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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

modified version of a recipe from the Lodge company

I modified the following chicken recipe, posted by the Lodge cast iron company:

Instead of using boneless skinless chicken thighs, I used drumsticks. I also added garlic and fresh cilantro, which was not in the original recipe.

Sprinkle chicken with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides.

Add cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic (or whole cloves), and fresh cilantro. Transfer to oven at 350 until done.

Because the original recipe was for boneless chicken, it called for finishing on the stovetop; But, I used bone-in chicken, so I finished in the oven.

Try this recipe for chicken or fish or pork chops

I've found that just about any recipe that's good for chicken, can also be good for pork chops or white fish.

The following easy recipe was meant for chicken, but I used it on deep sea dory fillets:

Rub in plain yellow mustard, add salt and pepper and garlic powder.

Lay out on a cast iron griddle or skillet. Into the oven at 350.

I sprayed it with olive oil Pam before putting in the oven, so it would stay moist.

You could also use dijon mustard*. It was great!

*I later tried this recipe with French's honey mustard, thinking it would be good. It wasn't as good as the regular mustard. I do plan to try it with dijon mustard as well, though.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

cast iron french roll pan

This is a cast iron french roll pan.

It's not to be confused with a french bread pan, or a vienna roll pan.

It's sometimes called a gem pan, and you could make gems in it, but technically it's not a gem pan, but a french roll pan.

An old cookbook claims that this pan is "nice for baking rolls where a great deal of crust is liked."

It's meant for making... french rolls!

Now, is there a difference between french rolls and plain dinner rolls?

Wikipedia says that a french roll is "often used as a generic term for a bread roll, but also a sweeter, softer roll with milk added to the dough."

Here's a recipe for french rolls, and a recipe for french bread rolls. I don't know if there's a difference between them or not.

I've never made "from scratch" rolls before, but I've made breadsticks.

Tonight I used this pan to make rolls from a "hot roll mix" bought from the dollar store. They were OK, as OK as you'd expect dollar store mix rolls to be.

Eventually I'll actually try making them from scratch; I'm sure they'll be better.

I love the "brown n serve" rolls, and I may try those in this pan too.

Can you use two wonder skillets as a pie iron?

This is a pie iron.

They come in different shapes, and are used for making sandwiches and all kinds of cool stuff.

I pondered for two years, whether or not you can use two wonder skillets on the stovetop as a pie iron.

You know, heat both of them on the stove, then put one on top of the other and cook?

But until now, I never had two wonder skillets to check if that was possible.

My conclusion was, sort of, but not really.

Since this was an experiment, and since I've never actually used a pie iron before, I decided to go with the most simple pie iron recipe: a grilled cheese sandwich.

Until I realized that I didn't have any cheese, so I went with grilled peanut butter and jelly.

Just butter two slices of bread (for the outside), and then put peanut butter and jelly on it.

I heated both wonder skillets on the stove, then put the sandwich in one of them.

I quickly found out that the other skillet will not fit on top of the first one, if the handles are on the same side. The handles have to be on different sides, as shown above.

Needless to say, that makes it very awkward to flip, especially when it's hot, over a flaming gas burner.

The sandwich turned out fine, but if you want to do real "pie iron cooking", then use the right tool for the job, which is a real pie iron.

This isn't the first time I've tried to rig up things.

I have other wonder skillet articles here, here, and here.

The new Lodge guitar skillet

This is the new Lodge guitar skillet.

Actually, it's not "new". It was sold at Cracker Barrel for a while, engraved with Alan Jackson's autograph.

That skillet is no longer being sold, but this one is.

It's a novelty item, basically.

I don't have one, no plans to get one, although it might make a nice gift.

It's not very big, so you can't cook much in it, but you can make a guitar shaped piece of cornbread, or serve hot desserts in it.

I just read that someone was so impressed, they bought 30 of them.

What on earth would you do with 30 guitar skillets? Give as gifts? Make 30 guitar shaped cupcakes?

Or perhaps make 30 seafood skillets. Those are cooked in wonder skillets.

Two eggs in a wonder skillet? Seriously?

This is a wonder skillet. It's a newer version of the original egg skillet.

Someone suggested to me that she loves to make two eggs in her wonder skillet.

I was like, seriously? You can fit two eggs in a wonder skillet? No way! I thought it was for ONE egg!

So I decided to try it. Indeed, it can fit two eggs!

Because the wonder skillet is not my designated egg pan, there was no way I could flip them in this skillet without breaking the yolk.

So I scrambled them.

So there you go! If you want an egg sandwich with 2 eggs instead of just one, then you can do it in this skillet.

Perhaps the four inch skillet was meant for one egg, while the five inch could fit two. I don't know.

Friday, June 24, 2011

boiled peanuts!

I actually do not boil peanuts in cast iron, although you can if you want to.

It's easier to make them in a crock pot, because they take so long to make. It's more energy efficient and you can "set it and forget it."

Take 2 bags of raw peanuts and put them in a 5 quart crock pot.

Add enough water to cover, and 1/2 cup salt.

Leave them on high until they're done. It will probably take several hours, but check them periodically.

Lodge enameled vs. the more expensive brands

I previously stated that, regarding enameled cast iron cookware,* I couldn't imagine the more expensive brands being that much better quality, or more functional, than Lodge.

*See also my article on my first experience with enameled cookware, using a Lodge enameled pot.

Then I came across this article, on a blog called The Hungry Mouse, where the author actually compared a Lodge enameled pot with a Le Creuset pot.

In each pot, she made short ribs. I'd have liked to see the actual recipe for such ribs, but it does show the cooking technique, and I have a pretty good idea about what the seasonings probably were.

I'll let you read the article for details, but the conclusion was, there was no difference in quality, between the Lodge pot, and the much more expensive Le Creuset pot.

According to a Lodge employee, Cook's Illustrated has tested Lodge brand enameled cookware, against the more expensive brands, 75 times. Each time, has rated Lodge as equal to theirs.

It all goes to show, folks... more expensive does not mean better.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The grill pan challenge: which makes a better burger?

Pictured above are two grill pans made by Lodge.

In recent years, Lodge changed the design of their grill pans.

The one on the left is an older model, which has pointy ridges, that are higher and spaced farther apart.

This was fine for grilling meats, but not so much for grilling sandwiches; When you pressed down on the sandwich, the ridges would poke holes in the bread.

Newer models have short, square and stubby ridges that are flat, and spaced closer together.

This was better for sandwiches, and Lodge claimed that consumers preferred the new design. I was told that it made better grill marks.

But, I was convinced that the older model made a better burger, due to the ridges being higher, and maintained this belief for 2 years.*

*I addressed this issue in my previous article.

So I decided to see for myself, by making a burger in each pan. This was also the first time I used a grill press* for burgers.

*I recently tried a grill press on bacon, and was very happy with the results.

I prepared the burgers my usual way,* except this time, I first cooked down the chopped onions in olive oil before mixing into the meat.

*If you'd rather not click to that article, my "usual way" is chopped onions, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder.

While cooking, I found that using the grill press was easier on the new design; On the old design, the burger would be pushed down into the pointy ridges, which made it harder to flip, and didn't stay together as well.

So, the burger on the new design grill pan, maintained its shape better during cooking, especially when using the grill press. Now for the taste test.

Both burgers were equally good, regardless of the pan it was cooked on.

So I can finally conclude, that the new design grill pan is fine for burgers, with the added benefit of being better for grilled sandwiches.

Does that mean I'm going to ditch the old grill pan? Of course not.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Lodge round grill pan

This is the Lodge round grill pan. The above pan is 11 1/4 inches.

This particular pan was originally called a "top o stove broiler".

Its "burger capacity" is 3 medium sized burgers (1/3 pound each).

This pan, although it's still for sale as of this writing, is being discontinued and replaced by a 10 1/4 inch pan.

Other round grill pans Lodge has made in the past are here and here.

A Lodge employee told me that they changed the size of this pan because consumers with smaller kitchens in urban areas are requesting a smaller grill pan.

Also, the Lodge 10 1/4 inch lid will now fit this grill pan; Previously, there were no lids that fit Lodge grill pans. The pro logic round grill pan did have a matching lid, but that's been discontinued.

It should be noted that the 11 1/4 inch round pan, as well as the older model square pan, had pointy ridges that were spaced farther apart.

The newer model square pan, as well as the new 10 1/4 inch round pan, have short, square and stubby ridges that are flat and spaced closer together.*

*See my next article for a photo comparison.

The advantage is that you can make panini sandwiches with a grill press, without the pointy ridges poking holes into the sandwich.

I wonder which one is better for burgers, though.

I've been told that the new, shorter ridges make much better grill marks.

Maybe so, but appearance of grill marks isn't my first priority.

I plan to try making burgers in each pan soon. The proof will be in the pudding!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Lodge FOUR inch wonder skillet

This is the Lodge four inch wonder skillet. It's no longer made.

It's not to be confused with the 5 inch wonder skillet, which is commonly sold today.

The 5 inch skillet can be used to make a grilled cheese sandwich, but the 4 inch cannot; It's too small.

So, I really did "wonder" what I would ever do with it.

Sure it can cook one egg for an egg sandwich, but, anything else?

Someone suggested that perhaps it was used to cook lunch meat to put on a sandwich.

I finally found a use for it the other day: I needed to reheat a half of a hamburger. There you go; this skillet was perfect for that.

My favorite use for the wonder skillet is to heat up cheese dip on the stove and then take it directly to the table.

My favorite is white american cheese, grated into the skillet and add a little milk if needed.

Velveeta also works, or monterey jack, or queso fresca, or any mexican white cheese.
Add dried cilantro if you like.

I never could figure out what exactly was the purpose of having a four inch skillet and a five inch skillet, and addressed that in a previous article.

I later learned that you can cook two eggs in a 5 inch. So maybe the four inch was for one egg?

special griddles for gas stoves

I found this in Lowe's the other day.

It's a special griddle made specifically for this model gas stove, made by Lodge.

You remove the center burner grate and replace it with this griddle, similar to "stove furniture" they used to sell with wood stoves.

If they don't make one for your model stove, not to worry; the double play griddle works very well on gas stoves!

two more rare pieces, previously listed on ebay

I recently found these cast iron pieces listed on ebay, which I had never seen before.

One is a red enameled cast iron pot, shaped like a rooster. I don't know what brand, or when it was made.

The other apparently is a Lodge ribbed jumbo oval serving griddle.

It was listed as a "fish frying pan", but it was actually a jumbo sized fajita pan with ridges for grilling.

The model number was JOR2 and I have not been able to find any other information on this pan.

A Lodge employee just told me that those pans were made and sold only in Australia. Australians like to grill outside on the pan, and then bring it straight to the table.

Neat idea, and I would think Americans would like that too, no?

Anyway, I decided to combine both pieces into one article, since I had so little information on each of them.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Practical use of the Lodge Sportsman's grill

I tried out the Lodge Sportsman's grill for the first time last night.

The most frustrating thing really had nothing to do with the grill itself-- it was getting the charcoal to light!

The other issue had less to do with the grill and more to do with the learning curve-- how much charcoal to use.

It was slower to heat up and didn't get as hot as I'd have liked, because I wasn't using enough coals.

Also, next time I will flip the grate part, so the legs are sticking up. That will make the grill closer to the coals, and it will get hotter.

Another advantage to flipping the grate is, you don't have to worry as much about food falling off, because there is a "lip" around the edge.

I grilled sirloin steak. There was nothing to it, really; It grilled just as it would on any grill.

For steak, you want to let the grill heat up at least 15 minutes. The hand over the grate to feel the heat, really doesn't apply, as you can feel the heat, but the grate will be much cooler.

I'm used to having a cover over a grill, which allows for faster cooking; The sportsman's cooker would make a great cover, but if you don't have one, any inverted cast iron pot will work to cover the food.

As this was my first time using it, the grate did stick a little-- all cast iron will stick the first few times, even pre-seasoned. I should have sprayed Pam before using.

I used welding gloves to remove the grate when I was done, so it would cool faster and I could clean it.

While you're waiting for the grill base to cool, I recommend you move it to a covered porch, in case it might rain. Rain is bad for cast iron.

It's also recommended you line the very bottom with aluminum foil, for easier cleanup.

Overall I found this grill fairly easy to use, and I'm happy with it. I know what to do differently next time.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

practical use of the bacon press (grill press)

This is a grill press, also called a bacon press, and I used one for the first time today*.

*My second use was for burgers.

It's meant for keeping your bacon from curling.

It's also useful for grilled sandwiches, burgers, and the like, for faster cooking.

I also have a panini press, which is useful for paninis of course, but not so much for bacon due to the ridges. The bacon press is flat.

It did exactly what it was meant to do: It kept the bacon from curling, and it helped to cook the bacon faster. I rather like it!

You definitely want to have a plate handy, to set it on and keep bacon fat from dripping all over the counter.

Lodge also sells a round grill press, meant for use in their round skillets (so corners don't get in the way).

As I said in a previous post, boy do I wish I'd had one of these, the last time I cooked hash browns, crab cakes, salmon burgers and quesadillas!

re-thinking my strategy for eggs

This is the Lodge single burner reversible griddle, which I had never considered getting until this morning.

I posted previously about the Lodge 8 inch griddle, which is my designated "egg pan".

I talked about how it's best to choose one pan specifically for eggs.

I chose that pan for eggs because I had an electric stove with small burners, and that pan was just the right size to cover the burner without hanging over.

See, on a traditional electric stove, the burners aren't always level. So my eggs would always slide to the side of the pan. If the pan was bigger than the burner, then the side was not directly on the burner, and not as hot. What an aggravation!

(Yes, there was one large burner, but that was always being used for bacon while the eggs were cooking).

So for THAT stove, this pan was perfect for eggs.

But now I live in a new house with a gas stove. These burners are bigger, they're square, and they're always level.

As a result, I don't need such a small pan for my eggs anymore.

The above pan would perfectly fit the burners on my new stove.

I wouldn't use the grill side, as I already have a grill pan. Just the flat side for eggs.

Wait, don't you already have a double play griddle? Can't you just use that?

Yes, but just as with the large burner on my old stove... that's already being used for bacon!

Friday, June 10, 2011

sprinkle, sprinkle, pop

I love how easy it is to make baked fish or chicken in cast iron.

Sprinkle, sprinkle, pop. That's all you have to do. As in, sprinkle on your choice of seasonings pop in the oven, it's done.

I discovered the other day, when baking fish or chicken-- spray olive oil pam on the meat before you put it in the oven. It keeps it more moist that way.

I made tilapia the other night, similar to how I made wild caught drum fillets or flounder:

McCormick garlic bread sprinkle, dried minced garlic and rosemary. Into the oven at 350.

It was literally, sprinkle, sprinkle, pop. Yes, it was that easy!

My first time ever making bison (buffalo)

I tried buffalo once in a fine restaurant, but have never actually cooked it before.

I assumed it would be cooked in the same way as beef, but not necessarily; Since bison hasvery little fat, you have to watch that it doesn't dry out.

Suggestions for "adding fat" included soaking in olive oil, or milk. It was also suggested that you don't want to over-season because that takes away from bison's unique flavor.

I decided to go with what my late grandfather used to do with venison: soak in milk and minced garlic.

No seasonings were added, although in hindsight, black pepper probably would have been fine.

I soaked it for an hour or so, then grilled on the grill pan.

You don't want to cook it for too long; medium rare is recommended for bison, or no more than medium.

It was delicious! Although I won't be cooking it too often because it's very expensive.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

practical use of the double burner griddle

Today was my first experience with a double burner griddle.

In a previous post I stated that these griddles were not recommended for use on electric stoves, and since that was the type I had at the time, I would not be getting one.

I now live in a new house, with a gas stove (yes!), so I decided to try one out.

Lodge sells two different double burner griddles: The double play, pictured above, and the "pro grid" which is 20 inches long and has handles.

I chose the double play because it was shorter and more likely to fit in my oven.

I found that it fit perfectly across the two gas burners. I preheated the pan so that the heat would be evenly distributed when cooking.

I tried it with pancakes and bacon, and am quite happy with it.

Since the griddle has no handle, and I'm used to using griddles with a handle, there was a bit of a learning curve. You definitely want to wear an oven glove on your other hand because the griddle will slide around a little when flipping food.

You also don't want to crowd the pan too much. Two pancakes at a time is fine, no more than three.

I purposely made a pancake in the middle to see if it was hot enough to cook, and it was.

I found it to be great for cooking four eggs at a time.

I conclude that if you have a gas stove, most definitely get one of these!

The double burner griddle is reversible, and has a "grill pan" on the other side.

As stated in a previous post, I'm not a fan of reversible grill pans due to seasoning issues.

However, I intend to primarily use this as a griddle. Perhaps I'll get another one to use primarily as a grill pan.