I've raved about cast iron cookware before for a few reasons. It adds a healthy dose of iron to your diet, it's nonstick, and it sears a steak beautifully, which is necessary when you're making steaks on the stovetop because it's too chilly outside to grill. While cast iron skillets are the real workhorse in a kitchen, they're not the only cast iron cookware items you can find. Apart from its easy clean features, cast iron has excellent heat retention, whether you're using a cast iron pizza pan or a cast iron skillet on the grill or in the oven. And cast iron cooking is perfect for the campfire, so take a frying pan with you next time you go camping.
Taking care of this kitchen tool really isn't as intimidating as it might seem. You can use a metal spatula, though be careful if your pan is enamel-coated. Don't stick in the dishwasher; rinse it right after cooking or pour hot water into the skillet while it's still on the cooktop. Don't put the hot pan in cold water. Use a brush if necessary, but don't use steel wool or scouring pads. If you're gifted an heirloom piece, take good care of it, and you'll be able to give it to your grand-kids.
When it comes to nonstick cast iron, one of our favorite affordable brands is Lodge Cast Iron. Not only do they make the cutest cast iron ornaments for the next time your Christmas tree makes its appearance, but they offer quality cookware and bakeware sets that won't break the bank. Each is from Amazon, so click on the photo or the title to see the product page. Here are some of the cast iron specialty cookware items you never knew you needed.
This pre-seasoned drop biscuit pan is incredibly functional. With a nonstick, rustproof finish, you can use it for way more than just drop biscuits. Instead, try your hand at popovers, muffins, cupcakes, scones and even English muffins.
When it comes to specialty cookware, you can't get more useful than a biscuit pan. Unless you want something deeper.
If that's the case, then the cornbread pan is perfect for you because it was designed with slow, even heating in mind. Pre-seasoned with vegetable oil, the muffins release cleanly and always have that perfect golden color on top.
When it comes to gifts, most people don't need another set of salt and pepper mills to add to their collection. This is a great buy for the home cook who has almost everything.
If you find yourself craving grill marks on everything in the winter but grilling outside isn't an option, this grill pan is for you. The cooking surface of the faux saute pan is grated and raised like a grill so you can have those lovely grill marks from the heat source all year long.
Sure, you could use your regular cast iron pan, but this pre-seasoned cast iron grill pan adds just the right amount of smokiness on the stovetop.
Turn it over for a smooth griddle surface that's perfect for doling out buttery pancakes. While Lodge also sells a cast iron square grill pan, the functionality of the reversible smooth griddle surface is too good to pass up. You might never use stainless steel cookware again once you set up this baby on the stove.
Before you ask me what the heck you need a wok for, know that every surface of a wok is indeed a cooking surface. After reading about all of the ways you can actually use a wok in your kitchen apart from stir fries, I was sold and immediately ordered one. Now, it's all I use to make fajitas, enchilada fillings, and other big-batch recipes, like King Ranch casserole.
Not only does it steam your vegetables on the sides of the pan, this 14-inch can move from the oven to the stovetop to the grill, like any good cast-iron pot or pan. Unfortunately, you won't find a cast iron wok in a traditional cookware set, which typically features a cast iron Dutch oven, a cast-iron deep skillet, or an oval Dutch oven.
If 14 inches is too big (or heavy) for you, Lodge also offers a mini wok clocking in at 9 inches for a cheaper price.
I never saw the value in owning a grill press until I realized that there's no way I could make a burger with thin, crispy edges without one. While we love burger presses here at Wide Open Eats, we've never featured the Lodge grill press until now.
The cool grip spiral handle makes it easy to handle when working on the grill or stovetop. Use it to squeeze fats from meats, flatten bacon or bologna, or pound flat that chicken breast for your Chicken Parmesan. In fact, you can even use it to grill sandwiches without a panini maker.
No, this isn't the kind of deluxe round trivet you can use for your table, although it could double as that, too. This trivet is designed to lift foods like meat and pies off the surface of the cast iron so that your food isn't scorched or burnt when you're finished cooking.
Because cast iron maintains heat so well while still being a nonstick cookware, if you're not careful with things in the oven, you can burn the bottom. With this trivet, you won't worry about it again.
So this is officially the cornbread wedge pan, but you could make anything from scones to mini pizza slices using it. I personally love that it's pre-portioned so no one can complain about getting the smaller slice of Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread at the table.
The looped handle makes it easy to lift out of the oven, and you can even make triangle muffins with it. You simply can't beat the versatility of this piece. I recommend it for a holiday gift guide or wedding gifts because it's such a unique pan. Have you ever seen a stainless steel cornbread pan? I bet not!
This cornstick pan isn't just for roasting corn on the cob in the oven when it's too chilly to grill. You can use this bakeware pan for making fun cakes and breads with the corn cob impression.
When it comes to specialty cookware, this might top the list, but it's something you would see on a Pinterest profile and is perfect for gift sets or a gift registry!
You might not think you need a melting pot until you brush warm butter and honey over freshly baked cornbread. Then you might change your mind. This melting pot is great for doing just that, and also whipping up rubs and sauces to baste.
Great for warming or melting foods, you can even create infused olive oils on your stovetop with it. Stable and sturdy, use it as a small mixing bowl on your countertop if you're whipping up a quick salad dressing or barbecue rub.
I realize that everyone under the sun must have a Dutch oven by now, but if you think that Le Creuset Signature from France is the only place to find a quality one, you are certainly mistaken. For about one-quarter of the price of a Le Creuset, you can find enameled cast iron cookware from Lodge that doesn't sacrifice quality.
With 11 colors to choose from, the piece cast-iron that gets used the most in the Wide Open Eats Test Kitchen is by far this Dutch oven. We make everything from our famous moonshine infusions to some seriously delicious soups inside. Lodge also offers cast iron oval Dutch ovens, but I prefer the classic round for soups and stews.
This article was originally published on January 4, 2018.