New to Cast Iron (A Guest Post)
[Note from Rick: Today’s post is from Chris Morin, who discovered the benefits of cast iron in recent months. Chris and I had corresponded a few times, and I asked him if he would write down some of his thoughts about being a brand new cast iron aficionado. Below he describes how his discovery of cooking on a cast iron grill led him to the discovery of the benefits of the cast iron skillet and other cookware.]
Since the bulk of my cooking experience was outside, I started educating myself on grilling. That led us to buy a new grill. Our old Weber kettle grill was way past its prime. I purchased it used from a family member about twelve years earlier and it was already fifteen years old. I was not going to just head down to the local big box chain store and buy the first grill I saw; so it was time to do some research.
My research resulted in out purchasing a grill with cast iron grates. I read in various online forums people’s love of these grills. They raved about how well cast iron seared the meat, retained heat and was naturally non-stick. Neither my wife nor I had any experience with cast iron, but the enthusiasm of other owners sold us. We made our purchase. I had some initial trepidation with the grill as I had to season the grates. Once again, I turned to the online forums for instructions. After a few blazing fires and a few applications of oil, my grates had a deep, even black patina and the interior of the grill had a nice mahogany color. I had done my job and done it well.
We started cooking in earnest. Steaks, chops, chickens, burgers, brats and hot dogs all went on the grill. Soon, I was also raving about the virtues of cast iron. I was also paying closer attention to how I was grilling the meat. Direct heat, indirect heat, and Mesquite wood chunks soaked in water became part of our vocabulary. Now my contributions to our meals were more enjoyable. The real proof was in the comments from my family and requests for more food from outside.
That led us to consider other foods we could prepare outside using charcoal and fire. The cast iron grates got us thinking about other cast iron tools. If we were to cook things like eggs and pancakes, we needed other cooking surfaces. Once again, I turned to the Internet to research the best cast iron.
Some explanation about how I interact with my tools is in order. I am someone who needs to be as passionate about the tools I use as I am about the activity in which they are used. My work is all on computers and I am passionate about computers from Apple. I also have a passion for writing, so I am equally passionate about the pens and journals I use. My new passion for cooking required tools that would complement and not hinder that passion.
My research resulted in finding Rick Mansfield’s site Cooking in Cast Iron. There I saw he used quite a few pieces from Lodge Manufacturing. Other reading confirmed Lodge to be a quality brand of cast iron that had the bonus of being American made and environmentally friendly.
Our first purchase was a cast iron griddle. Soon, we were enjoying more than lunch and dinner prepared with charcoal and cast iron. Breakfast was even more enjoyable when prepared with these elemental tools. My wife and I have since added several pieces of cast iron to our arsenal of cookware. Old copper-bottom and artificial non-stick cookware was retired. In their place, we are discovering the added taste benefits provided by cast iron. Almost everything we make tastes better when prepared in cast iron cookware. Our family finds new enjoyment in old standby recipes. Pot roast tastes better from a cast iron Dutch oven than it did in our old aluminum pot. Cornbread is much, much better from a cast iron skillet than our non-stick cake pans. The list goes on and on.
My wife and I found an added bonus. Not only are we spending more time together cooking but also we are learning together. We ask, “What about this recipe,” or “What about that recipe?” Invariably, we just try it and discover one more meal that tastes better when prepared in cast iron. When we went on vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we took our cast iron with us. We were so excited to plan all the meals we would cook outside using only the utensils we took with us. Everything turned out wonderfully delicious.
Needless to say, my wife and I are now cast iron converts and look forward to new culinary discoveries with great anticipation.
Feel free to interact with Chris in the comments below.