Cast-Iron Cooking For Dummies
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This Cheat Sheet is your guide through the world of cooking with cast iron. Whether you’re an experienced cook or just starting out, you can find something valuable here, ranging from what to look for when adding cast iron to your kitchen, expert advice on using spices and herbs effectively, handy substitutes for those moments when a few ingredients might be missing from your pantry, and even some measurement conversions.

Judging cast iron

Many people buy cast iron at garage sales, farm auctions, or antique stores. When you’re out and about, pay attention to the following features:

  • Uniform thickness of sides and bottom with no dips and valleys. Also avoid pieces that are warped. Dips, valleys, and any warping means that the pan is unsuitable for cooking.
  • Surface free of discoloration, blotches, and paint spots. Discoloration and blotches indicate that the metallurgy is suspect. Paint spots may signal that the iron has been repaired with epoxy. Also be sure that the surface is free from pits, chips, cracks, and scratches.
  • Manufacturer’s logos: American-made cast iron from now-defunct companies (specifically Wagner and Griswold) are collector’s items. The Lodge Manufacturing Company, the oldest family-owned U.S. producer of cast-iron cookware, puts the Lodge logo on every cast-iron piece that it manufactures.
  • Restoring possibilities: If you want to be able to cook in secondhand cast iron, you need to be able to refurbish it to cooking condition. Be sure that any imperfections don’t render the pan unusable for cooking and that you’re willing to work to repair it.

Spice and herb suggestions when cooking with cast iron

You can change the taste of a dish simply by changing the herbs and spices that you use in it. Some fun spices and herbs that you can use to introduce some extra flavor in the accompanying foods are as follows, but remember to start out using just a little bit and then add more as you go.

  • Allspice: Beef roasts, pork, potato soups, and oyster stews

  • Basil: Beef, pork, fish, shellfish, fried chicken, clam chowder, beef stew, green beans, and squash

  • Chili powder: Shrimp, fried chicken, and beef stew

  • Cinnamon: Ham, pork, stewed chicken, carrots, and sweet potatoes

  • Cloves: Corned beef, ham, fish, roast chicken, baked beans, bean soup, carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes

  • Ginger: Beef roast, chicken, and duck, baked beans, rice dishes, seafood, bean soup, carrots, and squash

  • Nutmeg: Pot roast, fried chicken, beans, and carrots

  • Oregano: Swiss steak, veal, chicken, pheasant, fish, shellfish, and stews

  • Sage: Pork, veal, chicken, turkey, duck, stew, squash, biscuits, and cornbread

  • Thyme: Roasts (all types), clam chowder, stew, carrots, green beans, potatoes, biscuits, and cornbread

Common substitutions when cooking with cast iron

You won’t always have exactly what a recipe calls for or the time to run to the store to get it. Check out the following common substitutions that you can use in a pinch:

What You Need What You Can Use Instead
Allspice, 1 teaspoon ground 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground
Apple juice Equal measure of white grape juice or white wine
Baking powder, 1 tablespoon 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Buttermilk, 1 cup 1 cup plain yogurt
Chocolate, 1 ounce unsweetened 3 tablespoons cocoa plus 1 tablespoon oil
Cornstarch, 1 tablespoon 2 tablespoons flour
Egg, 1 whole 2 egg yolks plus 1 tablespoon water
Flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
Flour, 1 cup cake 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons
Flour, 1 cup self-rising 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, plus 1/2
teaspoon salt
Garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon 1 clove glove
Garlic, 1 clove 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or minced, dried garlic
Herbs, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh 1 teaspoon dried herbs or 1/4 teaspoon powdered herbs
Herbs, 1 teaspoon dried 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs
Honey, 1 cup 1 1/4 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup liquid
Marsala, 1/4 cup 1/4 cup dry white wine plus 1 teaspoon brandy
Milk, 1 cup fresh whole 1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water
Sherry, 2 tablespoons 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sugar, 1 cup powdered 1 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed in blender
Vanilla extract, 1 to 2 teaspoons 2 tablespoons sherry or bourbon
Wine, 1/4 cup or more white Equal measure of white grape juice or apple juice
Yogurt, 1 cup plain 1 cup buttermilk

Equivalent measures for cast-iron cooking

Following are some measurement equivalents:

This Equals This
3 teaspoons 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon 3 teaspoons
4 tablespoons 1/4 cup
5 1/3 tablespoons 1/3 cup
1/4 cup 4 tablespoons
1/3 cup 5 1/3 tablespoons
2 cups 1 pint
4 cups 1 quart
4 quarts 1 gallon
1 pint 2 cups
1 quart 4 cups
1 gallon 4 quarts

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Antwon Brinson is an accom­plished chef and entrepreneur. He is the visionary behind Culinary Concepts AB, a purpose-driven venture committed to empowering individuals through the art of cooking. Through his company, he offers programs like the Phoenix program, dedicated to assisting inmates in their preparation for successful culinary careers. Chef Antwon displays his impressive culinary skills in the HBO Max program, “The Big Brunch.”

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