Let me tell you about one of my favorite kitchen items–my 10 inch cast iron chicken fryer. My grandmother, my mother (and probably all of my aunts) used one on pretty much a daily basis. I think my cousin still owns her mother’s skillet which even survived a house fire. The 10 inch chicken fryer by Lodge is useful, durable, and made in the USA. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have one that has been passed down for generations, you can buy one at Bass Pro (as if you need this as an excuse to make a trip to Bass Pro).
Having a cooking item that will last until your great-grandchildren are adults, may not be enough to convince you to buy one. However, let me explain the versatility of this item. Obviously, you can use it to fry chicken. Since cast iron conducts heat and retains heat well, this skillet is ideal for frying ANYTHING and EVERYTHING–french fries, shrimp, okra, hush-puppies, corn dogs–you name it. In addition to deep frying, you can pan fry, saute, and stir-fry in this skillet.
Plus, this skillet is the best option for those one dish meals because it has the depth to keep adding ingredients.
After you saute your onions, and brown your meat (chicken, roast, pork chops, etc.) in the skillet, add your liquid, reduce to a simmer, cover the skillet with a lid and let your meat braise. My mouth is watering just thinking about the herbs infusing into the liquid while the meat turns into tender, juicy bites of deliciousness. Let’s not forget that this skillet can also go in the oven. This means you can continue cooking your one dish meal in the oven. We still have baking to do in the skillet; 10 inch diameter is great for cornbread, rolls, and cake.
The heavy weight of this skillet also makes it a good tool for cracking peppercorns, although I generally use the 8 inch cast iron skillet for this. I do wrap my extra-firm tofu in a dish towel and put the cast-iron skillet on top to press out excess water. As you can see the versatility of this skillet is only limited by your imagination. I do have one disclaimer. You may not use wine to deglaze in a cast iron skillet because you must use a non-reactive pan (e.g., stainless steel) when deglazing.
The durability and versatility of cast-iron should be enough to make you want to start a search for an entire set of cast iron (Academy Sports has a nice selection.). In addition to my favorite 10 chicken fryer, I have a 10 1/2 inch square skillet, 8 inch round skillet, 10 inch round skillet, and 6 1/2 round skillet. My husband, who believes in buying me the best when it comes to kitchen items, bought me a fantastic stove that includes a cast iron griddle in the middle!
Now, let me share the best reason for loving cast-iron– the EASY clean up! No one likes the clean up part of cooking. I’ll confess to having some horrible disasters when things have burned and stuck rather stubbornly to my cookware. With cast-iron skillets, you have no worries and no scrubbing. Just put water in the skillet and boil any stuck-on, burnt-on food loose. Do not put your cast-iron in the dishwasher or you’ll end up with a rusty mess. I just quickly wash out the skillets in the sink and dry them on the burner. This frees up space in the dishwasher for all the other dirty dishes. Since I use my skillets so regularly, I just keep them stacked on my stove top.
With the durability, versatility, and easy clean up of cast-iron, you should make sure that all those who love to cook one own at least one cast-iron item in the kitchen. It’s a nice affordable gift for yourself or the one you love. You can even find a Lodge cast-iron skillet at Target and Wal-mart, so no excuses.