5 Tips for Using Cast Iron on the Grill
While a grill is an extremely versatile and reliable way to cook, it's not always the best tool for the job. Foods can fall through, they don't always heat things evenly, and flare ups are a huge problem if you want your meal to taste like anything but soot. That's why clever chefs know to employ another of cooking's most popular instruments - cast iron.
A cast iron pan or griddle will be your best friend both on and off the grill, provided you care for it properly. Today, we'll be taking a look at five helpful tips for using your cast iron on the grill, whether it be about what to cook with it, how to use it, or how to care for it properly. Let's get started.
#1: More Even Cooking
It's no secret that a grill, while powerful, isn't the most reliable means of cooking things evenly. Though it reaches ripping hot temperatures with ease, the nature of fire means that you can't really guarantee even heating on all areas, with hot and cold spots aplenty no matter how high you crank the heat.
This is when cast iron comes to the rescue. Cast iron is known for being one of the best cooking implements for even heat retention. Combine that with their ability to easily withstand intense heat without damage and you have the perfect cooking vessel for an even seer every time.
#2: Cooking Small Foods
One of the most irritating parts of cooking on a grill is that, despite how many good things it can do and how well it can cook, it's very limited in what you're physically able to place on top of it. Outside of some very small grates, your grill is only made to accommodate foods of certain sizes. Anything smaller than that and you risk it falling through into the fire, gone forever.
The same is true with things that might easily fall apart, like flaky fish. Through the use of a good cast iron pan, though, you can easily eliminate these problems. The cast iron traps the heat of the grill and doesn't compromise on the unique smokiness you get from a grill-cooked meal while providing a flat, even surface on which to cook.
It's the best of both worlds, giving you the cooking experience you expect from a grill while not having to fear losing all your hard work to the flame.
#3: Two Cooking Surfaces
This method is especially useful when it comes to meat. Take steak, for example. The best steaks are always intensely crispy on the outside while tender and juicy on the inside. And while it's certainly possible to get such a seer just using the grill, the nature of this cooking surface introduces a lot of different factors into the mix that could potentially ruin an otherwise perfect steak.
Cast iron can help with that. Similar to a reverse seer oven steak, you can utilize your cast iron and grill in tandem to get the most out of your heat and your meat. And the best part is you have your choice of how you want to cook.
You could use the cast iron pan to quickly add a dark crust onto your meat and finish it on a colder area of the grill to cook it through, or you could cook it quickly on the grill grates to get those iconic marks across the surface before placing it into a cast iron pan to heat through. The options just don't stop.
#4: Baking on a Grill
One of the more unusual uses for cast iron makes itself apparent. Especially useful for camping trips when home cooking implements aren't an option, you'll soon discover that your cast iron pans work just as well out in the open as they do in an oven.
Because of the shape and material of a cast iron pan, it's the perfect vessel for retaining heat in just the right way to make baked goods cook perfectly. Not only that, the extra heat from the grill means cooking times are slashed.
This doesn't just work great on things like quick breads or biscuits like you'd expect, though; baking on a grill can do just as well for things like cakes or pizza, too. Just be careful when you're taking things out, since the pan will be way hotter than if you removed it from the oven.
#5: Keeping Food Warm
Beyond simply cooking your food, cast iron is a great way to retain heat on things that are already cooked. Using the naturally colder areas of a grill (usually near the sides) to your advantage, you can park a hearty cast iron pan there to use as a warmer after you cook things.
If you're cooking a large amount of food all at once that's going to finish at different times, this is the perfect way to assure that everything you make is hot and fresh by the time it's ready to serve.
It's also a good way to prepare for things like barbecues and parties, as you can start the grilling in advance and leave your burgers and dogs on the cast iron to stay warm as guests start arriving, giving you extra time before the festivities to take care of other things.
Cast iron is a tremendous help both in and out of the kitchen. With its durability, exceptional heat retention, and even cooking surface, a good quality cast iron pan or griddle can do wonders for your grilling ability. Just remember to clean and care for it after every use like you normally would.
What did you think of these tips? Anything you've learned about using cast iron on the grill you want to share with us? Leave a comment down below, and don't forget to share this page with a friend who's in need of some extra help with their grill game.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Put a Cast Iron Pot or Pan On the Grill?
Some types of pots and pans will be ruined if you put them on the grill, such as plastic-handled, Teflon, or enameled pots and pans. Cast iron is perfect for the grill, so long as it is not enameled and it doesn’t have an plastic components. Never use a glass cover or PYREX on the grill.
How Do You Clean a Cast Iron Skillet?
Contrary to popular belief, you can use soap on a cast iron skillet. Soap is helpful in getting out very set in, burnt foods. If your cast iron is just lightly dirtied, you can boil water in the skillet to clean it. It is important to dry cast iron very well after cleaning to prevent rust.
How Do You Season a Cast Iron Skillet?
Seasoning a cast iron makes it more non-stick. To season the skillet, apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the surface and place the skillet in a hot oven, about 350 degrees F. After 1 hour, turn off the oven and allow the cast iron to cool completely. Using a paper towel, remove any excess oil.
Why is Cast Iron Good for Cooking?
Cast iron makes great pots and pans because they can withstand large temperature fluctuations. They can go from the stovetop to the oven quickly and safely. They also retain heat very well and a well-seasoned cast iron skillet is non stick.
Do You Need to Use Oil in a Cast Iron Skillet?
A well-seasoned cast iron will have multiple layers of cooked-in oil, making its surface nonstick. If your cast iron is very well seasoned, you may not need to use any oil at all when cooking.