7 Dishes You Didn’t Know You Should Be Cooking in Your Cast Iron Skillet

Are you making cast iron skillet chili?

Food Network Kitchen’s Cornbread Crusted Chili for Comfort Cast Iron Dinners, as seen on Food Network

Photo by: Tara Donne ©©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tara Donne, ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Typically, my cast iron skillet is reserved for searing meat: steak, bone-in-skin-on chicken thighs, burgers, etc. Sometimes I’ll use it to cook up some bacon and eggs. But that’s about it. For everything else, I’ll reach for lighter pans or cooking vessels. Recently though, a friend suggested I keep my cast iron skillet out on my stovetop instead of a hard-to-reach cabinet, and my perspective on cast iron totally changed. Instead of something that I hauled out when it was "worth it," my cast iron skillet started transform so many dishes I cooked every day into spectacular versions of themselves. Below, some learnings that I’d like to share about surprising recipes you can (and should) be making in your cast iron skillet.

Apple Pie

There are few things sadder than baking an entire pie only to discover that the bottom is soggy. It’s happened to the best of us — even me! But when I started baking pie in my cast iron skillet, I banished soggy pie bottoms forever and in fact started achieving the opposite: a golden, extra crisp crust. Trisha Yearwood’s Skillet Apple Pie is an approachable way to try out the technique. If you want to tailor another recipe for a cast iron skillet, just beware that pies cook more quickly in cast iron and recipes for deep dish pies fit the best in these skillets, which are deeper than classic pie dishes.

Host Rachel Ray's Hot Sausage Cast Iron Skillet Pan Pizza, as seen on 30 Minute Meals, Season 28.

Photo by: Scott Gries

Scott Gries

Pizza

I don’t own a pizza stone (it takes up too much space), but that shouldn’t mean that fantastic homecooked pizza is out of my reach. I’ve tried making it on a pre-heated baking sheet, but my hands-down favorite way is now in a cast-iron skillet. The scorching hot cast iron metal retains heat in a similar way to a pizza stone and makes for a magically crisp crust. I love Rachael Ray’s Hot Sausage Cast-Iron Skillet Pan Pizza, which asks you to preheat your pan before you add the dough so the surface is as hot as possible.

Chili

Normally, I equate chili with a large pot bubbling away at the stove. But making it in my cast iron skillet is a game-changer because I can properly sear the ground beef first and develop deep brown color and caramelized flavor. Using a large skillet means that there’s more surface area for cooking a tasty topping on top of the chili, like cornbread. See Food Network Kitchen’s Cornbread-Topped Cast Iron Skillet Chili (pictured above) for some inspiration.

Set details for Girl's Brunch as seen on Food Network’s Ayesha’s Homemade, Season 1.

Photo by: Martin Klimek ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Martin Klimek, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

S’mores

When I saw Ayesha Curry’s recipe for Skillet S’mores on Food Network I thought the idea was pretty smart. That’s because if I don’t have a campfire to toast s’mores over, a cast iron skillet — which many people bring camping — feels just as nostalgic. Plus, the cast iron heats up hot enough to really get a char on those marshmallows, no open flame necessary.

June 2018 Fun Cooking

June 2018 Fun Cooking

Photo by: RYAN DAUSCH

RYAN DAUSCH

Fried Chicken

Shallow frying is a common technique you use to fry items like fritters or fried chicken (or in my case, latkes). You only use an inch or so of oil instead of plunging whatever you’re frying into a whole oil bath. Shallow frying recipes usually call for a large pot/pan with a heavy bottom, and your cast iron skillet is the perfect vessel. It obviously has a heavy bottom, and it remains hot once it’s preheated, preventing the oil temperature from fluctuating lots. Check out Food Network Kitchen’s recipe for Classic Fried Chicken.

A Giant Cookie

Okay, maybe you’ve heard of a cookie skillet — or maybe you’ve had one at a restaurant. But there’s a specific reason why it makes sense to make giant cookies in cast iron skillet in particular. It all comes back to the fact that cast iron heats so darn well: your cookie will have a magically crispy, caramelized exterior and a fluffy, chewy interior. If you’re indecisive like me, this way you won’t have to decide between chewy and crisp. Check out Food Network Kitchen’s Peanut Butter Skillet Cookie, Sprinkled Sugar Cookie or Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie.

WHITE SAUSAGE GRAVYFood Network KitchenFood NetworkPork Sausage, AllpurposeFlour, Milk, Baking Powder, Sugar, Fine Salt, Unsalted Butter,Heavy Cream,WHITE SAUSAGE GRAVY Food Network Kitchen Food Network Pork Sausage, Allpurpose Flour, Milk, Baking Powder, Sugar, Fine Salt, Unsalted Butter, Heavy Cream

Photo by: ; Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

; Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Gravy

Typically, gravy is made in a saucepan — but making it in a cast iron skillet actually makes more sense. The greater surface area and hotter surface means that the roux (the flour and fat mixture) cooks more quickly and achieves a richer brown color (i.e. more flavorful). For a white gravy recipe like Food Network Kitchen’s White Sausage Gravy, the hot large surface helps thicken the gravy more quickly.

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