A few years back my daughter bought me a Lodge cast iron pan, since she knows I love to cook but hadn’t picked one up. Let me tell you, I’d forgotten how much fun it is to cook with the “original” non-stick surface. And while I don’t use it every day, I do use it for steaks (both thick and “chicken fried”) and anything else that needs browning, deep frying, “all sides” cooking (pizza) or would otherwise make a mess in conventional cookware.
Let me share some background on cast iron. As the name implies, it’s a heavy iron pan, so it can take a lot of heat and a lot of abuse (not that you should abuse your pan). Today’s cast iron comes “pre-seasoned” – what that means is that it’s been oiled and baked at the factory. All you need to do for maintenance is to remember to keep it lightly oiled (the oil keeps it from “oxidizing”, which causes rust). I oil mine (which consists of rubbing a light coat over the entire pan) with olive oil. Just remember to never store your pan in a damp place – it is iron after all.
And if you’re worried about cleanup – don’t. Frequent cast iron users know that cleaning cast iron is pretty much a snap. Let me tell you how easy it is – let the pan cool, scrape everything out (wipe out excess oil/grease), put it on the burner on “hi” until it “bakes” everything to ash – it will smoke, so use your vent fan – when the smoke dies down, it’s clean (about a half-hour). Let it cool, then re-oil it – that’s it. Of course you can wash it in soap and water, but why would you? Any germs have already been “burnt to a crisp”.
And that’s pretty much it. Now Lodge, one of the top manufacturers, also offers accessories for their pans, which I recommend investing in. The ones I use are the silicone hot handle holders and the poly-carbonate pan scrapers (these pan scrapers also work GREAT on glass, teflon and everything else). You can find them on Lodge’s website or Amazon (where I got mine) along with any other tools you feel you may need. As a bonus, here’s your first recipe:
Cast Iron Deep Dish Pizza
(read the whole recipe before starting)
In a previous life, I used to go to a pizza house that served a “spaghetti and meatball” pizza. This is one of my favorites and another one of my favorites is Uno’s deep dish. So, I combined the two by using my cast iron skillet and a little ingenuity. It’s pretty simple and I think it comes out great – all you need is spaghetti, meatballs, sauce, shredded cheese and Bisquick (I use a 12 inch pan and found that 1 box of spaghetti fits perfectly):
Make spaghetti and meatballs your favorite way, with your favorite sauce (be a little generous with the sauce – “juicy” but not “runny”) – Cut it all into bite-sized pieces. Let it cool.
Make sure your pan is freshly oiled inside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On the Bisquick box is a recipe for biscuits – mix according to the instructions and roll out as thin as you can to a size that will fit in and up-the-sides of your cast iron pan. I tend to mix garlic and onion powder into the Bisquick mix before adding the milk – it seems to add a little extra flavor to the crust. Place the crust in the pan.
Add some sauce to the bottom – enough to cover the crust. Add spaghetti and meatball mix enough to fill half way. Cover with your favorite shredded cheese (I use 6 cheese Italian) enough so that it will melt down a little. Add more spaghetti and meatball mix to fill the pan. Generously cover the top with shredded cheese and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool slightly and enjoy – the great taste of spaghetti and meatballs with cheese surrounded by a biscuity crust.