Cast iron, first utilized two thousand years ago in the Han Dynasty in China, continues today to be the ultimate multi-purpose cookware tool. It can be used on the stove, in the oven or directly on a grill to make almost any type of food—from sweet cornbread to juicy steak. If you’re unfamiliar with cooking in cast iron on a grill, here’s what you need to know:
First things first. Remember when we seasoned our grill grates? Cast iron cookware also needs to be seasoned regularly to prevent food from sticking. Before you start grilling, evenly spread canola, coconut or flaxseed oil on the cast iron. The fattier the oil, the better. Bake the cast iron on the grill at 350 degrees for about an hour, then remove and let cool completely. Repeat if you want stronger seasoning.
Cast iron diversity. Cast iron skillets aren’t the only type of cast iron you can use on a grill. Pans are the most commonly used, but cast iron griddles and Dutch ovens open up a world of possibility. Making breakfast? Break out the griddle and grill eggs, pancakes and meats all at the same time. Use a cast iron Dutch oven to make different types of bread, pulled pork or homemade baked beans on the grill.
Meat lovers rejoice. Using cast iron on a grill is a boon for meat lovers. Cooking a steak in a cast iron skillet allows the meat to cook flawlessly in its own juices. Black edges on your burgers are a worry of the past. Maybe you’d rather make sausage and kale-stuffed acorn squash? Cook the stuffing in your cast iron pan while the squash browns on the grill.
To cook or not to cook. Cast iron offers endless options. Bake a pizza or a loaf of bread inside your cast iron pan and close the grill lid to imitate an oven. Grill up spicy mushrooms and bacon or tasty paella valenciana. There are tons of different things you can cook in cast iron, but also, a few you should avoid:
- Thin fish. Thin fish, like flounder, will stick to cast iron and flake when pried off. If you must use cast iron, try meatier pieces of fish like salmon and cook it with the skin side down. If your pan is well-seasoned, this shouldn’t be a problem.
- Sweet and savory. Cast iron holds the taste of whatever food is cooked in it. If you make tilapia and then, immediately make s’mores, don’t be surprised if the s’mores taste kind of… fishy. Give your pan a good wash if you’re going to use it when going from savory to sweet food. Having two pans will easily solve this problem.
- Acidic food. Unless your pan has a thick film of fat from heavy seasoning, don’t take chances cooking acidic food in cast iron. Acidic food damages cast iron, strips the seasoning and can cause food to taste metallic. Keep your cast iron away from anything tomato- or citrus-based and avoid deglazing cast iron with vinegar or wine.
A Clean Gleam. There are tons of ways to clean cast iron, but a dishwasher is not one of them. You can use a little soap and warm water or just warm water, but coarse Kosher salt and a paper towel will also do the trick. Remember: keeping it clean now makes it easier to clean later.
What are you waiting for? Now that you know how to use cast iron, do something different for dinner and grill in cast iron to your heart’s content.
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