Toolbox Wednesday: Cast Iron Skillets

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My husband is an exceptional man. He’s the kind that manages to pick up and retain everything that is said in his presence. While this may work against me during a lover’s quarrel, I find myself in joyous awe anytime he surprises me with a gift. I never have to tell him what I want for my birthday or Christmas. Not since I was a child did I contribute to those types of conversations unless there was something I saw that I absolutely had to have.

A few years ago, without voicing a single request, Jeremiah presented me with my very first cast iron skillet. I’ve seen countless TV personalities use them, and perhaps I made a comment or two about them while Jeremiah was in earshot. Nevertheless, one appeared before me, and it forever changed the way I viewed stovetop cooking.

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Cast iron skillets are a breed apart. Aside from their sturdiness, they hold and distribute heat like no other kind of pan. They are classic, versatile and, if kept up, rustically gorgeous. They are the perfect pan to sear, fry and roast things in, especially when a recipe calls for starting something on the stove that needs to be finished off in the oven.

While there is a wide variety of cookware made of cast iron, the skillet is an ideal piece to own. And of course, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have a few on hand in different sizes to cater to any occasion. Here are the 3 that I recommend owning.

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The 9 inch cast iron skillet is what I like to call my “personal size” pan. Packing all of the cast iron attributes, this skillet offers just the right amount of surface area for smaller meals feeding 1-2 people. Because of its size, this skillet fits beautifully atop most burners, allowing the bottom of the pan to heat evenly.

 

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The 10 1/2 inch cast iron skillet is the one I use most. It is the size I recommend purchasing should you only be in the market for 1 single pan. This skillet will sit atop larger burners, enabling the bottom of the pan to heat evenly. The amount of surface area is perfect for feeding 3-4 people or cooking 2 hearty-sized pieces of protein, making this pan a bit more versatile than the smaller 9 inch skillet. Despite its increase in size, this pan remains easily portable and ideal for daily use.

IMG_4101The 12 inch cast iron skillet is incredible. Its massive surface area makes this pan ideal for cooking large quantities of food. While this skillet will take the longest to heat, its ability to hold in that heat will help you keep what it is you are serving warm for quite some time. It is a gorgeous piece to serve from, impressing all those that witness the muscles bulge from your arms as you haul the skillet from the stove or oven to the table. If you like to entertain, this skillet is one you should absolutely own.

Maintenance Tips All Cast Iron Skillet Owners Should Know

Unlike many other pans, there is special maintenance that comes along with cast iron skillets. Through repeated use and a process known as seasoning, your cast iron skillet will retain a luster, avoid rusting and become quite non-stick. While many cast iron skillets that can be found in stores will come pre-seasoned, this process is one you can perform on your cast iron skillets at home. Here’s how.

To season your cast iron skillet, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat your cast iron skillet with a thin layer of vegetable or canola oil. Place your skillet top-side down on a rack. Place foil or a baking sheet under the pan to catch any oil that may drip and heat the pan for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and let the pan cool completely. 

To clean your cast iron skillet, scrub the pan with hot water and a brush or the coarse side of a sponge. Scrubbing with some kosher salt in the pan is a good way to help remove any bits left behind during the cooking process without affecting the skillet’s seasoning. 

If necessary, use a little dish soap. While a lot of cast iron skillet owners will go back and forth on this, I’ll be honest. Never using soap on a pan kind of grosses me out. Add a small amount to the hot water with which you use to wash the pan.

Dry your cast iron skillet thoroughly after each washing. This will prevent the pan from rusting. If the sheen of the pan has been washed away (which can happen if you use soap), feel free to re-season the pan using the steps above. If you do not have time to re-season the pan right away, apply the thinnest of coats of vegetable or canola oil to the pan. This will keep the pan from rusting until you are ready to officially season it again. 

Despite the additional effort in maintaining the quality of the cast iron skillet, you will very quickly find it all to be more than worth it. Cast iron is a great material to use in cooking, and the more skillets of that kind you have, the better your meals will be!

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