Foods You Should Only Cook In A Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron skillets are praised by chefs and home cooks for their ability to retain and evenly distribute heat, their durability, and how simple they are to use and clean. Bon Appetit editor Alex Delany even claims that adding a cast iron pan to their kitchen lineup totally changed the way they cooked, and even made their life and their cooking better. 

While there are really only a few things you shouldn't cook in cast iron, there are some dishes that really shine which you should always make in cast iron if you can. We suggest owning two cast iron skillets, one for sweet dishes and one for savory, so you can take full advantage of everything the versatile cooking surface has to offer. According to Prevention, while cast iron pans are simple to clean, they tend to take on some of the flavors of the foods you've cooked in them, which can lead to funky pie crusts and garlicky brownies if you're using one pan for both.

Cast iron makes perfect fried eggs and creamy frittatas a snap

Cast iron makes cooking the amazing, crispy-edged fried eggs of your dreams as easy as 1-2-3. The Kitchn recommends fried eggs for one of the first dishes you make if you are new to cast iron, which will help you get a feel for the cookware. This is because eggs are relatively cheap and quick to make. They claim to guarantee perfect cast iron fried eggs, you will need a preheated pan and patience. You want your surface to be very hot when you add your cooking fat (like butter or oil) and you will need to give you eggs time to set and cook fully. They suggest getting your pan hot and then adding your cooking fat before adding the eggs to the pan and turning down the heat. This method prevents burnt bottoms and runny whites.

Frittatas are another egg-based dish that are great when made in cast iron pans. The Kitchn characterizes frittatas as baked omelets, which is a pretty spot-on descriptor. You start a frittata by sauteing your ingredients on the stovetop and then popping the whole pan into the oven to finish baking. Cast iron is great for this since it can go from stovetop to oven with ease, making this a one-pan dish.

Chicken shines when cooked in a cast iron skillet

Bon Appetit put together a list of their favorite 50 dishes to cook in cast iron, and of those 50 recipes, 12 are for variations on roast chicken. They love how the pan can go from stovetop to oven in a snap, allowing you to bathe any veggies you cook alongside your bird in all the schmaltz (aka chicken fat) that renders out. They state that roasting chicken in cast iron creates crisp skin, evenly cooked light and dark meat, and perfectly roasted veggies all in one dish.

If fried chicken is more your style, Southern Kitchen says frying in cast iron will give you the best at-home results. They love how well the crust adheres to the chicken when using this shallow-fry method over deep-frying. LifeHacker agrees, saying that a cast iron skillet uses less oil and is a better way to make fried chicken than at-home deep frying due to its ability to retain heat. If the temperature of your oil drops too low, your chicken will begin to absorb it, which leads to ultra greasy, unappetizing chicken.

For the best pie of your life, consider cast iron

While cast iron is great for so many savory dishes, people often overlook its amazing dessert-enhancing qualities. Taste of Home notes that pies are one of the desserts that benefit most from being baked in cast iron. They state that cast iron conducts heat evenly, which gives you a uniformly cooked crust, and that the skillets are generally deeper than traditional pie pans, allowing you to create massive slices that look almost too good to eat. 

You can transform pretty much any pie recipe into a skillet pie (except for icebox pies for obvious reasons) — just make sure to make a little extra dough as your sides will be higher. They suggest you use a 9- or 10-inch skillet, as larger ones will throw off the baking times and can result in burned crust and underdone filling. According to Southern Living, once you bake a pie in a cast iron skillet, you may never want to bake one in a traditional pie pan again. They love that the handle makes your pan easy to get out of the oven, avoiding ruining your beautiful edges with clumsy baking mitts.