We’ve heaped much praise upon caramelized onions as one of the best things to cook in a Field Skillet to build layers of durable seasoning, as well as a versatile component for use in tarts, burgers, and many more recipes.

Equally useful, both for its culinary applications and seasoning-building qualities, is caramelized fennel. We like to make a batch any time we have a spare bulb or two (the recipe easily doubles or triples), then refrigerate or freeze the fennel until we’re ready to use it in pastas, soups and stews; as a topping for pizzas, tarts, and bruschetta, or served by itself as a simple side dish.

Photo: Lauren V. Allen

Field Notes:


Depending on its intended use, you can cut the fennel into your desired shape and size. If we’re not sure how we’re going to use caramelized fennel, we’ll cut it into ¼- to ½-inch slices or wedges , which can be chopped or diced later.


Feel free to combine equal parts onions and fennel in the same skillet. The combination of caramelized onions and fennel can be used in all the same ways as its individual components.


The addition of fennel pollen (available at many high-end markets and online) is optional, but adds a beautiful aroma.

Recipe: Caramelized Fennel

Yield: 2 to 4 servings (about 2 to 3 cups)



Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise, then remove the core and slice the fennel lengthwise into ¼-inch strips.


Heat the oil in a No.10 (or larger) Field Skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel begins to brown around the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes.


Cover the skillet with a lid, lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover the skillet, add a tablespoon or two of water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is softened and golden brown all over, about 5 minutes, adding another splash of water if the skillet dries out.


Transfer the fennel to a serving dish, squeeze the lemon half over, and stir to combine. Season with fennel pollen (if using), and serve.

Seasoning Rating: Best

As with onions, garlic, and other vegetables, caramelized fennel, especially when cooked in a healthy amount of seasoning-friendly oil, is one of the best ways to break in your Field Skillet and start it down the path of naturally nonstick seasoning.

Seasoning Ratings:

Best—These dishes are the best options for building resilient seasoning, and surefire choices for getting tricky pans back on track.

Better—The best way to keep your skillet in great shape is to cook frequently, and cast iron-friendly dishes like these are your bread and butter.

Safe—These recipes won't strip seasoning away from your pan, but won't really add any, either.

OK—Be sure to clean up promptly. Recipes with this rating might feature acidic ingredients which can affect seasoning if not washed soon after cooking.