I prefer to cook with cast iron. It is easy to clean and you have to make a real effort to burn anything with cast iron. I once thought it impossible to burn food with cast iron, but then I met my college roommate. My mom cooked with cast iron, too. She also cooked on a wood stove and cast-iron is really the way to go when you’re cooking with wood. We had a wood stove in the basement until my last year in college, and we cooked and canned a lot on that thing.
So of course, I was interested in reading Cast-Iron Cooking by Rachael Narins. It’s a beautiful cookbook with big, full-page photos in rich, saturated colors. The photos are informal and reassuringly imperfect. There’s even oil in the pan of fried chicken and the tofu and mushrooms. They actually show the fat in the photos. Such verisimilitude is rare in our diet-conscious, wipe-that-drip-with-a-towel world of perfect pristine plating.
The cookbook begins with information on the types of cast-iron cookware, their uses and how to season and maintain your cast-iron. It correctly reassures novices with cast-iron that yes, they can use soap and water, avoiding the false myths that advise never washing your cast-iron pans. So not true!
The rest of the book is organized by meals, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, Snack and Desserts. There are many delicious recipes, some old favorites and quite a few things I had not thought about making in cast-iron, particularly the desserts. I know my Uncle Hubert like to make his gingerbread cake in a cast-iron fry pan, but I thought it was just him. On the contrary, Narins is cooking all sorts of things, even s’mores. I know this will make me sound un-American, but I have never had a s’more. Even that pretty picture could not make them tempting. On the other hand, the hot and spicy gingerbread made me miss Uncle Hubert. She also shares the secret to Persian Rice and the crispy tahdig that makes it so special.
People avoid cast-iron thinking that this or that nonstick latest super-secret-special-coating cookware will be a better option. It never is. I am glad Narins mentions that cooking with cast-iron can add small amounts of iron to your blood. This is not folklore, just ask the NIH. This book also helps you understand how cooking with cast iron changes the cooking time. Narins also busts the myth that cast-iron provides even heat. Alas, it does not, but it sure provides long-lasting heat.
Cast-Iron Cooking is a good cookbook for those who are new to cast-iron. It demonstrates how versatile cast-iron cooking can be. Narins provides accurate information about how it works and how to take care of it. No false folklore is left standing, but solid good advice. The recipes are delicious and well-explained. They range from very simple breakfasts to long, slow-cooked stews. It’s all yummy, a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.
Cast-Iron Cooking will be released August 9th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through Net Galley.
- Author Interview on Nerd Out podcast
- Cast-Iron Cooking at Storey
- Chicks with Knives – author web site