After years of buying overpriced nonstick pans, only to have them fail to live up to their “lifetime” guarantees, our household has gone back to an old favorite: cast-iron cookware. Yes, the skillets are heavy for my “mature” hands and wrists. That just provides me with some much-needed exercise.
My mother prepared many delicious meals for our family using cast-iron skillets and aluminum pots and pans. When I married and began my own housekeeping, I followed her methods. (Although I never have been able to match her amazing, tasty pot roasts, either beef or pork.)
Now about that time, Teflon came on the market, and I decided it was easier to wash nonstick pans. So much easier to clean because, as a fairly new cook, I usually had something stick…hard…to the bottom of the regular pans.
Then, as we all know, Teflon came under scrutiny as a possible cause of some serious health issues. I won’t argue with that. It didn’t take long for my Teflon pans to start chipping. And where did those microscopic chips of metal go? Into me and into my husband and our precious children. Did they wash on through our bodies, or did they park someplace near vital organs and wait for an opportune time to cause something deadly or, at the least, debilitating? Even today, no one can give me a definitive answer. In my defense, I did use the recommended plastic utensils AND methods of washing the pans. It didn’t change anything. In a very short time, they still chipped.
Even the next generations of nonstick pans quickly began to lose their nonstickability. (Did you see what I did? I just created a new word.) I have bought the green pans and the copper pans. I have used ONLY plastic spatulas and spoons. I have not used the spray oils. But my fried eggs still stick like glue to the pans. Even the recommended amount of olive oil won’t keep a fourth of my scrambled eggs from sticking hard to the pan. Hey, that’s part of my breakfast! Don’t tell me to add another egg to the mix so I’ll have enough to eat. Who can afford to waste food like that?
Listen, I’m not a chef who knows how to do clever things with just the flip of the wrist. I’m not a full-of-personality spokesperson filming a commercial for a product. I’m an ordinary consumer trying to feed my family in the tastiest, most economical way possible. AND following the instructions on the pans I’ve bought. So when I’ve spent maybe thirty dollars a pop for each of these pans, you can understand why I’m a bit put out when they don’t work as advertised. Notice I’m not naming brand names or posting pictures, so no lawsuits, please.
After a recent camping trip when my husband and daughter did most of the cooking in our cast-iron skillet and Dutch oven (heretofore kept only in the camping supplies), I decided to go back to my mother’s ways. I brought that skillet into the kitchen and started using it every day. When my son and daughter-in-law gave me an amazon gift certificate for Mother’s Day, I used it to purchase a cast-iron griddle for the weekly pancakes I make for my dear husband. As I said in the first paragraph, it’s hard on my old wrists and hands, but I like the results in the food I’m preparing. (At right is a one-pan peach cobbler made in our cast iron skillet.)
We still use other pans, stainless steel now, to cook spaghetti, soup, and such. But for our scrambled and fried eggs, meat, and even spaghetti sauce, we use our well-seasoned cast-iron skillets, and they work just great. Cleanup isn’t hard at all. A plastic mesh scrubbie scours out anything that might stick. Then we faithfully re-season the pan.
In August 2016, I was privileged to be part of t three-book series called the Lone Star Cowboy League with amazing, bestselling authors Renee Ryan and Regina Scott. As a promotional gambit, we also published a sampler, which you can download for FREE at https://www.amazon.com/LIH-Stand-Daddy-Rancher-Convenience-ebook/dp/B01DSQN0EU/. The book includes the first three chapters of each of our books and, best of all, recipes that our characters use in our individual stories.
From my book, A Family for the Rancher (August 2016), you learn how my heroine, Lula May Barlow, makes a delicious peach cobbler and a pot of mouth-watering chicken and dumplings for my rancher hero, Edmund McKay, to repay him for helping her. I had a lot of fun using old recipes from a dear friend in Colorado and my own maternal grandmother. If you have a Kindle, you can download the Sampler for free and get some great recipes to make on your own. For now, here is that chicken and dumpling recipe. Just be sure to credit Lacy Neal Cain (1875-1979), the sweetest grandmother anyone could ever be privileged to know.
Grandmother Lacy Cain’s Chicken and Flat Dumplings
This has been a favorite recipe of my family for at least four generations, coming from my grandmother, Lacy, who passed it down to my mother, Ruth, who passed it down to me. When I prepare it for my children and grandchildren, we all dig in and rarely have any leftovers!
- Prepare the chicken:
- 1 large whole chicken
- 1 large carrot
- 1 large stalk celery with tops included
- 1 large onion
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place uncut chicken into a pot, cover with water. Add vegetables and seasonings. Boil until chicken is tender, approximately 1 hour. Remove chicken from pot, reserving the broth. Remove meat from bones and set aside.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ to 1 cup water or milk
Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Stir the liquid into the flour until a ball of dough is formed that cleans the sides of the bowl.
Place dough on floured board or floured waxed paper. Cover dough with waxed paper and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into ½ to 1 inch strips with knife. Drop into boiling broth and cook 10 minutes with cover loosely on kettle so that some of the steam can escape. If covered tightly, they will boil over.
After dumplings are done, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon. Thicken the remaining broth with flour and a little water stirred together, then stirred into the gravy. Boil for about 5 minutes on low heat. Add deboned chicken and dumplings to pot and serve.
So, what do you think of cooking in cast-iron cookware? Have you ever used it?
I’ve been thinking about going to cast iron; another nudge. 🙂
What’s the best way to (re)season cast iron? I’ve heard so many answers, but what works best for you?
I don’t do anything complicated. If food sticks and I have to wash the pan, I just use a paper towel to rub in a little olive oil. So far, so good. I think one of the reasons I quit using cast iron years ago was because of those very complicated methods of reseasoning. A mother with four small children, I didn’t have time to do anything too time consuming. Now I try to remember to heat my reseasoned pan before cooking. That seems to help the next thing I cook not to stick. Hope this helps!
We already use olive but many people say to use canola oil to reseason the pans – something we won’t use here.