Beautiful Cowboy Cooking – Cast Iron Pans and BBQ Salt Crusted Fish


Until a year ago, I was a fool.

Every time we would peruse our favorite kitchen stores I would gaze longingly at all of the beautiful stainless steel pans shimmering by their storefront windows. “Oh, to own a full set of copper cores…. sigh.”    But for the copper cores one must come with cash, lots of it, and we knew it was a luxury that wasn’t necessary.  (Yes, we could have charged it up, but we don’t endorse that sort of needless spending!)

We did have our one copper core 2 qt. saucepan which is perfect for sauces and the pan pours liquid like a dream. For saute pans we continued to successfully cook on our 13 yr old calphalons with ease and aplomb, but I still couldn’t help but wonder how great it would be to have one of those sexy pans.  At least that’s what I thought I wanted, until I wrapped my hands on an old country girl, cast iron.


We bought our first cast iron after chatting with Diane’s dad about banh xeo, Vietnamese crispy crepes.  Both his and my favorite dish, we are always seeking the best way to make them. When he was growing up in Viet-nam, they would cook the best banh xeo on these heavy pans which we interpreted as cast iron pans. So we picked up a cute pair of 8″ pans (both of us and Diane’s dad like the banh xeo smaller like they do in some parts of Viet-nam).

The pans came pre-seasoned and were a whopping $16.95 each.  That’s a whole decimal place cheaper than the copper cores!  And this was even in the same fancy kitchen store that sells all the sexy pans and the idiotic baguette cutters.  (People, do not buy a mold with slots just to cut your baguettes!  JFC!)

From the first day we cooked on them, it was love.  The crusting and release on meats was phenomenal.  They cooked scrambled eggs like a dream.  Clean up is as easy as it gets, and the more we used them the better everything got.  And Diane’s dad was right about using them for the banh xeo.  Ohhh baby do the cast irons make great banh xeo!


Now that the BBQ is getting regular use again with the warming of the seasons, we’ve taken the pans out of the kitchen and have begun to cook in the old school, cowboy way.  We’ll slide our country beauties onto the BBQ and use them directly on the grill over the glowing coals.

We packed some Japanese River Trout in salt on the pans then put them in the BBQ with the grill’s lid down, and in about 15 minutes had some of the tastiest fishies we’ve done over coals.  Same thing with the baby golden yukon spuds.  A little oil, some herbs, salt and pepper, into the pan, and onto the grill.  Soon we had nice smokey potatoes and a clean kitchen with a wipe-clean pan.

I can’t believe we’ve overlooked them for so long.  Unlike the sexy pans, there is no concern about staining or marring them.  They are rough and tough, but cook with beautiful finesse and ease.  After their trip through the BBQ filled with salt and fish, they were clean with a quick oil wipe.  Plus it is kind of hard to discolor black.

People have been cooking like this forever and we feel like idiots for just now thinking of it.  So often we had looked at the expensive pans and marveled at what modern technology had reaped, but what is newer or more expensive isn’t necessarily better.



*Post Update*

We’ve had a few requests and questions about the salt crusted fish, so here we decided to add this recipe/technique in for anyone interested.

Salt Crusted Fish on the BBQ Recipe

Yield: Serves 2

Total Time: 30 Minutes

Salt crusting fish is a super easy and tasty way to roast fish.  With the assistance of our cast iron pans, we can take this technique out to the barbecue with excellent results.  You could even do the same thing on your next camping trip.  The salt with harden and form a mini oven for each fish, with the fish's moisture getting trapped inside and steaming itself.  In addition the salt will perfectly season the fish and the BBQ will give it a nice smokiness, leaving you with a very tasty meal.


  • whole Fish  (scaled & cleaned with head and tail still on)(trout, sea bass, tilapia, branzino, etc...)
  • Kosher or Sea Salt (enough to completely encompass each of the fishies, figure on several cups worth)
  • Herbs of your choice
  • cast iron pan (big enough to lay the fish in)


  1. Rinse and pat dry the fish. Heat the coals or turn on your gas BBQ to medium high.  (temp. we are aiming for is about 400-425º F when the lid is closed)
  2. Put a layer of salt in the pan@ 1/4" thick.  Lay down a few herbs or bay leaves the place the fish in the pan.  Leave the fish separated so the salt can eventually completely encompass each fish.
  3. Stuff some more herbs in each of the fishes cavities. Cover the fish with a thick layer (@ 1/4") of salt, leaving the head and tail slightly exposed (makes cracking the crust easier later.)
  4. Place pan in the BBQ, close the lid and roast. Times will vary depending on the size of your fish *See Notes
  5. Remove the cast iron pan from the BBQ (remember to use a mitt!), let it rest for a bit, then crack the crust away from the fish and serve.  You can serve it still in the pan and everyone can pick at it, or else remove it completely and plate the fish, it's up to you. Serve with side roasted potatoes too! (which can be roasted in cast iron as well!)

    These little Japanese River Trouts that you see in the photograph (@8" long) - 10-12 min.

  • Average Rainbow Trout - 15-20 min.
  • 2 lb. Sea Bass 20-25 min.
  • The more you roast, the experience will help guide you to more accurate cooking times.
Recipe Source:

Hello! All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use our images without prior permission and do not re-publish this recipe. Simply link back to this post for the recipe. Thank you.
Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.



{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Jos

    I was wondering if it was ever posted somewhere about your banh xeo recipe cooked with the cast iron skillet. Your photos and information are always so fantastic and helpful.

    1. White on Rice Couple

      We haven’t posted a banh xeo recipe yet. We had a request from an editor to write it up for them so had delayed putting it up on our site, then forgot about writing about it. Thanks for the reminder! And for the nice compliments!

  2. recettes de perte de poids

    Sounds delicious! I can’t wait to try this. Thanks

  3. Eleanor Hoh (WokStar)

    Hi, found your amazing blog initially thru Steamykitchen. Great to hear you’re as passionate about cast iron cooking as I am! Except mine is a thin walled cast iron wok which I use to cook nearly everything including breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  4. The Purple Foodie

    I’ve been putting off buying a cast iron pan for long. I can only imagine how wonderful it might to to cook in one. The potatoes look especially tempting.

  5. JulieK

    Just got back from camping and cooking with all kinda of cast iton. several dutch ovens, some fry pans and did we have muffins? i think we had 10 pots cooking, on the stands, in the fire, one on top of the other! what fun was that! Wow! and now something new to try, thanks! Can’t wait!

  6. Marc @ NoRecipes

    I have a set of mirror finish pots and pans I NEVER use because I end up using my cast iron pan or enameled cast iron Le Creuset for just about everything. Great idea doing the salt crusted fish in the cast iron!

  7. Lori Lynn

    Great post! I am laughing (hard) because I just received a 10 pc. set of “sexy” cookware from Foodbuzz and Buitoni. But that does not mean the old favorite pans are going anywhere!

  8. azelia

    I’ve just came across your blog, really interesting, like the style and your fish in salt on the bbq is inspired!

  9. Sherida (@Foodtopia)

    I *knew* I liked y’all for a reason. I adore…simply adore…cooking on cast iron skillets. There is simply nothing else that I use. And I am very humbled to say that mine have been passed down for generations, so they are simply divine in cook in. You’re so right when you say that they get better with age. Come back to Asheville soon, and I’ll fry some chicken up my cast iron chicken fryer!

  10. Asianmommy

    Thanks for the tips–can’t wait to try this out on the grill.

  11. Coffee & Vanilla

    A while ago you have been nominated to Inspiring Food Photography poll and I would want also to give you Beautiful Blog

    award (replacement for IFP event):
    If you agree place link or badge linking to the B B List somewhere on your site or mention it in the post. I will then

    place your link on the list.


  12. White on Rice Couple

    Toni – We said “Duh” too, until we put two and two together. Some things are too obvious to see right away.

    Marion – Our original banh xeo attempts weren’t too great either. But after you get a batter recipe you’re happy with, things start getting super tasty.

    Chiot’s Run – Another cool pan that’s seen the years. Nice.

    Paula Maack – Thanks. We love that so many people are sharing the love of their cast iron pans.

    Jen – We love you. Trade you some hash browns for some herbs. Deal? We totally agree about the All-clad still being great. Just like you say, they all have their place and purpose. Just like our knives. Sure the chef knife get used way more than any of the others, but there are times when the cleaver, or slicing knife, or fillet knife is the perfect tool. Ear rubs for the sweet compliments.

    kim – Thanks for the great tip. Hopefully that will be the key to help the “rusters” out there. Awesome.

    Coffee & Vanilla – Thanks.

    Penny De Los Santos – Thank you. It was such a pretty subject.

    jaden – Kind of mesmerizing, huh?!

    Nomadicmedic – Thanks. For this technique to work over a campfire, you’d need a lid for the pans. If you have a dutch oven, that would be ideal, but in a pinch, you could also use two skillets, and invert the second one on top. Let the fire burn down to glowing coals, then use the coal to cook directly on top of. Add a few coals on top of the lid, too.

    Thanks for visiting and sharing your tips and stories. And thanks for all the sweet compliments. Is anyone else craving a camping trip as bad as we are? -WORC

  13. Nomadicmedic

    All kinds of compliments spring to mind..
    Great site/ great photos/ great insights/ just all around.. wow.

    You mentioned this was for over a campfire?
    but your directions are on a grill…

    How do I work this over a fire- sans grill hood?

  14. jaden

    Wow! ooooh lovelovelove the colors of the fire.

  15. Penny De Los Santos

    Your photography is beautiful!

  16. Coffee & Vanilla

    Hi 🙂

    Just a short note to let you know I would want to award you with Beautiful Blog award:

    Enjoy your weekend, Margot

  17. kim

    Whenever I use my cast iron pans, after washing I put it on the heat for about a minute just to “cook” out any moisture before seasoning and I have never had any trouble with rust. Something I learned in Girl Scouts many years ago.

  18. Jen Yu

    Oh you guys! If I could, I’d give you ALL of the pots and pans you wanted (and then I’d come over and borrow them). Cast Iron Skillet is teh bomb. I love that it is great for all manner of abusive cooking techniques AND it doubles as a weapon (a really really good and dangerous weapon). My favorite thing to do with my skillet is to make REAL hash browns – nice and crispy. And now you’ve just taught me more methods for using and abusing and loving my skillet. Still love my All-Clads (the few I have), but every piece of cookware has its place. Gorgeous post… almost as pretty as you!

  19. Paula Maack

    So… gorgeous!!!

    I love this style of cooking. Wood fire is the only way to go, and I love my cast iron, as well. Terrific post! I absolutely love the photos.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful recipe!


    ~ Paula

  20. Chiot's Run

    My parents have always had a love for cast iron and they passed it on to me. I have one skillet that was left in my parents first home when they bought it. I’ve researched and it was made sometime in the 40’s (which makes it at least twice my age). I love it and use it almost every day. I’m considering buying some cast iron muffin pans instead of the regular old ones. I just can’t get enough cast iron!

  21. Marion

    We ate Banh Xeo in Hue, Hoi An and Saigon and in Sarasota, FL. Each has a different take……..can’t wait for your recipe and special upcoming post. My try at home was only so-so!

  22. Toni

    I’ve been cooking with cast iron for years. I’ve got a pan that belonged to my grandma, in fact, and I’d never part with this way of cooking. I must say, though, I’ve never used the pan on the BBQ. Like, DUH!!!

  23. White on Rice Couple

    Whitney – Or three or four!

    desiree – Sweet, aren’t they!

    Abigail – Grandma def. knows best!

    Eat. Travel. Eat! – Thanks! The cast irons are great for camping and the home, too! Such tasty food coming off such a simple pan.

    Rachael – You better buy some before she dis-owns you! At least they are super inexpensive.

    keiko – You are so sweet! Next time you are in the LA area, come down & we’ll make the salt crusted Ayu for you.

    Victoria – Thank you. Your cast iron cooking sounds mighty tasty!

    shaun – Too funny! We wouldn’t dare try!

    Kristina – Once you get into the rhythm of cooking with them, they will become your first grabs!

    streetsmart – Good call for Dad’s Day. Hope your fish come out great!

    Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy – Banh xeo recipe will be coming. We’ve got a special treat for that recipe!

    Cynthia – The recipe totally works in the oven. It is actually an adaption of an oven technique applied to the grill.

    Elizabeth @ Capital Spice – We raise a toast to cool summer kitchens and outdoor cooking!

    carol @ tranquille – That is so cool to have an incredible, and super useful heirloom. It’s almost big enough to try the salt crusting with a small salmon!

    noelle (simmer down!) – We’ve done the hot handle grab with our calphalons coming out of the oven. Ouch! We wouldn’t pass up a deal on the copper’s either! Sexy is still sexy!

    Meaghan – We can find the Ayu, Japanese River trout at several of our nearby asian markets. Mitsuwa, Marukai, and many times at all of the Viet grocers in Little Saigon. We love where we live! Keep working those arms! Great cooking and sexy arms too. Plus as Dr. Layton mentions earlier in the comments, we get a bit of healthy iron too. Is there no end to the usefulness of the cast iron pans?!

    Nikolay – Thanks!

    matt wright – What a great goodwill score! Mushrooms are so tasty on the cast iron. Thanks on the compliments! We were going for that rustic look. We have a carbon steel wok that is our favorite but we haven’t cooked on any “western” style ones. They would be nice to play with, as well. Love you guys!

    Kate @ Savour Fare – He he he! I have to admit that our banh xeo are pretty bad ass. Don’t worry, there will be a recipe coming for them in the near future. They are being featured in a special, upcoming post. Everyone keeps talking about their chicken in the pans. We might have to make a stop on the way home from work tonight and make a midnight munchie.

    Thanks for visiting and sharing everyone. We love hearing all the stories and the shared love over the cast irons. -WORC

  24. Kate @ Savour Fare

    OK, yeah yeah. Fish. Beautiful, obviously. Potatoes, nice.


    PS — I roast chicken in my 12″ cast iron skillet. Perfect size for a small chicken + perfect drippings.

  25. matt wright

    OH yeah. This is the good stuff! LOVE LOVE LOVE cooking on cast iron. I did exactly the same as you – wanted a nice set of copper cores, but didn’t wanna spend the cash. Then I got into cast iron. I got mine at a goodwill for $3 – works for me, since you cannot really ruin a cast iron pan. I now cook so much in it. Like you guys, love potatoes cooked in it, never tried it on the grill though. Just recently roasted some porchini’s in mine, and wow, the crust on them was amazing.

    Gonna have to try the salt crusted fish, this looks and sounds amazing. Love the photography guys – so rich and broody. Very “man and fire”!

    Have you tried a decent heavy carbon steel pan? They are a great mix between cast iron and stainless – they react to heat changes fast, but heat really evenly, and seasoned well are a non-stick joy.

  26. Nikolay

    Bon appetite

  27. Meaghan

    Hi Todd and Diane,
    I started using cast iron pans again about two years ago, and they are great. I love that you can put them in the oven to cook a dutch pancake or fritatta without ruining the pan. I am also holding on to my belief that long-term use of this hefty pan will give me seriously sleek arm muscles!
    And where did you get Japanese river trout?

  28. noelle (simmer down!)

    I also use my cast iron to make the Zuni roast chicken- it’s just the right size! Just make sure you don’t absentmindedly grab the handle, as I once did (OUCH!). I would love to own at least one copper pan though; I don’t think they’re quite in the same category as cast iron for all uses. I’m keeping my eyes peeled at thrift stores and garage sales- you never know when someone might not realize what they have!

  29. carol @ tranquille

    We cook with cast iron all the time. I have my Russian grandmother’s cherished 14″ cast iron pan that she brought over when she immigrated in 1906. I have another set from my mother. My boys could care less about china but both of them want the cast iron pans big time! Everything turns out amazing in it since it holds heat so evenly.

    Since I have such a big pan, I’ll be able to roast a whopper size fish;-) Thanks for that info as I’m going to try it for sure! It will look fantastic as I can serve it in the skillet.

  30. Elizabeth @ Capital Spice

    Great idea on the salt baked fish on the grill! We’ve done the same thing but for oven roasting and it came out beautifully moist and light. Now we can take it outside!

  31. Cynthia

    Cast iron pans are a dream and I never do without mine. Thanks for sharing how you use them on the grill. I don’t have a grill but do you think I can replicate that fish with the cast iron pan and salt in the oven?

  32. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    I adore my Lodge cast iron pans! I find that I reach for them all the time (even more than my fancy schmancy ones). I’ve never used them on the grill, though. Something new to try.

    I’d love to know your recipe for banh xeo too. They’re my favorite thing to order at our local Vietnamese restaurant!

  33. streetsmart

    great post. would like to get my dad a cast iron pan to add up in his collections. copied the recipe of the salt crusted fish too so we can try it out. 🙂

  34. Kristina

    I have 3 or 4 cast iron pans, most of which belonged to my grandparents. I hate to admit it but I rarely use them.
    I think it may be time to break them out, re-season them and get to work!

  35. shaun

    Tasty looking treats.

    Being from the south U.S., you would have to rip my cast iron skillet out of my cold, dead hands. 🙂

  36. Victoria

    I use a black iron skillet to make roux for shrimp creole (yum) and to make the Zuni Chicken (triple yum).

    Fish looks delish!

  37. keiko

    Dear Todd & Diane

    These look stunningly beautiful – I love cooking fish in salt crust but I don’t think I’ve ever done with Ayu (Japanese River Trout) – I can almost smell/taste it from your gorgeous photos! We don’t have them here in the UK so I do miss them…

    Thank you for your inspiration, as always – the cast iron pans look so sleek!

  38. Rachael

    I love cast iron! My mom uses a small cast iron pan to make cornbread (she is from TN so making cornbread is in her blood) and it always turns out perfectly. A nice crispy outside and a moist, delicious inside. SO wonderful. I’m thinking it might be time to buy my own cast iron pan instead of mooching off of my mother! Nice post and beautiful pictures as always!

  39. Eat. Travel. Eat!

    What I have used cast iron for was mainly dutch oven cooking. We would produce foods such as pineapple upside down cake, cobbler, beef stews, and breakfast hashes on these cast iron dutch ovens. Very yummy with a distinctive flavor. This post brings back many camping memories!

    Great photos by the way! So simple dishes, and yet so delicious. Mmm…

  40. Abigail

    My Southern Belle Georgia-peach grandma *always* uses a cast-iron skillet to bake her cornbread in. It makes a lovely crust!

  41. desiree

    I love cooking with cast iron. It’s my favorite.

  42. Whitney

    The next thing I need to get is a cast iron or two. Great post!

  43. White on Rice Couple

    Dr. Layton – Very good to know. All the more reason to use these great pans.

    Lisa – We’re behind the curve on this one. If your house burned down, the pans would probably still survive in good shape!

    Dana – That is too cool that you have such a history laden cookware. Love it!

    Marvin – We should start a Lodge fan club. You are so right about them being the best for a great steak!

    Greg – You have such a great site. As much a we loved our pans in the beginning, we can see why people love their old well used ones. They just keep getting better.

    Lynn and Vicki – For starters check out Greg’s site. He has much more knowledge about it that what we do. In our experience, cast iron is meant to be used regularly. But if well seasoned, they can still sit for months unused and suffer no harm. The oils might get a little sticky, but that’s it. Never use soap. Use a scouring pad to work any crud off, then towel dry the pans. Next we always pour a touch of oil into the pans and use a paper towel to wipe the inside and outsides of the pans then put them away. That’s it. We have 7 different pans and all are in great shape and no rust.

    Thanks for visiting everyone. We’d love to hear more cast iron stories and tips. -WORC

  44. Vicki

    I love my cast iron skillet, but no matter what I do, it always rusts! Scouring and reseasoning is truly a pain. Hope you have better long-term luck than I do!

  45. Lynn (The Actors Diet)

    Any advice on cleaning the cast iron goodies?

  46. Greg


    I just posted a teaser video on my blog showing a cast iron skillet being used on the grill. A full write up is coming in a day or two.

    The blog is mostly focused on cooking with and caring for cast iron.

    They really do get better with every use and the seasoning can be repaired if you goof.


  47. Marvin

    Lodge is the best! I love searing a Rib Eye steak in my cast iron pan, nothing else gets a crust on a steak like cast iron.

  48. Dana McCauley

    I’m a big cast iron fan, too. One of my favorite cast iron pans is the one that my great grandparents got in their settlers pacakage in the 1890’s when they bought crown land from the government of Canada. the handle has been reparied but it still makes the very best pancakes.

  49. Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary

    I’ve been cooking with cast iron for over 20 yrs now. If I am forced to cook a burger or steak in the house, it’s always in cast iron.

    I jokingly tell the kids, if the house is on fire, grab my camera and the cast iron pans! I plan on passing them down to the boys. That’s how much I love them. Glad you discovered them!! lol

  50. Dr. Jean Layton

    Even better than the nonstick qualities (without the chemicals of typical non stick) is the ability for our bodies to absorb a bit of iron from the pans.

    Makes it easy to get enough of this important mineral in the diet.

  51. White on Rice Couple

    Helen –
    It is the same ones Nate mentions, the Lodge brand pans. They are pre-seasoned and are great. We picked ours up at Sur La Table, but we’ve seen them in most sporting good stores around here, or as Nate mentions, Costco. The 8″ are a little harder to find, but we have them in our store in case someone can’t get them in their area.

    Nate – The pans are great, huh!

    Thanks for visiting and the quick fire comments, guys. Yay for cast iron! -WORC

  52. Nate

    We got the Lodge 2-pan set from Costco. I cook a lot on the 10 inch pan. Once you get the pan seasoned, it’s amazing how non-stick it is. We’ve done corned beef hash and blackened halibut in it with great results

    Thanks for the tip about using it for banh xeo!

  53. helen

    Hi Todd,

    Coincidentally, I’m shopping for a cast iron pan to make a clafouti on a grill. This looks like it’ll fit the bill (literally). Do you mind telling what brand it is?

Leave a Reply