March 10, 2016

We've shared with you 7 surprising ways to use your cast-iron skillet, but now it's time to make a bold, definitive statement. Let's talk about 7 foods you should always cook in a cast-iron skillet; just don't even try to use any other pan—because the results won't be nearly as good.

1. Corn breadYes, it's obvious, so it's a good place to start. Corn bread just isn't corn bread unless it has that wonderful crispy crust. And you don't get that crispy crust unless you pour the batter into a hot, hot preheated cast-iron skillet, so that it sizzles the moment it makes contact with the metal.

2. BurgersThat's right. I'm encouraging you to skip the grill and put your burgers in a searing-hot cast-iron skillet. Why? Two words: The crust. As the meat cooks to a crispy outer crust, it picks up deeply savory, caramelized flavor—over the entire surface (unlike with a grill, where the meat just makes direct contact with a few lines on the rack).

3. Blackened FishOnce again, it's all about the crust. When properly preheated (for at least 5 minutes), cast-iron pans hold heat beautifully—meaning that once you add food to it, the temperature of the pan doesn't drop the way it might in a pan made of, say, stainless steel. And this high, constant heat is what gives you the blackened crust you want on your fish.

4. Smaller SteaksWhy do I specify smaller steaks? Well, because larger-surface-area steaks, such as flank and skirt steaks, fit better on on the grill—though if you want to cut them to fit in your cast-iron skillet, I know they'll be delicious cooked in it. Smaller steaks, though, cook to beautiful perfection with (you guessed it) a great crust when seared in cast iron.

5. ScallopsEver had disappointing scallops? You know, wan, pale scallops without a good crust? Prevent that from ever happening to you by cooking your scallops in a very hot cast-iron pan. And don't fuss with them; leave them for a few minutes to develop that crust. If you try to move them too early, you break the seal and disrupt crust-formation. But leave them till they release from the pan naturally, and you get the reward of beautifully, perfectly seared scallops.

6. Pommes AnnaOK, admittedly this recipe is rather specific. But it's so darn delicious that I want to make it an everyday kind of dish. Super-thin slices of potatoes get layered into a cast-iron skillet, then are lightly pressed (to compress them a bit) and baked till they're wonderfully crispy when you turn out them out.

7. Charred VegetablesRemember what I said earlier about cast-iron holding its heat, about it not dropping the temperature once you add food? That's super important when you're trying to char food. Here, I'm focusing on charred vegetables—because that layer of charred flavor takes them to a whole new dimension.

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