Everyone who owns a cast-iron skillet will tell you that it’s a kitchen workhorse. Some people swear by it and don’t even have traditional aluminum pans. If you get the non-stick patina right (which requires learning how to clean cast-iron properly), you can use a cast-iron pan to cook everything from a steak to a fried egg.
Whether you’ve owned this heirloom cookery for years, or have picked one up for the first time, you’ll find these surprising cast-iron hacks incredibly useful and inspiring. Read on, and for more, don’t miss these 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback.
No one got you the panini press from your wedding registry? Don’t worry about it! If you have a cast-iron skillet (or two) then you don’t need this specialized, single-use tool taking up precious cabinet space. While your sandwich is toasting on one side, rest a cast iron skillet on top of it to press down the meat, cheese, and accouterments. Flip it when the underside is nice and crispy and do the same to the other side. If you’re concerned about the cleanliness of the bottom of your pan, stick a piece of aluminum foil between it and your sandwich.
RELATED: Sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox!
You don’t need to invest in a fancy pizza stone to upgrade your homemade pizza nights. Just grab that cast iron skillet! Throw it in the oven to preheat for about ten minutes until its nice and hot. Pull it out (don’t forget to wear an oven mit!) and place your raw pizza dough right on top. The heat of the pan will help the crust get nice in crispy just in time for the cheese to melt. No more underdone crust!
Do you ever come across a recipe that calls for crushed peanuts, whole spices, or other nuts? Don’t waste your time chopping them up with a knife. Place the nuts or spices on a cutting board and simply use a cast iron pan to push down and crack ’em!
This cast-iron skillet hack is lesser-known, but you may end up using it more now that you’ve heard of it! A flame tamer helps to diffuse heat so that when you’re simmering something long and slow, you won’t have to worry about getting any scorch marks where the flames touch the pan. America’s Test Kitchen recommends that you place a cast-iron skillet on top of your burner and then your saucepan on top of that. You’ll be able to control the heat whenever you’re making gravy, melting chocolate, cooking rice, and more.
Not everyone has the space to have both a grill and a smoker. Luckily, you won’t need two gadgets to get the perfect smoked brisket—just your trusty cast-iron skillet and a grill. After soaking your wood chips in water, simply place them in a skillet and then place that skilled on one side of your grill as close to the flames as you can get it. Place your meat of choice on the grates and let the chips do the work.
Chicken under a brick is a wonderful technique to get the crispiest skin and moistest chicken meat. Unsurprisingly, this technique is achieved by weighing chicken skin-side down in a pan by resting a brick on top. But you can save those bricks for your patio, and just use a cast iron skillet instead.
Want to know one of the 10 Chef Secrets for How to Cook Chicken Breasts Perfectly? It’s to make the chicken breast as even as possible. When you try to cook chicken as you get it, it’ll often overcook on the thinner side if you want to get the thicker side to temperature. The easy solution is to either butterfly it, or pound it out. If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, a cast-iron skillet will do the trick.
Not everyone has a casserole dish. And not everyone has enough mouths to feed a fresh cobbler. If you’re cooking for one, why not just make your own personal serving? A small cast-iron skillet is a perfect vessel for a quick cobbler.
Tofu-lovers will tell you that the most important thing you need to keep in mind when cooking tofu is that you need to press the water out if you want to get a nice crust. One of the easiest ways to do that is by resting a cast-iron skillet directly on the tofu or using it to weigh down a baking sheet that you layer on top of the tofu. Don’t forget to put down paper towels to soak up all that water!
Sure you can throw leftover pizza in the oven to reheat it, but that can take more time than you’re willing to wait when you want a slice of ‘za. For a quick and easy reheat technique, place your slice on a cast iron skillet to get that crust nice and toasty again. Once you’re reaching a level of crispiness that you’re looking for, pour a bit of water in the pan, making sure it doesn’t touch the pizza. Cover the pan with a lid, and allow the steam from the water heat the pizza all the way through and melt the cheese. Once you use this technique, you may never go back to your old ways. For more hacks, check out these 52 Life-Changing Kitchen Hacks That’ll Make You Enjoy Cooking Again.