Everyone cooks on a grill at tailgates, typically on a propane grill. It's easy and efficient, and even the 225 Club has been known to depend on three or four from time to time. But many of our dishes are cooked in rugged cast iron, propped up on a stove on the tailgate of the PIGSKN Ford pick-up. (The deep-fryer plays another major role in our tailgate kitchen.) We 've learned a lot about cast-iron from "Cast-Iron Cooking" by A.D. Livingston (The Lyons Press, 1991) and have used many of his recipes, several of which are outlined on this site.
Many of our tailgate dishes are cooked in a 3-quart or 5-quart cast iron Dutch oven – great for stews, jambalaya and chili. We also use a 13-inch skillet, great for bacon, eggs, omelets, sausages, and other staples of morning tailgates. Our handy and beloved 10½-inch skillets help with smaller jobs.
Why cast iron? It's inexpensive, makes your food taste better, and is incredibly durable. It's also incredibily versatile. You can use it to blacken or sear meat on a stovetop or outdoor burner, and then pop it right into an oven or on top of a hot grill. It also hold heat well - especially important on cold tailgate days. Plus, cast iron is virtually indestructible.
Cared for the right way, a few good pieces of cast iron will last you a lifetime of tailgating.
There are a handful of keys to caring for cast iron:
- When you season cast iron the first time, use bacon fat. Most books say to use vegetable oil. Experience (and professor Livingston) say that bacon fat is better. Clean the new piece well with soap and water, rinse, dry, coat it in bacon fat, and heat it in the oven for several hours. Do it again if you feeling it.
- Once it is seasoned, never scrub your cast iron with soap or wash it in the dishwasher. Simply wipe it out with a towel after using it. That's how its seasoning develops.
- When your cast iron is just a baby, concentrate on cooking oily dishes that will develop its seasoning and avoid acidic dishes that will cut into its seasoning. Once it develops a nice shiny black sheen, you'll be able to cook just about anything in it.
- For a more expansive guide to caring for your cast iron, visit the Lodge Cast Iron Web site at www.lodgemfg.com, or pick up Livingston's "Cast-Iron Cooking."