Welcome to Camp52, where we're recapturing the fun of summer as a kid. All month long, you'll find playful, carefree ideas for snacks (s'mores and popsicles, anyone?), drinks, crafts, games, field trips, packing tips, and more.
In the pantheon of kitchen greats, brightly colored KitchenAid mixers and stately Le Creusets—the kind of gifts you might receive for a wedding (or get married so that someone gives them to you)—might first come to mind. Or your attention may dart to the gleaming knife that fits perfectly in your hand and renders you a kitchen wizard.
The cast iron skillet gets its due respect, sure, but no one's gushing about it for its flashy good looks. Heavy and austere, it doesn't get displayed at the table when company comes over; it can't be tossed in the dishwasher with the other pans, and for that, it's sometimes misunderstood—taken for stubborn, nostalgic, fussy.
Given a chance, though, it cozies into your heart and garners the same sort of lifelong loyalty as those candy-colored stand mixers, only perhaps more fervent, precisely because it is so humble. It fries like no other; it gives meats a killer crust and does double duty in the oven; heck, you can even bring it with you to cook in the great outdoors. Here are 17 recipes that pay homage your do-anything skillet.
This dish is simple, rustic cooking at its finest—made up of four ingredients in one very happy skillet, to boot! And that very skillet is what gives all these ingredients their deep, charred, caramelly flavor, creating a golden crust on the veggies and meat alike. This recipe in particular would be great to make while camping—just bring the s'mores and a couple ice-cold beers.
Juicy portherhouse steaks are simply seasoned with salt and pepper, then seared in a screaming hot cast-iron skillet to give them a really good, caramelized crust. They're then topped with a luxurious, herb-laden compound butter and enjoyed to the fullest. Dont worry about reserving these steaks for Sunday, as the recipe name suggests—they're good any day of the week.
Oft-overlooked turnip greens (yep, you can and should eat them!) nestle into a mixture of finely diced and sautéed potatoes and get enveloped by a blanket of creamy eggs and Parmesan cheese. The mixture goes into the oven in a cast-iron skillet until the eggs are no longer jiggly. A gorgeously sliceable frittata emerges.
Chicken's best friends are thyme, lemon, and a cast-iron skillet. In Ina Garten's brilliant recipe, all three come together to yield a crispy-skinned, pleasantly tart, and fragrantly herby bird. The best part is that it's so dang easy, too—brush a butterflied chicken (Ina asks her butcher to do this for her) with some olive oil mixed with ground spices; slice a lemon; then throw all of the above into a cast-iron skillet and pop it in the oven. 40 minutes later, dinner is served.
And to go with that lemony, herby chicken? The crispiest potatoes in all the land. Creamy new potatoes were born to be halved and placed, cut-side down, in a hot cast-iron skillet. There's a hefty layer of oil and salt at the bottom of that pan, to help the potatoes crisp up, keep them from sticking, and flavor them well (potatoes need a lot of seasoning). The result? Golden-brown perfection.
What the what? Avocado in cornbread?! That's a big yes from us, thanks to community member aargersi. Here, we have a crispy skillet rendition of the savory–sweet bread, generously spiced with cumin and cayenne and studded with great big chunks of creamy avocado. Speaking of avocado, it keeps its shape and lively green color even after it's baked for 30 to 40 minutes, surprising and delighting you every time you go in for another slice.
A miso-ponzu-honey-rice vinegar marinade coats thick cubes of pressed tofu fantastically, allowing for ample caramelization and a crunchy crust once it settles in a hot cast-iron skillet. As recipe author Madhuja suggests, "you could have the tofu as it is, or you could use it with your favorite stir fry, on salads, in wraps or sandwiches." We like the way you think, Madhuja.
Eggs belong in a cast-iron skillet like mushrooms belong with...well...eggs and gruyere. These three superstars get bubbly, crusty, and velvety together after a quick trip to the oven, and are just begging to be smeared over thickly sliced rustic bread.
This hearty-textured, nutty-flavored whole wheat and rye bread is flavored with earthy molasses and tangy yogurt—a match made in heaven (or, well, Mark Bittman's head). Since it's baked in a cast-iron skillet, a crunchy, structured crust develops but leaves a tender crumb for the middle bits. A pat or two of butter would not be out of place here.
By placing chicken thighs, skin-side down, and then placing a brick on top of chicken thighs, the bird gets weighted down and even more of its surface area can get maximally crispy and crunchy and delicious. It also means that you won't be fussing with the chicken at all, not even a single scoot or turn in the pan. Just let the brick do its thing, and you'll be amply rewarded.
Gussied up campfire food, you asked? We'll happily comply. As recipe author Beth Kirby suggests, this skillet dinner is the "quintessential southern breakfast, but don't feel married to breakfast—this meal is good for invoking the laid-back vibe of a diner any time of day."
We challenge you to find a food as comforting as crispy grilled cheese. Gave up? We thought so. Here, a coolly sophisticated take, with a shower of Parmgiano-Reggiano cheese, a few leaves of fresh sage, whole grain mustard, and some crunchy cornichons alongside. All griddled up in a cast-iron skillet.
Ah, the magic of a puffy, fluffy, oversize Dutch Baby, a charming cross between a pancake and a crepe. To make one, pour a simple, thin batter of essentially flour, butter, whole milk, and a little bit of sugar in the bottom of a cast-iron skillet, then put it in the oven and watch it all but take flight. A squeeze of lemon and a dusting of confection
Latkes, aka grated potato pancakes fried into crispy, heavenly oblivion in a heavy-bottomed skillet, can hardly be improved. Or so we thought! Community member QueenSashy manages to do just this, by grating in some Fuyu persimmons along with the potatoes, then frying them up till golden brown and crispy. Since the sugar content in the latke mix goes up with the addition of the persimmons, so does the caramelization and crispiness factor. Win, win.
These crispy-crunchy-savory-smoky chickpeas are an addictive bar snack, ideal salad topper, and excellent accompaniment to a savory Greek yogurt bowl. A cast-iron skillet is the perfect vessel for frying these up, since they can handle super-high heat and allow for a crazy amount of char and crispification (yes, that's a word) on each and every bean.
Cast-iron skillets are great for crispy-edged baked desserts, too! This skillet olive oil cake is wacky and wild and wonderfully delicious. Why, you ask? It's covered in—wait for it—oil-cured olives (nope, those aren't blueberries!), which plump up in its tender, shortbready almond-flour crust and add a savory-sweet-what-the-heck-is-that accent. To top it off, a crunchy, sugar crust. We guarantee it: even if you scratch your head a little bit afterwards, you won't be able to stop at just one bite.
We've reached peak skillet abilities with this intensely moist, unbelievably chocolatey banana bread. And it couldn't be simpler, either! Just whisk together dry ingredients in one bowl, get together the wet ingredients in another, combine, and pour into skillet. Just 28 to 35 minutes later (plus a quick rest to allow the flavors to mingle), a rich, banana-y cake is born.
What's your favorite way to use your beloved cast-iron skillet? Let us know in the comments!