Home cooks and hallowed chefs share their secrets for cast-iron cooking.
North Carolina chef Katie Button shares the secret of pan-seared scallops.
D.C. chef Opie Crooks puts cast iron to work in a restaurant kitchen.
“We use cast iron everywhere,” says chef Opie Crooks of No Goodbyes in Washington, D.C.—from the open hearth to a French top range to gas burners to the oven to induction. “My advice to home cooks is don’t’ be so precious with it. Use it all the time. Use it for everything. It’s a tool, and it’s meant to be used that way.”
Virginia chef Travis Milton shares the wonders of Appalachian cooking.
When Elliott Moss left his hometown at the age of 20, he made one simple declaration: “I’m never eating rice again.” The Buxton Hall Barbecue chef had grown up on the eastern edges of South Carolina, much of which was once riddled with rice plantations, with the grain irrevocably rooted into the local cuisine today. And with it came many iterations of one-pot Southern staples.
Wade Truong didn’t grow up cooking wild game. From a young age, the Virginia native worked at his parents Saigon Café in Harrisonburg, then climbed the ranks to become executive chef at the popular Kybecca in Fredericksburg. But it wasn’t in these restaurants that he learned how to smoke turkey, sous vide duck, or roast venison—the kind of cuisine he’s become known for today.
For North Carolina chef-turned-farmer Jamie Swofford, there are more than four seasons in a year. Thirteen times more, to be exact, with the Piedmont native abiding by the ethos that every week—52 in total—brings a new peak for local produce, and with it, an opportunity to savor that fleeting moment’s sense of place. Particularly when roasted in a cast-iron pan.
There are certain things in life that just go together. Eggs and bacon. Blue jeans and t-shirts. Dogs and humans. And, of course, campfires and a cast-iron pan. To Denver chef (and bona fide meat master) Justin Brunson, this is a universal truth, learned over a lifetime of cooking meat over an open flame. ““There’s just something so primal and raw about it—almost romantic.”
We know it well: the glistening rings of canned pineapple, the candy-red maraschino cherries, all placed like a mosaic pattern. Upside-down cake has been a ubiquitous presence at parties and potlucks since the middle of the last century. Rooted in little more than butter, brown sugar, and tropical fruit, the charmingly retro dessert also has deep ties to cast iron.
John Tesar got his first taste of a perfectly cooked steak at the age of 10 in an old-school American chophouse in Kew Gardens, Queens. “One Friday night, he took the family out to dinner, and to this day, I’ll never forget the taste of a steak done under a broiler like that. The aggressive heat, the melting fat, the smell of it all . . . It was romantic. It changed my life.”