How to Care for Your Cast Iron Skillet (includes recipes)

Some of the best meals I've ever eaten were made by my grandmothers in their cast iron skillets. Tender, flaky catfish; finger-lickin' chicken; and mouth watering cornbread were the traditional scrumptious fare. Today, we have a new generation of cooks, and they are conjuring up all sorts of new and tempting recipes to cook in cast iron skillets that have either been handed down through generations, or picked up brand-spanking-new at the local Williams-Sonoma store. But before I share some of those unusual recipes with you, I would like to first educate you on how to care for your skillet.

First rule: Don't ever wash your cast iron skillet! Doesn't that just blow your mind? I was positive that my mother was slipping into early dementia when she told me that years ago. But I soon found out she knew what she was talking about, as always. Actually, you should wash your skillet the first time, but afterwards, put away the soap when it comes to cleaning your skillet. And never put it in the dishwasher.

If you have a used skillet that was handed down or picked up at a garage sale, you can clean the rust and crud off with a steel wool pad. Then wash it with mild soap and water, dry thoroughly, and prepare to season it as follows:

SEASONING YOUR SKILLET

What is seasoning? It's a process that you go through to "break in" your skillet, giving it a smooth, non-stick surface. And the more you cook in it, the better it becomes seasoned. You cannot overuse a cast iron skillet.

The seasoning process is applicable for both new and used skillets that you are breaking in. Generously grease the insides with shortening, oil or bacon grease, and heat in the oven for a couple of hours at 300 degrees. Allow it to cool completely, then drain off any excess grease, wipe completely dry with a paper towel and store. This procedure may need to be repeated a few times until your skillet has been completely broken in. And from time to time, you may still need to repeat seasoning sessions to maintain a good surface; especially if you cook acidic foods, like tomatoes, in it.

CLEANING YOUR SKILLET

Seasoned cast iron skillets can be cleaned up nicely with boiling water and a stiff-bristled brush. Brush the skillet vigorously with the brush, rinse it out with clean water, and completely dry it to prevent rust spots. Some people reheat the skillet again on the stove to make sure it is thoroughly dried. Remember, no soap and no dishwasher.

Another bonus when using cast iron cookware, is that it can also enhance the iron content of food. Scrambling eggs or simmering spaghetti sauce in an iron skillet can double or triple the iron absorbed in a meal. To this day, many doctors still recommend that a person with an iron deficiency have their food cooked in a cast iron pot or skillet.

RECIPES THAT YOU NEVER THOUGHT OF COOKING IN A CAST IRON SKILLET

Okay, here are some of those recipes I promised that you can stir up in your nicely broken in cast iron skillet:

CAST IRON GERMAN POTATO SALAD

4 slices bacon
1 medium red onion, diced
1 pound red potatoes, precooked and cut in half
3 tbsp. white vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fry the slices of bacon in a cast iron skillet. When done, remove bacon with a slotted spoon and add onion to bacon drippings, cooking and stirring until onion is clear. Add potatoes and sear for 1 minute, cut side down, until brown and crisp. Remove from heat and pour the contents into a large mixing bowl, setting the skillet aside. Crumble the bacon and add to potatoes, along with the vinegar, salt and pepper, mixing thoroughly. Chill and serve.

MADIERA TUNA STEAKS

4 tuna steaks (3/4 to 1-inch thick)
1 cup orange juice
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
1/8 teaspoon onion salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup Madiera
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon horseradish or to taste

Marinate the tuna steaks in the orange juice for 3 hours or overnight, in the refrigerator.

When ready to cook, combine celery salt, onion salt, white pepper, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Remove the tuna steaks from the orange juice and dip in the flour mixture, lightly coating both sides.

Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet on high and add the tuna, searing for one minute, before turning over and searing for another minute. Reduce heat to medium and cook for one extra minute, being careful not to overcook. Remove tuna steaks to a warming plate and reduce heat to medium-low.

Add soy sauce, Madiera, cream and horseradish to skillet and stirring until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat and pour sauce over tuna steaks. Serve immediately.

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

1 20 oz. can sliced pineapples in syrup
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
10 maraschino cherries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or nut of your choice
1 16 oz. package pound cake mix

Drain the pineapple and reserve the syrup. In a 10" or 12" cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar to the butter and stir until dissolved, then remove from heat. Arrange the pineapple slices in the sugar mixture, placing a cherry in the center of each slice and sprinkling the chopped nuts in the remaining spaces. Prepare the cake mix according to the package directions, using the reserved pineapple syrup in place of milk. Pour the batter over the pineapple in the skillet and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then loosen the edges and invert onto a serving plate.

CAST IRON SKILLET CARROT CAKE

1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 cup raisins

In a large bowl, beat the egg, then add the sugar and buttermilk, stirring together thoroughly. Then add the two kinds of flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt. Once these ingredients have been thoroughly blended, add grated carrots and raisins. Next, coat the insides of your cast iron skillet with the grapeseed oil and add cake mixture. Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center. Cut into slices and serve warm.

BASURS ZALDA (GARLIC SOUP) OR MOSCOR ZALDA (DRUNKARD'S SOUP) (I don't know where this recipe originated from, but I have seen it on several sites and thought it was a hoot!)

2 tbsp. oil
3 eggs
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
Parsley
Dry French bread, broken into small chunks
Water

Coat bottom of cast iron frying pan with oil. Add garlic and brown gently. Next add the chunks of French bread, stirring to thoroughly coat with oil. Add enough water to cover the bread, and add parsley. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, then add the eggs, which can either be stirred in or poached.

This soup is good for sinusitis, colds and hangovers. However, be a good neighbor and stand down wind from people.

Bon appetite!

Charlene Davis is an experienced and published freelance writer specializing in online auctions, business trends, marketing strategies, e-commerce, parenting, travel, spirituality, cooking and food. She has a popular recipe website (http://www.busymomsrecipes.com) for today's busy Christian women, that has been featured in Quick Cooking magazine.

Keeping and Wasps and Flies Away from your Barbecue

It is one of life's oddities that we take a lot of trouble refrigerating meat,... Read More

Christmas Cookie Decorating 101

Many bakers ask for tips and instructions on decorating cookies. Well that's a tall order... Read More

10 Mind-Easing Ways To Make Sure Your Childs Bag Lunch Is Safe

Perishable food must be kept cold while commuting via bus, bicycle, on foot, in a... Read More

Fine Tuning Bread Machine Mixes

Sometimes bread machines can be tricky. We were trying to help a customer whose bread... Read More

Chinese Cooking Technique: Deep Fry

There are usually 2 ways of deep frying in Chinese cooking:Deep frying the ingredients directly... Read More

Why do We Need to Knead?

Bread dough needs to be elastic in order to capture the gases created by the... Read More

Prepare the Best Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Would you like to prepare the best Garlic Mashed Potatoes that you enjoy at your... Read More

Wok this Way! (Part 2 of 5) Selecting a Wok

As mentioned in Part 1 of the series, woks come in different sizes ranging from... Read More

Little-known Tips for Easy Holiday Baking

Are you wondering if you have the time to bake homemade Christmas cookies this year?... Read More

What is Gluten and Why does it Matter?

Gluten is a substance made up of the proteins found in wheat flour that gives... Read More

How to Make a Cajun Roux

The process of preparing Cajun food is in no way hurried and involves a layering... Read More

Chinese Cooking Technique: Thicken

"Thicken", or "Thickening" is a very common technique used in both Chinese restaurants and household... Read More

Solving The 7 Most Common Whole Wheat Bread Baking Mistakes

Let's face it EVERY cook makes mistakes (yes, even us professional bakers make boo boo's).I'm... Read More

Barbequing, a Fun and Convenient Way to Make Dinner

"There's nothing more enjoyable than having friends and family gathered around amidst the wonderful smells... Read More

Working with Eggs

Bad eggs are rare but they do occur. Crack eggs into a separate bowl before... Read More

Baking Bread and Your Freezer

There's a lot of bread in our freezer. In our exuberance, we often bake more... Read More

Cookware ? Whats In It?

Have you ever wanted to buy new cookware but didn't know what kind to buy?... Read More

Ten Steps to Perfect Pasta

I'm amazed at how often I get e-mail from a disgruntled home cook, lamenting the... Read More

Must Haves for Any At-Home Chef

With the holidays on their way soon, many people will be beefing up kitchens to... Read More

Homemade Whipped Cream

Most grocery stores carry cans of whipping cream ready to spray onto your favorite desert.... Read More

Perfect Picnics - Frugal Food Safety Tips

Summer is finally here and for a lot of us that means heading out to... Read More

Foods That Freeze Well

"Can I freeze it?" is a question often asked in our homes, and for good... Read More

The Perfect Scone: Keys to Make Your Scone Just Right

Ah, there's nothing like a tender, steaming scone in the morning. (Pronounced "skawn" like "fawn"... Read More

10 Simple Kitchen Organizing Tips

A lot of the times we mean to get in there and finally organize the... Read More

Whats a Pan Dowdy?

Cobblers and dowdies, crisps and crumbles, buckles and betties-what are all these desserts?With a little... Read More

Gourmet Sauces, Rubs and Marinades - Give Your BBQ a Gourmet Kick

Many individuals agree that the sauce on barbecued meat is like the icing on a... Read More

Once-A-Month-Cooking: How to Make Your Plan Work

As one of the oldest children in a family of nine, I know that cooking... Read More

The Best-Kept Secrets of Beef Revealed! Get Ready to Become the Meat Expert in Your Family!

Do you helplessly stand at the meat counter looking from package to package, not knowing... Read More

10 Smart Shopping Tips To Protect Your Family From Getting Sick

Prevention of food poisoning starts with your trip to the supermarket. Here's how to start... Read More

Fruit Cake

Are you the fruit cake in your family? Before you raise your eyebrow, I would... Read More

10 Deadly Bacteria That Can Get In Your Food (And How To Stop Them From Getting There)

Thousands of types of bacteria are naturally present in our environment. Not all bacteria cause... Read More

How to Make Sandwich Rolls with Your Bread Machine

For that next picnic or family outing, consider making sandwich rolls with your bread machine.... Read More

Buying, Storing, and Preparing Apples

When buying apples, look for those that are firm and brightly colored. Shiny red for... Read More

Eating Healthy with a Meat Grinder

While it may be surprising, owning your own meat grinder can help you in your... Read More

How to Bake: Bread on the Grill

One of the slickest tricks we know is baking bread on the grill. Once you... Read More

Digital Kitchen Timers ? Never Burn Another Dish

Digital kitchen timers come in many shapes and sizes. Timers are an indispensable tool in... Read More

Alone In the Kitchen: Stirring Up Mindfulness

Put on your apron! It's time to stir up a batch of mindfulness.Julia Child, the... Read More

Peppercorns & Ways To Use Them

New and exciting varieties of peppercorns are becoming available to chefs everywhere. Pre-ground pepper out... Read More

10 Simple Ways To Safely Store Food

Storing foods can present its own set of problems. And different types of foods have... Read More

How to Make Homemade Ice Cream (Without an Ice Cream Maker!)

COLFAX, WISCONSIN - June is Dairy Month and what better way to celebrate than with... Read More

High Altitude Baking - A Cooks Guide

High altitude baking can be a real adventure for the cook, with a number of... Read More

Kitchen Canister Sets - How to Beautify Your Kitchen

Kitchen canister sets are a great way to accent your kitchen and give you more... Read More

Barbeque Grilling has Reached a Whole New Dimension

Grilling on the barbecue has never been more exciting. Not only do barbecues come in... Read More

Hot Apple Pie - The American Apple Pie Legacy

While each country might have its own preferred style, "American Style" apple pie includes your... Read More

Easy Herb Butters

Since herbs are plentiful this time of year, why not use them to make a... Read More

Microwave Ovens and the Healthfulness of Microwaved Food

Microwave ovens do have benefits. They are certainly convenient. They are more energy-efficient than other... Read More

How to Bake: Muffins (with recipes)

Muffins are a mainstay around our house. They are as nourishing as they are good... Read More

Outdoor Chefs Choose Gas Grills

How many of you remember dad trying to get the charcoal started? The mess, time... Read More

All About Baking: Quick Breads

The Versatile Quick BreadIt's no wonder quick breads are so popular. They are easy, fast-as... Read More

Picnic Tips and Tricks

The most difficult task of a picnic is remembering everything. Make a list on the... Read More