"I have always been a huge fan of cooking with cast iron," says Mathis. "Besides being nonstick, and super easy to clean, my meats tend to brown better and my veggies cook a lot faster."
Unless your skillet comes seasoned, like this Lodge 12" Cast Iron Skillet ($23), you have to season it, which means sealing it with oil. "After washing my cast iron skillet, I make sure that it is 100 percent dry," says Mathis. "I then spread a nice, thin layer of vegetable oil into the skillet. I use my hands to make sure the oil gets onto every part of the cast iron. Then, I bake the skillet in the oven at 350°F for about an hour or so." Seasoning forms a natural, non-stick cooking surface and helps prevent your pan from rusting.
You only need to season your new skillet once, but Mathis says you should apply a thin layer of oil after each use. "I always store my skillet in a thin layer of vegetable oil, because that’s what my mom taught me to do," she says. "Doing this helps prevent rust, so your cast iron will last forever."
Mathis says to always protect your hands from the heat when cooking with cast iron ("I learned this the hard way," she says). It’s a good idea to always have a kitchen towel or oven mitt handy. Also, avoid cooking potent-smelling foods in cast iron. "Foods like garlic and peppers tend to leave their mark, and are nearly impossible to remove." Fun fact: cooking in cast iron can also increase the iron levels in your food.
Below are three cast iron skillet recipes that allow you use your skillet for every meal.
3 cast iron skillet recipes that'll make you feel like a chef at every meal
Breakfast: Sweet potato and kale frittata
Nora Minno, RD, CDN, a New York-based dietitian, says she loves using a cast iron skillet to make frittata. "You can throw in whatever veggies you have on hand, or even work in some left over roasted veggies to make a high-protein dish that lasts a few days—I love having left over frittata to snack on."
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tsp sea or kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups kale leaves, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup goat cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl.
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a 10 inch ovenproof, non-stick skillet and sauté sweet potatoes over medium heat for 8 to 10 min or until tender. Remove and keep warm. (Note: you can also use left over roasted sweet potatoes and skip this step. You will want to heat them briefly in the microwave.)
3. Sauté kale, red onion, and garlic gloves in remaining oil 3 to 4 minutes or until kale is wilted and tender; stir in potatoes.
4. Pour egg mixture evenly over vegetables, and cook 3 more minutes. Sprinkle egg mixture with goat cheese.
5. Bake at 350°F for 10 to14 minutes, or until egg has set.
6. Serve warm, and enjoy!
Lunch: Marinated Flank Steak Tacos
"Steak is definitely one of my favorite things to cook in my cast iron skillet, because it gives the meat such a nice brown layer," says Mathis.
2 lbs flank steak
6 small tortillas
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1½ tsp taco seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp fresh dill, minced
½ cup crumbled reduced fat feta
Shredded romaine lettuce
Sliced grape tomatoes
1. In a small bowl, add lime juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1½ tsp taco seasoning, 1 tsp of dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Add flank steak, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
2. Heat a cast iron skillet (or grill) on high and add 1 tbsp of olive oil. Remove the steak from marinade and place it on the hot skillet for about 4 to5 minutes, then flip and cook another 4 to 5 minutes for medium rare, or until it reaches your desired doneness.
3. Let the steak rest for about 10 to15 minutes. Slice in thin slices against the grain, and place on the tortillas. Top with feta, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños if desired!
4. Serve, and enjoy!
Dinner: Apple Roasted Herb Chicken
"The flavors of the apples, and herbs season the chicken perfectly," Mathis says. "It's the best roasted chicken recipe ever."
6 leg quarters
1 tbsp olive oil
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 tsp fresh thyme and 3 additional sprigs
1 cup sliced red apples
1 cup purple onion coarsely chopped
2 tbsp seasoning salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tbsp black pepper
½ cup water
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Place chicken leg quarters in a large black cast iron skillet. Drizzle chicken with olive oil and season the front and back of chicken with 1 tsp of thyme, seasoning salt, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, and black pepper.
3. Arrange apples, onion, rosemary, and thyme sprigs around seasoned chicken.
4. Add water and place in oven.
5. Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
6. When done, remove from oven, and let settle for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
For dessert, try blueberry pie:
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