I've spent my whole adult life living in apartments, which means I've never had the space to amass as many pans as I'd like. Practicality dictates that I only buy what I'm really going to use. There are just a couple pans I own that I have no trouble justifying: a carbon steel wok, an eight-inch nonstick egg pan, and, of course, my trusty 10-inch cast iron skillet.
In fact, if I had to pick one pan to use the rest of my life, it would be that cast iron skillet. Cast iron shines when it comes to high-heat cooking, like searing steaks or charring vegetables, but it's so much more versatile than that. You can use cast iron to sauté, bake bread, or even cook eggs, if it's well-seasoned enough. And despite the myths, it's super resilient and easy to care for. To show you why I love my cast iron, here are 19 recipes that put it to use, from seared steak and chicken dinners to skillet pizza and cornbread.
One-Pan Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts
When I'm cooking on a busy weeknight, I want to end up with as few dishes as possible, and a cast iron skillet is my go-to for easy one-pan dishes. In this recipe, we cook chicken thighs, Italian sausage, Brussels sprouts, and shallots all in one skillet, and we amp up the flavor by rubbing the chicken with a savory paste made up of mustard, honey, and rosemary.
Pan-Roasted Chicken With Vegetables and Dijon Jus
This recipe also pairs chicken with Brussels sprouts, along with potatoes and carrots for extra heft. It's not quite one-pan, though, since we use a saucepan to make a rich gravy flavored with lemon and Dijon mustard. By searing the chicken skin-side down before flipping the pieces over to cook through, the skin winds up wonderfully crisp.
Creamy Garlic Chicken Spanakopita Skillet
This one-skillet meal is inspired by the Greek appetizer spanakopita. The filling is made with spinach, chicken, and a creamy garlic-feta sauce. After making the filling, we top it with phyllo dough and bake for about 20 minutes, until it's golden brown. The dish hits the same notes as spanakopita, but in a hearty, easy-to-make package.
Sweet and Savory Corn Casserole
Different parts of the country make corn casserole different ways. We're not here to pick sides—this isn't a definitive recipe, it's just the way we like it. We start with onion, red bell pepper, and fresh sage sautéed in butter and flavored with paprika and cayenne, then we add the corn, cornmeal, and dairy. Corn is far out of season, but out-of-season fresh corn actually bakes up quite nicely (though frozen works, too).
Butter-Basted Pan-Seared Thick-Cut Steaks
Cast iron is slower to heat up than steel, but once it gets hot it stays hot. That's ideal for cooking a steak, where you want super high heat to get a crust on the exterior without overcooking the center. Another trick to perfectly searing steaks? Despite what people might tell you, flipping your steaks more often actually helps them brown faster and cook more evenly.
Perfect Pan-Seared Pork Chops
Cast iron is good for searing pork chops, too. But because most people cook their pork longer than they cook their beef, we recommend using the reverse-sear technique—cooking the chops slowly in the oven before finishing them in a hot skillet. Modern pork is very safe, though, so feel free to cook it to medium or even medium-rare.
Spanish-Style Blistered Padrón Peppers (Pimientos de Padrón)
This ultra-simple tapa is made by charring green Padrón peppers in a blisteringly hot cast iron skillet. We sear the peppers in neutral oil and finish them with extra-virgin olive oil—while olive oil is safe to use at high temperatures, it takes on a strong flavor that overwhelms the peppers. Beyond the olive oil, all the Padróns need is a little coarse sea salt.
The Best Potato Hash
Using raw potatoes in a hash is a recipe for undercooked spuds—it's much better to par-cook them in water, which gelatinizes their starch so they get extra crispy in the pan. What you put in a hash is up to you, but we've got several different versions: one features kale and Brussels sprouts, another stars chorizo, green chili and avocado, and the last is a spicy one that's got bok choy and shallots in the mix (we've also got one for sweet potatoes, if that's what you wish). To make it a full meal we bake a couple of eggs right in with the hash.
Crispy Baked Pasta With Mushrooms, Sausage, and Parmesan Cream Sauce
Baked pastas can be quite a project, but this one comes together in only half an hour with just a cast iron skillet and large pot. We start by cooking Italian sausage, then we sauté mushrooms and aromatics in the rendered fat. We make a roux to thicken a Parmesan cream sauce, mix everything with cooked pasta, then pour it all back into the pan to bake with a thick topping of seasoned bread crumbs.
Eggy Puds (Breakfast Yorkshire Puddings With Bacon and Fried Eggs)
If you ate prime rib this holiday season, there's a decent chance you paired it with Yorkshire pudding. This recipe is the perfect day-after brunch dish, as it uses up extra Yorkshire pudding batter by combining it in a cast iron skillet with crispy bacon to make a giant, fluffy pudding, which can then be topped with fried eggs and Hollandaise.
Easy No-Knead Olive-Rosemary Focaccia With Pistachios
I love the idea of bread-making, but in practice I'm too lazy for all the kneading and stretching. This focaccia is perfect for me because the highly hydrated dough doesn't need either—all it takes is a quick mix and it will spread itself out in a greased skillet. Topped with olives, rosemary, and pistachios, no one will guess that this bread takes just 15 minutes of active time.
Foolproof Pan Pizza
That no-knead, no-stretch dough technique isn't just for focaccia—it also makes for super-easy pan pizza. The thick, puffy crust can stand up to lots of toppings, so feel free to load this up with whatever you'd like beyond the sauce and cheese.
Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza
As easy as our pan pizza is, it requires that you make the dough well ahead of time. If you want pizza now, your best bet is our bar-style tortilla pizza. It might sound like a gimmick, but a tortilla really is the best way to make a thin-crust bar-style pizza. The fact that you can do it in about 10 minutes is just an added bonus.
Easy Pull-Apart Pepperoni Garlic Knots
These pull-apart garlic knots—loaded with pepperoni, Parmesan, garlic, and herbs—are a sure-fire way to impress a crowd. They're also a breeze to make because with all the flavorful toppings it's fine to use store-bought pizza dough (which we normally find a little bland).
Southern-Style Unsweetened Cornbread
When it comes to cornbread, sweetened versus unsweetened is an intense rivalry. If you're into the unsweetened Southern variety, the most important thing is to start with high-quality stone-ground cornmeal. The flavor and texture of industrial cornmeal don't even compare.
Moist and Tender Brown Butter Cornbread
Having grown up firmly in Yankee territory, I've always been partial to sweet Northern-style cornbread. This version is made with equal parts yellow cornmeal and all-purpose flour, sugar, and a few ounces of tangy buttermilk. Nutty browned butter gives the cornbread a deeper flavor and crisp crust.
The Best Tamale Pie With Braised Skirt Steak, Charred Corn, and Brown Butter Cornbread Crust
Sweet brown butter cornbread is good on its own, but it's also a great topping for tamale pie. This recipe makes the ultimate tamale pie by using skirt steak that's braised until it starts to fall apart; sweet, nutty charred corn; and a chili made with whole dried chilies and fresh vegetables.
Quick and Easy Skillet Tamale Pie With Brown Butter Cornbread Crust
While our updated version is worth the effort, there's a lot to love about a more classic tamale pie. This version uses good old ground chuck flavored with ancho chili powder, cayenne, cumin, and coriander. Frozen corn and canned black beans and tomatoes keep prep to a minimum.
Quick and Easy Vegetarian Tamale Pie With Brown Butter Cornbread Crust
The beef is only a small part of tamale pie, so making a vegetarian version of the dish is no problem. We do it by bulking up the chili with charred corn, poblano peppers, green olives, and extra beans. To liven up the cornbread crust, we mix minced red jalapeño and scallions into the batter.