Simple Pan Basics

I continue to look for interestingly complex recipes to cook and share on this blog (though I’ll admit this is neither a major theme nor the sole purpose of this site to share recipes) and occasionally I’ll post one.

But then other times I like to retreat to something more simple and remind my readers of two things:

First, that this is not a space only about cast iron cooking, and that “cast iron guy” is more of a mindset and philosophy for living than an advice column on frying pans, and;

Second, that I do love cooking with cast iron and sometimes that is something super simple and super basic and results in a clean, delicious meal.

Like frying up a pork chop.

Aside from writing an epic piece on supply chains and the impact of climate-change induced once-in-two-hundred-year floods in the Vancouver area where much of our food comes from, and how the washout of multiple highways has created a low level panic here for the security of our food supply and… deep breath.

Let’s just say we bought a big hunk of pork last week and neatly packed it up in our deep freezer for some peace of mind.

There are a hundred great ways to cook a pork chop, of course, but a simple and basic fry up in a cast iron skillet is near the top of my list.

I seasoned with some pepper, salt and a bit of spice, and tossed them thawed into the smoking hot cast iron ten inch pan with a bit of oil. A few minutes per side, and a finishing fry to enhance the colour and we were served with a beautifully tender and moist cut of meat.

It’s winter outside so the barbecue is pretty much packed away for all but the warmest of winter occasions, but the cast iron does a darn comparable job.

And there is no complex recipe to follow.

Just heat, meat and eat.

Ten Hunks of Meat for Any Occasion That Cook Great on Cast Iron

Apologies to my vegetarian friends out there, but this one is for the omnivores in my audience. Never was I so convinced of the superiority of cast iron as part of my cooking contraptions than after I’ve plated some perfectly seared meat.

Hopefully these ten classics will inspire you to oil up a pan.

1. Beef Steaks. The pride of my homeland, a thick cut of Alberta grain-fed beef, peppered and grilled on a scorching hot pan to seal in the juices, cooked medium rare and sauced with a warm and sweet hickory glaze.

2. Hamburgers. In the summer I revert to the barbecue, but on those winter days a searing hot pan is a worthy replacement to grill up a patty or three, slipped into a bun and stacked high with all the fixings.

3. Lamb Chops. Seasoned simply and then pan seared in a bit of olive oil until a mouthwatering crust forms.

4. Fried Chicken. Buttermilk soaked and breaded, dropped into a bath of hot oil and fried up golden, and then served with biscuits (also cooked in cast iron!)

5. Salmon Steaks. Pink and thick, fried flaky on the outside, soft and tender under a butter fried crust, dashed with fresh lemon juice then sprinkled with dill from the garden.

6. Chicken Parmesan. The crisp cheesy breading browned to a crunchy finish around a chicken breast is almost good enough to eat without the sauce and pasta, but why would you.

7. Wings. Whether you like them spicy, crispy or saucy, properly deep frying a batch of chicken wings in a cast iron pot of oil can’t be matched by takeout.

8. Braised Roast. A hot cast iron pan can sear the sides to a gorgeous and delicious brown then finished in the same pan for a tender meal.

9. Schnitzel. Pounded thin chops, breaded and spiced, then shallow pan fried to a crispy finish with homemade potato salad on the side.

10. Fresh Caught Fish. Those lakes and rivers are calling, and over a campfire or just a kitchen stove, a fresh fish in a scorching hot cast iron pan is almost iconic as a fried egg.

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.