Well, after the first part of this article we were determined to see if the description lived up to the billing, in terms of the use of the cookware. Thanks to the fine people at Cookware.com, they provided for us this fine Paula Deen 12″ cast iron skillet to try with our own style of spicy cooking. We have not ever owned a piece of cast iron cookware, so we were anxious to try this out and see how it worked in our kitchen.
Now I don’t know who Paula Deen is, but she does make a pretty damn solid piece of cookware. This may be the heaviest piece of cookware I have ever lifted, and is no doubt cast iron.
For aesthetics, it really does look quite nice. A tremendous bonus is that it is pre-seasoned, meaning one quick rinse with water and this is ready to use. Some cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned, meaning you need to fill the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some sort, which subsequently gets cooked in. This provides a smooth, nonstick surface on both the inside and outside of the piece. Not needing to do this is a big help!
For our inaugural meal with this skillet, we opted to make a garlic and herb beef meal with strips of beef simmered in chile pepper-infused oil (with the seeds), cubed potatoes, and red peppers.
It’s nearly as simple as you can make, since it came from a pre-assembled mix of stuff, but it fit the bill of a skillet meal. After cooking the beef strips for 10 minutes in the oil, we added the potatoes, veggies, and sauce, and then let it simmer in the skillet for another 5 minutes. When heated completely through, it was ready to serve.
Voila! Garlic and herb beef, done in a cast iron skillet. Here’s my take on this piece of cookware:
The good: It just feels like a solid, well-made piece of cookware. Cooking with it was very even, despite the contents of this meal which were a little lumpy and uneven to start. Not having to wait for part of it to get cooked as the rest of it was done, or overdone, is quite a bonus. Being able to use the built-in seasoning of the pan will cut way back on the extra oil and butter we often use while cooking, which will make our meals that much healthier as well.
The bad: This was not as non-stick as I expected it to be. Perhaps this will improve as we “break it in” a little more, but I still had to use a touch of soap and water to get some of the cooked food out of it. I know the directions for use suggest to avoid detergent, but that’s a hard habit to break once you’re used to cleaning your non-stick cookware before you put it away.
Overall: I can’t wait to use this skillet more often.Given how much we like to sauté our foods in various sauces, spices, and other mixtures to make them spicy, I think this will do well to maintain the flavor.
For a great overview on cast-iron pans and how to cook most effectively with them, check out this article from What’s Cooking America that goes into great detail about it.