Thought Leader Series: 10 Foods that Just Taste Better Prepared in a Cast-Iron Skillet

Anthony Beal is the creator of FlavorfulWorld: A Food, Wine, and Spirits Blog. He is a member of the International Wine Guild, as well as a WSET Level 3 Advanced wine scholar. To learn more about Anthony, visit his...

Anthony Beal is the creator of FlavorfulWorld: A Food, Wine, and Spirits Blog. He is a member of the International Wine Guild, as well as a WSET Level 3 Advanced wine scholar. To learn more about Anthony, visit his blog at

Cast-iron skillet

There's a reason that cast-iron cookery gets handed down through generations like heirloom jewels. Its ability to enhance the quality and flavor of food cannot be overstated. Whether discussing texture, taste, or searing and browning capability, its cooking advantages are undeniable.

Good Meat, Let's Eat

Steak: Cast-iron's ability to retain heat for longer than thinner metals delivers crisp edges to steaks and fillets. Its superior heat retention makes the most of the cookery's fat rendering capability with well-marbled meats, resulting in remarkable flavor.

Smothered Pork Chops: Cast iron is excellent for putting good color on pork chops before removing them and using their drippings to stir up a tasty gravy for the chops to simmer in until they are fall-apart tender.

Fried Chicken: Cast iron's heat-retention property reduces temperature fluctuation as cooked chicken pieces are removed from the pan and others are added. Eliminating time lost to waiting for oil to return to the proper temperature reduces overall cooking time.

Seafood (or Fruits de Mer if Your're Feelin' Fancy)

Seared Scallops: The goals with scallops are a proper exterior sear ring and insides cooked just to the point of translucence. A cooking surface that can withstand and distribute the heat is paramount.

Salmon Steak: Because cast-iron withstands heat that would damage other metals, a sufficiently hot cast-iron skillet minimizes cooking time by locking in flavor and moistness, two important qualities when cooking seafood.

Pan-fried fish: Cast iron's superior heat retention avoids oil temperature fluctuation, ensuring that fish doesn't spend longer than necessary immersed in oil it will absorb.

Quick Breads and Sammies

Grilled Cheese: Cooking surface temperature can spell success or failure here. Set too high, the bread burns before the cheese melts. Set too low, the melting cheese oozes away before the bread can toast. Cooking over medium-high heat in cast iron gives the bread the perfect degree of firmness and the molten cheese a velvety texture.

Cornbread: Crisp edges are essential, or it can end up too cake-like. In this regard, cast-iron and cornbread's most satisfying iterations go hand-in-hand.

Breakfast Hotness

French Toast: Even slight scorching of the egg can dramatically affect its appearance and flavor. Consistent cooking temperature on a well-seasoned surface reduces or eliminates the possibility of appearance- and taste-altering browning or burning.

Home Fried Potatoes: Potatoes cooked in skillets made of other materials can come out either overcooked and mushy, or burnt from excessive or poorly distributed heat. Cast iron produces more consistent results.

Fried Egg/Omelet: Though some question cast iron's egg-cooking merits, a fluffy egg that slides out of the pan without tearing is a beautiful thing. Cast iron cooking at low temperature ensures shorter cooking time, producing egg dishes that remain light and fluffy.

Legions of professional chefs, can't be wrong. Cast-iron cookware's durability and versatility make it one of the most valuable kitchen purchases one can make, and one of the few kitchen products that actually improve with age. This doesn't mean there aren't caveats, however, regarding usage and care.

  • Avoid cooking highly acidic foods in cast iron. These can cause the seasoning to deteriorate.
  • Cast iron pots and pans should be dried thoroughly after washing to avoid rusting.
  • To clean, use coarse table salt and a drop or two of oil and water to act as a scouring agent.
  • Never allow cast-iron cookware to soak in water.
  • Never wash cast iron in a dishwasher.
  • Never scrub cast iron with steel wool.

Adhering to these suggestions can ensure that cast iron cookware lasts a lifetime.

Ready to get some cast-iron cookware into your life? Browse for cast iron cookware.