Author: artisan cheese gallery
From making advanced recipes like pies and casseroles to simple recipes like mac and cheese, a cast iron skillet is one of the most valuable tools you can have in your kitchen. A cast iron skillet is strong and durable, it heats the food evenly, and it adds a touch of iron to your diet. Here’s how to make the best cast iron skillet mac and cheese recipe.
Start with a Cast Iron Skillet
It might be tempting to throw your ingredients together in a standard frying pan, but as this MSU article points out, there are several benefits to using a cast iron skillet. To start, cast iron skillets offer an unparalleled level of toughness and durability. Have you ever had to throw away a pan because you burned food in the bottom, leaving a hard crust and black streaks? Cast iron skillets can withstand more damage than a traditional pan, and can be used for years or even decades. Some families have cast iron skillets that they’ve passed along through generations.
Cast iron skillets also retain heat for long periods of time, making them perfect for serving without worrying about the food cooling to room temperature. While you should still check the food periodically to make sure it’s safe, a cast iron can keep your food hot for about two hours. This also makes the cooking process quicker and easier, and helps you cook all the food in the pan evenly.
Finally, cast iron skillets have some surprising advantages that can actually improve the quality of your food. When you cook with a cast iron skillet, you’re adding a small amount of iron to your food. This is great if you’re trying to get more iron in your diet. Every time you cook with a cast iron skillet, you’re seasoning it with fats and oils, which adds to its non-stick properties and prevents rust and deterioration. Unlike other pans, which become weathered over time, cast iron skillets actually improve over time as long as they’re cleaned and cared for properly.
How to Prepare Your Cast Iron Skillet
To prepare your cast iron skillet for the mac and cheese, start by heating it on the stove. You can also place it in the oven to heat it up–just make sure you don’t forget about it before you start cooking. You can see if the skillet is hot enough by sprinkling a few droplets of water into the pan. If the water immediately sizzles and evaporates, you’re ready to start adding your mac and cheese.
Gather Your Ingredients
While your skillet is heating up, it’s time to gather your ingredients. You could use a boxed macaroni and cheese recipe, but since you’re going through all the trouble of using a cast iron skillet, why not make a hearty meal with real ingredients instead? Most basic recipes start with a few cups of cheddar cheese, a box of pasta shells, and some milk and flour. You can stick with the basics or experiment with different types of cheeses, noodles, and spices. If you’ve been cooking for a long time, you probably have your own mac and cheese recipe already in mind.
Get your ingredients together and place them in separate bowls next to the stove so they’ll be ready to be added to the dish. Once you start cooking, you won’t have time to run back and forth to the fridge, so have everything prepared before you get started.
How to Cook Mac and Cheese in a Skillet
Grab a saucepan and start cooking your pasta in boiling water. Cast Iron Cooking recommends that you don’t cook the pasta to completion, as it will continue cooking once you add it to the skillet. When your pasta is ready, start preparing a roux in the skillet. A roux is the creamy sauce that you’ll pour over the noodles to make sure that they’re covered in cheese. Picky Palate suggests making a basic roux with flour, butter, and seasonings, then stirring in the cheese until it’s melted. Once the cheese is melted, add your pasta and stir it all together. Every noodle should be coated with the thick, creamy sauce.
Tips on Serving Your Dish
You could leave it at that, but why not add a little extra flavor and texture? You can top the finished entrée with an extra layer of cheese, as well as crispy ingredients like bacon, crushed crackers, and bread crumbs. Keep cooking until the top layer of cheese and toppings is melted and browned. When it’s done, serve right away while the dish is still hot. The beauty of a cast iron skillet means you can serve your mac and cheese directly from the skillet–cautioning others not to touch the pan, of course. Place it in the middle of the table and let everyone take their share. This dish makes a great main course, but it can also serve as the side dish for a hearty, home-cooked meal like turkey or ham.
Once you’ve started cooking with a cast iron skillet, you’ll never want to go back. They’re strong, they’re durable, and they can cook just about anything, from appetizers to main courses to desserts. And once you’ve tried your favorite cast iron skillet mac and cheese recipe, you’ll learn the secrets of making restaurant-quality food right at home without breaking your budget.