Sur la Table and the Food Network want you to believe that you need a $200 KitchenAid stand mixer or Le Crueset pan to be a serious cook. In reality, you only need $10 to buy one of the most durable and versatile pieces of cookware: the cast iron skillet. It is nonstick (no need to worry about Teflon poisoning), browns evenly and can go from the stove to the oven. I’ve had great success using it for pancakes, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic (you get an amazing crust and sweet, creamy garlic), tarte tatin and BREAD.
The secret to crusty artisan-style bread is baking on a pizza stone. Of course, it’s a huge investment. You can get around it by buying a ceramic tile from a hardware store, but what else are you going to use that tile for? Because of cast iron’s ability to hold in heat, it makes beautiful brown crusts. Plus, you can use it as a griddle, casserole dish, frying pan and bakeware.
Before Sullivan Street Bakery revealed its wildly popular no-knead bread recipe (it’s baked in a cast iron pot) and Mario Batali sold cast iron pizza pans, I made cast iron skillet-pizza, two years ago. Honest, look at the file information in the photos!
By baking in cast iron, you get charred crusts that’s the stuff of New York legends. You don’t need a pizza stone. You don’t need a coal-fired oven. Just start with your favorite pizza crust recipe and preheat the oven with the pan inside. Then, generously dust a pizza peel or cutting board with cornmeal or rice flour. Shape your crust on the board and add the toppings. When ready, slide the crust into the smoking hot pan and bake as directed.
To reheat leftover pizza, cover it any pan (cast iron or not) over low heat for 5-10 minutes, or until the crust comes back to life and the cheese is melted. Even Domino’s tastes divine this way.
How to care for a cast iron skillet
Note that you’re not supposed to wash it, which may be good or bad, depending on how much you like clean up. Also, you can’t cook acidic foods like tomatoes in it. They are very heavy too, but that means that they practically last forever.