One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to become proficient at cooking with Cast Iron. Why? You might ask.
Well, because it’s one of those things that makes me feel like a gown up. Like sewing and crocheting and baking bread. I’m not saying I won’t ever order pizza again, but it just seems like something the amazing older women in my life know how to do.
And the people who cook with Cast Iron LOVE it. Like get a picture of dutch oven tattooed on their fanny love it.
I never hear people go on and on about their other cookware, but ask a cast iron lover about it and prepare to listen to a speech on the magic of it. So I figure I need to check this out.
Plus, in our culture of disposable things, getting back to basics is kind of a mantra to me. It helps me feel settled to feel self-reliant in an unreliable world.
Plus plus…we just bought a tiny RV so I’m excited to get back out into nature more often. My favorite part of camping is cooking, so I’m embracing it with gusto!
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Getting Started with Cast Iron
I definitely can get shiny object syndrome. You know…here’s a fabulous new idea, I embrace it and get all stocked up and then about 24 days later a new idea pops up and I kind of set it to the side for the new fun idea.
However, I’m working to combat this part of my nature by choosing things that are new lifestyle habits not simply a new hobby.
Also, by blogging about them. Thank you internet world for helping me stay focused.
I will start by admitting 110% that I am no expert on Cast Iron cooking yet. Thanks to the internet I don’t have to be. I started reading and re-read as many different experts as I could on the topic.
As well as about 100 others. Unanimously all voted that the Le Creuset pan is fan-freaking-tastic, but probably out of budget for anyone starting out in the Cast Iron World. (me) The better choice for beginners that won’t break your wallet, are the Lodge pans. More on that later.
It turns out there is a lot more to cast iron cooking then simply walking out and buying a heavy black pan.
The amount of options alone is a little traumatic.
Here’s what I have determined is a good starting point for me.
As we are planning to be doing a lot of camping, I chose a camp dutch oven. After a lot of hesitating and adding to and deleting from cart I decided that a stove top dutch oven has to be on my wish list.What’s the difference you might ask? I know I certainly did.
The Camp Dutch Oven has 3 legs so it can rest over hot coals. Theoretically you build a fire, place your coals in there to light and heat. Place your dutch oven and cook up your fabulous mountain man breakfast (or mountain woman breakfast as the case may be.)
The camp dutch oven also has a lip around the rim allowing for placement of charcoal briquettes on top as well. Thus allowing for creating an oven like environment and some delicious looking bread.
To add to your purchasing dilemma, you also need to choose shallow or deep and overall size. Shallow is traditionally chosen for it’s bread making and deep for it’s stew capabilities. As well as bail or no bail (handle) if you are choosing a traditional dutch oven rather than a camp oven.
Due to it’s legs you cannot use this indoors on your oven or stove.
The stove top dutch oven is flat on the bottom with a domed lid. More importantly the interior of the lid has dimples on it so that the moisture from the food drips back down helping to keep your soups and stews moist and juicy. You can also choose an enameled oven if you do not have plans to do any camping or outdoor cooking with your oven. This is also on my wish list for a birthday perhaps?
Each option comes with some pro’s and cons. You can flip the camp oven lid upside down to create a griddle. Essentially getting 2 pots in one. However you lose the dimples that some swear make everything taste better.
Ultimately you really have to determine how you’ll be using your new pot initially and slowly build your inventory. If you do not need or want to go with the camp oven, Amazon has a great starter set from Lodge that will get you started.
A skillet is the other essential item that I am collecting for my must have list. Again, there seems to be about 118 choices for a simple skillet here. Really, most of it comes down to size. How much skillet do you want/need. The skillet can go from stove to oven and is versatile in it’s ability to cook anything that will fit inside of it. At about 1/3 of the price of a dutch oven, this is an easy investment to get started.
I’ll tell you a secret. I inherited a set of cast iron skillets that were discarded by the last occupant of this house (my husband’s ex-wife). They were left in a good will pile and I pulled them out. I’ve always been a little hesitant to cook with them as I’m afraid they don’t carry good vibes. We didn’t know each other, but no one going through a divorce is at a high point in their life.
I got over that and started using one. My eggs made a mess initially. So I did a little research and learned more about brands and types of metals. The skillet’s that were left here are a brand that is imported. Solid cast iron cooks more efficiently and will retain heat better.
The solution? Lodge Manufacturing. The only current manufacturer of solid made in the USA cast iron. (Their enameled cast iron pans do come from China as well as some of their accessories. Lodge solid cast iron pans are still made in TN.)
So, my next investment is this 12″ skillet from Lodge…although the covered skillet is tempting as well since my camp oven cannot be used inside and it adds versatility. Included in the covered skillet combo is a self basting lid that also fits my camp oven.
I also intend to start a regular antique store hunt to find some cast iron that might be left behind
After learning how to properly season my pan, I get reasonable results out of the other brand that is here in the house. Scrambled eggs stick like crazy and there are hot spots galore, but skillet eggs are AMAZING and oven biscuits DELICIOUS!
Along with your chosen pan, you’ll need a few basic accessories if you don’t have them in your house already.
Naturally Amazon has a great set of Lodge accessories to simplify, but some of this you might already have.
- Non-stick cooking spray or oil
- Pan scraper
- Silicone Handle (That sucker gets HOT!!)
- Stiff not metal brush
After you choose a camp oven like mine, you’ll also need a lid lifter, heavy leather bbq or welder’s glove as well as a lid stand, long handled tongs for the briquette’s and a chimney starter.
Add to that a place to host your grill if you (like me) aren’t lucky enough to have a backyard fire pit.
My solution to that is the Camp Maid 3 in 1 grill/smoker. Which I think is a genius invention in it’s simplicity and versatility.
What am I going to cook with this now? I’d like to say everything, but that isn’t really a reality if I want to feed my family during my learning curve.
Not to mention that is hovering in the 30’s right now so outdoor cooking does lose some appeal.
However, I am loving my skillet adventures, I’ve perfected the skillet egg and created my own biscuit recipe.
Do you cook in a cast iron skillet? What are your favorite recipes?