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Versatile and Reliable: Meet the one pan every cook needs

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Versatile and Reliable: Meet the one pan every cook needs

I have a kitchen filled to the rafters with all sorts of cooking utensils. As a professional recipe developer and cookery writer, I can say it’s for work. But my cast iron skillet is the pan I use more often than any other.

A cast iron pan is one of the most versatile and reliable kitchen equipment for any cook, and unlike most electronic kitchen items, it can last for generations. (I am looking at you, air fryer).

As it withstands high temperatures and retains heat well, cast iron can go from the stove to the oven – which I love. It’s just as good for searing steaks or chicken breasts as it is for scrambled eggs, sautéed vegetables, cooking homemade tortillas, or even baking a fruit pie.

It’s also an affordable piece among pans – so collecting cast iron can become an obsession. I love restoring vintage cast iron pans that I find in antique stores, but novice cast iron cooks can buy a Lodge frying pan online, with prices starting at R$60.

Despite what you may have heard, I can assure you that cast iron pans are incredibly easy to maintain. You don’t need more than hot water to clean them, along with a little kosher salt to rub off the toughest bits. How’s that for sustainability?

Frustrated cooks often ask me what they can do with their scratched nonstick pans, and I wholeheartedly recommend cast iron as a durable substitute.

Unlike coated nonstick pans, the finish on a cast iron pan will not degrade over time. In fact, the non-stick properties of cast iron improve with repeated use, as the oils used in cooking become part of the pan itself.

There’s also no need to worry about using cast iron metal utensils. If you accidentally scratch the finish, you can easily season cast iron skillets with heat and vegetable oil.

A note: until you have prepared the seasoning for the pan, avoid cooking highly acidic foods such as tomatoes, vinegar, wine or citrus fruits in the pan. The acid can eat away at the end, but a well-seasoned pan can handle a brief cooking with these ingredients. (Use enamelled cast iron pieces, such as a Dutch oven, for dishes that require longer cooking, such as tomato sauce.)

What to do in your cast iron skillet

For most meals, a 25cm cast iron skillet is the pan you’ll want to use every time. Once you start using it, you’ll find it on the stovetop (or in the oven) for many meals, but here are some suggestions to get you started.

Shepherd’s pie

There’s no need to have a casserole when making this hearty, rustic dish. Saute and cook the ground beef (or lentils, for a vegetarian option) and vegetables in the skillet with wine and broth, then top with mashed potatoes and transfer the pan to the oven.

And while the names are often used interchangeably, “shepherd’s pie” traditionally refers to a lamb-based version of the dish, while “country house pie” refers to the beef-based version. . To make the variation known as Cumberland pie, top the mashed potatoes with shredded cheese and breadcrumbs.

pasta with cheese

While many recipes call for boiling and cooking the macaroni separately from the cream cheese sauce, you can do it all in one skillet for a creamy one-pot meal with crispy chunks. Who needs boxed macaroni and cheese when you have that stovetop option?

When the craving for macaroni and cheese hits midsummer, there’s no need to heat up the oven. Use your special skillet to make a bubbly plate of macaroni and cheese baked right on your grill.

Roasted chicken and vegetables

While roasting a whole chicken is always a winning comfort food dish, bone-in chicken breasts and thighs are ideal for a hearty skillet meal because it’s easy to get a crispy finish on the cuts.

The simplest method is this: brown the chicken skin-side down in oil or butter over medium high heat (takes about three or four minutes), then set aside and briefly saute the vegetables in the dripping pan. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up, and bake at 200 degrees Celsius until the chicken reaches 75 degrees on a meat thermometer.

The variations on this meal plan are almost endless, but you can start with chicken and wild mushrooms, Greek-style chicken thighs with olives and lemon, or roasted chicken and potatoes with pot sauce.

pan pizza

When you want a thick, chewy crust for family pizza night, ditch the baking stone and use the cast iron skillet. Preheating the skillet in the oven gives the dough a sizzling surface that helps the pizza puff up to “pillow heights”.

When using store-bought pizza dough, bring the dough to room temperature before rolling it out. This helps to avoid the dreaded backlash reaction that prevents the dough from completely filling the shape.

Or for pizza that will take you back to the days of red plaid tablecloths, Tiffany-style lamps (and the Book It! program for millennials), make your own pizza dough.

“Dutch Babies”

For a weekend breakfast — or a weekday breakfast like dinner — grab the cast iron skillet to make a stunning-looking “Baby Dutch” pie.

This family-sized pancake swells in the oven and then deflates to create a bowl-shaped dough that’s perfect for topping with sweet or savory ingredients.

Try a sweet version of maple buttermilk topped with fruit and cream or a savory tart topped with poached eggs and ham.

Corn bread

If you like it sweetened with sugar or honey, loaded with fresh corn or jalapeño peppers, or topped with butter, cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet is even better because of the crispy crust.

Preheat the pan in the oven and add enough oil or fat (like bacon drippings) to coat the bottom of the pan before pouring the batter. Any cornbread recipe sized for a 9-inch pan will also work in a skillet. Try this extra crunchy version made with polenta and corn.

Tahdig

This traditional Persian rice dish is famous for its golden, crispy undercoat, and that’s a feat you can easily achieve in a cast iron skillet.

By maintaining heat, the pan helps the rice cook to a crispy finish without burning or scalding in spots. Make rice as a side dish or serve it as its own meal topped with chickpeas, saffron and greens or seasoned chicken.

Frying pan brownies and cookies

If you make a large Negresco studded brownie or chocolate chip cookie in a cast iron skillet, is it considered a single serving? Whether you prefer the crunchy, chewy edges or the moist, rich center — or a little bit of both — these desserts deliver it all. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top.

Casey Barber is a food writer, artist, and editor at Good. Food. Stories.

Source: CNN Brasil

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