Believe it or not, about a month ago I bought my first ever cast iron skillet! I don’t really know what I was waiting for…except that I just didn’t know all the great reasons to own one! The thing that finally motivated me to actually purchase one was my sisters’ Blueberry Pancakes! The last two times I have visited her in Wyoming, she made the most delicious Blueberry Pancakes for breakfast, and although I realize meals always taste better when someone ELSE makes them, I happen to believe the main reason they tasted SO good was the fact they were cooked in a cast iron skillet!
So the first thing I did when I got home was run out and buy one and make myself (OK, I shared with my family too) a Blueberry Pancakes breakfast! Mmm…mmm…mmm! These are definitely my new favorite breakfast for weekends and special occasions.
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The “recipe” couldn’t be easier!
Take your favorite “just add water” pancake mix (you could easily substitute a gluten-free mix), replace 1/2 the recommended water in the directions with buttermilk, mix, pour into cast iron skillet, add fresh (or frozen) blueberries, when bubbles begin to form and break and the edges of the pancake start to dry out a little, flip the pancakes and cook until desired doneness.
Serve with real maple syrup. Trust me on this one….it’s worth the extra cost!
Since I had become so smitten with my cast iron skillet after preparing just ONE dish in it…I decided to do some research on what else would be good to cook in my new favorite pan. In the process I learned a LOT about the benefits of this amazing piece of cookware that I wanted to share with you:
1. Avoid the toxic fumes that accompany most non-stick cookware by replacing a non-stick skillet with a cast iron one.
2. It can take the heat! You can use a cast iron skillet in the oven, at any temperature. Most cookware comes with heat warnings. Even most stainless steel cookware isn’t supposed to go over 450/500 degrees in an oven. Cast iron? comes in handy for making corn bread, frittatas, and flat bread.
3. It is nonstick. Surprisingly, a preheated cast iron skillet rivals the qualities of non-stick cookware, as long as it is properly seasoned and cared for. Learn more about seasoning cast iron HERE. EXCELLENT article on RE-conditioning & RE-seasoning Cast Iron Cookware here.
4. Cast iron is easy to clean up. Not only does food easily lift off from cast iron cookware, soap is not needed or recommended, since it erodes the seasoning. The soap will break up the tiny oil molecules that are embedded on the pan that help make it nonstick. If you need to scrub your cast iron pan, use salt!
5. Boost your iron intake from eating food cooked in cast iron cookware. This vital mineral is crucial for maintaining energy levels, and it helps strengthen immune systems.
6. It is inexpensive. Cooks looking to replace non-stick cookware often investigate stainless steel. However, a high-end, 12-inch stainless skillet runs well over $100. I got my pre-seasoned Lodge skillet at Walmart for $15.00! Or here’s a good option on Amazon.com for a 15 inch skillet.
7. Food browns beautifully. Using a cast iron skillet you can create restaurant-quality, homemade fish sticks, potato pancakes and French toast, complete with golden brown, crispy exteriors. Contrast this with non-stick cookware, which makes browning nearly impossible. Its’ mass lets it hold a steady temperature so well that it is perfect for deep- or shallow-frying.
8. Better heat distribution. People spend thousands on pots that evenly distribute heat. A cook’s nightmare is a pan with a really bad hot spot on it so half of your food is burned and the other half raw. Cast iron does such an amazing job of evenly distributing heat that you’ll never have this problem.
9. It can be used as a grill. For city folk, having a yard isn’t always an option. But because you can get a cast iron skillet really hot, it can effectively be used as a grill. I tried THIS recipe for cooking steak and it was perfection!
10. Can be used over any heat source in an emergency. As such, many disaster planning lists include cast iron as the survival cookware of choice.
11. It’s versatile. You can make hundreds of delicious things in one pan. You can make biscuits and gravy, or french toast. You can brown chicken in it for a salad. You can even fry donuts in it.
12. It has been used for thousands of years. Cast iron was invented in China in the 6th century BC.
13. And last but not least….in a pinch, it can even be used as a weapon. :-)
Although there are many benefits to cast iron cooking, there are also some drawbacks that you should consider before you purchase. Cast iron pans are very heavy; they require maintenance in order to keep them rust-free and non-stick; and care is needed if you have a glass-top stove. But that seems a small price to pay for these wonderful pans! Once you get one and start using it, you will wonder, like I did, why it took you so long to start!