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How To Cook In Cast Iron

Cast iron. It’s the workhorse of any good kitchen and the prize pony of any wood-fired oven. It’s the cookware that can handle (almost) anything, from scorching heat to simmering stews. All of this sounds great until you’ve come home with your new skillet to set it on your stovetop and realize you have no idea what you’re doing.

That’s okay. Everyone’s been there once, too. But most of them aren’t anymore, and here’s what they have to say.

Don’t be afraid to get hot

...because that’s exactly what a cast iron skillet is supposed to do. So, just how hot can cast iron get? A properly seasoned skillet thrives in heat well above 350 degrees, and shows its best cooking behaviors when it gets between 400 and 500 degrees, according to Cooking Issues’ Dave Arnold; but it can definitely get hotter than that. Cast iron’s tendency to take and hold onto heat extremely well is what makes them so popular since you can add food into a very hot cast iron skillet without worrying about a subsequent temperature drop.

It’s all about the sear

Since cast iron can get very hot, and stay very hot, they’re ideal for cooking that requires a heavy sear without simultaneous burning. Nobody wants a mouth full of carbon. Using a cast iron for this purpose is also easy to do inside of a wood-fired oven since it is completely surrounded by heat. The even, high temperature of a cast iron skillet in a wood oven makes it the ideal candidate for searing all kinds of foods. The Independent even lists it as a necessary piece of cookware for anyone that owns a wood-fired oven.

Take it slow on occasion

While searing is delicious, and a great deal of fun due to the violet sizzling it produces, a cast iron skillet’s versatility is not one that should be ignored. On occasion, Fine Cooking’s Joanna Pruess recommends using your skillet to braise or fry. The long-lasting heat of a cast iron skillet can work in both directions, so if you need something to simmer at a low boil for a while, you can use a cast iron to do the job without constantly making sure the heat is on.

Things to avoid

Although a cast iron skillet is arguably one of the most durable and capable pieces of cookware you can find, there are a few things that aren’t ideal to cook in one. A few examples of what not to cook in cast iron include fish, due to their tendency to fall apart, and things with a lot of acids or aromas, according to Taste of Home.

A cast iron skillet tends to move flavors around in both directions. Because of this, acidic foods may end up being cut with either the flavors of the iron (not exactly appetizing) or the flavors inside the polymerized oil from what was cooked in it last. Conversely, highly aromatic foods might leave behind some memories that can leak into whatever you cook next.

Read our next blog post for tips for making the most of your cast iron skillet!

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