When I was a kid, my dad’s cast-iron pan was off limits to anyone but him. It was seasoned perfectly. Only he could clean it after he cooked in it. When I was in grade school, I got it in my head that the pan contained bacteria, and I washed it with soap and water. Dad was not happy.

My dad cooked only one thing in that cast-iron pan: scrapple. That pan and his scrapple were sacred. I now have my own cast-iron pan, and I understand my dad’s fondness for the cookware that gets better with time. I didn’t know as a kid how versatile a cast-iron pan was. I didn’t even know it could go in the oven.

Now, my pan goes in the oven at least once a month to make corn bread, but that’s not all I use it for. It makes breads, casseroles, egg dishes, burgers, fish and more. The possibilities with a cast-iron pan are endless, and often, everything is done right in the pan making for easy cleanup.

  1. Basic Ham Hash with Fried Eggs: The cast-iron pan is perfect for hash that gets started on the stove and finished in the oven. And hash is as versatile as the pan it gets cooked in. Any leftover meat and vegetables can be thrown in with potatoes.
  2. Pan Pizza: Another very versatile dish for the cast-iron pan because you can top the homemade pizza crust in this recipe with just about anything you want before popping it in the oven.
  3. Cast Iron Mac and Cheese: This is perfect for those who like the crispy edges of baked mac and cheese because the cast iron is very conducive to crisping things up.  
  4. Rotisserie Inspired Roasted Chicken: You can cook an entire chicken in a cast-iron skillet. This version uses plenty of spices to give the bird flavor, and unlike those chickens rotating in the deli section of your grocery store, you’ll know exactly what’s in the chicken you’re eating.
  5. Seared Salmon with Tarragon and Tomatoes: A quick, healthy dish that gets seared on the stovetop and then baked in the oven at a high temperature.
  6. Cheesy Taco Pasta: Cast-iron skillets are great for making Hamburger Helper-type dishes, but with hand-picked ingredients. This kid-friendly dish calls for a packet of taco seasoning, but use the spices you already have on hand and make your taco seasoning mix to add in.
  7. Fresh Corn and Zucchini Frittata: Put a pin in this recipe for mid-summer when the veggies are fresh as can be.
  8. Baked Brie and Garlic Dip: A cast-iron skillet is great for hot dips, and this one is as easy it gets.
  9. Skillet Ratatouille: Carefully layered in a spiral, vegetables and a simple sauce are beautiful when done in a skillet.
  10. Sweet Potato, Kale and Shrimp Skillet: Dinner is done in a half hour with this simple skillet.
  11. Spanish Tortilla: This potato omelet gets crispy on top and bottom in a cast-iron skillet.
  12. Pan-fried Pasta with Pesto and Ricotta: If you have plain leftover spaghetti or linguine, fry it up in a cast-iron skillet with pesto and cheese for a super fast, satisfying meal.
  13. Southern Skillet Corn: Corn fresh off the cob becomes creamed corn using the “milk” scraped from the cob.
  14. Grilled Margherita Sandwiches: It’s recipes like this that show you can use the skillet for just about anything. This is a cross between a Caprese salad, a Margherita pizza and bruschetta.
  15. Pot Roast: You use the same pan to brown the beef on top of the stove that you cook the roast and all the vegetables in the oven.
  16. Quick Fried Rice: Leftover rice becomes restaurant-style fried rice. No wok necessary.
  17. Shashuka: Eggs poached in a Middle Eastern-spiced tomato sauce.
By now, you should be convinced of the versatility of a cast-iron skillet. I know I gave you a good number of recipes to start with, but if you want additional recipes that work well in a cast-iron skillet, try Emeril Lagasse’s “Sizzling Skillets and Other One Pot Wonders.”

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.