I just got my new cast iron pan and wanted to find all the best cast iron life hacks. So far, my cast iron is great for cooking ribeyes!
Otherwise, I don’t use it much. I know that cast iron is supposed to be life changing- and a major multitasker. The last think I want is thi heavy pan to become a rusty eyesore in my Gourmet Kitchen.
So I dug into the best hacks for cast iron. Think about it. Cast iron is durable, heavy, and holds heat like nothing else. I was surprised at all the different ways to use cast iron!
1. Using Cast Iron As A Pizza Stone:
No one likes limp pizza. But a pizza why invest in a pizza stone when you already have a cast iron pan?
Similar to a pizza stone, cast iron is great at taking in and holding onto heat. (That’s why pizza stones are so useful!). When you take a hot oven and add cold pizza to it, there’s a loss in heat. The oven needs to get back up to the same temperature.
Because high temperature = crispy pizza crust.
Test this out the next time you’re looking to make a pizza:
Preheat your oven with your cast iron pan inside. Once up to temp, coat your cast iron in a healthy dose of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt (to help with flavor and seasoning).. and add your pizza dough to your cast iron.
Bake according to your recipes or the pizza dough instructions (usually 8-10 minutes) and enjoy!
2. The Cast Iron Flame Tamer
One key benefit of cast iron is it’s even heating. Cast iron doesn’t heat up as fast as aluminum (or other metals) and does a good job of maintaining the heat it does suck up. This makes your cast iron the perfect flame tamer.
If you’ve ever double-boiled something (hopefully to melt chocolate!) it’s the same idea. Sometimes, with chocolate or delicate sauces, the heat from the oven can get too intense. You end up with uneven pot heating, burnt sauces, and a bad time.
Placing your cast iron on the heat then placing your sauce pan on top will give you more even heat- and fewer headaches.
3. DIY Smoker
Since cast iron can handle intense heat, it’s the perfect tool to use in the grill! If you don’t have a smoker, you can load up your cast iron with wood chips for a DIY smoker.
As a note, you want to moisten your wood chips so they don’t burst in flames in your grill! Otherwise, you’re good to go to add a savory smokey flavor to all your grilled goods.
4. Thaw Meat FAST
This is best for thin slices of meat. What you do is simply leave your cast iron our and spread out frozen or cold piece of raw meat you’re looking to cook.
I’m pretty busy, just like everyone else! So after work, when I’m preparing dinner, I sometimes forget that I left my meat in the freezer. I don’t have 3-4 hours to have it thaw in the fridge.. and don’t want to partially microwave it into a gross mess.
That’s where the cast iron thawing comes in! Getting your meat to room temperature as you prep everything else.. or handle a few other chores and unwind.. allows your meat to cook more evenly without as much risk of drying out.
5. Keep Your Oven At Temp
We already talked about using your cast iron as a pizza stone, but there’s even more to revisit here! Adding your cast iron into the oven to cook meals does wonders.
It helps chicken skin stay crispier… It keeps veggies crispier… And gives your breads or cookies an extra crunch!
Plus, if you’re looking to keep your food warm or heat up left over the cast iron is the perfect source of slow consistent heat you need. Just put your cast iron in the oven as your oven warms up to 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit and you’re all set!
6. Make Amazing Sandwiches
There’s nothing wrong with a regular sandwich out of the fridge. However, if you put a little more love into a sandwich it will transform into something amazing. (Think of just laying a slice of cheese between bread.. versus making a grilled cheese sandwich).
Having a crispy sandwich with a smooth creamy filling toasted to perfection doesn’t happen by accident. You need high heat and weight. Which makes cast iron your best friend whether you’re looking to make grilled cheese or whip up your favorite pressed sandwiches!
To make cleanup even easier, you can cover the bottom of your cast iron with aluminum foil.
7. Crush Nuts And Spices
You CAN use a spice grinder or nut cracker to smash up your whole spices or nuts. But those become a pain in the butt to clean all the nooks and crannies. I much prefer crushing spices with cast iron.
(I first learned this by seeing steak au poivre made. They smash the pepper in the cast iron giving the steak a rustic peppery crust).
8. Easy Brick Chicken
Cooking a whole chicken with crispy skin is no simple task. Back in ancient Rome they figured out by flattening a chicken with bricks, you’ll get crispy skin AND cook the whole chicken at the same time.
See, the problem with cooking a chicken is either you get crispy skin.. but the meat drys out. OR you have perfectly cooked chicken, with flabby skin.
The solution? Flatten out the chicken! Plus, pressing something of high heat against the skin help it crisp up faster. You can use bricks, or use your cast iron pan to flatten the chicken, intensify the heat of your oven, AND crisp up the skin.
Plus, if you don’t want the bottom of your cast iron touching your chicken, you can cover the bottom of the cast iron in aluminum foil.
9. The Smash Burger Hack
Probably the simplest- and one of the tastiest- ways to make burgers with cast iron is the smash burger.
What you want to do here is:
- Heat up your cast iron skillet on the grill or stove top for about 5 minutes.
- Brush your skillet with some vegetable oil (just a dab with do!)
- Take 1/4 pound of ground beef and ball it up. Can do this right from the package!
- SMASH your burger with a grill press or metal spatula (something you can put your weight behind).
- Season generously with salt.
- Don’t touch for 2 minutes!
- Flip and cook for another minute (or longer if you want burger medium- well done).
- Plate and enjoy!
10. The Ultimate Tofu Press
With plant-based nutrition becoming more common place tofu is finding its way into more and more dishes. However, tofu has a LOT of water in it. And to get a nice sear, you need to press your tofu to squeeze out that water.
All you do is wrap your tofu in a clean towel/cloth and place in a large plate with a good edge, like a hotel pan or serving platter. Place your cast iron skillet on top and leave for 30 minutes.
Then you’re all set to slice and cook!
After digging into the best cast iron hacks, I pretty much use my cast iron skillet every single day. But before we wrap up I do have ONE last hack.
Your cast iron gets better with age, like wine. And part of this process is called seasoning. You allow vegetable oil to soak in and mix into your cast iron’s pores. It makes it non-stick!
I go deeper into cleaning and seasoning your cast iron here.. but instead of baking your cast iron for 20 minutes after each cook do this:
Simple rinse off your cast iron skillet, put it back on the heat and coat with some vegetable oil. Once coated, you can put your cast iron back and carry on with your day.
Frankly, cast iron is the kitchen tool you’ll use over and over again- and can even pass onto your kids or grandkids! Take good care of it and it’ll take great care of you.
Just curious, what is your favorite hack you’ve seen here? Let me know in the comments below!