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5 Myths About Cast Iron

5 Myths About Cast Iron

My wife spotted the rust first. “What’s this?” she asked, pointing to the sink. Someone had left the cast-iron skillet — a potential family heirloom, mind you — in a puddle of dirty dish water. Someone had neglected it long enough that rust spots dotted the surface. Its lovingly seasoned sheen now looked dull, like the face of a faded starlet. Someone had a lot of explaining to do. OK, that someone was me. And I needed to fix it, pronto.

A quick Web search brought up a bushel of information — much of it contradictory. Never use soap! No, it’s OK to use some soap. Never boil water in it! No, boil water in it to loosen up caked-on bits. It’s unhealthy to cook with cast iron! No, it actually adds iron to your foods.

Oy.

Here are five myths about using your cast-iron pan that need to be dispelled.

1. Never, ever use soap: You’ve heard this one before, maybe from your nonna as she was handing down her precious pan on your wedding day. For the most part, you can ignore it. Unlike the harsh lye soap they used in the Little House on the Prairie, modern-day soap is gentle (it’s even soft on your hands!). If your pan is well-seasoned, a little soap and water won’t hurt it. I’ve always washed my cast iron skillet like any other dirty pan.

2. A new pan should always be seasoned: Actually, probably not. Most cast-iron pans that you buy today, like a Lodge Logic, will arrive pre-seasoned. Yes, the pan will take on a lovely patina with years of home cooking. But like a Mac, you can use it out of the box. Just remember to get it nice and hot before throwing on the food, and add a little oil or fat to prevent sticking.

3. Never use metal utensils: A lot of folks warn you to use wooden spoons so you won’t damage the surface. Not true. Light scraping while cooking polishes the iron, allowing the seasoning to adhere better to the pan. It’s actually good practice to promote this process. Within reason, of course. Don’t go at it with a jackhammer.

4. Cast iron heats evenly: It’s true that a cast-iron skillet gets hotter and stays hotter than an aluminum pan of the same size, but the heat isn’t distributed evenly. With a small burner, the edges of the pan will be cooler than the center. For a truly hot pan, put it in a hot oven first. But because cast-iron skillets retain their heat longer, they’re great pans to bring from the oven to the table.

5. You should throw away a “ruined” cast-iron pan: Cast iron is basically indestructible. Your home oven will never get hot enough to melt it. If you somehow strip off the seasoning or, ahem, let it sit and rust, you can simply reseason it. Here’s how: Wash it thoroughly with soap and hot water, and a brush. Rinse and dry completely. Brush inside and out with vegetable oil. And place in a very, very hot oven, like 500 degrees, for an hour. Allow to cool and wipe clean.

Now, fry up some of this.


The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away

If you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of the cast iron. When I packed up my apartment last spring and had to live for a full month with only two pans in my kitchen, you can bet your butt that the first one I grabbed was my trusty cast iron skillet.

Point is, it's a versatile workhorse and no other pan even comes close to its league.

But there's also a mysterious, myth-packed lore when it comes to cast iron pans. On the one hand there's the folks who claim you've got to treat your cast iron cookware like a delicate little flower. On the other, there's the macho types who chime in with their my cast iron is hella non-stick or damn, does my pan heat evenly!

In the world of cast iron, there are unfounded, untested claims left right and center. It's time to put a few of those myths to rest. Then, check up on our cast iron skillet review to make sure you're cooking with the best pans possible.

Myth #1: "Cast iron is difficult to maintain."

The Theory: Cast iron is a material that can rust, chip, or crack easily. Buying a cast iron skillet is like adopting a newborn baby and a puppy at the same time. You're going to have to pamper it through the early stages of its life, and be gentle when you store it—that seasoning can chip off!

The Reality: Cast iron is tough as nails! There's a reason why there are 75-year-old cast iron pans kicking around at yard sales and antique shops. The stuff is built to last and it's very difficult to completely ruin it. Most new pans even come pre-seasoned, which means that the hard part is already done for you and you're ready to start cooking right away.

And as for storing it? If your seasoning is built up in a nice thin, even layer like it should be, then don't worry. It ain't gonna chip off. I store my cast iron pans nested directly in each other. Guess how many times I've chipped their seasoning? Try doing that to your non-stick skillet without damaging the surface.

Myth #2: "Cast iron heats really evenly."

The Theory: Searing steaks and frying potatoes requires high, even heat. Cast iron is great at searing steaks, so it must be great at heating evenly, right?

The Reality: Actually, cast iron is terrible at heating evenly. The thermal conductivity—the measure of a material's ability to transfer heat from one part to another—is around a third to a quarter that of a material like aluminum. What does this mean? Throw a cast iron skillet on a burner and you end up forming very clear hot spots right on top of where the flames are, while the rest of the pan remains relatively cool.

The main advantage of cast iron is that it has very high volumetric heat capacity, which means that once it's hot, it stays hot. This is vitally important when searing meat. To really heat cast iron evenly, place it over a burner and let it preheat for at least 10 minutes or so, rotating it every once in a while. Alternatively, heat it up in a hot oven for 20 to 30 minutes (but remember to use a potholder or dish towel!)

The other advantage is its high emissivity—that is, its tendency to expel a lot of heat energy from its surface in the form of radiation. Stainless steel has an emissivity of around .07. Even when it's extremely hot, you can put your hand close to it and not feel a thing. Only the food directly in contact with it is heating up in any way.

Cast iron, on the other hand, has a whopping .64 emissivity rating, which means that when you're cooking in it, you're not just cooking the surface in contact with the metal, but you're cooking a good deal of food above it as well. This makes it ideal for things like making hash or pan roasting chicken and vegetables.

Myth #3: "My well-seasoned cast iron pan is as non-stick as any non-stick pan out there."

The Theory: The better you season your cast iron, the more non-stick it becomes. Perfectly well-seasoned cast iron should be perfectly non-stick.

The Reality: Your cast iron pan (and mine) may be really really really non-stick—non-stick enough that you can make an omelet in it or fry an egg with no problem—but let's get serious here. It's not anywhere near as non-stick as, say, Teflon, a material so non-stick that we had to develop new technologies just to get it to bond to the bottom of a pan. Can you dump a load of cold eggs into your cast iron pan, slowly heat it up with no oil, then slide those cooked eggs right back out without a spot left behind? Because you can do that in Teflon.

That said, macho posturing aside, so long as your cast iron pan is well seasoned and you make sure to pre-heat it well before adding any food, you should have no problems whatsoever with sticking.

Myth #4: "You should NEVER wash your cast iron pan with soap."

The Theory: Seasoning is a thin layer of oil that coats the inside of your skillet. Soap is designed to remove oil, therefore soap will damage your seasoning.

The Reality: Seasoning is actually not a thin layer of oil, it's a thin layer of polymerized oil, a key distinction. In a properly seasoned cast iron pan, one that has been rubbed with oil and heated repeatedly, the oil has already broken down into a plastic-like substance that has bonded to the surface of the metal. This is what gives well-seasoned cast iron its non-stick properties, and as the material is no longer actually an oil, the surfactants in dish soap should not affect it. Go ahead and soap it up and scrub it out.

The one thing you shouldn't do? Let it soak in the sink. Try to minimize the time it takes from when you start cleaning to when you dry and re-season your pan. If that means letting it sit on the stovetop until dinner is done, so be it.

Myth #5: "Don't use metal utensils on your cast iron pan!"

The Theory: The seasoning in cast iron pans is delicate and can easily flake out or chip if you use metal. Stick to wood or nylon utensils.

The Reality: The seasoning in cast iron is actually remarkably resilient. It's not just stuck to the surface like tape, it's actually chemically bonded to the metal. Scrape away with a metal spatula and unless you're actually gouging out the surface of the metal, you should be able to continue cooking in it with no issue.

So you occasionally see flakes of black stuff chip out of the pan as you cook in it? It's possible that's seasoning, but unlikely. In order to get my cast iron pan's seasoning to flake off, I had to store it in the oven for a month's-worth of heating and drying cycles without re-seasoning it before I started to see some scaling.

More likely, those flakes of black stuff are probably carbonized bits of food that were stuck to the surface of the pan because you refused to scrub them out with soap last time you cooked.

Myth #6: "Modern cast iron is just as good as old cast iron. It's all the same material, after all."

The Theory: Metal is metal, cast iron is cast iron, the new stuff is no different than the old Wagner and Griswold pans from early 20th century that people fetishize.

The Reality: The material may be the same, but the production methods have changed. In the old days, cast iron pans were produced by casting in sand-based molds, then polishing the resulting pebbly surfaces until smooth. Vintage cast iron tends to have a satiny smooth finish. By the 1950s, as production scaled up and was streamlined, this final polishing step was dropped from the process. The result? Modern cast iron retains that bumpy, pebbly surface.

The difference is more minor than you may think. So long as you've seasoned your pan properly, both vintage and modern cast iron should take on a nice non-stick surface, but your modern cast iron will never be quite as non-stick as the vintage stuff.

Myth #7: "Never cook acidic foods in cast iron."

The Theory: Acidic food can react with the metal, causing it to leech into your food, giving you an off-flavor and potentially killing you slowly.

The Reality: In a well-seasoned cast iron pan, the food in the pan should only be coming in contact with the layer of polymerized oil in the pan, not the metal itself. So in a perfect world, this should not be a problem. But none of us are perfect and neither are our pans. No matter how well you season, there's still a good chance that there are spots of bare metal and these can indeed interact with acidic ingredients in your food.

For this reason, it's a good idea to avoid long-simmered acidic things, particularly tomato sauce. On the other hand, a little acid is not going to hurt it. I deglaze my pan with wine after pan-roasting chicken all the time. A short simmer won't harm your food, your pan, or your health in any way.

How You SHOULD Use Your Cast Iron Skillet

These are the only rules you need to know to have a successful lifelong relationship with your cast iron.


Truth 1: Cast iron is not that difficult to maintain

Noelle Carter: Cast iron is popular. While it has a lot of fans in the food world, it can be mysterious and intimidating. One of the biggest things I hear about cast iron is that it's difficult to maintain.

J. Kenji López-Alt Photo: Peter Tannenbaum

J. Kenji López-Alt: That is a myth you hear often. The issue that comes up with it is maintaining the seasoning, which is the layer of polymers that form when you heat oil in it. That's what gives the cast-iron pan its nonstick properties and what makes it such a good surface for cooking on. But even that layer of seasoning is way, way easier to both form and to maintain than a lot of people make it out to be.


10 Cast-iron cookware myths modern Southern cooks are tired of hearing

A lot of cooks avoid cast iron because they believe they’re a pain, while others are overly devoted to it because they think they’re superior in ways they aren’t. Regardless of what side of the cast-iron fence you’re on, there are a few things Southern cooks are done hearing about one of our favorite kitchen tools.

Myth 1: Cast iron seems strong, but is actually delicate

The myth here revolves around the misconception that cast iron breaks easily and is difficult to maintain because there are a lot of “rules.” It can rust to the point of being unsalvageable, chip or even crack or break easily, so it’s basically the kitchen equivalent of a Fabergé egg.

Fact: If you can handle nonstick skillets, this bad boy is a breeze

Yes, cast-iron skillets can rust. But that’s easy enough to prevent. If you get your cast iron wet, you have to make sure it’s well dried.

While there are some things you shouldn’t use on cast iron or you’ll risk scratching off the seasoning, it’s very durable. In fact, if you drop heavy enough cast iron, I’d be more worried about your stove or tile floor than the cookware.

Myth 2: Cast iron is hard to clean

This myth took traction thanks to a lot of very aggressive advice from certain TV chefs who may have put too fine a point on a few things.

Fact: It’s actually pretty simple to clean

To clean it: In general, use hot water with a stiff (plastic-bristled) brush. If something is stuck on, pour a little kosher salt into the mix. If you absolutely have to, you can even gently use steel wool and reseason it (last resort only, though). Dry it with paper towels, rub it down with a thin layer of vegetable shortening or oil and pop it into a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. Let it dry for about an hour in the oven, then store it in a clean, dry place. Unless I really have a stuck-on mess, it takes me no longer than cleaning a regular pan (except for the oven time). And it’s totally worth it.

The only thing you absolutely cannot do (ever, ever, under any circumstance&hellip seriously, ladies, I mean ever) is let it soak in water or stay wet.

Myth 3: Rusted cast iron is trash

This myth likely has its roots in what happens to your car or other thin or less durable metals when they rust out.

Fact: Rusted cast iron is salvageable

You remove rust from a cast-iron kitchen tool the same way you remove stuck-on food. Pour in some kosher salt and use a soft-bristled brush to rub off the rust spots. If it’s really stuck-on, you can gently use a bit of steel wool (again, this is a last resort). Then just reseason it. I advise a couple reseasoning sessions before use if you have to use steel wool.

Myth 4: Soap will ruin cast iron

One of the properties of cast iron that makes it so great to work with is the seasoning factor. It decreases the likelihood food will stick to cast iron.

Fact: Using soap isn’t the end of the world

If you do have to use soap, it’s not going to damage the actual metal. It may destroy some of your seasoning. But a little mild dish soap is fine (if you’re cleaning and drying your cast-iron properly &mdash more seasoning will be added anyway).

Here’s the deal. Soaps are designed to remove oil, but once you add heat to the equation, it polymerizes the oil, creating a plastic-like surface bonded to the metal. So if you haven’t been properly maintaining it (i.e., not seasoning it properly each time you dry it), then soap could be a problem. But if you have it all seasoned up and suddenly need soap for a stuck-on mess, it won’t harm your skillet.

Myth 5: Cast iron will cause iron poisoning/cast iron will give you your daily dose of iron

Many people think using cast iron will lead to an iron overdose because it leaches loads of iron into your food, which is only true for some. There are others who think it’s good for you because it gives you your daily dose of iron, which is also not entirely true.

Fact: Iron leaching levels are safe for most, but they may not give you your daily dose

Cast iron does leach iron, but it may actually be healthy for people who don’t have an affliction that causes iron overload. You should have your iron levels checked regularly (especially if you’re a woman) regardless of whether you use cast iron.

But don’t think using cast iron is a panacea for those with iron deficiencies either. The amount of iron leached actually depends on what you’re cooking and for how long.

Myth 6: Steel wool will ruin cast iron

The belief is that steel wool scratches the metal, so should always be avoided.

Fact: In some circumstances, gentle use of steel wool is OK

This myth is true to the extent that it’s really not the best thing. In general, you really should use kosher salt as an abrasive rather than steel wool (some also swear by Dobie pads, iron steel cloths, which are less abrasive than steel wool), but if kosher salt or one of these isn’t working, gentle use of steel wool may be the only way to save a skillet. Just reseason it well (as though it were new) before you use it again.

Myth 7: Cast iron is just as nonstick as Teflon

This myth comes from the fact that part of the reason you season a cast-iron skillet is that increases the nonstick nature of it.

Fact: It’s nonstick, but may not be as good as Teflon

A really well-seasoned skillet may actually be almost as good as Teflon, but that’s tough to maintain. It is more nonstick than, say, a stainless steel pan, but not as much as a gently used Teflon pan.

Myth 8: You can’t use metal tools on cast iron

This probably has to do with the nonstick myth. You can’t use metal on Teflon, right?

Fact: You absolutely can use metal utensils on cast iron (if you really want)

I suppose you could put some scrapes on an unseasoned cast-iron with metal tools, but most of what you’ll really get rid of with metal utensils is a bit of seasoning, which you’ll put back in a minute when you properly clean, season and dry it. Now, if you have an issue with the scraping sound, I can’t blame you. I only use metal on mine when I might ruin plastic because it’s a bit like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. But I’m not sure if my mom (or grandmother for that matter) has ever used anything but metal utensils.

Myth 9: You can never, ever cook acidic foods like tomatoes in cast iron

This is another one that is due to a lot of overblown claims by TV chefs, who claim cooking things like tomatoes or deglazing with vinegar or wine will give your food a metallic taste. The reality is a little more complicated.

Fact: In some circumstances, your cast iron will be fine with acidic foods

Those chefs may have had that experience if they didn’t properly season or maintain their skillet. If you’ve got a new cast iron, I’d avoid tomatoes, vinegar and wine (and other citrus foods). Only a well-seasoned cast iron can actually take it. But it doesn’t take years to get to that point either. Honestly, I’m calling foul on some people’s experience with cast iron for saying this, but I’ve used a seasoned but virtually new cast-iron wok to make orange chicken (with OJ) sans any metallic flavor.

Now, if you go nuts and use it only for things like tomato-based, long-cook sauces or if you don’t properly season, you’ll probably have some issues. If you taste metal after cooking with it, question yourself, not the cast iron, first.

Myth 10: Cast iron heats evenly

The big myth is that it heats evenly, but that’s not actually true.

Fact: Cast iron gets really hot and hold the heat

Copper cookware heats evenly (the heat is evenly distributed across the entire surface&hellip mostly). Cast-iron cookware does get screaming hot (burned myself on it once when I was a kid and I know the definition of screaming hot), but it doesn’t exactly heat evenly &mdash not like copper anyway. It distributes heat better than other metals (most of the metals you have in all likelihood) and most importantly, it retains heat. That’s why if you need a good sear, cast iron is your friend. It won’t drop temp drastically just because you add something cooler.


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The key to cast iron’s patina and an answer to many of these complaints is what’s termed its “seasoning,” the polymerization (or to use a less techie term, “plasticization”) of the cooking fats or oils with which it comes in contact, both during cooking in it or caring for it.

Stove-top or oven (or even burning charcoal) heat breaks down these oils into large-chain molecules that then bond to the iron itself in a never-ending layering — if the dang pans are used, people — that becomes impermeable to (mild) acidity, makes the pan facile to clean and maintain, and resistant to rust and oxidation.

There. Several myths and prejudices busted.

In the end, it’s cast iron’s way with heat that selects it as a preferred ware for some cooking. It’s just common sense, when you think of it.

John Hinman, proprietor of Hinman’s Bakery and one of the region’s top pie-makers, answers his own question: “How often do you get a pie when the top is done but the bottom is still soggy? A lot.

“With cast iron, the fact is that when the pie is done, because the pan keeps so much heat, the bottom continues to cook. The pan nurtures and finishes the cooking, plus it continues to force moisture in the form of steam out through the top’s vents.”

Sounds like a win-win. Right, Mother Washington?

Reach Bill St John at [email protected]

Craig Claiborne’s Smothered Chicken

By Sam Sifton, The New York Times serves 4

Craig Claiborne believed a cast-iron skillet to be essential for the authentic preparation of this dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds, spatchcocked (split down the backbone, breast left intact and unsplit)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all­-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄2 cups chicken broth, ideally homemade

Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Select a skillet large enough to hold the chicken comfortably when it is opened up, as for broiling. Fold wings under to secure them. Melt the butter in the pan and add the chicken, skin side down. Cover chicken with a plate that will fit comfortably inside the skillet. Place a heavy can, stone or brick on top of the plate to weigh it down. Cook over low heat, checking the chicken skin, until it is nicely browned, about 25 minutes.

Remove weight and plate. Turn chicken so skin side is up. Replace plate and weight and continue cooking for about 15 minutes more. Remove chicken and pour off fat from the skillet, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the flour to the fat, stirring with a wire whisk over medium heat. Gradually add the chicken broth and, when thickened, return chicken to the skillet, skin side up. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with the plate and weight and continue cooking over low heat about 20 to 30 minutes longer or until the meat is exceptionally tender. Spoon the sauce over it. Cut chicken into serving pieces, and serve with the sauce and fluffy rice on the side.

Hinman’s Cast Iron Skillet Cherry Pie

Baker John Hinman’s note: Using a high-quality European-style butter really improves the crust. While making the crust, make sure your butter is really cold – almost frozen – and that your water is ice water. The assembled balls of dough, well-wrapped, will keep in the fridge for 2 days or in the freezer for months.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
  • 5-6 cups (2 1/2-3 pounds) fresh or frozen tart pitted cherries
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Sugar in the Raw

For the dough: In a mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt, and butter. Mix on medium speed until the butter is broken down into pea-sized shapes. Add cold water. Turn up the speed on the mixer a few times until dough just comes together. Turn out on the table, press dough together with your hands and divide into two equal portions. Wrap them in plastic wrap until ready to use. (It’s a good idea to leave them overnight in the refrigerator.)

For the filling: Cook the cherries in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. When they start to juice, add sugar and cornstarch. Cook until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add extracts.

For the pie: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Split the dough in half. Roll 2 9-inch circles and press one into the pan. Pour the cooked cherry filling into the pie shell. Whisk together egg and milk to create egg wash. Brush wash around the crust rim of the bottom pie shell. Put the top crust on, and pinch together around the outside. Using thumb and forefinger, crimp the crusts together. Put in the fridge or freezer for 45 minutes. Cut 8 star-shaped vents in the top and brush the top crust with egg wash. Sprinkle Sugar in the Raw on top and bake 15 minutes at 375 degrees and then 30-40 minutes at 325 degrees.

Sweet and Moist Northern-Style Cornbread

Joshua Bousel on seriouseats.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly, plus 1 additional tablespoon for pan
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Cast iron skillet

Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet on middle rack in oven and preheat to 425. In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together sour cream, buttermilk, eggs, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and canola oil. Pour wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and whisk until completely combined. Using pot holders, carefully remove hot pan from oven. Place 1 tablespoon butter in skillet and swirl to completely melt and coat inside of pan. Pour in cornbread batter and place in oven. Bake until skewer inserted into middle of cornbread comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out to wire rack and let cool an additional 10 minutes. Serve immediately. Reheat any leftover cornbread before serving again.

Notes: Preheating the pan and coating it with butter creates a dark crust with a light, nutty flavor. Using sour cream along with buttermilk increases the mild tanginess and overall flavor of the bread. Adding a little oil to the batter results in a more cake-like moistness.

Okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancake)

From “Will It Skillet?” by Daniel Shumski (Workman, 2017)

Ingredients

  • 10-inch cast iron skillet
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 scallions, green and white parts, finely chopped separately
  • 3 1/2 cups shredded cabbage (about half a small head)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon neutral-flavored oil (such as canola or peanut)
  • 6 strips bacon
  • Toasted sesame seeds, chopped scallion greens, Okonomiyaki Sauce (recipe below), and mayonnaise, for serving

Preheat oven on its lowest setting. (This allows you to keep the first okonomiyaki warm while you finish the second.) In a large bowl, combine the flour, white parts of the scallions, and cabbage. In a small bowl, combine water, eggs and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the flour and vegetables and stir gently, only enough to bring everything together.

Place the skillet over medium-high heat, add oil, and heat until hot but not smoking, about 2 minutes. Add half the batter and push it down with a spatula to flatten into a thick pancake, leaving about 1/2 inch of the pan visible around the battler. (This will give your spatula room to slide under later.) Turn the heat to medium and cook until the underside is browned, about 4 minutes.

Place 3 strips of the bacon atop the pancake (cut or bend it to fit). Flip the pancake so the bacon is touching the skillet. If it comes apart when you flip it, don’t worry use a spatula to herd any stray parts back together. (Don’t be tentative with the flipping one swift and fluid motion is best.) Cook until the bacon is crisp (lift edge of the pancake with a spatula to check) and no uncooked egg remains, about 5 minutes more.

Place the finished okonomiyaki on a plate and move it into the oven to keep it warm while you make a second pancake, using the steps above. Because of the bacon fat, you may not need to add more oil, and may in fact have to pour some off.

Cut the okonomiyaki into quarters, top with sesame seeds and scallion greens. In Japan, the sauce and mayonnaise are often drizzled with a squeeze bottle in a zig-zag pattern over the okonomiyaki, or it can be served on the side.

Okonomiyaki Sauce

From “Will It Skillet” by Daniel Shumski (Workman Publishing, 2017)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well with a fork.

Ricotta, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

From “Will It Skillet?” by Daniel Shumski (Workman Publishing, 2017)

Many recipes call for frozen spinach to be drained, but in this case the liquid from the spinach is all part of the plan. It helps to hydrate and cook the noodles. Editor’s note: We prefer cooking the noodles ahead and draining the spinach in this recipe the noodles just didn’t seem to soften enough using the no-boil version.

Ingredients

  • 10-inch cast iron skillet
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing the skillet
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 4 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles (see editor’s note)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with one rack in the middle. Preheat skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil to the skillet, allow it to heat 1 minute, then add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften, about 10 minutes. Taste to check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. Remove and discard the garlic. Pour the mushrooms and any liquid into a bow and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the spinach with the ricotta, egg, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Rub a coating of olive oil on the skillet and then layer the ingredients in this order: 3/4 cup of the ricotta mixture 1 cup of the marinara sauce half of the mushrooms and their liquid half of the noodles (break them as necessary to cover the whole skillet) 3/4 cup of the ricotta mixture 1 cup of the marinara sauce the remaining mushrooms and any liquid the remaining noodles the remaining ricotta mixture and the remaining marinara sauce.

Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly across the top of the lasagna. Cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake until the mixture is bubbling and the lasagna noodles are tender, about 45 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes, before serving hot.

Potato-Crusted Ham Quiche

From “Will It Skillet” by Daniel Shumski (Workman Publishing, 2017)

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups diced white or yellow onion (about 1 medium-sized onion)
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup diced cooked ham
  • 2 medium-sized russet potatoes (about 1 pound total)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup shredded mild cheese (Fontina, Gruyere or Swiss)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with one rack in the middle. Add 2 teaspoons of the oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat until the oil is hot, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and the mushrooms are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add the spinach in two batches, cooking and stirring each time until the spinach wilts, about 30 seconds.

Drain off as much liquid as possible and scrape the vegetables into a large bowl. Add the ham and set aside.

Wipe the skillet clean. Use a paper towel to rub 1 teaspoon of the oil into the skillet. Using the coarse side of a box grater or food processor, shred the potatoes. (You should have 3 1/2 cups.) Squeeze the potatoes in a clean kitchen towel until they’re as dry as you can manage. (Immediately rinse the towel to avoid discoloration.)

In a medium-sized bowl, toss the potatoes with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Press potatoes into the skillet in an even layer across the bottom and all the way up the sides. Bake until the potatoes are golden brown at the edges, about 30 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and set the temperature to 325 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Drain the ham and vegetables. Distribute the cheese evenly atop the potato. Spread the ham and vegetables in an even layer over the cheese. Pour in the egg mixture.

Bake until the eggs are set at the edges (the center may still jiggle a bit), about 30 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 170 degrees in the center.

Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cast iron skillet steak

“I really prefer my cast iron skillet to cook steaks,” says Jack Yara, assistant butcher at Oliver’s Meat & Seafood Market in Denver. “It’s how I usually recommend to people that they cook theirs, too.

“Cast iron is the most consistent cooking surface for that (surface) caramelization that is the difference between a well-cooked steak and a poorly cooked one.”

Here is Yara’s step-by-step method of “grilling” steaks indoors on a cast iron surface.

“For a one-and-half-inch thick steak, take it out of the package and let it get to room temperature. Salt it before cooking it that draws out moisture from it. People think the moisture is blood, but it’s really just water that’s retained by the muscle. Getting rid of moisture means that it will brown (in the pan) instead of just steaming.

“Oil a 12-inch (cast iron) skillet generously I prefer canola oil because of its higher smoke point. When it just starts smoking, sear the steak three to four minutes on each side and then place the pan, steak and all, in a (preheated) 350-degree oven and finish it to your desired temperature.”

The oven placement is key to finishing the steak’s cooking slowly you cannot cook a steak that thick — even merely to rare, much less medium-rare — without burning, not browning or caramelizing, its exterior. Just use an instant-read thermometer to reach the interior temperature that you desire (for instance, 140 for medium-rare), being sure to let the steak rest for a minimum of five minutes before tucking into it to allow the juices, as Anthony Bourdain puts it, “left undisturbed and unmolested, to redistribute through the resting meat in a lovely and rewarding way.”


The Myth: You should never wash cast iron with soap.

THE TESTING: During our extensive recipe-testing process we generated hundreds of dirty skillets and thus had plenty of opportunities to test different cleaning methods. While developing our recommended procedure, we experimented with a variety of cleansers, including dish soap and scouring powders.

THE TAKEAWAY: We found that a few drops of dish soap are not enough to interfere with the polymerized bonds on the surface of a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Don&rsquot scrub the pan with abrasives like steel wool or use harsh cleansers like Comet, and don&rsquot soak the pan, since those things can definitely affect the seasoning, but it&rsquos OK to use a few drops of dish soap if you need to clean up a particularly greasy pan, or even if that just makes you feel more comfortable with your cast iron. Just make sure you rinse the pan clean and wipe it dry when you&rsquore finished.


8 Foolproof Tips to Master Cast-Iron Cooking

There’s cooking stovetop, and then there’s cooking stovetop with a cast-iron skillet. And for those of us who live and die by the iron throne (er, skillet), there’s no substitute. A well-seasoned skillet can crisp up pork chops and cornbread alike. You can make a homey pear-bourbon crisp or elegant tarte tatin in it, plush biscuits or tender cake. Let’s be honest: It’s a kitchen must-have that we just can’t live without.

We wanted to get to the bottom of what makes cast-iron cooking so very marvelous, so we interrogated our Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen Cook, Belle English along with Kris Stubblefield, the Test Kitchen Cook for Lodge, Americas oldest manufacturer of cast-iron cookware. Here’s what they had to say.

1. What do you love about cast-iron cooking?

“I love the color and char it gives what you are cooking. And how hot it gets!” says Belle English. “It just adds a dynamic edge to your food, flavor- and texture-wise. And the older it is, the better it gets. My mom’s cast iron is older than I am . . . and you can taste it.”

2. What is it best for?

“Honestly, everything. But my “must be cooked in cast-iron foods” are steak (duh), and cornbread (less duh but important!). Cast irons are good for anything you want an immediate crust or color on,” Belle says.

According to Lodge Test Kitchen Cook, Kris Stubblefield, “one of the only things I won’t do in my cast iron is boil noodles. Cast iron is a must for searing meats, baking, braising, frying, and a whole lot more.”

3. How do you choose which kind of pan works best for different foods and dishes?

“I think about my desired texture and how different pans will affect the desired texture. For example, I want a soft edge on my fried eggs, so I’ll use a more gentle surface like nonstick. Or for a stir-fry, I want high-heat retention and a quick sear, so I’ll use a classic aluminum. For the perfect steak, I want a hot pan that will give me a nice, seasoned crust, so it’s cast-iron all the way,” says Belle.

“Another benefit of a cast iron pan is how easily it moves from the stovetop to the oven,” explains Kris. Also, you can use any type of utensil on it, unlike non-stick cookware because there are no chemical coatings to damage.

4. What are 3 tips for mastering foolproof cast-iron cooking?

1) Heat and cool your cast iron cookware slowly.

2) Let the cast iron do most of the work, a.k.a., don’t move or fidget with the food while its cooking! It knows what to do.

3) The more you use it the better it gets.

5. How do you clean your cast-iron pan?

“My biggest tip is to never let your cast iron air dry. It will rust and stain your countertop and never forgive you. Dry it off and wipe it down with oil. Oh, and never soak it!,” explains Belle.

6. What’s the best way to store it?

“Well-seasoned in your (disastrous) normal pot and pan drawer. At home, I actually keep my cast iron skillet on my stove at pretty much all times. That way it absorbs all the kitchen grit,” Belle explains.

Kris Stubblefield of Lodge also likes to store his cast iron cookware on the stovetop or a kitchen cabinet, recommending to store it in a dry place. Also, “if you’re storing your cookware for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to use a paper towel to separate different pieces of iron. The paper towel will absorb any excess oil or ambient moisture,” he says.

7. Do you need less seasoning, salt, or oil in a cast-iron pan as other pans or not?

“No for salt and perhaps for oil. Depending on what you are cooking and how old your cast iron is, oil levels may change. Always start with a little oil, you can always add more!,” explains Belle.

8. Any myths about cast-iron cooking?

According to Belle, “The #1 myth is that you can’t use soap on your cast iron. A little soap never hurt nobody. The second is that cast irons are only for meats and things. I make cinnamon rolls in my cast-iron pan, even apple pies and giant cookies, ohh, and deep-dish pizzas. As Cady Heron once said, ‘The limit does not exist.'”


5 Myths of Cast Iron Cookware

Here are five debunked myths about cast-iron cookware.

This is just advertising from Lodge. At one time they were selling the benefit of the extra iron from cast iron pans, now they are distancing themselves from it since we've learned it hardens arteries and organs.

A study published in the July 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that cooking in cast iron skillets added significant amounts of iron to 20 foods tested. For example, the researchers reported that the iron content of three ounces of applesauce increased from 0.35 mg to 7.3 mg and scrambled eggs increased from 1.49 mg to 4.76 mg of iron.

So if this Lodge sales person would like to point me to some other peer reviewed literature when they debunk more myths, Iɽ love to see them. Or their answer will probably be, "It must be seasoned properly" which is complete bullshit and just a way to shift the blame for any deficiencies of their product to the consumer.

Amounts of iron released from iron pots vary from meal to meal. The effects of salt, pH, and organic acids as iron chelators were studied. Maize (corn) porridges were prepared in a cast iron pot from maize flour and 12 aqueous solutions with different pH (3.7 or 7.2), salt contents (0% or 0.5% NaCl), and organic acids (1% lactate, 1% citrate, or none). Salt had no effect, but acidic pH or organic acids (citrate > lactate) significantly increased iron amount, from 1.7 mg to 26.8 mg Fe per 100 g. The amounts released could be important in the treatment and prevention of iron deficiency.

Findings 407 children, one per household, entered the study. The change in haemoglobin concentration was greater in the iron-pot group than in the aluminium-pot group (mean change to 12 months 1·7 [SD 1·5] vs 0·4 [1·0] g/dL mean difference between groups 1·3 g/dL [95% CI 1·1—1·6]). The mean differences between the groups in weight and length gain to 12 months (adjusted for baseline weight or length) were 0·6 cm (95% CI 0·1—1·0) and 0·1 kg (−0·1 to 0·3). The laboratory study showed that total and available iron was greatest in foods cooked in iron pots, except for available iron in legumes for which there was no difference between types of pot. Interpretation Ethiopian children fed food from iron pots had lower rates of anaemia and better growth than children whose food was cooked in aluminium pots. Provision of iron cooking pots for households in less-developed countries may be a useful method to prevent iron-deficiency anaemia.

Iron deficiency is still very common in the United States and the developed world. I can't find evidence that the amount of iron leached by a cast iron skillet would be significant enough to push most people into risky territory. People getting too much iron in their diet probably need to think about changing their diet rather than changing their cooking equipment.


10 Myths About Cast Iron Cookware, Busted!

Can you use soap on cast iron? Is it safe to use metal utensils? Can you cook tomato sauce in cast iron? Chances are, you've probably heard a lot of tall tales about cast iron use, appearance, and care. But we're here to bust the most common myths and misconceptions about Lodge cast iron cookware so that you can start cooking with confidence today!

Myth: You can't use soap to clean cast iron cookware.

Fact: Soap isn't necessary, but you can use mild dish soap to clean cast iron. The seasoning on Lodge cast iron is fairly resilient and can withstand a little bit of soap, water, and a good scrub with a brush.

Myth: Your cast iron cookware is ruined if it rusts.

Fact: Think again! While rust can happen, it can be easily removed simply scrub the area with steel wool and follow our easy steps to re-season your cast iron pan. To prevent rust from returning, dry promptly after each use, and finish with a light layer of cooking oil.

Myth: You can't use metal utensils on cast iron cookware.

Fact: Cast iron is the most durable metal you'll ever cook with. That means any utensil is welcome — silicone, wooden, and even metal.

Myth: You can't use cast iron cookware on glass-top stoves.

Fact: Lodge is safe for use on various heat sources, including glass-top stoves. Simply handle with care on the stovetop — do not slide, and always remove from the stovetop after cooking.

Myth: You need to season a new Lodge cast iron pan.

Fact: Great news — we do that for you! We spray a thin layer of vegetable oil onto the surface and bake it at a high temperature in a large oven to season the cookware before it leaves the foundry.

Myth: You can't cook acidic or alkaline food in cast iron.

Fact: These foods, in small quantities, are just fine to cook in brand new cookware. But large amounts of very acidic or alkaline foods can break down the seasoning when cooked for extended periods of time. If it removes too much seasoning, simply follow our steps to re-season your cast iron cookware.

Myth: Your foundry-seasoned cast iron cookware never has to be seasoned again.

Fact: Even though your new cookware is seasoned and ready to use, it's still important to care for your cookware after each use. Wash with warm water, dry promptly, and rub with oil — that's it.

Myth: Your cast iron cookware is unbreakable.

Fact: Cast iron is incredibly durable, but it's not indestructible. Keep in mind that cast iron will break before it bends and should still be treated with care like any other piece of cookware.

Myth: Your cast iron cookware has a chemical coating that gives it the black patina.

Fact: Unlike other companies that use paint for a black sheen, Lodge seasoning is 100% natural. The oil is baked on during the manufacturing process, and the black patina that remains is a carbon deposit left by the oil on the skillet.

Myth: You can't use cast iron on induction cooktops.

Fact: Your new cookware is right at home on – or in – any heat source, indoors or outside, except the microwave.

When using our double burner items on an induction cooktop, your stove should have a bridge element to prevent the cookware from heating unevenly.