The handsome, hefty tetsubin. Is it a teapot? Is it a water kettle? Can it help heat your house? Is it best kept on the shelf? First things first: the name tetsubin is used, unfortunately interchangeably, to refer both to a cast iron pot used as a water-boiling kettle, and to a small cast iron pot used strictly to brew tea.
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I wrote to the guys at Borough Furnace, a cast iron skillet upstart who've been constructing the pans in their little backyard furnace, asking if I could give their skillets a test run. They gladly obliged. After putting the pans through their paces, I came away thoroughly impressed (I unfortunately had to return them after my tests).
Like its name implies, a good quality Dutch oven is far more than just a three-legged cast iron pot with a lid—indeed, it's one of the most versatile cooking tools around. You can use it to bake bread or griddle eggs and bacon, but its true purpose is for slow-cooking. With its heavy lid, thick walls, and ability to be heated from both above and below, it's custom-designed for braising projects like chunky chili and slow-cooked beans.
It's hard to believe I haven't tested every possible pizza cooking surface yet, but I'm still at it. This time, we're talking heavy metal. As in cast iron. Specifically, the Lodge cast-iron pizza pan.
Having just adopted a French bulldog named Dumpling, I'm quickly finding out that taking care of a puppy is very similar to taking care of a good cast iron pan, and in some ways, almost as satisfying. They both require a little work, a little patience, and a whole lot of loyalty. The main difference is that in return for my investment, my cast iron pan gives me golden-brown fried chicken, sizzling bacon, corn bread, apple pies, charred hash, perfectly seared steaks, bubbly pizzas, and, yes, crisp dumplings. Dumpling the puppy, on the other hand, gives me mostly licks, chews, and a whole lot of poop. You do the math.