Why Every Kitchen Needs a Cast Iron Skillet


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  40 comments   :  17,106 Views

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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    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
    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
  • 23
    Have two and they are my favorite pieces to cook with. On top of the range or in the oven. So easy, not much can hurt them. Sometimes I just wipe out with a paper towel or small rag. Wash up when I need to. Just keep oiled. If they start sticking, oil them good and heat. - 3/16/2017   11:26:31 AM
  • 22
    I have one. I just have not gotten up the nerve to use it. Seems so complicated to keep it clean! - 3/16/2017   10:39:13 AM
  • 21
    My husband and I were just talking about getting a cast iron pan. Now I will have to do it. - 3/16/2017   10:29:56 AM
  • 20
    Recipes here look good too! - 3/16/2017   9:32:33 AM
  • 19
    Love mine just made chicken in it last night. Easy clean up also it can go from stove to oven. - 3/16/2017   9:21:03 AM
  • 18
    Love my cast iron skillets, I always spray then with cooking spray after I wash them. Then I rub them will with a paper towel, they stay beautiful. Once I scrambled eggs and forgot to put any oil or spray in the pan, the eggs did not stick. - 3/16/2017   8:35:39 AM
  • 17
    Very timely article for me. It is on my list of things to get. - 3/16/2017   8:24:32 AM
  • 16
    Love the cast iron! I also use the Lodge enameled cast iron 3qt and 6qt dutch ovens for soups casseroles and browning burger as well. The inside does stain from cooking but they do not need to be seasoned. - 3/16/2017   7:47:07 AM
    I have several I love them - 3/16/2017   7:46:36 AM
  • 14
    got 3 .different sizes. Love them. but you have to season it when it is new,there is a great article in the net to help you. - 3/16/2017   7:24:59 AM
  • 13
    I only use cast iron, even with my glass stove top.
    I learned years ago that if, after cleaning my cast iron, I spray olive oil,
    Or even put some olive oil on a paper towel and coat the insides of my cast iron
    Before storing them, that my cast iron never sticks, and it stays pretty.
    I never store my cast iron dry.
    - 3/16/2017   7:08:37 AM
  • 12
    I love my cast iron skillets. They really are great when you are cooking and need to transfer to an oven so nice that you can place cast iron in the oven. - 3/16/2017   2:44:03 AM
  • 11
    What a lot of people don't realize is that if you use soap in it to clean it you have to start over seasoning it. I use a pan scraper from Pampered Chef in mine, but Lodge makes a similar item. I scrape it, and wipe it with a paper towel if that will do the trick, then use a paper towel with some clean oil on it to re-coat it. If there is more food on it than that will handle, I soak it in plain hot water, then do the above. If there isn't at least a small coating of oil on it when you start cooking, things might stick to it. If someone "ruins" it in the dishwasher as my husband has, get some steel wool, scour it out to remove rust and whatever the issue is, and re-season it. You can't truly kill these things, you can always save it with some steel wool and re-seasoning! - 3/16/2017   1:26:03 AM
    I love using cast iron but like Dee107 wish could find lighter one. But going to try recipe where bake in it, so not have to work with it on stove top. - 3/15/2017   10:38:17 PM
  • 9
    I am so getting one this weekend. - 3/15/2017   9:53:01 PM
  • 8
    I love mine. - 3/15/2017   9:44:43 PM
  • 7
    I have cast iron . You can't hurt it. It is the best. - 3/15/2017   8:32:10 PM
  • 6
    I use mine quite a bit! - 3/15/2017   8:23:21 PM
  • 5
    I have three and i make pineapple upside down cake in my deep one! Stovetop! - 3/15/2017   5:13:22 PM
  • 4
    I absolutely love my cast iron skillets and use them for all kinds of cooking, baking, and every day use. - 3/15/2017   3:33:29 PM
  • 3
    I bought a cast iron frying pan about a year ago but wasn't using it all that often because, even though I seasoned it following the manufacturer's instructions, it was always a pain to clean. In January I bought a stainless steel chain mail scrubber that was recommended by a Canadian chef, Laura Calder, and I have been using the pan at least once a week ever since it arrived. Here is a link to the one I bought but there are different sizes available. https:// www.amazon.com/Amagabeli-Stainless-
    - 3/15/2017   10:19:13 AM
  • 2
    Cast iron is naturally stick free and does add iron to your diet. My Mother cooked in hers everyday. - 3/15/2017   12:47:00 AM
  • 1
    I learned alot about pans I do like the cast iron but they are so heavy with the arthritis in the hands but look again for a lighter one - 3/15/2017   12:32:32 AM

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