Those who know me well know how much I am a HUGE believer that good quality cookware can make you a better cook. I don’t tend to have kitchen draws of different size stainless steel saucepans, like most people. Instead I own a collection of enamel cast iron French ovens in different shapes sizes and brands (mainly Le Creuset, Staub & Chasseur). All of which are just beautiful to cook pretty much everything in and will last a lifetime if they are treated correctly. I generally find people think cast iron cookware is just for slow-cooking. And while it reigns supreme in this area, there is SO much more they can do. To get you a little inspired, here’s 5 ways to use a French oven all year round.
Wondering the difference between a French oven vs Dutch oven? A French oven has an enamel coating while a Dutch oven doesn’t and will require maintenance in the form of seasoning. You can read all about seasoning your cast iron here.
1. Fit your cooking style around your life
We’re busy people right?! I know for me, Being a shopkeeper and a mum doesn’t leave a lot of time during the week for long cooking sessions. Personally, I tend to slow cook on weekends and maybe one night through the week. The rest of the time, it’s pretty much thirty-ish-minute meals or something I’ve cooked and frozen. But because slow cooking is life to me, I have hacked the way most people slow-cook to fit in with my schedule. by preparing (and cooking) the day before and treating my oven like an overnight slow-cooker. Here’s how I do it…
The night before…
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius. While I’m cooking dinner, I start tomorrow night’s dinner on top of the stove. The great thing about slow cooking, is many dishes have a slow prep time, so it’s quite easy to prep one meal while finishing another. Bring to a simmer, pop on the lid, and put into the preheated oven. Most of my beef/lamb stew recipes I bake for 2 hours, then turn the oven off before bed, leaving the pot in the oven overnight. Because cast iron retains so much heat, the stew keeps cooking and slowly cools.
The next morning…
I pop the whole pot, lid on, into the fridge for the day.
When I get home from work…
Remove the French oven from the fridge and reheat it on top of the stove. Then all you need to do is make any side dishes, check the seasoning, and serve!
2. Deep fryer
Need to shallow fry some schnitzel or deep fry some squid? A cast-iron French is a better option than stainless steel when deep-frying as it is less susceptible to fast changes in temperature, making it easier to regulate and less likely for oil to get too hot & bubbling everywhere.
3. Think outside (the french oven)
Did you know that cast iron has amazing insulation properties? As well as retaining the heat, it also retains the cold. For your next outdoor BBQ, fill your cast iron casserole half-full with ice. It then becomes a great serving dish for your seafood. Pop your oysters or prawns on the bed of ice and pop on the lid. Instant outdoor fridge!
4. As a bread oven
I love to bake bread in my French oven. After your final rise, turn the loaf onto floured baking paper. Pop into a French oven. Put on the lid and pop the whole thing into a cold oven. Turn the oven to 190 degrees Celcius and start baking. I bake my loaf for 40 minutes with the lid on, then a further 20 minutes without the lid. The slow start creates steam inside the pot, giving a beautiful high-domed loaf. You can find more on my cold start baking process here.
Just remember to oil the inside of your pot prior to popping in the bread. The oil will act as a lubricant to the enamel preventing thermal shock and the enamel cracking.
5. Rice steamer
My 20cm French oven makes the most beautiful, fluffy white rice using the absorption method. I usually let my (jasmine) rice and water come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and leave for five minutes with the lid on. Then turn the heat off and leave to absorb for about 20 minutes. Perfect rice every time!
Wondering what to slow-cook tonight? Here’s a few of my favourite recipes…