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Friday, January 28, 2011

cast iron bake pot

This is a cast iron bake pot. As you can see, it looks exactly like an indoor dutch oven.

Because that's exactly what it is, with one notable exception: The bake pot, while the lid is not flat, it does have a distinct lip around the edge for holding coals in place.

Bake pots are sold in South Africa, where cooking outdoors in a potjie is very popular.

The main dish is cooked in the potjie, while the bread or dessert is cooked in the bake pot.

Potjies have a rounded bottom usually have legs; Bake pots have a flat bottom and usually have no legs.

Instead of putting the pot on a trivet over coals, as with traditional American dutch oven cooking, apparently they make a ring of coals around the pot.

The suggested baking technique is to grease the inside of the pot with butter or margarine, and put flour on top of the dough so it doesn't stick when rising.

A size 10 bake pot is 3 liters; Size 12, 5 liters; and Size 14, 9.5 liters.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What I learned today about the ultimate dutch oven

This is the ultimate dutch oven, by Camp Chef.

I've tried to research this particular piece of crockery, only to find a lot of hype, and not much practical stuff. I had questions about it, that I never could find answers to:

Does it fit in a volcano stove? Can it be used on the stovetop? Can the top be used on the stove as a skillet?

I finally got to hold one in my hands today and see for myself.

Yes, it fits in a volcano stove, which is designed to hold dutch ovens up to 12 inches.

It technically is not made for the stovetop*, due to the legs, although if you turn up the heat it's possible. But that is an inefficient use of fuel.

*On a gas stove it's OK, just remove the grate.

It can be used in the oven, if you take out the top rack, and put the bottom on the lowest tier.

The lid can be used over coals as a skillet as well as a griddle; Most dutch oven lids can only be used as a griddle.

And since the lid has its own legs, you don't need a lid stand to use it as a skillet or griddle.

But, you cannot use the lid on the stovetop, because of the handle. It will not sit level on the burner; The legs are too short.

Eventually I will actually use the ultimate dutch oven, to see if it really does cook so much faster than a regular dutch oven, as the company claims.

They also claim you don't need top heat for this, except for baking. I may try that out, or just use top heat anyway, since it's so windy here in North Texas.

Grilled pork steaks

I made grilled pork steaks last night. It's cold, so I grilled them inside.

Seasoned them with thyme, paprika and rubbed sage.

Heated up the cast iron grill pan, grilled the steaks, then finished off in the oven at 300.

Yes, it was that easy.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

TV dinners on cast iron?

It's been so long since I've had a TV dinner; this was the first time, since I started using cast iron.

I've always commented that TV dinners come out of the microwave half cooked, half frozen.

They were originally meant to be cooked in the oven, but that was back when the trays were made of metal, not plastic.

So tonight, I dumped the contents onto a cast iron skillet, and baked in the oven at 350.

Much better that way!

Leftover sauce pork steaks

I had never seen or tried pork steaks before, but from what I'm told, they are prepared the same way as pork chops.

I used the sauce that I had cooked my crock pot roast in: cream of mushroom soup diluted in milk, with Lipton onion soup mix.

Laid out the pork steaks in my 13 1/4 inch skillet (since the 12 inch made them too crowded), poured over the sauce and baked at 350.

After about 45 minutes I lowered the heat to 300 until done.

Yes... it was that easy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Two things I did not cook in cast iron this time

I actually cooked a couple of things this week, NOT in cast iron.

I used a crock pot and rotisserie, respectively, to cook two different roasts.

The rotisserie I got last Christmas as a gift, and never used it. So I never realized how easy it was to use.

The first roast was a rump roast, which I first browned in butter in a cast iron skillet.

Then in the crock pot, I added a can of cream of mushroom soup* mixed with milk, and one envelope of Lipton onion soup mix.

*you could also use cream of chicken soup.

Added the browned roast to the liquid, and set it on low.

The above could also have been done in a cast iron pot in the oven at 250 to 300.

The second roast was a bone-in prime rib, which I seasoned with garlic salt and that's it.

Stuck it on the rotisserie center, turned the dial and let it cook.

After it was done, I put it on "no heat rotation" to let it cool. Served with horseradish sauce.

This also could have been done in a cast iron pot in the oven.

How do you keep a cast iron charcoal grill outside?

My most recent acquisition is the Lodge sportsman's charcoal grill.

But I wondered how I could keep it on my back porch without it rusting?

There is a protective cover you can buy, but that would only protect the top; The bottom would still be sitting on patio stones, which get wet when it rains.

So I got the idea to order two of them. I put the first one on the bottom, and then the other over the top.

They are elastic on the bottom, so it fits snug.

Now it's nice and protected from rain and snow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Does the water make a difference when boiling pasta?

Boiling pasta is one of the few things of which using cast iron is optional.

In other words, it doesn't make any difference in taste or consistency, whether you boil pasta in cast iron, or another kind of pot.

But I wondered if the water used to boil the pasta, made any difference.

See, the city water at my new house is terrible. I can't drink it, even with a filter. So we got a water cooler.

I wondered how that would affect boiling pasta; Would it make any difference in taste, if I used bottled water or city water?

So I experimented by dividing my pasta into two pots: one boiled in bottled water, and one in city water.

I sampled each batch several times. I don't know if it was a mind thing or not, but I did notice a very slight difference.

The pasta boiled in city water had a slight salty aftertaste, that the pasta boiled in bottled water did not have.

The difference was barely noticeable, mind you, but to me there was a slight difference.

I guess in the future, if I'm in a hurry and don't care, I'll use the city water.

But if I happen to be in a cook-off, or if someone happens to come over wanting to try my great cooking... bottled water it is.

I may or may not do this same experiment with rice. Actually, I prefer cooking rice in broth or stock.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

One very little known advantage of cast iron

Here's an advantage of cast iron that almost no one realizes:

I've moved twice in the last five years, both times with a moving company.

Anyone who has used a moving company knows, they use tons of packing paper!

At the time of the first move, I used aluminum cookware, which is lightweight; unfortunately, one piece got lost in the mounds of packing paper, and inadvertently thrown away.

That will not happen with cast iron! It's so heavy, you won't miss it when unpacking!

I'm glad my kitchen finally resembles a kitchen, instead of a storage room with a stove.

I will be cooking daily again soon, and believe me that can not come soon enough!

Cooking on a gas furnace - do not try this yourself

First of all, please do not try this yourself.

If you try this, you do so at your own risk; I'm not responsible for any damages.

This should ONLY be done in a cast iron pot, WITH a lid. Use oven gloves.

Do not fill more than halfway; spillovers can cause a fire. Do not leave unattended.

I have a floor gas furnace in my new house, and it gets pretty hot. I decided to see if I could cook on it.

That is, if you call heating up a can of tomato soup, "cooking".

I figured, if it doesn't work, what do I lose-- a 50 cent can of soup?

It was slow to warm up, but when I checked it about 40 minutes later, it was boiling!

So I enjoyed a bowl of hot soup for lunch.

It's not ideal, since you have no control over the heat. But, if your electricity goes out and you have no gas stove...