(McIlhenny Company) (McIlhenny Company)
A Black Iron Haven

Cast Iron Chef Cook-off

This coming Sunday, folks in Tennessee might want to venture to the Chattanooga Market to watch the “Cast Iron Chef Cookoff” sponsored by Lodge Cast Iron and Five Star Professional Ranges.

Four chefs and one local farmer will compete cooking in cast iron skillets. They have no idea what they are going to cook, but they have an hour and $40 to plan, cook and present to the five judges.

Four more information, go to the Chattanooga Market website.

Hey! Do you want your event announced on the Cooking in Cast Iron website? If so, click on the contact link and give us all the details. We’re glad to spread the word about any cast iron related event.


30% Off MacGourmet Deluxe through July 31

If you’re a regular visitor to Cooking in Cast Iron, you may have noticed one of our sponsors in the sidebar, MacGourmet Deluxe from Mariner Software. I’ve been tardy in posting a review of MacGourmet Deluxe, but it is so feature-filled, I’ve been taking my time learning all of its capabilities. I’ll be writing that review, probably later this week, not simply because they’re our sponsor, but because the program impresses me that much. In fact, they are one of our sponsors not because they contacted us, but rather because I contacted them after downloading the demo.

Anyway, between now and Thursday, July 31, you an receive a 30% discount off the price of MacGourmet deluxe by going to the Mariner Online Store (follow this link, not the one in the sidebar for now) and then typing in the word “Happy” and then clicking the Go button.

I’ve been very impressed with MacGourmet Deluxe and if you use a Macintosh computer, I believe you will be, too. Look for a full review by the end of the week.


The Perfect Stew for Our Crew

Posted by Leila Wells

One of the advantages of growing up in a large, close-knit family is the access it provides to a variety of activities. The creativity that drives siblings (of any age) in these situations can be inspiring! I recall distinctly the nearly-annual festivity of cooking Brunswick stew in a 30 gallon cast iron pot with my father’s clan. When I say clan, I refer to my grandparents, my uncles and their families, my grandparents’ siblings, and my immediate family. Friends would also drop in over the years for this special cookout. The family would spend days in preparation for this event purchasing the ingredients and preparing them. Whole chickens, hens, pork loins, ground beef, tomatoes, corn, onions, ketchup, hot sauce, Worcester sauce, and other top-secret ingredients would be stockpiled in the kitchen and then guarded carefully until the moment they were prepared for entry in the tremendous pot.

There were particular rules that governed the entire process related to creating this stew. No one under the age of 35 was allowed to stir the pot, although the simmering process would continue for hours and hours. Only a few (rare) exceptions were ever made to this rule to my knowledge. The rationale behind the age limitation was never fully explained, but the best I could conjecture was that 35 marked a level of maturity in which an individual could be found willing to remain still long enough to contemplate the intermingling of flavors occurring in the pot over long periods of time without interruption.

Only the "elder" of the patriarchs of the family hold the knowledge of the top-secret recipe. I’m confident that my grandmother also knew it, as does my mother, but the family maintains the pretense that only the men know it. My dad has always told us that we could only inherit the recipe if we proved ourselves worthy of keeping its secrets. What might be entailed in proving this worthiness is still a mystery. Perhaps now that I am nearing the age during which I might be permitted to stir the pot, my father will share the criteria for inheriting the recipe even if I cannot yet inherit it.

Once an individual met the selection criteria to be allowed to stir the pot, then even stricter rules were applied to that person’s performance at the pot itself. The concoction had to be stirred continuously and only with designated wooden boat paddles. I also observed that the stirring had to be deep and consistent. The sides had to be regularly scraped in the rounds of the pot. All of these measures ensured an even cooking and no burnt stew. Cooking 30 gallons of stew required devotion, attentiveness, willingness to endure the heat (from the stew and from the summer air), and patience; these qualities, once demonstrated, permitted the stew stirrer to enter into the developing camaraderie of the cooking site.

The men of the family would start well before dawn and prepare the cookware and the cooking site. The fire had to be started and monitored. Once the stew was added to the pot, someone had to be on duty at all times to stir and to keep curious insects away. Often, as the stew was cooking, others would bring in an assortment of meats for barbecuing or smoking. One year, my uncle cooked turkeys on stakes by placing them in charcoal pits and covering them with pails. The meat "sides" (as the stew was the entrée) prompted competition among the family. Over the years, we voted on best barbecue sauce, best dessert, best smoked meat, and so on. Rivals sparred good-naturedly and brainstormed the competition that would take place at the next stew cooking.

By mid-afternoon, the stew had been cooking for at least six hours. The scent alone made passers-by hungry for a sample, if not an entire bowl. It was the time of day when the children were ready to pull off their shoes and commence gnawing if they didn’t get a bowl to themselves. The sliced bread, the sweet tea, the side dishes and desserts all appeared on the tables set up outdoors for picnicking. Utensils, bowls, plates and napkins also found their way to the tables and no sooner had they been placed than a line had formed at the cast iron pot. Huge ladles guided by the chefs themselves served up the delightful feast. Once bowls had been filled, plates were soon piled high with barbecue, potato salad, slaw or whatever sides were available. It didn’t take long for these very same plates and bowls to be emptied and for lines to form once again at the stew pot. I wish I could say I remembered the conversations I had over these delicious bowls of stew, but all I remember is wanting more stew.

When no more space was left inside our bellies, we began the clean-up process. Boxes and boxes of storage bags and storage containers were brought out and stew was ladled into them. As a child, I never had to worry about where this stew went since my family always took home enough to enjoy for the remainder of the year. We would store it in the freezer and reheat it. With every bag, I relived memories of the cookout and family togetherness once again.

As an adult living several states away, I traveled from some distance to come back to this event; I always considered myself fortunate if I found that I could transport even a quart bag back home with me. Now that I’m living much closer again, I’ve found that circumstances have kept the family from holding the event as often. I think fondly of the last cookout a couple of years ago and find myself more nostalgic than usual. Since that last event where over 100 people attended (friends and family), we’ve lost several dear ones and now the event won’t seem quite the same. Still, the tradition remains—a family united over the 30 gallon cast iron pot and the incredible mélange it contained.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Leila directly at


Green Iron: The Environmental Benefits of Cast Iron Cookware

Posted by Rick Mansfield

Around here, we often refer to our cookware of choice as “black iron.” But in many ways, cast iron is green if you think about it, too. No, I’m not referring to enameled cast iron such as the skillet pictured to the right (but it makes a great image for this post!). Rather, I’m referring ot the environmental benefits of cast iron.

Perhaps you’ve never thought about it. I mean, most folks who have been cast iron aficianados for a while are familiar with the other benefits. Of course there are healthy benefits to cast iron. Cooking in cast iron is a great way to introduce trace amounts of iron into one’s diet. Plus, there’s no flaking Teflon to worry about getting into one’s food. Then, on another front, there are economical benefits to cast iron because these pans--except for the enameled variety--cost MUCH less than other kinds of cookware.

Bur you may or may not have ever thought about the environmental benefits of cast iron. These benefits can be divided into at least three main areas: (1) Toxicity (or lack thereof), (2) production, and (3) longevity and recyclability.

First, as mentioned above in regard to health, cast iron cookware is a smart alternative to Teflon-coated aluminum pans. According to the Environmental Working Group website,

Statistics reported by the Cookware Manufacturers Association indicate that 90 percent of all the aluminum cookware sold in the United States in 2001 was coated with non-stick chemicals like Teflon (Cooks Illustrated, September 2002). Chemicals and tiny, toxic Teflon particles released from heated Teflon kill household pet birds. At least four of these chemicals never break down in the environment, and some are widely found in human blood.

This is obviously not a concern with cast iron cookware which builds its non-stick surface naturally through the carbonization process of heating oils and fats on the cooking surface. What about the cast iron that comes pre-seasoned--is that coating harmful? Not at all. Pre-seasoning is nothing more than vegetable oil (and it’s Kosher vegetable oil if you get a Lodge pan!) heated at high temperatures. Yes, it can flake off, but it won’t hurt human beings or animals and this vegetable oil coating is fully biodegradable.

Second, many cast iron foundries incorporate steps in the production of cast iron that greatly reduces waste and impact on the environment. My wife, Kathy, and I were able to tour the Lodge Manufacturing Plant in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, in April. We found that the production of the cast iron cookware Lodge produces was eco-frindly in all stages. The picture on the left shows the scrap iron used in the process before it has been melted to be poured in the sand casts. Part of the production of cast iron also involved pounding the pans with rocks to create a smoother surface on the molded cast iron. Lodge uses rocks taken directly from the Tennessee River bed for this process. Production of cast iron dates back to 600 AD in China, and even though the process is more mechanized today, it is still essentially the same process that has been around for over a millennia. Lodge also has a special page devoted to Eco-Responsibility, incorporating measures even down to the cardboard packaging they use.

Finally, cast iron pans can last for generations. Pictured on the right is my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. It is at least seventy years old, and it may very well be older. Now tell me--if you had one of the original Teflon pans from the 1940’s, would you dare eat from it? Are there any of those pans even still around? Well, my grandmother’s skillet is still in use and has a prominent and permanent place on my stovetop where it is used regularly in our cooking.

Since cast iron, if treated well, gets better with age, my grandmother’s skillet actually has a greater non-stick surface than the skillet I got brand new in the nineties. Certainly, the cast iron in the pan itself can be recycled, but the best way to recycle a pan is to pass it on down to a family member. I fully intend that my grandmother’s pan will outlast me, and I’ll be able to pass it down to my children or grandchildren.

Consider this as well: because cast iron is a lifetime investment (and a low-cost one at that!), you won’t have to completely replace your pans every decade or so as some people have to do with cookware made of other materials.

So, if you’ve been sitting on the fence in regard to whether or not you should make the jump to cast iron, now you have even more reasons to do so. And if you already use cast iron, you can feel good about the fact that cast iron is a smart, economical purchase, is healthy for you and your family, and is friendly to the environment as well. That cannot be said of any other kind of cookware.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at


Cast Iron Around the Web for July 22, 2008

It’s not just a Cast Iron Renaissance; it’s a Cast Iron REVOLUTION! And here’s more evidence:

Dutch Oven Baking.” The Happy Campers show us how to cook hamburger buns from scratch in a dutch oven. Great pictures.

The Scout’s Outdoor Cookbook by Christine and Tom Connors. Kathie Smith reviews this book at the bottom of her column on s’mores and shopping.

Dutch Oven Cookin’.” The Stevens family has finally put the backyard fire pit to good use with dutch oven cooking.

My First Culinary Award.” What could be better than entering a dutch oven cooking contest for the first time? Winning, of course!

Cast Iron, What’s Not to Love?” Michelle and her family detoured on the family trip to stop at the Lodge Outlet Store in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. We certainly can’t blame her. Check out her pictures and read about her new acquisitions.

Dutch Oven Cooking with Daddy.” Okay, this one is a post that...well, you’ll just have to see this for yourself.

Seasoning My Cast Iron Skillet.” Erica thought that seasoning cast iron would be a major drawback. Then she tried it and found that it wasn’t such a big deal afterall!

Birding Center Teaches Outdoor Cooking.” Quote: “Steve Rodriguez hopes to teach area residents that there's more to outdoor cooking than wood chips and lighter fluid.”

Teasdale Volunteer Fire Department's annual Mutton & Taters Dutch Oven Fundraiser.” Teasdale, Utah, Noon, July 26.

3rd Annual C. O. Dutch Oven Society Cookout.” Sportsman’s Warehouse, 10 AM to 3 PM, Salem, Oregon

Black Beans and Rice (dutch oven)

Cast Iron Chicken (cast iron skillet)

Dutch Oven Cobbler

Easy Grated Plantain Soup (dutch oven)

Green Beans and Potatoes (dutch oven)

Miss Vickie’s Roasted Potatoes (dutch oven)

One-Pot Pork and Rice (dutch oven)

Quick Oatmeal Soup (dutch oven)

Roasted Duck (dutch oven)


JT's Family Tradition Pancake Recipe

In his post, “Memories Born Out of Simplicity,” JT McCubbin described his multi-generational Saturday monring family breakfast tradition. In this post, he shares with us his recipe for the pancakes he prepares every weekend.


  • Griddle or skillet
  • Melting Pot

  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbs sunflower oil
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 egg, brown of course
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla, or 1/4 tsp almond extract

Combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine milk, oil, honey, egg and vanilla (or Almond).

(Hint 1: measure the oil first, then the honey in the same measuring spoon. The honey slips right out yielding the entire tablespoon with no sticking).

(Hint 2: warm the milk in the microwave for 45 seconds. The honey will dissolve more readily, and the pancakes will cook more evenly because the batter isn’t cold)

Mix the liquids into the dry with a spoon or wisk, it’s okay to leave a few small lumps of batter rather than over mix.

Pour the batter (1/4 to 1/2 cup amounts depending on desired size) onto an oiled, cast iron griddle or skillet. I use low heat, because the cast iron conducts efficiently, and I don’t want the cooking process to begin until I have finished the pour. When bubbles start to rise to the top, check the bottom surface and flip when the right amount of golden brown is apparent. Serve right off the griddle and top with real maple syrup from the melting/warming pot.

Immediately after pouring the batter, drop chocolate chips or blueberries on top and tap in with the spatula. This works much better than trying to mix them into the batter bowl, and it gives you the option to arrange them in fun designs.

Never, which means not ever, use a pancake mix. This isn’t complicated. You can do it, and you and your kids will appreciate it.

MacGourmet users, click image to download recipe (or simply drag image to your MacGourmet recipe box).

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact JT directily at


Cast Iron Around the Web: July 19, 2008

Below you’ll find cast iron related posts since last Tuesday.

Are You Stuck on Teflon Pans?” Well, don’t be. It’s bad for you.

Do It Yourself Tortillas.” What do you need for tortillas? A cast iron press.

Obsession Alert: Enamel Cast Iron Cookware.” Diana writes about her obsession. It’s okay, the folks here can relate.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” Molly is back from her wedding celebrations, so whats better to do than bake bread in a dutch oven?

Natanis Point Campground.” A blogger writes about his family camping trip which involved among lots of other activities, dutch oven cooking. Great pictures in a slideshow, too.

Done Friday.” After using a dutch oven to cook a ham, this blogger may abandon a conventional oven altogether.

A Good Bread Day.” The bread came out great. And why wouldn’t it? She used a Le Creuset oval dutch oven.

Cooks Share Expertise, Recipes at Dutch Oven Event.” Read all about the event that took place in Sioux Falls, South Dakota last weekend.

Teens Learn About Cooking.” Silver Springs, Nevada. “Last week, youths that participate in the Teen Summer Program learned about different types of cooking” including dutch oven cooking.

Fortuna Society Shows Another Side of Cooking.” A profile of Marv Rutledge of Fortuna, California and the Fortuna Dutch Oven Society.

My Indispensable Kitchen Gadget List.” Amy lists her indispensables for the kitchen which include a cast iron griddle and a cast iron press.

Baked Gnocci Parmesan (dutch oven)

Balsamic Tempeh Wild Rice Bowl with Sauteed Kale and Radicchio (cast iron skillet)

Balsamico Chicken with Olives (dutch oven)

Beef Stew Zuazua-Style

Beef Stroganoff (dutch oven)

The Bocadillo de Conejo [The Rabbit Sandwich] (dutch oven)

Braised Beef with Brandy and Mustard (dutch oven)

Braised Chicken with Leeks (dutch oven)

Cajun Red Beans and Rice (dutch oven)

Croquecamille’s Pizza/Calzone Dough for Tiny Kitchens (dutch oven)

Curried Seafood Chowder (dutch oven)

Dutch Oven Breakfast Casserole

Dutch Oven Hoecakes

Dutch Oven Peach-Berry Cobbler

Fried Eggs with Sauteed Beet Greens (cast iron skillet)

Fried Green and Heirloom Tomato Salad (cast iron skillet)

Fried Okra (cast iron skillet)

Gemelli Pasta With Clams, Scallops and Shrimp Recipe (dutch oven)

Good Old Fashioned Pot Roast (dutch oven)

Hamelman's Light Rye (dutch oven)

Ina’s Homemade Applesauce (dutch oven)

Jam (dutch oven)

Marinated Eye of Round (dutch oven)

Pig Loaf (dutch oven)

Pot Roast (dutch oven)

Rosemary and Chile-Grilled Shrimp with Lemon Zest (cast iron skillet)

Smoky Barbecue Bean Soup (dutch oven)

Summer Bake Sale Doughnuts (dutch oven)

Tortilla Soup and Cornbread (dutch oven and enameled cast iron casserole)

Yuengling and Honey Braised Chicken (cast iron skillet)


Memories Born Out of Simplicity (Cast Iron Traditions)

Posted by JT McCubbin

Saturday morning arrives and the house is still quiet, save for the single clacketing disruption as I grind the morning’s coffee beans. If I manage this one disturbance without waking the household, peace returns and the kids sleep another hour until their internal cartoon clock beckons them for the morning’s programming. This is enough time to get Tradition underway.

A few years ago, as a father of two toddlers, I rebelled against any notion that I should have to get up on a Saturday morning and make breakfast for the family. It was the only day in the week when sleeping-in was plausible. Rising early was required the other six days of the week; why could I not have this one day to experience that simple exhilaration--that one joyous moment--when one wakes up without external prodding.

Amidst my whining and self-complain--because the only one who listens to my complaint is the self--I started to become more reflective. I began to justify my resistance by considering how breakfast was not that important to me when I was a kid. Well, except for breakfast at Grandma’s. The smell and sizzle of ham in the skillet and the eggs--brown eggs from the chickens in the back yard, made-to-order, scrambled or sunny-side-up. Oh, and the toast, with homemade jam and jelly, three or four flavors made from the fruit trees right outside. Waffles, butter, syrup, of course this was only tradition in the sense that we visited Grandma and Grandpa’s one or two weeks out of the year.

It wasn’t only the food, but also listening to the conversation of adults as a child. Grandma shared the neighborhood gossip, recalling early years with siblings, and reminiscing about farm life--the good ol’ days.

That’s one thing about childhood memories: we all have them, and our children will have them too; but it is up to us to influence what positive emotional value they might have. In my reflection I realized I wanted to create some of these memories for my children. Memories born out of simplicity, which my kids could look back to and gain insight about their father, and of traditions they could continue and build upon.

Will I get up early and make breakfast for my kids? Yes, of course I will, and I have nearly every Saturday for the last six years. The Saturday morning event has, along with my recipe for pancakes, undergone a few tweaks as time has gone by. A few months ago I eschewed the anodized-aluminum in favor of a cast iron skillet (just like Grandma’s), and more recently implemented a cast iron griddle. The cast iron probably enhances the memory aspect more for me than for my children. Only time will tell. But for me it connects me to the way my mother and grandmother prepared breakfast and many other meals.

So, every Saturday begins with pancakes and sausage. As a family we aren’t purists about “organic,” but in this one area I try and maximize the organic content if for no other reason but the simple pleasure. While not organic, our local grocer carries a store brand of breakfast sausage with no MSG, so that is the sausage of choice. The eggs are brown of course, just like to ones from Grandma’s chickens. The most recent add-on to our pancake practice has been the use of a cast iron melting pot to warm the real maple syrup and melt some butter into it. So, just like the recipe (and its variations), I look forward to someday passing on the cast iron to my children. Maybe they will prepare pancakes and sausage links for their children in the same cast iron cookware.

I become reflective again. Is this really making an impact on my kids? Do they take comfort in the ritual? Is there security in the knowing of what to expect when they wake up on Saturday? Do they care? Every once in a while I get a glimpse of a connection. One Friday evening as the kids were headed off to bed, perhaps in a mental lapse, my daughter asked, “What’s for breakfast tomorrow?”

I was almost hurt. “What do you think is for breakfast,” came my retort.

“Oh, tomorrow is Saturday--pancakes and maple links. Yes!”

A smile emerged on my face--she gets it.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact JT directily at

And watch for JT’s Saturday morning pancake recipe in an upcoming post.


Cast Iron Around the Web: July 15, 2008

Almost an entire week has past since our last Cast Iron Update, so there’s LOTS of content below for all of you black iron aficianodos!

Ovet the last few days, the Lodge Manufacturing website has received a total makeover. The new site has a modern look and the menus are quite intuitive.

On the front page of the Lodge website, there is notice that the Lodge Signature Series Skillet has won Houseware’s 2008 “Gold” Design Award. If you’re unfamiliar with Lodge’s Signature series, these are very modern-looking cast iron pans accented with stainless steel. When I toured the Lodge factory in April, I saw a machine that was specifically designed to test handle strength. It raised and lowered pans tens of thousands of times--probably more times than the average cook would lift the pan in a lifetime. Congratulations to the fine folks in South Pittsburg for winning this award.

Lodge’s Signature Series is a bit more expensive than their other cast iron offerings, however they are can be found for lower prices at’s Lodge Store.

Cooking with Cast Iron Pots” [Subtitle: “Heavy Metal Cookware: Great for Cooking Indoors and Out”]. Martha Gore writes a great article about the benefits of cast iron for the modern kitchen.

Seasoning Your Cast Iron Cookware.” From the Home Ec 101 website, Ivy offers instructions on seasoning cast iron pans.

Cooking with Cast Iron.” Justin Owings writes about his experiences with cast iron cooking and its benefits.

Seasoning Cast Iron.” Carolyn explains the basics of seasoning cast iron cookware.

Smoke Enders.” Grill pan making too much smoke in the kitchen? Here’s a solution.

How to Season a Wok.” TV chef Ching-He Huang hits the gas and demonstrates essential tips on cooking with a wok. Although the video demonstrates seasoning a stainless steel wok, the article also refers to traditional cast iron wok.

Must Haves for Any At-Home Kitchen-Companion.” Cast iron makes this list--but of course!

Test Kitchen.” How to take care of your pots and pans of all varieties, including cast iron.

Turn Campfire Chow Time Into Cuisine Over Coals.” Includes a number of great looking recipes.

Summertime Cooking.” It’s summer--why cook inside when you can take the dutch ovens outdoors?

Rules to Cook By in the Great Outdoors.” The first rule, in this article by Leslie Cole is to pack a few great pans, and she recommends a cast iron skillet and a dutch oven.

10 Tips on How to Green Your Kitchen.” Another reason why cast iron is better than teflon!

My First Attempt At No Knead Bread.” Rachel received two cast iron skillets and a dutch oven for her birthday. She continued the celebration by baking No Knead Bread.

Hockey Bag Stew.” It tasted much better than it smelled!

John Stolpe ‘Stretched.’” John has come a long way in his cooking skills since he left home. He proved it while on vacation in Wisconsin serving up quite the selection of food using newly found dutch oven skills. Great pictures, too.

Dutch Oven Enrichment.” Lynne learns how to season and cook in a dutch oven. Check out the great picture of the ovens stacked four high with coals.

The Fourth and Girls’ Camp ‘08.” Quote: “I needed to have my dad spend the afternoon teaching me how to do dutch oven [cooking] since I had never before used one, and would be feeding the girls at camp in, um, four days. Can we say procrastination?”

A new hobby - Dutch Oven Cooking and a table too!” The “Fly Fishin’ Christian” tries out a new hobby: dutch oven cooking. Great pictures, too.

Do I Really Need a Dutch Oven?” Over at, one person asks whether a dutch oven is necessary (of course we would say YES).

Anyone tried Mercola's enamel cast iron cookware?” Another query from

Food Sticking to Cast Iron.” No matter what Debbie does, food sticks in her cast iron. Can you help her?

Polly Want Some Cornbread?” Kara Zuaro reviews Crescent Dragonwagon’s book The Cornbread Gospels.

Dutch Oven Cooking Competition at the Davis County Fair (Utah). Fair begins August 13.

Family Fun Day/Dutch Oven Class. Saturday, July 26. Sportman’s Warehouse in Burlington, Washington.

McAlpine wins the first Homesteader Day Dutch Oven cooking contest.” “Tuna McAlpine, who claimed first place in the main dish category with his Creole Chicken, also received the People's Choice award after the taste test was complete. McAlpine also entered a brownie dish in the dessert category.”

Cee Dub’s Dutch Oven Cooking.” Watch and taste the food as Cee Dub himself works his magic with his Dutch ovens preparing such dishes as Crab Rockefeller, Peach Apricot Cobbler and many other favorites! Sportsman’s Warehouse, Saturday, August 2, 10 AM to 4 PM.

Dutch oven cookoff features homegrown produce and fun.” (McAlester, Oklahoma) “The Pittsburg County OSU Extension Service Dutch oven cookoff was a hit with those in attendance at the Farmers Market in downtown McAlester Thursday evening. The cookoff featured three, two-person teams of amateur cooks who whipped up a few dishes even Bob Flay could be proud of.” See accompanying video.

Fall Classic.” A dutch oven cooking contest will be part of the festivities August 8-24 in Independence, Missouri.

Dutch Oven Basics.” Sportsman’s Warehouse, Saturday October 11, Spokane, Washington.

“Cornbread, ‘a Southern Treasure’ *Contest*.” Leigh is giving away treasures she received at the National Cornbread Festival to the individual who describes the most interesting festival he or she has attended.

Tuna Meet Cast Iron” (photo)

Son who found body expected to testify in DeKleine murder trial.” I had to include this. Can you believe he would try to blame his injuries on a dutch oven?! Maybe we could expand the list of weapons in the Clue board game: “I believe that Col. Mustard did it with a dutch oven in the billiards room.”

Feeling the Pinch.” Shirley Goode misses her dutch oven.

What’s In Your Emergency Kit, Part 3?” Blogger “Nuke” reproduces a list of the first 100 things people run short of during a national emergency. Want to guess what #50 is? As I always say, “In the event of the Apocalypse, you can still cook in cast iron!”

Almost No Knead Bread (dutch oven)

Barbeque Beer Ribs (dutch oven)

Bison Burgers (cast iron skillet)

Black Bean Chili (dutch oven)

Boston Baked Beans (dutch oven)

Chicken Durango (dutch oven)

Chicken Under a Brick (cast iron skillet)

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (dutch oven)

Corn Tortillas (cast iron griddle and cast iron skillet)

Deep Dish Pizza (cast iron skillet--scroll down halfway to find this version)

Dutch Babies with Vanilla Apricot Sauce (cast iron skillet; great pictures)

Dutch Oven Enchiladas

Dutch Oven Meatloaf Stuffed Onions

Dutch Oven Rye Bread

Fried Apples (cast iron skillet)

Fruit Cinnamon Crumb Cake (dutch oven)

Garlic Studded Pot Roast (dutch oven--scroll down to second half of page)

Gold Medal Sizzling Fajitas (fajita/sizzle skillet)

Goulash (dutch oven)

Gram Gram’s BBQwiches (dutch oven)

Greek Style Braised Greens (dutch oven)

Jambalaya (dutch oven)

Joe’s Jambalaya (dutch oven--scroll down to second half of page)

Mom’s Pan Fried Okra (cast iron skillet)

Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Saffron Couscous (dutch oven)

Peruvian Style Fried Rice (skillet or dutch oven)

Pressed Sandwiches (used a dutch oven as a press!)

Primo Peach Salsa a la Silence (dutch oven; scroll down)

Slow Cooker Beef Tacos (prepared in dutch oven before moving to a slow cooker)

Summer Sandwiches (Martha Stewart suggests that a cast iron pan can substitute as a panini press; also here and here)

Triple Berry Cream Cheese Pie (dutch oven)

Turkey Mushroom Soup (dutch oven--last recipe on webpage)

Veal Osso Bucco (dutch oven)


Spats & Spoons: What's Best for Cast Iron?

Posted by P. Delia Hollenbeck

Tools are important. Quality counts. The question has risen before as to what is the best kind of utensil to use in our cast iron cookware. This was especially true for me after I had gone to all the trouble of triple seasoning my new bare metal, deep sided cast iron skillet (I think that it would be called a chicken fryer if it had a lid to go along with the high sides). Now I know that several seasonings are fine, but not the same as, say, a year’s worth of regular use and the accumulated seasoning that would naturally occur from cooking with oil. So what can I do to really keep the seasoning even and not scratched up?

The utensil choices I have available--already in use in my kitchen--are heavy duty hard plastic, wood, the black plastic kind that can be used on non-stick pans, and lastly, stainless steel. Now I use any and all of these on my regularly used, heavily seasoned skillets. I don’t gouge, scrape or mutilate the pan surfaces when I cook. However, I know that newly seasoned pans are still undergoing that heating and hardening process known as seasoning, and the seasoning is still tender, if I may use that term.

My wood utensils are spoons. The black plastic spoons and spatulas melt (the edges fray) in cast iron if we’re not careful of the heat. The heavy duty hard plastic ones are too thick for turning eggs, and so that leaves metal. Well, maybe…and maybe not.

The newest innovation (that I have found so far) is the high heat rated silicone. I found a spoon and a pancake turner in that medium in the gourmet kitchen section of my favorite department store. I made sure the tag on them said they were good for 450 to 500 degree heat. You might ask how I know to do that. Well, I had bought a silicone bowl scraper--the kind with the wood handle--and used it to keep a pan of beans from scorching. It ultimately did not stand up to the temperature. A friend kindly told me that I was too frugal (she was too kind to say cheap?) and I should have bought the higher priced silicone that was high temperature rated. So now I read the tags and go for quality.

I can say so far, so good. No melting and no frayed edges of spoon and spatula. I am more comfortable using them as they continue to prove themselves worthy. The new seasoning is progressing well, by the way.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Delia directly at


Cast Iron Around the Web: July 8. 2008

There was lots of cast iron activity around the web since last Thursday. Just more evidence that the Cast Iron Renaissance rolls on.

Dutch Oven 101.” Saturday, July 12, 1 PM, Sportsman’s Warehouse (Kennewick, Washington).

Camp 2008 -- Goal #2: Reduce end-of-camp donation.” Steven Karoly discusses the business side of camp cooking. Great pictures of his dutch ovens in action.

Get Away From Everything But Great Cooking.” Noelle Carter demonstrates that all one needs for great food while camping is a cast iron skillet and a dutch oven. A number of recipes are included.

Cast Iron Cookware Is Great for Campfire Cooking.” A good article if you can read past all the ads blocking the flow of the text midway.

A Healthy Way To Cook - Enameled Cast Iron.” In his corporate blog, Steve MacDonald, Director of Sales Services for Range Kleen makes the cast for enameled cast iron.

Dutch Oven Time.” David managed to break in his year old dutch oven finally with a rump roast in spite of constant interference from his grandmother.

Good Eats! Swiss Steak.” This writer has been following the recipes of Alton Brown’s Good Eats.

Little House on the Prairie for Independence Day.” Jack tells of going to the Pugh-Towe farm in Granby for Independence day with the kids. They were served food cooked completely in cast iron which he says is the BEST way.

Dutch Oven Pot Roast.” No recipe, but what a great picture of an oval-shaped dutch oven in action.

Heath Ceramics, Fiestaware, and Other Registry Items.” Hadassah and Jon are getting married and they have a blog to prove it. Guess what’s on the list of registry items for the wedding? Lodge cast iron! I’ve always thought cast iron would make a perfect wedding gift.

MomGadget Home Tour - Kitchen.” Quote: “Throw in a Crock Pot, a Dutch Oven, a couple of cake pans and you have yourself a complete kitchen - at least in my book.”

Buttermilk Cornbread (cast iron skillet)

Coq Au Vin (enameled cast iron dutch oven)

Braised and Barbecued Pork Ribs (dutch oven)

Cajun Pot Roast (dutch oven)

Campfire Apple Cobbler (dutch oven)

Dutch Oven Cheater Bread

Dutch Oven Cobbler

Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler Dump Cake

Ground Beef Baked Beans (dutch oven)

Hearty Meat Lasagna (dutch oven)

Kale and Chickpea Soup (dutch oven)

Lemon Basil Shrimp and Pasta (dutch oven)

Murgh Methi (Chicken cooked with fenugreek greens) (dutch oven)

Mussels Portuguese Style (dutch oven)

No Knead Bread (dutch oven--great pictures)

No Knead Pseudo-Sourdough (dutch oven--scroll down)

Norwegian Meatballs (dutch oven)

Pan Fried Potato Slices (cast iron skillet)

Penne Ala Vodka (dutch oven)

Rosemary Fried Chicken (cast iron skillet or dutch oven--great pictures)

Sweet and Sour Cherry Clafoutis (cast iron skillet--great pictures)

Zinfandel-Braised Beef Brisket With Onions And Potatoes (dutch oven)


Video Podcast 1: Seasoning, Restoring, and Cleaning Cast Iron

Our first video podcast is available for download. We had to start somewhere, so it seemed to make sense to start with “Seasoning, Restoring, and Cleaning Cast Iron.”

You can click on the above image to take you to the podcast, and you have the option to view it in a variety of sizes, but medium is default. Once you are at the podcast page, if you want to download it to your computer, click the download button that will look like this at the top of the screen:

Clicking the download button (only works once you are on the podcast page--not here), will give you a variety of sizes and formats in case you want to take the video podcast with you on your iPod, for example.

In the future we will have the video podcast availabe for subscription via iTunes, but it’s not quite set up yet, and we didn’t want to wait to make it available to you. Right now, running at 20 minutes and 40 seconds, our video is also too long for YouTube, but we may edit it into a part one and part two and make it available that way as well.

We have lots of ideas for future video podcasts, but we want to hear from you. Please give us your thoughts in the comments below and feel free to offer suggestions for future video podcasts.


Cast Iron Contemplations

A reflection by Leila Wells

I recently returned from Kansas City, a locale well known for its barbecue, and a wonderful visit with good friends. During one of our conversations, I mentioned that I would be contributing to Cooking in Cast Iron. I cannot say that their response surprised me, but the quizzical looks on their faces got me to thinking about cookware and its owners, as well as the art of cooking.

Why is it that I found the idea of Cooking in Cast Iron—both the action and the blog—intriguing? Is something in my brain wired differently when it comes to cookware fixation? Do I find cast iron appealing because its austere appearance hints at is pragmatic nature even as its rougher surface glistens from its seasoning? Do I identify with cast iron because it is sturdy and yet ironically (no pun intended) fragile in some respects? How odd it all seemed to be drawing personality comparisons with this humble medium of food preparation.

In fact, I know my friends will both be laughing hysterically upon reading the previous paragraph, and I smile at the thought. During my visit, my friend Caryn took me to a cooking store and we browsed for a good 45 minutes. There was a relatively small end cap in the store devoted to Lodge cookware. I even spotted a cast iron Dutch oven on display, which is a notably larger and more expensive piece. I gazed at the various pieces available and mentally calculated when I would be financially free to indulge myself in the purchase of one following the vacation.

Despite my interest in this particular section in the store, my friend was unmoved and unmotivated to break out any cast iron over the weekend. Again, I pondered the difference in her approach and my own. Is having a favorite cast iron pan akin to having a favorite coffee mug? Is there a psychology behind one’s attachment to the medium?

In the end, perhaps our preferences for method and medium are really products of long-established habits. This evening I heard a song on one of my son’s cartoons that speaks volumes on this issue. The song emphasized that the way you do something doesn’t have to “be by the book.” The characters in the cartoon were cooking, among other things, and were shown improvising when they didn’t have all of the ingredients or all of the necessary components to complete a recipe or task.

When it comes to cooking, I have always favored improvisation that is built on a fundamental knowledge of how ingredients are meant to work together. I’ve often contemplated and experimented with ingredient combinations, but now I am thinking about the instruments with which I cook those ingredients, as well. Using cast iron to cook has so many well-established advantages, including its non-stick features, its durability, its relatively even cooking, and its contribution of iron to our diets, and I am drawn to the notion that perhaps the incorporation of cast iron into the cooking experience also makes it more natural in some respects.

Perhaps I am not able to prove this speculation (nor do I really perceive a need to do so at the moment), but I have to wonder if the instruments we cook with define us as much as what we are ultimately preparing and how we go about assembling it . After all, artists and artisans are quite selective about their instruments and implements. These individuals understand the value of the tool to the craft. It only seems appropriate that those developing their skill in cooking would opt to select the best instruments, as well.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Leila directly at


Cast Iron Around the Web: July 4, 2008

Independence Day is a great time to celebrate the Cast Iron Renaissance. Here are other folks doing the same!

Fear of Frying.” Whole Life Times offers some alternatives to Teflon. Quote: “When it comes to cast iron, you may be better off buying used because the surface of a cast iron skillet is seasoned with use and actually becomes more nonstick as it ages.”

Shortcut Cooking.” What works better for Asian cooking than a dutch oven?

Cooking With Fire: Campfire Meals Made With Dutch Ovens, Foil Packs.” Includes a number of recipes as well.

Elements: Cast Iron.” Michael Ruhlman talks about his three cast iron pan.

My Beloved Cast Iron Pan.” After seeing Ruhlman’s post on his cast iron pans, Steph is motivated to show off her pan, too.

How to Clean Cast Iron Cookware.”

An easier way season your cast iron + a handy tip!” In yet another Ruhlman-inspired post, Monika Bartyzel tries seasoning on the stove top.

What do you make in a Dutch oven?” Over at, one reader is looking for vegetarian and seafood recipes for use in a dutch oven.

Cast Iron Cookware.” Another reader at is asking questions about care and restoration of cast iron.

2nd annual Camp Chef Dutch Oven Cook-Off.” July 18, Canyon County Fair, Idaho.

Dutch Oven Cookoff/Cowboy Festival.” Saturday, July 26, Florence Arizona.

Chuck Wagon Dutch Oven Dinner.” Saturday, July 5, Hamblin Park, Evanston, Wyoming.

Dutch Oven Dinner.” July 10, Clinton, Utah.

Cast Iron Cook-Off.” July 15, Eureka, California.

The Heat Is On.” Three stove top grill pans are compared: preseasoned cast iron, enamel-coated cast iron and stainless steel.

Beet Green Soup

Breakfast Around the Campfire
  • Dutch Oven Blackberry Cobbler
  • Campfire Eggs (skillet)
  • Stuffed French Toast (skillet)

Chicken Tikka Masala (dutch oven)

Fried Apples (skillet)

Fried Chicken Sandwich and Poppyseed Coleslaw (dutch oven)

Fried Zucchini (skillet)--excellent pictures

Iced Fruit Punch

Oven Barbecued Spareribs (dutch oven)

Peach, Blackberry and Almond Crisp (dutch oven)

Potato & Chickpea Curry With Rice (dutch Oven)

Misc Recipes (all on one site):
  • Smothered pork chopes (skillet)
  • Chicken & Dumplings (dutch oven)
  • Rick’s Finest Kind of Chili (dutch oven)
  • Best Ever Pot Roast (dutch oven)


Cast Iron Accessories

Posted by Kathy Mansfield

What girl doesn't enjoy accessorizing? Well, I've discovered ways to do just that with my cast iron cookware. I think my first cast iron accessory was a simple potholder to fit over the handle of our skillets. I was forever burning my fingers when grabbing onto the handle of a skillet while cooking bacon or eggs. I happened to see handle covers while shopping one day, and my worries were over. We now have 5 or 6 of the handy pads, and I keep them on my main skillets on top of the stove. We've recently purchased a couple of fajita pans that came with pads decorated with hot peppers. The Lodge Outlet store in Tennessee has many designs available, but I've seen the handle covers in most cooking stores. It is an invaluable resource to me.

Another accessory I came upon recently was cookware protectors from Pampered Chef. These are fabulous! Since trapped moisture can cause cast iron to rust, it’s very important to keep at least a minimal amount of air flow between a lid and a pan or pot when not in use. My husband would place old towels between our dutch ovens and their lids. Since we display most of our cast iron, this was not acceptable to me! The cookware protectors from Pampered Chef come in two sizes: 16" diameter and 20" diameter. Each size fits nicely on our dutch ovens.

Last, but not least, is another Pampered Chef product. It's not quite an accessory, but more like a necessity -- a nylon pan scraper. These were originally marketed through Pampered Chef to use as scrapers for their baking stones, but we've discovered they work great on our cast iron because even the best seasoned cast iron can occasionally have stuck on food. We keep one handy on the sink at all times. A package of 3 only cost a few dollars. They are dishwasher safe and fairly indestructible.

No, I don't sell Pampered Chef, but I sure am pleased with the great products I've discovered through that company to help keep our cast iron looking fabulous in every season!

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can contact Kathy directly at