Cast Iron Cooking | WYPR

Cast Iron Cooking

Nov 13, 2018

Skillet cornbread.
Credit Ana María Guardia/flickr

With Thanksgiving looming, a lot of us are reaching back for old family recipes that will be perfect for the big feast. An important part of cooking with tradition in mind is cooking with the family's traditional pots and pans.

That old cast iron skillet that Grandma swore by sits on the shelf just waiting to be put in the game.  According to Chef Jerry Pellegrino, there's a few techniques people can learn to get the most out of cast iron. Here's some observations.

Cast Iron – is a group of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon content greater than 2%.  It is a hard, relatively brittle alloy that can be readily cast in a mold and contains a higher proportion of carbon than steel (typically 2.0–4.3 percent) Its usefulness derives from its relatively low melting temperature. 

Seasoning Cast Iron –

  • Scrub the piece well in hot soapy water.
  • Dry thoroughly.
  • Spread a thin layer of vegetable oil (or something high in unsaturated fat) over the piece.
  • Place it upside down on a middle oven rack at 375°. (Place foil on a lower rack to catch drips.)
  • Bake 1 hour; let cool until room temperature in the oven.
  • Repeat one or two more times until the piece is dark and shiny

Caring for Cast Iron –

  • After cooking, clean the pan with a scouring pad and hot water…using soap is fine but not usually necessary if the pan is well seasoned.
  • It is important to dry the pan thoroughly! Leaving even a drop od water will promote rust.
  • Wipe the pan with a thin coating of vegetable oil.

And here are a few classic recipes that can get Grandma's cast iron skillet down off the shelf.

Corn Bread


2 ½ cups coarse yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

5 tablespoons fresh lard melted

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 ½ cups whole milk with 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar added to it


Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet inside.

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

Combine 4 tablespoons of the lard, the egg and the buttermilk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until smooth.

Move the skillet from the oven to the stove top, over high heat. Add the remaining lard to the pan and swirl to coat. Pour in the batter; it should sizzle vigorously. Shake the skillet to distribute it evenly. Cook 15 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Variation – add 12 ounces of grated cheddar cheese and one fresh jalapeno, minced to the batter before pouring it into the skillet.

Baked Pancake


4 tablespoons (½ of one stick) butter, cut into three or four pieces

4 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

1 pinch of salt

4 Tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400°F.  When the oven temperature reaches about 300°F, place an 8- or 9-inch cake pan or 10-inch pie plate in the oven with the butter in it.  The butter should melt, but not brown, while the oven finishes heating.

Place the eggs, flour, milk, salt, sugar and vanilla in a blender.  Fix the cover in place and blend on high, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary, until the mixture is smooth and even.  When the oven is fully heated, and the butter is fully melted, pull the oven rack out far enough to work safely and pour the batter into the hot pan.  Push the rack carefully back into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the oven pancake has puffed quite high and is a deep golden brown.  You can test the doneness by quickly inserting a butter knife in the center of the oven pancake.  If the knife comes out clean, the pancake is done.

Remove the pan from the oven, cut immediately (it will deflate some, so don’t worry!) and serve topped as desired.

Apple Compote


3 pounds tart apples, such as pippins, Gravensteins, Macintosh, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, peeled, cored and cut in ¼ inch dice

2 tablespoons Bourbon

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup raisins

Combined all the ingredients in a sauce pan set over medium heat and allow to come to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, with occasional stirring until the compote thickens, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.