The Great Big List of 50 Pancake Topping Ideas

Saturday mornings are pancake mornings at our house. In fact, I was looking through some old videos yesterday (on my day off) and I had recorded some footage of my then-toddler daughter and I cooking pancake shapes and then smothering them in syrup. That is evidence enough that this has been a tradition for at least a decade around here.

This morning was no different: chocolate chip pancakes on the cast iron grill topped with some mixed berries and a generous slog of maple syrup (…did I mention we live in Canada?)

My plate looked particularly photogenic this morning, and so I took a shot before digging in. All of this, the old videos, the Saturday routine, the fresh fruit and maple syrup of course got me thinking about how we fall into routine and stick with the things that are comfortable. Chocolate chip pancakes are amazing, but we don’t veer far off course of the toppings list.

So, if I someday soon decided to stray a little bit from my patriotic imperative of supporting the national maple syrup industry, here are some of the things I might consider as a good starting list of familiar, unique, interesting, tasty, and maybe a little off-the-wall ideas to add to or on top of my Saturday pancakes:

  1. maple syrup (obviously)
  2. powdered sugar
  3. butter
  4. strawberries
  5. chocolate
  6. fruit syrup
  7. banana slices
  8. chopped toasted almonds
  9. shredded coconut
  10. mixed berries
  11. peach slices
  12. hazelnut spread
  13. whipped cream
  14. caramel sauce
  15. crumbled bacon
  16. lemon sugar
  17. cinnamon sugar
  18. lox
  19. blueberries
  20. fruit compote
  21. vanilla ice cream
  22. dulce de leche
  23. peanut butter
  24. baked apple slices
  25. poached egg
  26. yogurt
  27. raisins
  28. toasted macadamia nuts
  29. cream cheese
  30. honey
  31. marshmallow cream
  32. crumbled graham crackers
  33. cottage cheese
  34. avocado slices
  35. grilled ham
  36. candied ginger
  37. nut butter
  38. apple sauce
  39. corn syrup
  40. ricotta
  41. raspberries
  42. canned pears
  43. lemon curd
  44. mango coulis
  45. pineapple slices
  46. grilled spam
  47. hot fudge
  48. rhubarb sauce
  49. candied nuts
  50. chopped candy

…and now go check out my chocolate chip pancake recipe if you need some inspiration for where to put all these amazing options for toppings.

Ten Breakfast Foods that Cook Up Great in Cast Iron

Breakfast. For many it’s considered the most important meal of the day. For others, it is a way of life. Here are 10 ideas for cooking a hot first meal of the day in your cast iron.

Eggs. Fried. Scrambled. Sunny-side up with a bit of butter, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Served over toast or with bread for dipping.

Bacon. Crispy or just a bit soft. Smokey and rich. And the grease is good for the pan.

Hashbrowns. Fried potatoes. Warm. Salt. And crunchy. Soaking up a dose of ketchup and mopping up the egg yolks.

Sausages. Grilled and spicy. Flavour dripping from the tips as you bite into them.

Ham. Thick sliced and grilled warm in the pan. Sliced into chunks, and served with a rich, grainy mustard.

Omelet. With cheese, onions, tomatoes, or seafood, folded and fluffy, fancy, too.

Pancakes. Spotted with chocolate chips or decorated with sliced banana. Drowned with fruit and drizzled with syrup.

Crepes. Thin and round, wrapped around chocolate, fruit, and whipped cream and drizzled with sauce or syrups.

Waffles. Crisp and doughy, pocketed with pots waiting to be drenched in maple syrup and adorned with fruit.

Skillet. Potatoes, cheese, eggs, veggies, and bits of everything that makes breakfast great, come together with spices and love.

People like lists. I like people. So I’m giving the people what they like. I ran a blog for 16 years and one of the most popular posts ever on that blog was a list of “100 things” that I’d compiled and posted. I’m trying to recreate something similar over the next couple months for the cast iron guy blog. This post will eventually form part of that mega list.

How long does it take to season a cast iron pan?

Probably one of the most well-known bits of cast iron lore is that the more that you use your pan the better it will get.

This rule of thumb is referring to the seasoning, the thin, black layers of polymerized oil that have been converted to this state by heat and have adhered to the surface of the pan creating that famous non-stick state of cooking bliss.

Pre-seasoned pans from the factory are sold with a few layers of seasoning applied shortly after manufacture, and for many this is “good enough” to start cooking with your new pan even as you peel the labels off. But for others, a fully seasoned pan takes work, and adequate seasoning is a matter of opinion and personal evaluation. To them, no pan ever comes from the store with enough seasoning to be considered fully ready to cook on.

The most unhelpful advice I’ve ever read on seasoning basically says that a pan is fully seasoned when you know that it is fully seasoned.

What those folks are getting at is simply that it will feel like it cooks better. Or it will pass some kind of non-stick test. You’ll just know… y’know?

A test, you say? For example, some swear that a pan is only seasoned when it passes the egg test: crack an egg into the center of a hot pan, cook it to doneness, then slide it onto a plate… all of this without using a spatula or any other cooking tool. If it slides into the plate and leaves a clean pan behind: voila! Your pan is perfectly seasoned. If it sticks then get back to work: you’re not there yet.

But no, you insist, really how long does it take to season a cast iron pan?

In my experience, it takes however long it takes to build up five … ten … twenty solid layers of seasoning. You’ll just know… y’know?

That might take just one quiet afternoon with a hot oven, some oil and a bit of elbow grease.

Perhaps a full weekend out camping and cooking all your meals over a fire where the hot flames meld oil to iron will find your pan seasoned perfectly.

Sometimes a couple months of casual cooking at home is required as you notice week by week that your pan gets a little smoother and easier to use each time you fry.

Or occasionally it will take years of waking up early to prepare delicious Saturday breakfasts for your still-sleeping kids until you realize that your seasoning should be considered a family heirloom.

So maybe those folks with the unhelpful advice are right. A pan is fully seasoned when you know that it is fully seasoned. You’ll just know… y’know?

Griswold Egg Pan (Part One)

Some more backstory…

Just before the pandemic rolled in and I was nursing ideas about how to make effective use of my domain name I struck upon the plan of buying and “restoring” old cast iron pans. My plan was to scour through eBay, adventure through yard sales, and bumble among the aisles of second hand shops to look for old pieces.

I would buy them.

I would clean them.

I would re-season them and use them.

I would write about them.

So in September of 2019 I picked up the first of my project pieces from an online seller, a Griswold #3 Egg Pan which arrived in fair, but crusty condition, via the mail.

As is visible in the attached photos (the pan resting on a cutting board, snapped in September 2019 & after a light wipe down) the small pan needed a little bit of care. It was dirty for a start, as if the seller had cooked lunch in it, cooled it off, then packed it off to be shipped. Also, the seasoning had the chipped and peeling look of a wall that’s been painted a dozen times over the years and then started to erode and wear revealing the layers. Otherwise it’s a nice piece. There is some uneven casting on the bottom (and I have no means or skill to refinish this) but the cooking surface is smooth and clear of scars.

First, a little about the history of a piece like this. I specifically went looking for a Griswold pan because there they are kind of the stereotypical antique but affordable collector cast iron piece, new enough to find in your grandparent’s kitchen but old enough to say, hey… this is an old pan.

Griswold Manufacturing was an American manufacturer of cast iron kitchen products founded in Erie, Pennsylvania, in business from 1865 through 1957. For many years the company had a world-wide reputation for high-quality cast-iron cookware. Today, Griswold pieces are collector’s items.”

– Wikipedia

I’m not a cast iron restoration expert.

Over the last five years and in using multiple pieces of my (purchased new) cast iron cookware for that long, I would firmly tell you that as far as use and care goes, I’m in the intermediate “home cook” skill level.

That said, a caveat. Restoration is a new hobby for me. In other words, I’m probably doing something wrong and I’m not going to be doing much in the way of repairs so much as this more about simple cleaning and re-seasoning efforts. So… be gentle in your replies. I’m learning out here in the public eye.

Now, the Griswold #3 709 I is not a valuable collectors piece, but I think it’s at least sixty-plus years old. Tiny. Only about seven inches across, it makes for an ideal egg pan. I’ve been through a few forums and websites trying to put an age to it and as far as I can tell it was probably cast circa 1939-1957. Neither rare nor of import, I figured it was a neat first “old” piece to kick off my set, and I wouldn’t be destroying an historical artifact if I messed it up.

My first step was to run it through the clean cycle of the oven. This stripped the iron down to bare metal. Then I cleaned the char and oxidized powder off with soap and water then immediately ran a couple seasoning cycles in a hot oven with a light vegetable oil.

After it cooled I put it the cupboard …and forgot about it for a while.

The next two pictures (on a granite countertop) were snapped in January 2021, as I pulled the piece out and decided to write a short series on this new blog.

I ran it through another seasoning cycle (lightly oiling it and baking it with my latest round of sourdough bread).

I cooked a couple eggs in it.

I grilled a cheese sandwich.

It’s starting to develop a useful and seasoned cooking surface.

And as I continue to season and cook with this pan over the next few weeks and months I’ll write future posts with more info.

Stay tuned.