Learn the finer points of using one and you’ll be the toast of every elk camp
In an age of titanium, aluminum and Teflon, the cast iron skillet has, in a sense, been set on the back burner in elk camp. Sadly, the skillet hangs as decoration in new log homes and Cracker Barrels. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Unless your diet only consists of wheatgrass shakes and tofu dogs, then you need to rekindle your pioneer spirit, yank that iron skillet off the wall and put it to some use. Here’s why you need to bring some iron back into your diet.
Lock it In
Our own Carnivore’s Kitchen columnist, John McGannon, says the cast iron skillet is by far his favorite cooking tool. For those backstraps and loins, the skillet will sear them very quickly, locking in moisture. Because it’s so dense, the skillet retains its heat when a cold steak is placed in it, and it won’t scorch the meat like aluminum. An iron skillet with a lid will cook thick, tough cuts at low temperature better than anything out there.
The Swiss Army Skillet
There is no piece of kitchen equipment more versatile than the iron skillet. You can use it to fry, braise and sauté. Cook up a stew or a sauce. A 3-inch deep skillet will deep-fry, poach and steam just about anything. Want to make it into a bake oven? Evenly sprinkle pebbles into the bottom of the skillet, then set in a pie tin filled with biscuits, cornbread, whatever, cover the skillet tightly with foil and put it right on hot coals.
It’s All in the Seasoning
A skillet is made when the blood of Zeus is poured into a cast. (It’s actually molten iron.) As it cools, air bubbles form and leave microscopic pores on its surface. These pores can lead to rust and corrosion. But after a little “seasoning” you will never have to wash your skillet again, seriously.
To season a new skillet, wipe a thin coat of vegetable oil into it (no butter or margarine). Place it in a 350-degree oven for one hour. Remove, let cool, dry and wipe it again with oil. After a few applications, the oil will fill the pores, creating a tough, nonstick, rust-free coating.
Hold the Soap
If you’ve properly seasoned your skillet, there is no need to soak it or wash it with dish soap. Doing so will remove its seasoned coating. If you must clean it, pour in some boiling water, scrub with a stiff-bristled brush, wipe dry and season with some oil. Remember, no soap!
Flea markets, garage sales and grandpa’s basement are all great places to score a skillet for less than $10. You can remove any rust by scouring it with a steel or copper pad and some scouring powder. Wash with soapy water and towel dry. Then “season” and enjoy a lifetime of elk camps.