All things cast iron
December 10, 2017 8:57 PM   Subscribe

Buying my partner his first cast iron pan for Christmas. What are the best accessories, recipes, and tips to go with?

He’s an experienced cook and great with a skillet. He mentioned recently that he doesn’t know why he’s never bought a cast iron skillet and that it’s embarrassing that he doesn’t own one. So now he will! What else can I include to round out the gift? Are special scrubbers/scrapers worth it? Special oil for seasoning? Your favourite cast iron recipe books? Something else I’m not thinking of? Specific suggestions or links would be appreciated!
posted by orange and yellow to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Cast iron lover here. You want The Ringer for scrubbing. It works really well, is easy to clean in the dishwasher and aside from that, having a piece of chainmail by your sink is just cool.
posted by The Toad at 9:10 PM on December 10, 2017 [8 favorites]

If he doesn't already have one, a fish turner is indispensable (it's the first item reviewed). I personally don't think you need special scrubbers, and contrary to the prevailing opinion, you can use soap on cast iron. You will not destroy the seasoning.
posted by O9scar at 9:14 PM on December 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

The beauty of cast iron is it's pretty low maintenance and you don't need gizmos. If all your cookware is nonstick, then he could now get a metal spatula; I'd recommend a fish spatula.

Really though, I'd just recommend going to the best butcher in town and getting a pound or two of really nice special bacon. If your first couple of uses postseasoning are toward the greasy side, it helps reinforce the seasoning in my experience. Then get a real nice set of steaks.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:16 PM on December 10, 2017 [9 favorites]

A bamboo cleaning whisk (for illustration, not a specific product recommendation) works well for scrubbing cast iron pans. I prefer it over chain mail because it is safe to use on more fragile things too. I prefer it over a plastic-bristled brush because it turns out those can melt onto the pan if I don't let it cool sufficiently before I start scrubbing.

Also, have you chosen a skillet yet? If you want to spend more money you can get either vintage cast iron or modern high-end stuff that's been finished to a similarly smooth surface. I personally think the smooth surface is over-sold, but lots of people think I'm wrong.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:28 PM on December 10, 2017

Preheat the pan in the oven before pouring in the cornbread batter. That will give a nice bottom crust.
posted by amtho at 9:55 PM on December 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Get him a silicone handle cover. I leave mine on the handle if I'm coking on the stove top, but just slide it on and off to put in and take out from the oven.
posted by Marky at 12:53 AM on December 11, 2017 [10 favorites]

You can use soap like O9scar says, but just a little, little bit. I personally wouldn't use soap until the pan is well-seasoned, but YMMV.

Just scrub it out with whatever you've got handy, rinse it, and put it on the burner to dry. There really isn't much to it.
posted by 8603 at 4:43 AM on December 11, 2017

Not a book, but I finally got round to buying a cast-iron skillet because of this recipe. It keeps it's promise. Maybe you could print it out and put it in the box with the skillet?
Otherwise, I agree with Homeboy Trouble, the whole point of the cast iron skillet is that it is simple and robust. For a more luxurious and "gifty" version of their bacon idea: a can of confit de canard.
posted by mumimor at 4:55 AM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I heartily endorse the bacon recommendation. Cast iron is slightly porous, so cooking high-fat foods is good, plus, bacon. I use a metal scrubbie as needed, but the chain mail is gift-ier. My only rule is that water and especially soapy water should not sit in the pan, or the pan shouldn't sit in the sink in soapy water. I also endorse a metal spatula; works so much better than plastic. For a gift, maybe some fancy pancake mix and some maple syrup. Buckwheat pancakes are especially tasty. Lodge has recipes, and try a Dutch baby.
posted by theora55 at 5:13 AM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I bought The Ringer last month - given the low cost, I'd rate it a must have for cleaning cast iron.
posted by COD at 5:40 AM on December 11, 2017

Definitely needs a silicone handle cover.

If you really want to make it special, get some steaks to go with it!
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:58 AM on December 11, 2017

I like the handle cover that Marky linked (the tube one) but they also make one that's a trapezoid shape if your pan has a smaller flatter handle on the opposite side and that one was NOT worth it. In my experience it still gets too hot to touch.
posted by brilliantine at 6:53 AM on December 11, 2017

Silicone handle cover, and depending on what size you're getting, I'd consider a lid. I bought a cast iron one that could go in the oven, but they also make glass lids, so you can cook on the stove top and see what you're making. Metal utensils are a must -- the plastic ones can melt on the cast iron if you're not careful, much more easily than they would on nonstick.
posted by PearlRose at 8:01 AM on December 11, 2017

Staple recipe for my cast iron is pan pizza.
posted by kpraslowicz at 9:39 AM on December 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

I've found this book helpful: Cook It In Cast Iron. Plenty of recipes and tips, plus info that'll make it easier to predict how to cook other things in cast iron.

Seconding the chain mail scrubby, not because you can't use other things to clean cast iron, but because it's a lot faster than the stuff I use to clean more fragile surfaces.
posted by asperity at 10:43 AM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you guys like cheese I think the best way to make halloumi is in a cast iron skillet. Heat the skillet to a dash over medium, add slices of halloumi, turning once or twice until hot and the desired color. Remove to a plate (with the metal spatula or a fork). Drizzle with pomegranate molasses or a squeeze of lemon. Eat immediately.

Pineapple, peach, or plum upside-down cake is perfect in the cast iron because you caramelize the fruit on the stovetop, add the batter on top and move it down to the oven.

Start a rib eye in the cast iron on the stove on high heat, after a few minutes on each side, add some sliced onions around the steak, once they start caramelizing move to a low heat oven for the interior of the steak to finish cooking to your desired temperature. This is the only way I cook rib-eye off of a grill.

Enjoy the cast iron, it's fabulous.
posted by perrouno at 11:33 AM on December 11, 2017

I bought my cast iron skillet in order to make the recipe kpraslowicz linked to. It's that good.
posted by Constant Reader at 11:36 AM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I bought my cast iron skillet in order to make the recipe kpraslowicz linked to. It's that good.

I bought a 10 inch pan for the recipe as well. Then after making a few pizzas I went out and bought a 15 inch pan for that recipe. :D
posted by kpraslowicz at 4:16 PM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

If the pan is not seasoned, perhaps give some organic flax seed oil for seasoning. And find instructions on seasoning to give too. These are pretty good.
posted by conrad53 at 5:29 PM on December 11, 2017

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