Even though heavy iron cookware was first brought to North America by the early settlers of New England, no one appreciates the pots and pans like Southern cooks. Every home cook has at least one well-seasoned skillet they couldn't imagine cooking without, and many have corn stick and muffin pans, grill pans, and larger kettles or Dutch ovens, all made of heavy cast iron.
One of the reasons heavy iron is so highly valued is its cooking properties. Heat is evenly distributed and held, making it ideal for deep frying, searing, and even baking. And the versatility of the iron pot or skillet is unrivaled; use it on the stovetop, grill, oven, or over a roaring campfire. If you're still not convinced, check the price. An iron skillet costs a fraction of the price of a comparable heavy aluminum or stainless steel pan, and it should last a lifetime.
Heavy iron cookware does have its drawbacks. The pots are quite heavy, often requiring two hands to lift, and might not be an option for cooks with physical limitations. They can become rusty if not properly cared for and seasoned regularly, a feature that could be a challenge for some.
Care and Seasoning
To season a new iron pot, wash with mild soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly, and then coat the entire surface with oil or melted shortening, including outside and handles, and a lid if the pot has one. Once the entire surface is well-greased, place the pot in a 300 F oven for about 30 minutes, with a baking sheet under it to catch any drips, and then let it cool slightly; remove and wipe with paper towels. After each use, wash with mild soapy water and dry thoroughly, then add a little oil or melted fat to the pan and coat the inner surfaces completely.
If the pan ever begins to show signs of rusting or imparts a "metallic" taste, it will need to be reseasoned. Scour the pan well with steel wool and wash with soapy water. Rinse, dry thoroughly, then coat with shortening or oil and place in a 250° oven for about 2 hours. Wipe with paper towels to absorb any excess oil, and it's ready to use. Never put iron pots in the dishwasher.
Note: With so many pans now coming "pre-seasoned," there's little need to go through the "new pan" seasoning process. You will, however, need to wash as directed and continue oiling the pans.
Recipes Using Cast Iron Cookware
Lemon Thyme Roasted Chicken - Lemon, thyme, garlic, and other herbs are combined to flavor this easy roast chicken.
Iron Skillet Roasted Chicken - This chicken is roasted to perfection with a savory seasoning rub and olive oil.
Perfect Rib Eye Roast Recipe - Sometimes the simplest ingredients make the best dishes. This incredibly delicious roast beef is seasoned with garlic, cracked black pepper, and kosher salt.
Slow Roasted Pork Butt - Succulent pork butt (pork shoulder) is roasted to perfection in a cast iron skillet.
Apple Oven Pancake - This baked apple Dutch baby is an easy breakfast to prepare in a skillet.
Kevin Browning's Jack Daniels Ham - This fabulous recipe takes a ham to new heights with the delicious Jack Daniel's glaze.
Easy Brunswick Stew with Pork and Chicken - This Brunswick stew isn't made with squirrel, but the old-time flavor is there with the barbecue sauce base and chunks of chicken and pork shoulder.
Classic Southern Fried Chicken - A basic recipe for tender, juicy Southern-style fried chicken.
Texas Skillet Cobbler - This easy skillet cobbler is made with cherry pie filling and a biscuit topping.
Crispy-Skinned Chicken Thighs - This delicious bone-in chicken thigh recipe is perfect for a family meal or make them for a game day gathering or a picnic.
Savory Cheddar Bacon Cornbread - Moist and crust cornbread is made with crumbled smoky bacon and shredded cheddar cheese.