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Author Topic: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.  (Read 11883 times)

THE NORSEMAN

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Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
« on: August 05, 2011, 09:04:16 PM »
Cooking on or in cast iron pans can be one of the easiest ways to cook there is, provided one understands the basics of such.

Advantages:

1. Cast iron , properly seasoned, is nearly the ultimate non stick cookware.

2.  From a health perspective, cooking with cast iron is much better than using aluminum or Teflon coated pans.

3.  Even cooking/heating

4.  Excellent heat retaining properties.

5.  With proper care, durability is unsurpassed.  Your great grandchildren will be using your cast iron cookware.

Disadvantages:

1. Weight.  No doubt about it, cast iron is HEAVY compared to a similar sized pan in either aluminum or stainless.

2.  Maintenance.  Yes, taking care of it properly permanently and forever more bans cleaning it in the all mighty dishwasher.  The horror.

Much good info here for the beginner- http://papadutch.home.comcast.net/~papadutch/dutch-oven-intro.htm#Alum  .  But ignore the part about aluminum vs. cast iron at the bottom of the front page.  Cast iron is king.  Should I hear of a WTA member buying an aluminum oven, he or she will owe the board at large a written apology, laced with references to the errors of their ways, so that we all may understand and forgive them. >:D

« Last Edit: August 05, 2011, 11:27:32 PM by THE NORSEMAN »
This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

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    Kaso

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #1 on: August 05, 2011, 09:17:00 PM »
    5.  With proper care, durability is unsurpassed.  Your great grandchildren will be using your cast iron cookware.
    Indeed.

    2.  Maintenance.  Yes, taking care of it properly permanently and forever more bans cleaning it in the all mighty dishwasher.  The horror.
    I would venture to say, that most MEN don't care.  The trick is, getting the ladies of the house to clean it properly.  I know this first hand...

    Kaso
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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #2 on: August 05, 2011, 09:23:51 PM »
    My frying pans are exclusively cast iron... not the crap Lodge stuff...
    I pretty much refuse to use anything else... and Caryn is very well trained in the care of my cast iron...  :neener


    Jim
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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #3 on: August 05, 2011, 09:35:04 PM »
    Advantage #1-

    Properly seasoned you ask? What's that? Isn't that hard to do?

    No.  It's not.  As a matter of fact, you can buy pre-seasoned cast iron from most makers now.  This option adds about 15 percent to the purchase price of the identical unseasoned item.  But if one wishes to avoid a smoky kitchen, and a dish or 2 out of the gate that must be carefully selected, there's nothing wrong with this choice.  However, should you buy seasoned cast iron, and then flub up, requiring you to re season your cookware?  That's right, you need to know how to do it.

    Seasoning is basically filling and sealing the pores in the surface of the metal, and it's really simple to do.  For the initial run, I recommend Crisco or similar shortening over oil, as it does a much better job of filling and sealing the porous surface of cast iron cookware.

    Step 2.  Rub Crisco or equivalent lightly over the entire surface of the iron ware, inside and out. You want a nice even coating, with no globs or dry spots here.  Note: You may use the cooking oil of your choice for this step, but doing so may require 2 or more seasoning sessions to get the pan in question ready for its initial use.

    Step 3.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place drip tray under area where the pan will be placed to catch the extra oil that runs off during the seasoning process.

    Step 4.  Place the item to be seasoned in the oven for one hour.  During this time, keep a paper towel or basting brush handy that is loaded with a little shortening or oil. Check two or three times at even intervals for dry spots on the cookware.  If found, quickly brush/rub on a little more shoertening/oil.  NOTE: This can get a bit smoky.  Disable smoke alarms, open windows, and ventilate the kitchen.  DO NOT leave the kitchen unattended.  Be prepared to spend the entire hour in or near the kitchen for safety reasons.(Say for instance that you have a gas stove and used way too much grease resulting in a fire that needs dealt with post haste)

    Step 5:  When the hour is up, turn off the oven.  Allow the item being seasoned to cool to room temperature naturally.  Resist the urge to try cooling it faster by leaving the oven open or taking the item you are seasoning out of the oven all together.

    Step 6:  After the item has cooled, remove from oven, and check for dry/bare spots.  If they are few and far between, you may start cooking with your new ironware if cooking low acid high fat foods, as the pan in question will continue the seasoning process as you cook.  If there are several spots or extended areas that are still rough feeling bare cast iron, repeat steps 2-6 again.


    With a properly completed initial seasoning, your ironware should have a slightly golden and smooth feeling sheen afterwords.  If it is still a rough surface, or completely metallic grey in color, try again, you did not use enough oil/shortening.

    With time, and repeated use, your cookware will take on that high gloss black sheen that well seasoned cast iron is known for.

    « Last Edit: August 05, 2011, 10:35:53 PM by THE NORSEMAN »
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    THE NORSEMAN

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #4 on: August 05, 2011, 09:45:08 PM »
    Advantage #2- Health benefits:

    Cooking with ironware will add trace amounts of iron to your food.  No need to look for food items "fortified with iron" any longer.  Women of childbearing age and those that are anemic benefit to an even greater degree than your otherwise average person.

    Cooking with aluminum is easy, and the pans are light.  But there are 2 major drawbacks here:

    1.  There is a substantial(and continually growing) body of evidence linking aluminum and Alzheimer disease.

    2.  Durability.  Even the highest quality aluminum cookware can't stand up against cast iron in this dept.


    Teflon?  Neat stuff.  But it has been linked to reproductive issues in both women and men.



    « Last Edit: August 05, 2011, 10:38:56 PM by THE NORSEMAN »
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    Evil Jim

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #5 on: August 05, 2011, 09:52:36 PM »
    My seasoning oil of choice...
    Bacon Grease.
    A side benefit is that you get to eat bacon.
    I have had people amazed at how eggs slide around the pan.
    It saddens me that people are too lazy to use cast iron.


    Jim
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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #6 on: August 05, 2011, 10:07:47 PM »
    now we need some recipes from the Norseman!   >:D  Preferably Dutch Oven!
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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #7 on: August 05, 2011, 10:08:18 PM »
    Advantage #3-  Even heating and cooking:

    For browning, braising and searing, cast iron is king!!  The only time it comes in lacking is when doing truly hi temperature cooking requiring temps above 500 degrees F, such as when preparing a blue steak.

    Properly selected quality ironware will heat and cook more evenly and predictably than all but the very best(read very expensive) modern pans.  These modern pans that will outperform your basic cast iron cookware involve multiple layers of different metals(chosen specifically for properties such as heat transfer, heat retention, and surface finish properties), end up weighing nearly as much as the cast iron piece, and cost anywhere from twice to ten times what the iron pan meant for the same job does.

    However- You need to understand a couple things about cast iron for it to perform up to expectations:

    1.  Always pre-heat your iron ware, always.  If you don't, even with a perfectly seasoned pan you run the risk of food sticking.

    2.  Cleaning: Cleaning iron ware should rarely, if ever involve soap or scouring pads.  Just go near my pans with a steel wool scouring pad and dish soap with an offer to "help" clean up.  You will get NOWHERE NEAR my iron ware that I promise you!  -

      Use rubber(or wood if you're a purist) utensils for cooking/stirring and dishing.  For clean up, make sure the pan is warm/hot to the touch, and use either paper towels or, at the most abrasive, a nylon scrubber sponge(used gently) and water to remove stuck on food.  After that, heat water to steaming in the pan, rinse out, and wipe dry.  
    At this point there should be no moisture or food residue in the pan at all.  Maintain or reheat the pan to "almost too hot to touch".  With this accomplished, apply a very light coating inside and out using your favorite cooking oil or shortening.  Avoid using products that are salted for this application(such as salted butter).

    That's it, you're done.  The pan is ready for next time.

    Sound complicated?  Maybe a little.  But with practice, it's easy.  As an example, I can in most cases clean and re-oil my pans in the time it takes for my steak/pork chop/burgers to rest properly, soaking up those flavorful juices.  Half the dishes done before you even eat, can't beat that!

    « Last Edit: August 05, 2011, 10:38:20 PM by THE NORSEMAN »
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    THE NORSEMAN

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #8 on: August 05, 2011, 10:34:23 PM »
    Advantage #4- Heat retaining properties:

    It's big, it's heavy, it's thick.  All true.  Which is why foods stay hot longer in cast iron than other choices.  There's more mass to act as a heat sink, so stews, casseroles, cobblers and breads stay steaming hot longer than the same dishes prepared in pans made from other materials.
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    THE NORSEMAN

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #9 on: August 05, 2011, 10:42:44 PM »
    Advantage #5- Durability-

    With no screws, bolts, or rivets to back out or loosen over time, a properly seasoned and maintained dutch oven or frying pan will last for generations.  There are several ironware pieces in my family now being used by the 4th generation of owners, with no signs or being used up or worn out at all.
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    Avenger29

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #10 on: August 05, 2011, 10:48:54 PM »
    Quote
    Teflon?  Neat stuff.  But it has been linked to reproductive issues in both women and men.

    I've never been impressed with coated cookware...it has never worked that well for me and tends to eventually gain scratches.

    Cast iron, on the other hand, I can cook with pretty well...

    Cast iron is also very affordable. Made in the USA, 100% cast iron Lodge cookware can even be brought at Wal-Mart for reasonable prices. A trip to the jockey lot yields vintage cookware...

    I recommend a large, deep skillet if you can only have one piece of cast iron cookware. Frying a steak, making gravy, baking a roast in the oven, frying chicken, cooking french fries, making pancakes are just SOME of the varied things you can do with it. You'll want to get a griddle, other pans, and such later, but I consider the large skillet to be the most versatile.

    I use a cast iron pot to deep fry. I have a huge cast iron washpot for making hash and stews in large quantity.

    Here in the South cast iron is passed down just like guns and tools...
     

    South Carolina
    I don't THINK I'll ever have to face down routers in the streets.

    I should hope not. Mobs of rogue woodworking tools would suck to repel.

    THE NORSEMAN

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #11 on: August 05, 2011, 11:11:25 PM »
    As a footnote to this-
    Quote
    My seasoning oil of choice...
    Bacon Grease.
    A side benefit is that you get to eat bacon.
    I have had people amazed at how eggs slide around the pan.
    It saddens me that people are too lazy to use cast iron.

    Two areas of caution

    1.  You food will have a very slight bacon/pork flavor.(In most cases a good thing, unless you're cooking a cobbler or delicate bread/cake for instance)

    2.  Bacon/pork fat and grease will almost always contain large amounts of salt.  If you use your cast iron on a regular basis, it's not an issue at all.  But if you're the type that gets the dutch oven out once or twice a year if you're lucky, the high salt content can cause issues(think of salted roads during the winter and cars for an example).
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    Evil Jim

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #12 on: August 05, 2011, 11:59:57 PM »
    Mine are used daily... so no issues.
    It also turns out a mean pineapple upside down cake.


    Jim
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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #13 on: August 07, 2011, 11:29:12 PM »
    After reading this thread, I may have to get myself some.


    So, I assume you guys are against this kind of stuff.

    http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=116897
    http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=16537799
    Utah

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #14 on: August 07, 2011, 11:49:27 PM »
    I don't know what that is but the fact that it has a handle bolted to it is heresy.

    If you're going to make cornbread do yourself a favor and make it in a cast iron skillet.  Trust me, the crap that comes out of pyrex AINT cornbread. Seriously.

    +100 on papa dutch his site is awesome.

    When buying a dutch oven consider getting one without legs.  It makes cooking in the oven much easier.  Some people may scream heresy but ya know there's something nice about doing a dutch oven dinner in the oven.  Heck my wife will even do it, forget about getting her to do anything with charcoal.

    One last tip.  Keep all METAL objects away from your skillets and dutch ovens. Only let wood or plastic inside them. Invariably someone will scratch the wonderful patina that's been building up inside the skillet or oven and it's just not the same.
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    THE NORSEMAN

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #15 on: August 07, 2011, 11:59:28 PM »
    Steve, yeah, we are talking traditional cast iron cook ware.  Having it enameled,  cast extremely thin to save weight(which defeats the even heating & cooking  benefits, as well as the superior temperature maintenance of traditional cast), or bolted together(durability), rather than a one piece cast are all features inferior to the real thing.  In gun terms it's a 1911 vs a hi-point.  Seriously.

    Ya' all be nice to Mr. Ting, as he does have a proper charcoal grill, we just have to get him steered straight on this issue. ;)
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    THE NORSEMAN

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #16 on: August 08, 2011, 12:12:25 AM »
    Two very important pointers:

    1.  Look for iron ware of even thickness.  Is the material the same thickness throughout?  If not, expect uneven heating/cooking.

    2.  Does your ironware have a lid?  Take a dutch oven for example.  Does the lid fit snugly and uniformly?  Or is it sloppy?  It should be the former, as we want all the heat/steam/liquid/flavor to stay inside our cookware.
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #17 on: August 08, 2011, 12:27:41 AM »
    Three places that I've found quality cast iron cookware has been in the pawn, second-hand and thrift shops. Used, seasoned and ready for years more service. I got my skillets from an auction for $10 takes the whole damn box (I had to throw away a lot of Cool Whip and margarine tubs).
    One use you missed, self defense. Family lore has tales of my great-great aunt using a cast iron skillet on non-paying men and mad-as-a-hornet wives trying to sneak into her house of ill repute. 
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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #18 on: August 14, 2011, 11:41:54 PM »
    All of my good cast iron is old stuff that has already been well seasoned and just needed a clean up and a little bacon cooked in it.

    Most of the new stuff I have seen needs a lot of cooking and scrubbing with rough stuff to clean up the rough sand cast they are shipping it out with. I wish I had a steel shot blaster. I would work on a couple of newer pieces I have set aside because I can't make them non stick.

    jim

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #19 on: August 26, 2011, 12:12:32 AM »
    I actually turned a rough cast piece of crap into a fairly usable pan one week - end.  Started with a sanding head on my electric drill and finished up with an orbital sander and some emery cloth.  Seasoned it with lard ( better than bacon grease - no salt ) and its been good to go ever since.  Old cast iron is the best though - nothing like it.  On a slightly divergent note I have a cousin who made a cowboy wok out of a steel disc blade - yes the kind you pull behind your tractor.  He cut a steel plug to fit the center hole, welded it up, ground and polished the whole thing until it looked like a mirror then brazed four lug nuts on the back side and threaded some re-bar which screwed into the lug nuts for legs about 20" long.  Works great over a camp fire or a single burner camp stove.  Very cool.
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    THE NORSEMAN

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #20 on: September 28, 2011, 12:35:48 AM »
    Time for a little more here folks-

    First off-  Coelacanth-  Your cousin?  Welcome in camp any time. 

    Secondly, Harm asked for recipes.  Here's an easy one:

    I don't know the cups or pounds here, just the "That looks good" measurements, but I usually make this in a 14 inch dutch oven, which has a capacity of 8 quarts/2 gallons.

    You need:
    Bacon
    red potatoes
    spices of choice
    Swiss cheese

    Figure the number of people you're serving, and use enough bacon for 2 strips each, one good sized potato each, and a couple slices of cheese each as well.

    Cook bacon, cut into 1"X1" chunks.  Set aside.
    Drain most of the residual bacon grease off, but leave enough to fry the potatoes in.
    Cut potatoes into bite size pieces, leaving the skin on.  Cook until almost completely done.
    Add spices of choice(in my case I lean towards Italian staples like rosemary, garlic, and basil)
    Then add bacon back in to the oven, and stir.  Cook until potatoes are done
    Cover with Swiss cheese slices.
    Serve.



     
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    Harm

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #21 on: September 28, 2011, 12:42:58 AM »
    That sounds great Norse - taking the daughters camping as soon as I can afford the gas.  I'll remember that one.  I might add some onions, carrots and peppers but otherwise that sounds awesome!

    A great one we made last weekend:

    Quart Jar of Fruit (we used home canned apples) may also use cans
    Box Cake
    Dust with Cinnamon
    5 tablespoons of butter chopped in pads.

    Start w fruit, add cake powder, dust add butter and simmer in coals to taste.
    ArizonaIn Deo Confido

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    Into the last good fight I'll ever know
    Live and die on this day
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    THE NORSEMAN

    • To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them. - Richard Henry Lee
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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #22 on: September 28, 2011, 12:57:30 AM »
    Quick cobbler-

    Pie filling of choice
    Cake mix of choice sprinkled over filling.  If you like, you can sprinkle small pieces of very cold butter over the cake mix as well, for an even flakier crust and a touch richer flavor.
    Soda of choice.  Just enough to moisten the cake mix thoroughly.


    Cook about 45 minutes, or until cake mix is completely done.

    Notes:  

    The carbonation in the soda acts similar to yeast in bread, using a non-carbonated beverage will result in an unleaven cake mix on top.

    Use your head when choosing cake mix flavors, soda flavors and filling types. Make sure they compliment each other.  Example:  Apple filling, spice cake and root beer soda are great together: but pineapple filling, chocolate cake mix, and kiwi-lime soda?  YIKES!!

    Cake mixes without "pudding in the mix" work best.

    In a 14" oven this usually works out ratio wise like so: 2 cans filling, one boxed cake mix, and about 2/3rds to 3/4s of a 12 ounce can of soda.

    Use more heat ON the oven than UNDER the oven.  You need to cook the cake mix, but you just need to heat up the filling.

    « Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 09:52:35 PM by THE NORSEMAN »
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

    mwcoleburn

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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #23 on: September 28, 2011, 02:48:23 AM »
    I'll have to add a quick and dirty chili recipe that I like to do in my cast iron

    2 cans store bought chili
    1lbs ground beef
    1 can kidney beans
    1 can green chili
    1 can diced tomatoes
    spices to taste.

    Cook ground beef with onion and garlic, drain off fat. through everything else into it and simmer till desired thickness is achieved. I have  a family of chilli snobs and I made this up last minute to feed a couple people who decided to stay for dinner. Didnt even have any leftovers.
    WashingtonColeburn Armory
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    THE NORSEMAN

    • To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them. - Richard Henry Lee
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    Re: Cooking with cast iron, pointers and tips.
    « Reply #24 on: October 02, 2011, 10:50:23 PM »
    Quote
    I might add some onions, carrots and peppers

    Onions:
    Red for sweet.
    White for heat.
    Yellow for flavor.
    This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction- St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries

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