Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cast Iron Skillet, How to use and love with Pan Roasted Pork Recipe

Cast iron is a really old and really beloved cooking material. It is heavy and durable which is good for someone who plans to keep on cooking for a while. But the heavy part is also awesome, it heats evenly and holds onto heat for a long time. Meaning it can give near constant cooking temperatures which is ideal for even cooking.  If you have ever tried to cook with a pan or pot that has a wobbly bottom then you will appreciate this. When things don't heat evenly they do not cook evenly. It will take twice a long to boil water in a pot with an unstable bottom because the heat transfer from the stove to the pot itself is more inefficient.

Sounds pretty good so far, but cast iron is not the same as cooking with a non-stick pan, which is a mistake a lot of people make. Cast iron needs some extra love. So here I will put my tips and tricks for using cast iron, so that it always works out for the best.

How to Cook with Cast Iron:

  • Never put oil into cold cast iron.  Always start to heat up the cast iron with nothing in it, for at least 5 minutes, but I usually give it closer to 7 minutes of heating time.
  • Use a good quality oil that has a high smoke point as the oil coat. Good quality oil will make or break your final result, and it needs to be an oil that wont turn rancid at a low temperature or burn at a high one. Things like canola oil and sunflower oil are good to use as the oil coat. Something like olive oil will burn and discolor the cast iron.
  • Use about 2 tablespoons of the good quality oil as the oil coat. Pour it into the heated cast iron and use a silicone basting brush to spread the oil over the entire cooking surface of the pan. This process pretty much acts to make the cast iron behave more like a nonstick pan. Things can and will burn to it, but the oil coat is needed. Plus the iron molecules expand and take in the oil as it heats making a really good surface for cooking on. Not doing an oil coat is why people ruin and can't use cast iron. It's easy and doesn't take long and it seriously is required.
  • Seriously Do the oil coat.
  • Ensure there is a good oil coat in the pan, it should all look smooth and slightly shiny all over the cooking surface.
  • Confirm there is a good oil coat.
  • Allow the oil coat and pan to heat another 3-5 minutes.
  • The cast iron is now ready to cook with!

Cooking with cast iron:

The cast iron is now ready to cook with. It will do an excellent job of frying up mushrooms and onions with butter as a side with some grilled meat. Stir fry's all turn out well in the cast iron. But my favorite is to do a grilled thick cut pork chop or steak or even starting off a pot roast in the cast iron. The cast iron gives the meat a solid sear on the outside, which helps to keep all the juices locked inside the meat. The cast iron is also excellent for making a reduction sauce.

Only use wood or plastic utensils with cast iron, or the surface will be ruined. No sharps!

Seared Pork


1 Onion, diced
2 Clove garlic, diced
1 Shallot, diced
Salt and Pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Thick cut pork chop, or loin chops


Preheat oven to 375°F

Prepare the cast iron skillet, and add the olive oil and the diced onion, garlic and shallot, season with salt and pepper.  Cook until starting to soften, about 10 minutes.  Season and prepare the meat as desired. Clear a spot in the center of the pan for the pork and place it in the center and cook for about 4-5 minutes a side. Trying to not poke at it too much, and keep as much of the juice inside the pork as possible.

Once all sides are seared, use plastic tongs to move most of the fried onion/garlic/shallots to on top of the meat and around the sides, this step helps add more flavor, and keep the meat moist and tender. If desired the pork can also be tented with tin foil. Transfer the entire cast iron skillet to the oven and finish cooking the meat to required done-ness. I always use a meat thermometer for this step.

Reduction Sauce


1 Cup Stock (best to either use a veg stock or one that matches the meat)
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons corn starch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water, Mixed smooth
Other seasonings as desired
1/4 Red Wine, also good


Once the pork is cooked and out of the cast iron skillet, put the skillet back on the burner over medium heat.  There should still be some onion/garlic and shallots in the pan as well as all the pan drippings, and some burned little brown bits on the bottom.  Those brown bits are flavor gold my friends.  Basically all you need to do to make an excellent reduction sauce is add the stock, butter and any other seasonings and the red wine.  Stir the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula, trying to lift the burnt bits from the bottom and gathering up all the flavor in the pan.  Once the stock begins to boil reduce heat.  If you added wine allow the sauce to boil for about 5 minutes so the alcohol evaporates .  When the stock is ready, use a fine sieve and strain out the cooked veg bits.  Once strained, add the corn starch and water mixture and whisk quickly. the Sauce should begin to thicken but if it stays thin try heating it some more.  Taste the sauce and add any extra seasonings and serve!

Cleaning the Cast Iron

  • Do not use soap.
  • Allow the cast iron to cool completely. But don't let it stand too long
  • Do not use dish soap.
  • Using a soft cloth, not a scrubber and hot water wash out the inside of the pan.
  • Repeat washing until it almost looks perfectly clean.
  • Do not use soap.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry immediately.
  • All done! 
Vinegar can be used in small amounts to help make sure there aren't any bacteria left kicking around. But be sure to rinse and dry well! 


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