July 24, 2017

Mastering Your Cast Iron Skillet: 2 Staple Recipes

A seasoned cast-iron skillet is a valuable tool for many chefs, whether attending an Austin culinary arts school or already in a professional setting. The ability of cast-iron to retain heat, it’s long useful life, relatively low cost and the development of effective seasoning are all reasons why chefs flock to this form of cookware.

While it’s important to remember to avoid regular use of cast iron to cook highly acidic ingredients because of the potential to harm the naturally developed seasoning, plenty of other recipes are fair game. Here are a just a few to try out the next time your cast-iron skillet calls your name:

Thick steaks, in the pan

A thick steak is often delicious, but sometimes hard for even veteran chefs to prepare to perfection using many types of pans. This cast-iron skillet recipe for butter-basted, pan-seared thick-cut steaks from Serious Eats tackles that conundrum and provides a savory, rich and complex end result.

To begin, gather a large steak – at least 24 ounces and one-and-one-half inches thick – salt and pepper, one-quarter cup of your favorite vegetable oil, three tablespoons of butter, six sprigs of rosemary and thyme, and a finely sliced shallot. Pat the steak dry, season it, then let it rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes.

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over high until it just begins to smoke, then add the steak and cook for about four minutes, turning it regularly. When you see a crust start to form, you can move to the final step.

Introduce the butter, herbs and shallot to the pan. Continue to turn the steak and use a spoon to add hot, foaming butter to any lighter spots. If the butter smokes, drop your heat to medium. This stage involves another 8-10 minutes of cooking. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the steak reaches your desired temperature. Then plate, pour on pan juices to your taste, and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

To change up the recipe, consider different herb blends – sage is one potential addition – using an herbed butter or serving with the skillet bread detailed below.

Cast-iron skillets are versatile, valuable tools for chefs.Cast-iron skillets are versatile, valuable tools for chefs.

Skillet cornbread, hot and ready

This cornbread recipe from Bon Appetit is a powerful accompaniment to a variety of dishes. To start, gather one-and-one-half cups yellow cornmeal, one tablespoon sugar, three-quarters of a teaspoon of baking soda, one-half teaspoon of salt, two large eggs, one-and-three-quarters cups of shaken buttermilk, one-half stick of unsalted butter, and your cast-iron skillet – a 10-inch one is ideal.

After preheating your oven to 425 degrees, heat the skillet inside for 10 minutes. Mix your dry ingredients and blend your wet ingredients. Then, remove the skillet and add the butter until melted, then mix it into the wet mixture. Put the skillet back into the oven, mix the wet and dry ingredients, and then pour the batter into the skillet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

To add some variation, consider mixing in crumbled, cooked bacon to the batter, or including finely chopped scallions.