There are two Southern traditions that go hand in hand, that is frying food and cooking in a cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets along with recipes to cook in them are handed down from generation to generation. I have assorted sizes of cast iron skillets, most of which are over 30 years old and I use at least one on a daily basis for preparing meals.
Traditional cast iron skillets flavor foods in a way that no other cookware can, it’s a unique flavor that enhances your favorite recipes, and the older the cast iron skillet is, the better. Cast iron skillets heat evenly so you don’t have ‘hot spots’ in your skillet when frying that tend to burn some portions while other portions are barely cooking. Cast iron skillets hold the cooking heat better than other cookware material, making it easy to maintain a certain cooking temperature. Cast iron is also energy efficient and is the original energy savings cookware, you can turn the stove off just before your food is completely done and the cast iron skillet has enough heat in it to finish up the cooking process.
Traditional favorite Southern foods like fried chicken, fried potatoes or gravy taste best when fried in a cast iron skillet. A tiny amount of the oil used during frying will be absorbed by the cast iron skillet, adding seasoning to the skillet and the unique flavoring that cast iron skillets are famous for. Quick family dinners can be prepared and served in a cast iron skillet, like Hamburger Helper, Chicken Helper or any of the other kinds of frozen skillet dinners.
Cast iron is not the best choice for any recipe that requires the use of a lot of boiling water, such as pasta. Cast iron has ‘pores’ that expand when heated and will absorb whatever is cooked, the absorption of water from recipes is what will make the cast iron rust or cause food to stick to it.
Whenever possible, don’t wash your cast iron skillet after use. This may sound gross, but die hard cast iron cooks will understand. I have a cast iron skillet that I only use to bake cornbread in and I rarely ever wash it. I just wipe the crumbs out with a paper towel and store the skillet until I’m ready to bake another cake of cornbread. My cornbread comes out perfect every time with a nice crunchy crust and moist center.
A cast iron skillet can be used for any foods you fry or bake, cook on a grill or over a camp fire. Cast iron is virtually indestructible and will last through the lifetime of many generations of cooks.
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