When we’re after evenly and deeply browned crusts, practically nothing beats a cast-iron skillet. It’s our go-to cooking tool for perfectly seared steaks, but it also can be used for achieving great crusts on foods other than meat. For instance, it happens to be fantastic for creating crisp, golden-brown crusts on baked goods.
There are two reasons why cast iron burnishes baked goods (and other foods) without burning or sticking. The first is the slick patina it develops, called seasoning, which gives it a naturally nonstick quality much like that of a baking pan. You used to have to put in some effort to create that seasoning, but nowadays most cast-iron pans are sold preseasoned. So all you have to do is maintain that seasoning.
How? As you use your cast-iron pan over time, that slick patina, which releases food easily, builds up and reinforces itself. You can help maintain this seasoning by setting your washed and dried skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then using paper towels to rub the interior with a small amount of vegetable oil before letting it cool and storing it. A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet can become just as nonstick as any nonstick metal baking pan and will definitely outlast them. (In fact, a cast-iron pan is one of the few pieces of kitchen gear you can buy that noticeably improves after years of heavy use.)
The second reason why cast iron works so well for making burnished baked goods is that it retains heat extremely well, which ensures even baking and uniform browning. We often grease the skillet with oil (which has a higher smoke point than butter and thus can get hotter without burning) and preheat it when using it for baking. Although preheating a baking dish is an atypical step for traditional baked goods recipes, once a cast-iron pan has been properly
preheated in a very hot oven, it will stay hot better than traditional baking dishes—when you add the batter it sizzles, a sign of the immediate jump-start on crisping up. This makes it great not only for Dutch babies and cornbread, as we show you here, but also for pizza (see this page), focaccia, biscuits, or even a giant skillet cookie.
1 Grease cast-iron skillet with oil and preheat skillet in very hot oven until oilis shimmering.
2 Meanwhile, makebatter.
3 Carefully remove preheated skillet from oven, quickly pour batter into hotskillet, and immediately transfer back to oven.
4 Bake until golden brown on top and browned and crusty on sides andbottom, rotating skillet halfway through baking time.