Skillet Basics, Use & Care and a Few Simple Recipes to Get You Cooking with Cast Iron
Table of Contents
Why Cast Iron?
We’re glad you asked! You’ve probably heard about cast iron making a big comeback recently, and there are a lot of good reasons why. To name a few:
Cast iron is the original non-stick material. You’ll be amazed at how easily it releases food with minimal oil. It’ll make you wonder why you fought with that shiny stainless cookware for so long.
No toxic chemicals, no space-age materials, just iron.
Treat your cast iron properly and it will last many lifetimes.
Cast iron’s ability to retain and radiate heat allows your food to sear and brown beautifully on the stove and in the oven.
It’s easy to get intimidated by cast iron with all the dos and don’ts you hear about, but just between us, there’s a whole lot of unnecessary fussing going on out there. Don’t overthink it! You don’t need to be a culinary expert to cook with and care for your cast iron skillet. There are just a few simple tips to keep in mind.
Use, Care & Cooking Tips
If you’re new to the wonderful world of cast iron, this is a good place to get started.
- Always preheat your skillet before adding any food. 5-10 minutes on low heat should do the trick. To test if your skillet is hot enough, flick a few drops of water into it. The water should sizzle and dance.
- Do not preheat your skillet on high heat. This is very important, and applies not only to cast iron, but to your other cookware as well. Very rapid changes in temperature can cause metal to warp. Start at a low temperature setting and go from there.
- Avoid cooking with acidic ingredients like wine and tomato sauce, particularly with a new skillet, as they can be rough on the seasoning. If you do lose some seasoning, no big deal, you can touch it up later.
- Use a little extra oil when cooking in a new skillet. After using your skillet a couple times, you’ll find you don’t need as much.
- Use caution when touching the handle of the skillet. Our handle design stays cool longer than others but it will still get hot eventually.
Cleaning cast iron is easy. In our opinion, hot water, a stiff dish brush, and a little elbow grease is all your cast iron needs. Another good tool that we can recommend for stubborn, burned-on food is a chain mail scrubber. They are very effective at removing food without damaging the seasoning. Stay away from scouring pads and steel wool as they are likely to scrub right through the seasoning, unless you plan on re-seasoning after cleaning of course.
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not to use soap on cast iron. If you run into some tough grime, or you just feel more comfortable with a little soap, go for it. You’re not going to hurt anything. Just don’t soak your skillet in soapy water. We’ll repeat that one: never soak your skillet in the sink. Water should be used briefly and then the skillet should be dried completely. Some people like to warm up their skillet on the stove after washing and drying to be sure it’s completely dry, and this isn’t a bad idea.
Never put your skillet in the dishwasher. It would probably survive, but we don’t recommend it. Just follow these simple steps:
- Wait for your skillet to cool.
- Place the skillet in the sink and run hot water into the skillet.
- If desired, add a small amount of gentle dish soap. Avoid abrasive cleaners like Bar Keeper’s Friend.
- Scrub with a stiff dish brush, soft sponge, or chain mail scrubber until all food debris is removed.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Dry immediately with a clean cloth or paper towel; do not let air dry.
- If desired, place your skillet back on the stove and set it to low heat to ensure that the skillet is completely dry.
- If desired, wipe a thin coat of cooking oil on the skillet before storing.
Pancakes or Eggs - Lets Do Breakfast!
There’s a million things you can make for breakfast, but let’s go with a simple pancake and a tasty egg recipe to get you started with some cast iron classics!
The Perfect Pancakes from Epicurious
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups milk
- 2 optional tablespoons melted and cooled butter, plus unmelted butter for cooking, or use a neutral oil like grapeseed or corn
- Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat while you make the batter.
- Mix together the dry ingredients. Beat the eggs into the milk, then stir in the 2 tablespoons cooled melted butter if you’re using it. Gently stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to moisten the flour; don’t worry about a few lumps. If the batter seems thick, add a little more milk.
- Use a little butter or oil each time you add batter. When the butter foam subsides or the oil shimmers, ladle batter onto the griddle or skillet, making any size pancakes you like. Adjust the heat as necessary; usually, the first batch will require higher heat than subsequent batches. The idea is to brown the bottom in 2-4 minutes, without burning it. Flip when bubbles appear in the center of the pancakes and the bottoms are cooked; they won’t hold together well until they’re ready.
- Cook until the second side is lightly browned, a couple more minutes, and serve or hold on an oven-proof plate in a 200°F oven for up to 15 minutes.
Cook’s note: Don’t be afraid to get creative and add some filling to the pancakes, like we did with the blueberries in the ones above. Throw in some of your favorite fruit, or if you’re craving something sweeter, you can never go wrong with chocolate chips!
The Holy Grail of Breakfast Hashes from Cafe Delites
You didn’t think eggs meant just cracking two eggs and frying them in your skillet, did you? We’re taking things to the next level here.
- 1½ pounds (about 4 medium-sized) potatoes, peeled and diced into ¾-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
- 7 ounces bacon, trimmed of fat and diced
- 2 scallions or shallots, trimmed and finely sliced
- 4 large eggs
- ¼ cup shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese
- Cracked pepper to season
- Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet or pan over medium heat. Fry the potatoes in the hot oil and cook while stirring occasionally, until golden and crispy (about 20 minutes). To speed up cooking time, cover pan with a lid, checking the potatoes every 4-5 minutes or so to stir them (this takes about 15 minutes).
- Add the bacon pieces to the pan and fry while stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until crisp. The potatoes will be golden with crisp edges, while soft on the inside. Add the spring onions; stir them through and season with pepper (optional). The bacon releases some oil by this stage to cook your eggs!
- Using a wooden spoon or spatula, make four wells in the hash, crack an egg into each well and arrange the mozzarella around each egg. Fry until the whites are set and the eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve immediately! (Don’t leave the hash in the pan or the eggs will continue cooking in the heat of the skillet).
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer in a cast iron skillet or oven proof pan (or baking sheet). Spray with a light coating of cooking oil spray and bake for about 30 minutes, mixing them around halfway through cook time, until they are crisp and golden. Remove from oven, add the bacon, and place back into the oven for a further 10 minutes or until the bacon is crispy. Remove from oven, make four wells in the hash, crack an egg into each well and arrange the mozzarella around each egg. Place skillet (or pan) back into the oven until the whites are set and the eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve immediately!
Lunch, Brunch & Munch
No matter what the time of day or the situation, these recipes will be sure to satisfy your cravings!
Classic Cornbread Adapted from AllRecipes
- 1¼ cups milk
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup white whole wheat or all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a cast-iron skillet in oven to warm it.
- Mix milk and cornmeal together in small bowl and let soak for 10 minutes.
- Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Beat cornmeal mixture, eggs, butter and maple syrup into the flour mixture until you have a smooth batter, about 1 minute.
- Remove skillet from oven. Swish vegetable oil in the skillet to coat; pour off excess.
- Pour batter into the skillet.
- Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-23 minutes. Cut into wedges to serve.
Cook’s note: If you want to kick this cornbread up a notch, make it country brunch style by adding some bacon and peppers!
Our Mexican Spaghetti Squash Skillet
- 1 small spaghetti squash, cut in half with the seeds removed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes (and their juices)
- 1 15-ounce can pinto (or black beans) beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 scallions, white and light green parts, chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- 2 avocados, pitted and diced, for garnish
- Sour cream, for garnish
- Shredded Monterey jack cheese, for garnish
- Limes, for serving
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Rub cut sides of squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place in your Stargazer Cast Iron skillet, cut-sides down. Bake until the squash is fork tender, about 1 hour. Carefully remove squash from the skillet and place on a plate to cool.
- Place your skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Drain off the excess grease. Return the skillet to medium heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add tomatoes and pinto (or black beans) beans and stir to combine. Return the meat back to pan and stir again.
- Using a fork, shred out strands of spaghetti squash and add to the skillet. Toss to combine. Cook until everything is warmed through, 5-10 minutes. Divide among serving bowls with desired garnishes.
This recipe serves 4-6.
Skillet Nachos from Genius Kitchen
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup zucchini, chopped
- 1 cup (15-ounce can) pinto beans in chili sauce
- 1 cup thick & chunky salsa
- 4 ounces tortilla chips
- 1½ cups monterey jack cheese, shredded
- Ripe olives, sliced, if desired
- Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Add bell pepper and zucchini; stir-fry about 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
- Stir in beans and ½ cup of the salsa; cook until hot. Remove mixture from skillet.
- Wipe skillet clean. Arrange tortilla chips in a single layer in skillet. Spoon vegetable mixture onto chips. Sprinkle with cheese.
- Cover and cook over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with olives. Serve with remaining ½ cup salsa.
Dinner is the Winner
Cast iron and protein go together like peanut butter and jelly. The sound of a sizzling steak hitting your skillet will quickly become music to your ears.
The Perfect Pan-seared Steak
You don’t need a recipe for this one. Let’s take a little break from all this reading to watch a cast iron skillet in action. Check out this video for tips and instructions on how to get the your steak perfectly juicy yet with that crispy crust that everyone craves.
Dessert in a Cast Iron Skillet?
Absolutely! Don’t just phone it in with some store-bought nonsense. Here are two recipes to up your game at your next dinner party.
Our Raspberry Rhubarb Crumble
- 3 cups fresh raspberries
- 3 cups rhubarb, chopped
- Zest and juice from ½ lemon
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- Vanilla ice cream, optional, for serving
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Make the filling. In a large bowl, add raspberries, rhubarb, lemon zest and juice, sugar, and cornstarch. Toss to combine. Spread evenly into bottom of your Stargazer Cast Iron skillet.
- Make the topping. In another bowl, combine flour, oats, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add butter and using your fingers, mix until you have large crumbles.
- Scatter the topping evenly over fruit, covering it completely.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until fruit juices are bubbling around outside edges. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes to brown top. Allow to cool before serving.
This recipe serves 6.
Cook’s note: The crumble will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week. It’s great at room temperature, or you can warm it back in the oven just before serving.
Cast Iron Skillet Cinnamon Rolls from Southern Cast Iron
- Sweet Roll Dough (recipe below)
- ½ cup plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and divided
- ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- 4 tablespoons whole milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Spray a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Prepare Sweet Roll Dough, and let rise according to recipe directions. Lightly punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 14×10-inch rectangle.
- Spread ½ cup butter evenly over dough. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over butter. Starting with one long side, roll dough into a log; pinch seam to seal. Slice into 9 or 10 rolls. Place rolls into prepared skillet. Cover, and let rise in a warm draft-free place (85°F) until doubled in size, approximately 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Let cool in skillet on a wire rack 30 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, beat remaining 4 tablespoons butter and cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla, beating until smooth. Spread glaze over warm rolls.
Classic Sweet Roll Dough
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1¼-ounce package active dry yeast
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup sour cream
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flour and yeast.
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk, sour cream, butter, sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture reads 120°F on a candy thermometer. With mixer on low speed, add milk mixture to flour mixture. Add egg. Beat until dough forms. Turn off mixture.
- Switch to dough hook attachment. Beat at medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic, approximately 5 minutes. (Dough should pull away from sides of bowl but stick to bottom.)
- Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough in prepared bowl, turning to coat top. Cover, and let rise in a warm draft-free place (85°F) until dough has doubled in size, approximately 1½ hours.
DIY: Seasoning Your Cast Iron Skillet
If you order a seasoned skillet from us, this is the exact process we use. We season each piece by hand with 2 thin coats of oil. We recommend using canola oil or a seasoning product like Crisbee and following these steps:
- Preheat your oven to 225°F.
- Wash the skillet thoroughly with soap and water. If your skillet already has seasoning on it, feel free to use a scouring pad or steel wool to remove some of the old seasoning, especially if it’s rough or sticky to the touch.
- Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Dry completely.
- Place the skillet, upside down, in the preheated oven. Wait 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and place it on the stove or other heat-resistant surface.
- Using a clean cloth or paper towel, spread a thin coat of oil all over the skillet: inside, outside, handle, etc.
- Using a different clean cloth or paper towel, wipe off as much of the oil as possible. The only oil that remains should be soaked into the iron.
- Place your skillet, upside down, back in the oven. Increase the temperature to 475°F. Let it bake for 1 hour.
- Turn the oven off, and leave the oven door closed. Let the skillet cool inside the oven for at least 1 hour before attempting to remove it.
- Preheat your oven to 225°F again and repeat steps 4-9 to add additional layers of seasoning. We recommend 2 layers of seasoning on a bare skillet, but some people use 3 or 4. It’s totally up to you!
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