast iron pots and skillets that I've had for the intire 54 years I've been married, some I bought at garage sales that were rusted and I brought back to life, and some of the newer enamel coated ones, they are used almost every day. Love them, and wouldn't have a stove I couldn't use them on, plus I prefer gas over electric for cooking. - 4/25/2017   10:57:07 AM
  • 55
    I love my grandmothers cast iron but the glass/ceramic stove tops do not.
    They've done a lot of damage to my stove top.So I don't use them anymore. Anyone else have this problem?
    - 4/25/2017   10:19:11 AM
  • 54
    good stuff - 4/25/2017   10:04:59 AM
  • BRIARGAL
    53
    Best kitchen "gadget" ever! - 4/25/2017   9:25:05 AM
  • 52
    I still have and use my Granny's skillet which is at least 50 years old. It works better than any of the non-stick pans that I have or are currently using - 4/25/2017   9:08:57 AM
  • SB1218
    51
    I can't live without my cast iron. I use it every day. - 4/25/2017   8:57:11 AM
  • 50
    I've been using mine for 42 years (yikes). I inherited my mother's skillet and Dutch oven, both over 80 years old. There's nothing better for an even cooking surface. - 4/25/2017   8:46:36 AM
  • 49
    I too love my iron frying pan---- - 4/25/2017   8:00:24 AM
  • 48
    I love cooking with the Griswold skillets, Dutch oven and roaster that were originally my Grandmothers. With proper care the best non stick ever. - 4/25/2017   7:41:47 AM
  • 47
    Another great article, Melissa, very useful - and now, for the first time in twenty years, I am shopping for some cast-iron cookware! :-) - 4/25/2017   7:41:30 AM
  • DMEYER4
    46
    I have a set from Boscovs and I love them - 4/25/2017   6:19:09 AM
  • CHERYLHURT
    45
    Too heavy for me to lift. - 4/25/2017   5:18:03 AM
  • AMYROSEC
    44
    I love my cast iron pans - 4/25/2017   2:12:35 AM
  • 43
    Love my cast iron skillets and would never give them up. - 4/25/2017   1:31:35 AM
  • 42
    I have 3 cast iron pans and use nothing else for the occasional frying I do - 4/25/2017   12:17:17 AM
  • 41
    I was going to buy a couple of cast iron pans for our RV and my husband reminded me that we had three old ones that were rusty that we found in an out building at our old farm place. We both went online and did a bunch or reading and two of the pans are Griswold and one is Wagner. SCORE! So had to do a bunch of work to remove the rust and then just followed the steps to re-season them. Needless to say, we are happy campers with our barn finds. I have been cooking on cast iron for a long time and in fact it was a cast iron fry pan that we bought 45 years ago right after we were married! Love them and don't be afraid of them. Only slightly more work than non stick and are really wonderful to cook with. Heats quickly and retains an even heat. I also have Lodge cast iron dutch ovens are enameled and love them for soups, stews and hot dishes. Love Love Love my cast iron! - 4/11/2017   3:43:51 PM
  • SUSANBEAMON
    40
    The best cast iron pan I ever got, I bought at an estate sale. It was well seasoned because the past owner used it a lot. I just kept up the seasoning. Easiest pan I had to keep clean. - 3/24/2017   2:10:28 AM
  • 39
    I have one but don't use much as don't like to hand wash. plan to fix that and season so use especially for bacon and eggs... - 3/23/2017   10:18:39 AM
  • 38
    I love cast iron cookwares. I use my large frypan for making a pineapple upside down cake and I have a dutch oven that's perfect for stews and chili's in the oven. - 3/22/2017   1:08:35 PM
  • 37
    Funny that all the recipes except the last are pictured in cookware other than iron. - 3/21/2017   8:37:49 AM
  • 36
    I like cast iron but certain portions of the population should not be getting extra iron. Too many pasta recipes. - 3/21/2017   8:12:39 AM
  • 35
    I love my iron frying pan! - 3/20/2017   9:02:32 AM
  • 34
    Never quite managed to get along with mine, but sick of every kind of non-stick wearing out in a couple of months, need to try again with cast iron - 3/19/2017   5:17:35 AM
  • 33
    We love old Griswald cast iron pans.They are so smooth that if you keep them oiled you can cook anything. Bacon is the best. we do a lot of campfire cooking in them and everything turns out great.The other campers always say our food smell up the campgrounds. - 3/16/2017   10:31:00 PM
  • ALILDUCKLING
    32
    I, too, love cast iron. I even think of the heaviness as good for strengthening my wrists, etc. I only have 2 skillets right now but want to add on to other types of cookware such as dutch oven. Our family wants to camp out more and I can see my cast iron being used at home and while camping. - 3/16/2017   8:40:37 PM
  • 31
    Unfortunately, I have an allergy to cast iron. When I first tried to eat anything prepared in cast iron, at home or elsewhere, I would break into a rash and get very nauseous (and it was foods I could otherwise eat). My allergist put it on my avoidance list. - 3/16/2017   7:36:09 PM
  • 30
    I love cast iron cookware. I'm dying to get a new skillet but I have to save up for it. - 3/16/2017   6:06:05 PM
  • 29
    Love my cast iron skillets. And really like the newer ones that have a "handle" on front and back to be able to help lift them with arthritis. - 3/16/2017   5:16:00 PM
  • 28
    I have always cooked with cast iron pots and skillets. They were a staple of my upbringing, and some of mine came from my great-great grandmother -- or maybe even farther back. Yes, they are heavy and with arthritic hands they can be a challenge. I recommend having both a handle sleeve and a really heavy potholder to make it easier to remove from the oven with two hands. I'm only in my 30s, but I have an autoimmune disorder that causes pain in my hands not unlike the arthritis of age. I know how hard it can be to hold heavy things, especially if they're hot.

    For those who say that they're hard to clean... I disagree. I highly recommend this piece of "chain mail" you can get (got my latest from amazon) that is a cast iron scrubber. Soak the pan in hot water for just 5 minutes or so, then use the chain mail to get the big food off... follow with your soap and scrubber. Wipe dry or you can even use the old trick of putting it back on the stove over heat to dry it quickly. Just don't overheat it dry or it could crack the iron with time. A well-seasoned pan shouldn't rust much if any, even if allowed to air dry.

    To season a brand new pan: coat with a high-heat oil (not olive!) like avocado or sunflower. Bake at high temperature (450-500) for 30 min. Allow to cool. Repeat at least one more time. After that, it will continue to "season itself" with every use. You may find that the seasoning comes off in the food slightly the first use. Don't fret. If that happens, just repeat the first steps another time or two. This seasoning method works for other traditional cookware as well, like hand-hammered steel woks.

    Edited to add: after seasoning, you can cook with lower-temp oils like olive no problem. I highly recommend roasting vegetables in an iron skillet if you've never done so. I also want to add that, if you do get some rust or you inherit a skillet rusty from disuse, invest in some steel wool. Burnish with the steel wool until rust-free, and then re-season as if new following the directions above. You can often find great old cookware at garage sales that just need this kind of love and care. - 3/16/2017   3:26:47 PM
  • 27
    I love my cast iron-- I have numerous pieces. One huge bonus is you can start the meal on the stove top and them move it to the oven or the grill without worry (or an extra pot to clean). - 3/16/2017   1:27:43 PM
  • 26
    I went on a hunt for Wagnerware and Griswold cast iron. You can't buy them anymore but you can find them at Estate Sales or online auctions. We live and travel full time in an RV and I made sure I had space for my 3 different size skillets. I also have a 2 Lodge Dutch ovens (one for stove top/oven and one with legs for campfire cooking plus a smaller Enamel Coated one. Along with two stainless steel saucepans, there isn't anything I can't accomplish. Check out some of my favorites at www.rvcooking.net - 3/16/2017   1:16:40 PM
  • 25
    I have four of them in various sizes that I've kind of inherited over the years. One of the best attributes is that the handles can't come loose as some of my more modern ones do. For scrubbing I use pieces of one of the floor pads that industrial machines use for washing school floors! - 3/16/2017   12:39:56 PM
  • 24
    I love my enameled cast iron set. - 3/16/2017   12:25:23 PM

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