Here's an update to my post from 5 years ago about cooking with cast iron! I've been using it a TON for my freezer cooking the past few weeks! :)
P.S. Freezer cooking/pantry challenge update coming tomorrow, and a family/photo/Q&A post shortly after. Joshua is recovering well; thanks for caring! :)
One of the things I really enjoy about living a frugal lifestyle is the creativity involved! It's also exciting to me when I make new discoveries and learn new things. Although I've had a cast iron skillet since we were married, I'm just now putting it to good use. And of course, I'm wondering why I waited so long!
I grew up cooking with stainless steel cookware, for the most part. When Joshua and I got married, he had some Teflon cookware, and I got addicted to that nice big Teflon skillet, real quick. I mean, there was no scrubbing! I always dreaded cleaning stainless steel after cooking scrambled eggs, or anything with cheese... so much work! With Teflon, washing pans was as simple as washing a plate or cup, or maybe even easier, since the food didn't "dry on", it fell off!
Of course, I had my doubts about the safety of cooking with Teflon (and recent studies have indicated that it really isn't safe!) but it's easy to live in the here-and-now and just not want to give up convenience!
Although I've had this cast iron skillet since we first were married, I had bought it unseasoned (it was cheap that way!) and had worked on seasoning it but still much preferred Teflon. Yes, I knew that cast iron takes time to season... I just kept reaching for the easier (temporary) solution: Teflon.
Until recently, that is, when our Teflon skillet started wearing out, and food started sticking and burning. I decided to start using my cast iron skillet with a passion, and turn it into my new, "natural" non-stick skillet.
And you know what? I love it! I really do, and I'm liking it more and more all the time. Have you ever met someone who was attached to their cast iron cookware? (It seems most people are, when they've seasoned it themselves and used it for years and years!) Well, that's me... in a few years. ;)
Here's what I know about cooking with cast iron (it isn't much!):
Don't use sharp or metal utensils on it. (Update: I still usually use wooden utensils, but using metal isn't necessarily harmful.)
Wash with hot water, no soap. (Update: I usually scrub with a brush in hot water, and sometimes add a drop of soap. My preference is to wash the cast iron skillet LAST, in the only-slightly-soapy dish water that's leftover, and then scrub under very hot water, rinse, and dry.)
After washing, dry with towel and then heat the empty skillet on a burner for a few minutes to make sure it's really dry.
Tips for keeping a well-seasoned cast iron skillet:
Use your cast iron for browning ground beef or turkey, or any cooking that already has a high fat content. This will speed along the wonderful seasoning of the interior of your cookware!
Conversely, cooking acidic foods like tomatoes or applesauce in cast iron will eat away at the seasoning. This doesn't harm your cast iron cookware, and will add some iron to your diet. Keep in mind that simmering chili or applesauce in cast iron could change the flavor of your food slightly.
Seasoning tip: Coat the inside of the skillet with oil or shortening and set it on your stove's heat vent (from the oven) when it's in use. This is a nice "extra" way to season cast iron, especially when doing lots of winter baking! :)
By the way, for those of you who don't have a cast iron skillet but are interested, mine is Lodge brand, from Wal-mart and (I think) cost about $8. I think they still sell them for under $10. Sometimes you can find them at thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales, too.
Turkey Breakfast Sausage crumbles in my cast iron skillet
Some of my favorite things to do with my cast iron skillet:
Make homemade refried beans. Mmmmmm!!! Somehow refried beans seem to taste better when made in a cast iron skillet! :)
Brown ground beef for tacos, casseroles or to freeze (for easy meal-assembly later)
Make turkey breakfast sausage patties or crumbles (pictured above). SO delicious -- I'll share the recipe later this week! :)
Stir-fry veggies. (I do use some oil when cooking veggies or non-greasy things like chicken breasts in my cast iron skillet. It's well-seasoned but still not quite like a Teflon non-stick pan would be, in my opinion.)
Pan-fry cod or pollock. A little oil, a little seasoning (garlic, salt, pepper -- very lightly!) and the fish cooks in just a few minutes per side. I've been serving my pan-fried fish with rice or cooked pasta, and sometimes a red or white sauce. It's a nice change from grilled or baked fish! :)
Fry pancakes. Except I now have a cast iron griddle for pancakes and don't usually need to pull out the skillet, too. I got the griddle for $39 on Amazon.com and while I like it, I wouldn't say I quite *love* it... :)
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1. Streamlining making water kefir (Katie at Kitchen Stewardship)
2. Covering large bowls (Frugal in Florida)
3. 10 things to do with stale bread (The Local Cook)
4. Cleaning a burnt on pan (Gwen at Gwen's Nest)
5. Drying ziplock bags (Anne Jisca at Anne Jisca's Healthy Pursuits)
6. Stretching meat for people who don't like beans (The Cheapskate Cook)
7. Asparagus tips (Where The Kudzu Grows)
8. How to turn a brownie recipe into a cake (Cheryl at The Bz House That Love Built)
9. What to make from things you already have (Cheryl at The Bz House That Love Built)
10. Tips for making chicken tenders in bulk (Alea at Premeditated Leftovers)
11. Ground beef time saver tip (2 Make Ends Meet)
12. Uses for orange peels (Rachel at Trial and Error Home Ec)
13. Serving brussels sprouts (Jodi at Lg Family Farm)