Cast Iron Cookware
by Amanda Formaro
It has been said, over and over in fact, that there is nothing
better than food prepared in a cast iron pan. Several dishes,
including Mexican fajitas, Cajun seafood, sausage & eggs, and of
course, cornbread, are hailed as delicious when prepared in these
pans. Cast iron is also the cookware of choice amongst serious
campers and hikers, but be sure to bring the pack mule, this
stuff is heavy!
Why Cast Iron?
There are several reasons that people rave about this type of
cookware, many won't use anything else. Besides being an ideal
heat conductor, cast iron heats evenly and consistently, is
inexpensive, and will last a lifetime with the proper care. When
seasoned, a cast iron pan will be stick resistant and provide
delectable meals every time.
When you season cast iron, you are embedding grease in to the
pores of the cookware. Without proper seasoning, cast iron will
rust after coming in contact with water. To season your cookware,
first warm your pot or skillet, then rub a thin layer of
shortening (or corn oil as some cooks suggest) all over the
surface of the pan, inside and out. Lay the pan upside down
inside a 350 degree oven. Most cookware manufacturers suggest
heating the pan for one hour, while some cooks suggest up to 4-5
hours for just the right amount of seasoning. The shortening will
turn in to a non-sticky, hard coating. Allow the pan to cool
overnight as it will be quite hot. Remember, cast iron retains
heat very well, so allow for ample cooling time. Some cooks
recommend repeating this process one, or even two times, before
using your cookware. Seasoning should also be repeated after each
use of the cookware.
Note: Acidic foods, such as tomatoes, can deteriorate the
seasoned coating of your pots and pans.
Using Your Cast Iron
Preheat your cookware before preparing your meal. Water droplets
should sizzle, then roll and hop around the pan, when dropped on
to the heated surface. If water disappears immediately after
being dropped, the pan is too hot and will surely burn your food.
If water only rests and bubbles, the pan is not quite hot enough.
Caution: Do not pour significant amounts of cold liquid in to a
hot skillet or pot, this can cause the cast iron to break.
Blackened Catfish & Shrimp1/2 C paprika
6 T kosher salt
1/4 C coarsely ground black pepper
3 T basil
3 T file powder
2 T garlic powder
2 T dry mustard
2 T onion powder
2 T dried oregano
2 T cayenne (reduce by 1/2 if you want it mild)
2 T white pepper
2 T dried thyme
Mix all ingredients together to make the Cajun Dynamite Dust that
you will use in the Blackened Catfish. To store, place in an
airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Place the Cajun Dynamite Dust seasoning on a flat plate. Coat
each catfish fillet and shrimp with seasoning. Using your hands,
rub the seasoning into the fish and shrimp.
Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, add
butter and heat until sizzling. Add catfish and shrimp and pan
fry until blackened on both sides, turning once. Serve on a bed
of Red Beans and Rice.
Famous Dave's Corn Bread with Honey Jalapeno Glaze
1 C yellow cornmeal
1 C stone ground cornmeal
1 (9 oz.) package yellow cake mix
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/2 C milk
1/2 C buttermilk
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 T light brown sugar
2 T honey
1 T mayonnaise
Jalapeno Honey Glaze
1/2 C butter
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely diced
3 T red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 C honey
1/8 tsp. cayenne
Combine cornmeals, cake mix, baking powder, salt and cayenne in a
bowl, set aside.
Combine milk, buttermilk, oil, eggs, brown sugar and honey in a
bowl and mix well. Add to the cornmeal mixture and mix gently -
there should be no lumps, but do not overmix. Fold in the
mayonnaise. Let rest, covered, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes
or up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spoon the cold batter into a
greased muffin tin or a cast iron skillet. Bake for 25 - 30
minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the top is
In the meantime, make the glaze by heating butter in a saucepan
until melted. Stir in jalapeno and bell pepper. Bring to a
simmer. Stir in honey and cayenne. Bring to a simmer, stirring
occasionally. Remove from heat. Drizzle over Famous Dave's Corn
Note: You can make the glaze ahead of time and store it, covered,
in the refrigerator. Re-heat before serving.
Famous Dave's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
2/3 C packed light brown sugar
1/3 + 1/4 C butter, softened, divided
2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
9 canned pineapple slices
9 maraschino cherry halves
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 C shortening
1/4 C pineapple juice
1/4 C half and half
1/4 C buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix brown sugar and 1/3 cup butter
in a bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and cinnamon. Spread evenly
over the bottom of an ungreased 9" cast iron skillet or a 9" x 9"
baking pan. Heat until the brown sugar melts.
Arrange pineapple slices over the brown sugar mixture. Place a
cherry half in the middle of each slice. Beat egg yolks in a
mixer bowl until thickened. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating
constantly until blended.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt together in a large mixing
bowl. Add shortening, 1/4 cup butter, pineapple juice, half and
half, buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until blended,
scraping the bowl occasionally. Mix in egg yolk mixture. Fold in
stiffly beaten egg whites.
Spoon the batter into the prepared skillet. Bake for 35 - 40
minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Invert the
skillet onto a serving platter, allowing the skillet to rest on
the cake for several minutes before removing.
Caring For Your Cookware
The conventional method, and most often recommended, is to wash
your cast iron pots in boiling water, no soap, and to use a high
quality scrub brush. Some cooks say there is nothing wrong with
using soap when cleaning your cookware, you can even use
synthetic scouring pads, just use extra care when scrubbing.
Regardless of the method you choose to wash your cookware, be
sure to dry it thoroughly with a lint free towel directly after
washing, as cast iron is prone to rust. Seasoning your cookware
after each use is also a must to retain the quality and life of
Durable and improves with age
Claims have been made repeatedly that food is more flavorful
Good heat conductor, heats evenly and quickly
Can place pots and pans directly on glowing coals (camping)
Last a lifetime with minimal or no damage
Weight - cast iron is quite heavy Having to maintain the
seasoning Not dishwasher safe
Recommendation - Extremely high. For the value that cast iron
provides, the delicious meals that it develops, and the
durability that it maintains, the time it takes to care for this
cookware is well worth it.
Special thanks goes to Fabulous Foods for allowing the reprint of
the fabulous cast iron recipes used in this article.
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About the Author Amanda Formaro is the mother of four children.
She and her husband live in southeastern Wisconsin. She is the
owner of The Family Corner.com website.<http://www.familycorner.com>