Cowboys carried them in their saddlebags during long trail rides, and they were packed into Conestoga wagons for the journey out West. Cast iron skillets have been a reliable way of cooking – and a treasured kitchen heirloom – for generations. Even though they never really went out of fashion, they’re earning new status as the go-to choice for chefs seeking authentic, comforting menu items with old-fashioned flavors and a bit of rustic appeal.
“There are so many reasons to choose cast iron when cooking,” says Dominique De Vito, author of The Cast-iron Skillet Cookbook: A Tantalizing Collection of Over 200 Delicious Recipes for Every Kitchen. “Chefs especially like the skillets because they offer superior heat distribution for gas, electric and even open-fire cooking. And they move from stovetop to oven with ease.”
While some skillets are sold “pre-seasoned,” De Vito says it’s very easy to season a skillet yourself. “They offer a totally natural cooking surface, with no sprays or Teflon,” she says. Even better, cleanup is simple. No soap is required – just a wipe up with a brush and hot water, then a rubdown with a thin coating of vegetable oil.
De Vito says the intense heat generated by cast iron skillets makes them great choices for the preparation of stir-fries. “Everything cooks quickly but thoroughly,” she says. “I like the sear it gives burgers, steaks and chops as well.” Her go-to cast iron skillet dish is the omelet. “It doesn’t stick, and it can even be finished in the oven. It’s beautiful, delicious and simple.”
To extend the cast iron love from prep to service, try bringing cast iron into the dining room. Customers love the idea of personal-sized servings of brunch fare or bar bites, or sharing a larger dish, such as cornbread, right from the pan.
If you want to buy American-made cast iron, Lodge Manufacturing is the only major manufacturer of cast iron cookware in the United States. That’s the brand De Vito owns. “You get what you pay for with cast iron, so I’d suggest going with the highest-possible quality,” she suggests.
Skillet Sensation from Flavor & the Menu
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