Haileigh Steffen

Cornmeal biscuits are easily customizable.

The Beginner’s Cast-Iron Cooking

The versatile, inexpensive, and greener way to create classic dishes

Cast-iron cooking has been an essential aspect of cooking for centuries, even in the modern era. These nearly-indestructible pans are beloved by amateurs and chefs alike for their versatility and durability. Recently, the pan has garnered attention as the greener option for energy-intensive cooking due to its naturally non-stick qualities, incredible heat-retention, and long-lasting use. Despite cast-iron’s worthy features, the heavy-duty pan requires a bit of extra care and attention. Here’s a beginner’s guide to understanding cast-iron cooking plus some simple recipes to get you started, all of which are customizable.  

Seasoning your pan  

Seasoning is a crucial part of preventing rust, maintaining your cast-iron skillet’s health, and infusing your dishes with extra depth of flavoring. If seasoning with a dirty pan, gently clean pan while still hot using warm water (no soap). For hard bits of cleaning, use salt and oil, then scrub. Dry pan and put back on heat. Coat with a thin layer of oil (one teaspoon) after the skillet is completely dry. Every time the pan is used, a new layer of fat will be added to its seasoning. If the pan is looking dull or flat, re-seasoning using the method from above. Tip: Store skillet with a paper towel.

Simple and easy homemade pizza made using a cast-iron pan. (Haileigh Steffen)

Classic Pizza 

-12 ounces pizza dough

-3 tablespoons olive oil 

-⅓ cup pizza sauce or marinara 

-¾ cups mozzarella 

Optional: Additional toppings. Can be served sweet or savory.  

Preheat to oven to 475 degrees.  Drizzle and coat room temperature dough with 1 tbsp. oil.  Stretch dough out to a 10″ round. Set aside and cover with plastic wrap if preparing additional toppings. Lay dough inside cast-iron pan. Season with a dash of salt, spread marinara over dough, top with mozzarella, and add any other toppings. Drizzle with another 2 tbsp. oil. 

Set over medium-low and cook until crust is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and bake pizza on top rack until crust is golden brown around the edges and cheese is browned in spots and bubbling all over, 10–14 minutes. Cool pizza and enjoy. 

Savory tip: If choosing marinara, reduce sauce to a thick paste before use.

Dutch Baby Pancake

-⅓ cup flour

-½ cup milk

-3 eggs

-4 tablespoons butter

-1 tablespoon sugar

Optional: Additional toppings. Can be served sweet or savory.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar, and nutmeg in a bowl and blend until smooth. 

Place butter in cast-iron skillet 10-inch skillet. When butter has melted, add the batter to the pan. Return pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Pancake should be puffed and golden. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake five minutes longer. Cut into wedges and enjoy. 

Sweet tip: Top with syrup, preserves, confectioners’ sugar, or cinnamon sugar. 

Cornmeal Biscuits

-1 cup all-purpose flour

-¾ cup cornmeal 

-1 tablespoon sugar

-1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

-1 teaspoon kosher salt 

-¼ teaspoon pepper

-½ cup butter, chilled 

-¾ buttermilk 

Optional: Additional toppings. Can be served sweet or savory. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, work butter into flour until pieces are pea-sized. Add buttermilk and mix until just blended.

Drop dough by heaping ¼-cupfuls into a cast-iron skillet, spacing about 1″ apart. Bake, rotating skillet once, until biscuits are puffed, golden brown, and cooked through. About 12–15 minutes.

Tip: Top with your favorite sauces and produce. 


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