Every time you heat cooking oil or fat in your Field skillet, you help make your pan’s natural non-stick cooking surface stronger and more resilient. Whether you’re a first-time cast iron cook or a seasoned collector, it’s best to break in a new skillet with a few seasoning-friendly dishes. Think of these dishes as a starting point for a lifetime of cast iron cooking.

How Simple Dishes Help Build Cast Iron Seasoning

First things first: pre-heat your skillet. Giving your pan about five minutes to pre-heat on a low to medium burner will help make sure food doesn’t stick to the cooking surface. In the early stages, it’s also a good idea to use a little extra cooking oil or fat, especially if you’re planning to cook fatty proteins.

Seared, sautéed and roasted vegetables are great place to start; veggies won’t stick to your cooking surface like fatty proteins, and are easy to spread out over the entire cooking surface, helping build seasoning evenly. Let’s dig in:

1. Caramelized Onions

Cooking onions is a great way to get a feel for a new skillet: you quickly understand how it retains and distributes heat, while the onions and oil give your pan an easy warm-up for the many meals to come.

Get the recipe: Caramelized Onions.

2. Roasted Carrots with Maple and Coriander

Skillet-roasted vegetables are a great cast iron staple: prep doesn’t take long, and even coverage at consistent heat is good for your skillet. Start with carrots, but feel free to mix in shallots, or fennel, turnips and other root veggies and vary seasoning to your taste.

3. Cornbread

Like roasted vegetables, cornbread is a simple dish that’s perfect for breaking in or sprucing up your skillet. It only takes about a half hour, and will fill up your Field Skillet, providing an even coating of butter for your cooking surface and the walls of the pan. (And it’s extremely satisfying to see cornbread slide right out of a well oiled pan!)

Get the recipe: Field Skillet Cornbread.

4. Bacon

After a few cooks with your new cast iron skillet, you will have started to get a feel for your pan: how long it takes to heat up, how it feels moving from stovetop to oven, and how the smooth cooking surface reacts as you move food around the pan. Your first lessons are complete: it’s time to break out the bacon.

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to cooking bacon. Leaving aside the folks who prefer using the oven, you have two choices: start with a cold pan, or pre-heat at low-medium, and add extra fat before you start cooking.

Get the recipe: Cast Iron Skillet Bacon.

5. Skillet-Roasted Chicken with Shallots and Herbs

When you start to see regular non-stick performance form your cooking surface, that means you’re ready to start cooking main-course proteins. Roasting a whole chicken in a cast iron skillet looks and, frankly, feels impressive. It’s a great skill for dinner guests, and it’s great for your pan.

Our simple roasted chicken recipe is a great starting point; from there, it’s choose your own adventure — spend time experimenting with herb and roasted vegetable combinations, spice rubs and brining to discover your signature cast iron dish.

Get the recipe: Whole Skillet-Roasted Chicken with Shallots and Herbs.

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