I used to hate the idea of working with cast iron. Everything stuck, it was a hassle to clean, and it was so persnickety. But after a little education, a little elbow grease, and some practical advice, I LOVE my cast iron! Here are my…
Top 5 Cast Iron Must-Haves
The all-purpose item. Not only can you do small batches of stews, chilis and stews (and why would you only do small batches? You make more to freeze or can, am I right?), this is the go-to piece of any kitchen. I have two sizes that I love for what they bring to the stove top for me. The smaller one is great for small jobs, and the larger one for the meal-sized jobs. We use the smaller one to cook steaks, Alton Brown style, all the time!
The Flat Skillet
I watched my mother-in-law make dinner rolls on this for years. But it’s also great to make toast, pancakes, flank steak, eggs, fish and more. The reason is that the minimal lip allows for great control of the food on the griddle, and not have to fight the sides to flip things over. While bacon would be easy, too, I don’t like to do bacon because it’s a bit messy, the the sides of the skillet help control the splatter. On a day to day basis, I probably use this one more often for doing lunch-time quesadillas or grilled cheese for the kids and I at lunch, than anything else.
The Dutch Oven
This is the work horse in the kitchen. Put a ‘pot’ of stew on to allow it to cook all day long, cook large batches of ground beef or sausage, and it’s perfect for chili. What makes a cast iron dutch oven better than a big pot is that the heat is so evenly dispersed, it cooks better than typical thin stainless steel or aluminum pots. I do still love my big, heavy stainless steel pot, but for long cooking, nothing beats my cast iron dutch oven.
The Loaf Pan
I love the bread that I make that comes out of this pan. It’s got a truly cripsy outside (not the crispy outside that you get when you overcook it), and the inside is still soft and tender because, like the dutch oven, the heat is carried through the vessel better than typical cheap loaf pans. It is heavier, but I’m not trying to carry 5 at one time. I love this especially for quick breads and meat loaves. And it’s handy to cook a few meat loaves in it first to help season it more.
Go ahead and laugh. But this is an invaluable piece of equipment for me. The reason is that I can safely handle a very hot skillet with this rather than an oven mitt or a hot pad or even one of the heat resistant ‘mitts’ that go over the handle because this doesn’t slip around. It’s firmly seated on the handle and I don’t have to worry about losing my grip with any other pot holder or mitt, which I have done plenty. The red also immediately alerts anyone that the skillet is HOT, not just sitting on the stove the way our most used skillet tends to.
Start your own collection!
Amazon often puts the 5 piece Lodge Starter Set on sale for a great price. If you haven’t purchased any cast iron pieces, yet, this is a great starter set at a great price, with free delivery in the US, and you don’t have to hunt for pieces! But keep an eye on it – the price fluctuates a lot. I usually shoot for under $70.
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