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The Perfect Tenderloin Steak

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Editor's Note: Enjoy this previously published Zola classic!

For years I had a love-hate relationship with cast iron cookware. Now that I have more cooking experience, I adore cast iron.

I have to tell you my cast iron story.

Not long after I moved into my first apartment, my mother gave me two of her Lodge heavy-duty cast iron fry pans. She was getting new cookware and there was no room for them in her cupboard.

I thanked her for them and took them to my apartment where I stashed them in a cupboard. I had to look grateful for her gift, but I had no intention of using those ugly cast iron pans. I hated them since I was a little girl. When I was just taller than the kitchen table it was often my job to dry the larger cast iron skillet. I wasn’t even strong enough to hold it. I had to do the job with the pan sitting on the table. It was heavy; way too heavy for me, so I learned to hate that cast iron pan.

As I got older I saw those cast iron pans as the fuddy-duddy cookware. They were old. In fact, they were so old I think my mom got them from her mother-in-law. I considered them ancient and wanted nothing to do with them. I was a “modern cook.”


As I moved from one apartment to another, and eventually to two of my homes, I dutifully packed up those pans. Then I unpacked them and stashed them in a cupboard – again.

Finally, when I moved to Chicago almost 20 years ago, I behaved differently when I unpacked them. This time, I put them in a drawer that was easily accessible when I was cooking. Honestly, I can’t remember why. It might have been because of the way the kitchen was laid out. I know I did not put them in a convenient spot on purpose. It just happened.

And as happenstance plays its funny games, one night I pulled out my cast iron skillet and used it to sauté a steak. I remember a cooking technique I saw at a French restaurant. Their method was to sear the steaks in a hot cast iron pan and then finish them in the oven. I did the same thing that night and had the best home-cooked steak I had ever eaten. That started a trend.

I started cooking with cast iron almost every day. I discovered when I seared meat in my cast iron pan and finished it in the oven, the meat stayed juicier. It didn’t matter if it was steak, pork, or chicken. Same wonderful results...


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