Tips For Baking Perfect Baked Goods In Cast Iron
Cast iron is great to bake in but many people don’t know how to do it properly. Baking in cast iron can end up being a sticking disaster but it doesn’t have to be if you follow these tips.
Below I’ll walk you through the exact steps to take so that you can bake cornbread, cakes and other desserts in cast iron skillets and molded pans without it sticking.
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Reasons To Use Cast Iron For Baking
Baking in cast iron is better for a number of reasons and is my preferred way to bake. My crusts are crispier and my batter is cooked all the way through. Below I’ll go over all the reasons baking in cast iron is the best.
1. Fewer Dishes
Cast iron can be used on the stovetop and placed directly into the oven. You don’t need to have a separate sauce pan to cook ingredients on the stove before adding them into the batter; it can all be done in the same cast iron skillet.
2. Holds Heat Better
Cast iron is a poor conductor of heat. This means that once a cast iron pan is heated up, it will hold onto that heat for a while.
You don’t have to worry as much about fluctuating temperatures ruining your crust or causing burn spots. This even heat ensures that your cake will be evenly done and golden.
3. More Control
You have better control with a cast iron skillet than traditional baking pans. If your cornbread never gets a crispy outer crust, it’s probably because your baking pan isn’t heating evenly.
With cast iron, you can preheat the pan in the oven before adding the batter. This ensures your pan is already searing hot which will crips up your crust like you want.
4. Versatile & Fun
There’s not much that can’t be baked in a cast iron skillet. Once you learn how to use one, you can downsize your kitchen pots and pans to remove clutter.
Cast iron baking is also nostalgic from a time gone by. Cast iron dishes are virtually indestructible and have been salvaged from house fires.
This hardiness and versatility make them perfect for bringing on camping trips and cooking over a campfire for family fun. Yes, you can even bake over a campfire if you’d like.
What size cast iron skillet should I use to bake?
If you’re making a large pie with a lot of filling, you could go up to a 12 inch cast iron skillet. Larger than this and it gets too heavy to carry easily.
Need pans? You can grab both a 10 inch and 12 inch bundle here.
Most pie recipes ask for a 9 inch pie dish but they can easily be modified for a 10 inch or larger cast iron. You’d need to adjust so you have enough crust and filling to fill the slightly larger size.
The top things to bake in a cast iron pan are:
If you want individual-sized baked goods like biscuits and muffins, you’ll need to use a cast iron mold pan, also called a gem pan.
This mini cake pan is my go-to for biscuits and individual-sized sweets.
These pans are set up like muffin tins or include unique and interesting shapes for baking. If you’re lucky, there are even cast iron bundt pans and loaf pans you can find in the vintage marketplace.
How To Bake In A Cast Iron Skillet Or Mold Pan
Before you try to bake in cast iron, you have to make sure you have a well-seasoned pan. Check out my guide for seasoning cast iron if you need to refresh yourself.
Pre-Heat Your Cast Iron
For most baked goods, you’ll place the empty, ungreased cast iron pan into the cold oven and let it warm up to the temperature you’ll be baking at.
The reason for preheating is because cast iron is a poor heat conductor. This means it takes a long time to heat up and then holds onto that heat.
If you place your batter into a cold cast iron pan, it’s going to take a while for the oven to heat up the pan enough to cook the batter. Preheated cast iron also gives your baked goods a browned crust.
While the pan is heating up, make your batter so it’ll be ready to go once the oven is completely warmed.
The Pie Exception
The exception to preheating is pies. Assembling pie crust in a scalding hot skillet is dangerous and a recipe for disaster.
So if you’re making a pie, don’t preheat the skillet first. Simply use a cold skillet like you would a normal pie dish but make sure you grease it before assembling the pie.
Use Lots Of Grease
Even with a well-seasoned pan, baked goods can stick. This is especially true with molded pans or ones with lots of nooks and crannies.
To combat this, after your pan has warmed up, apply your oil of choice. I like using coconut oil, vegetable shortening, or whatever type of oil the recipe batter called for.
Don’t be shy with this step. You want to make sure all the corners and edges are coated so that the finished cake will slide right out.
Sprinkle With Flour
After you’ve liberally oiled your pan, give it a dusting of flour (or cornmeal if you’re making cornbread). This is a second layer of protection against your cake sticking.
After you’ve given the pan a dust of flour, pour in the batter.
Bake In The Oven
Once your batter is in, place the hot pan back into the oven safely. You’ll want to place the cakes and cornbread on the center rack of your oven.
For pies, you’ll want to place the cast iron on the lower oven rack. Pies are using a cold pan so you need them to be as close to the heat source as possible so it’ll heat up fast.
Once your pie crust is golden brown, it’s ready to take out of the oven. For cakes and cornbread, insert a knife into the center to test whether there’s still uncooked batter.
Baking in cast iron isn’t scary once you know the best baking tips. Once you get a hang of baking in your kitchen, venture out and try baking over a campfire.
Let me know what your favorite cast iron baked goods are.