Home PageContestsThe Pan Handler LLC’s First Cast Iron Cooking Competition!

The Pan Handler LLC’s First Cast Iron Cooking Competition!

Nov 16, 2015

In:Contests, Cooking

My good friends Jerome and Debra Abrams were kind enough to offer up their beautiful large kitchen for me to have a cast iron cooking competition.

Home for our cooking competition - the lovely kitchen in the Abrams home.

Part of the lovely large kitchen in the Abrams home.

And so it was born…the first-ever Cast Iron Cooking Competition, sponsored by The Pan Handler LLC. This post will talk about the competition itself; posts to come will detail the different dishes the teams prepared, along with the recipes that were created by the teams.


Pan Apprentice Linda scoring the empanadas.

Ten friends who were great sports participated in the event as teams: Bonnie and Doug, Mary and John, Anoushka and Rob, Debra and Jerome, and Linda and Chris. Pan Apprentice Linda agreed to serve as judge alongside me, and the very talented Sarah Lamb of S.Lamb Photography photographed the event. The photos in this blog post are courtesy S.Lamb Photography.

I sent out instructions and the score sheet in advance of the competition, so teams could see what they were in for. Each team would gather at the Abrams home, where they would pick a piece of paper to learn what course they would be assigned for the competition: 2 appetizer, 2 main, and 1 dessert. Each team would then pick to learn what pan they would be assigned to create their course. Teams were not told in advance what pans would be used. I warned teams that they would not receive a “typical” pan; i.e. they would not receive a size 8 skillet. I told them they might want to look at the “baking, gem, and muffin” pan category on the shop’s site because surely at least one team would be assigned a pan from that category.

Once team members had their course and pan assignments, they would be given $30 cash and 90 minutes within which to plan their dish and shop for groceries.

Teams were told that creativity would count for 25 points of the possible 100 points. The goal was to show an innovative and creative (but not crazy) use of the pan. Teams were also judged on mass appeal (15 points), taste (15 points), appearance/presentation (15 points), ease of preparation (10 points), recipe instructions (5 points) and team spirit (15 points). The teams were asked to dress and participate as a team; they sure did!


Drawing for the course assignment.


Debra drawing for her team’s course.


Linda and Chris learning their course assignment – dessert.


John and Mary drew main course.

The big day arrived on November 7, 2015. Five cheery teams gathered, drew from a bowl, and learned their course assignments. We then headed outdoors, where there were 5 paper bags containing the pans. Teams drew, opened the bags, and learned what pan they would be assigned.

The bags with the secret pans.

The bags with the secret pans.



Bonnie with one of the #3 skillets she and Doug were assigned.

Bonnie and Doug: Appetizer, 6 #3 Skillets


Anoushka and Rob with one of the Wagner E bread stick pans they were assigned.

Anoushka and Rob: Appetizer, Wagner E Bread Stick Pan


Debra is clearly pleased to have drawn the patty mold bowls.


Debra showing Jerry (who is holding Benny) the pans they drew for the competition.

Debra and Jerome: Main, 6 Griswold Patty Mold Bowls


Mary drawing her pan number.


John saying “what the heck is this pan?” about the Griswold no. 11 French roll pan that they were assigned.


Really? A French roll pan? What is that?

Mary and John: Main, 2 Griswold French Roll Pans


Chris and Linda opening their pan assignment.


Linda knew that it was an aebleskiver pan!

Linda and Chris: Dessert, 2 Griswold Aebleskiver pans

After receiving their assignments, teams huddled and planned their dish, and then headed off for groceries. Teams then returned, organized their course of action, and off they went! Everyone began cooking and chopping and rinsing and processing and baking. Oh my, it was a site to see!

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Soon, the kitchen was filled with wonderful smells. My stomach began to rumble. Sarah took some videos of the cooking process; here they are!

After an hour or so, the dishes began to come to completion and be presented for judging. The first dish we sampled was Bonnie and Doug’s. They had created delicious chicken empanadas in the size three skillets for their appetizer, topped with avocado and tomato. There was enough for everyone to get a taste; Linda and I sampled and scored. Our friend Jim came by too, and helped with sampling and scoring.


Doug and Bonnie hard at work.


Doug and Bonnie slaving away.


Doug is a master cook. He usually brings his BAP (big a** pan – a Griswold #20 hotel skillet) when we go camping, and creates fabulous breakfasts for our crew.


Doug crimping the pastry dough.


Cooking the chicken empanadas.


Chicken empanadas dressed for service.


Chicken empanadas fresh from the oven!

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Next up was Mary and John’s spectacular mini beef wellingtons, created in the Griswold French Roll pans. Mary has been a very close friend of mine for many many years and she knows my food weaknesses. Talk about playing to my weaknesses – I was particularly fond of the mini beef wellingtons!


Mary working away. I was particularly fond of her chef’s scarf!


John and Mary working on their masterpiece; Linda in the middle doing…something?




Seared hangar steak.


I particularly love this photo. Look at Bonnie and Doug’s expressions in the background. The competition was fierce!

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Mini beef Wellingtons pre-baking.

Mini beef Wellingtons pre-baking. Originally they place the bundles on parchment paper, but discovered it was unnecessary.

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Mary and John

Mary and John with one of their pans.

Anoushka and Rob had gone all out and purchased fresh crab legs (teams were permitted to spend more than the $30 given them, but it came from their pocket). They created fresh crab sticks with aioli and dill sauce in the Wagner bread stick pans. I do not eat crab, so Linda’s score on taste for this dish also counted as my score for taste. Linda tells me that the crab sticks were very delicious – she loved them!


Isn’t this a gorgeous pic? I love the water droplets.


Sarah was somewhat transfixed by the crab legs. :)


Rob cooking the crab legs.


Anoushka and Rob hard at work.


Anoushka preparing the aioli dill sauce.


Prepped and ready to serve. There is a dollop of the aioli sauce on the end of each crab stick.


Anoushka and Rob presenting their crab sticks.

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Rob and Anoushka with their Wagner E Bread Stick Pan.

Rob and Anoushka with their Wagner E Bread Stick Pan.

Debra and Jerome gave their dish a lot of thought. They knew I was interested in appealing to some of my Southern clientele, so they worked hard to incorporate that into their creation. In the Griswold patty mold bowls, they made a lamb and beef Shepard’s pie, with fresh vegetables and a sweet and white potato topping, topped with roasted pecans. For those who liked spicy they added jalapeño; for those who didn’t they left out the jalapeño. They also prepared homemade biscuits to accompany the dish. Oh my were they good! I particularly liked the lamb/beef mixture and the seasoning they had used; there was; it had a great peppery taste. The flavors mingled beautifully.

Some of the ingredients for the Shepherd's pie.

Some of the ingredients for the Shepherd’s pie.


The patty mold bowls with some of the Shepherd’s pie ingredients.


Jerome and Debra hard at work.


Beef and lamb mixture for the Shepherd’s pie


Debra and Jerome had instant-read thermometers in their chef’s coat pockets; aiming for the intimidation factor.


The burners were full, so Jerome ended up cooking some of his dish outdoors on the grill burner.


The first layer of the Shepherd’s pie.


Debra presenting their dish to Jim, Linda, and me.


Debra and Jerome used a mixture of sweet and white potatoes for the topping for the Shepherd’s pie.

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Jerome and Debra with their patty mold bowls and an extra Shepherd's pie they prepped in a size 6 skillet.

Jerome and Debra with their patty mold bowls and an extra Shepherd’s pie they prepped in a size 6 skillet.

Finally, we sampled Linda and Chris’s dish. They had been assigned dessert and the Aebleskiver pans. They were very creative in making the most use of their pan. They made puff pastry cups by cooking the cups over the cups on the underside of the pan. Then they roasted apples and spices in the muffin cup side of the pan. They created a wonderful deconstructed apple pie, and served it alongside cinnamon ice cream. We all oohed and aaahed. And gobbled it right up.


Chris prepping the puff pastry cups.


Cups pre-baking


Service of the deconstructed apple pie. Delicious!

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We tallied our score sheets. It was really hard to announce winners, because the scores were so tight and the teams all worked so hard and prepared wonderful tasty food in creative and unexpected ways. In the end, however, the creativity that Linda and Chris showed in the use of their pan won the day, and they took first prize. In a squeaky tight field, Rob and Anoushka took second with the creative use of their Wagner bread stick pan, with the crab sticks that Linda just loved.


1st Place: Chris and Linda with their deconstructed apple pie in the aebleskiver pans.


2nd Place: Rob and Anoushka and their crab sticks in the Wagner E bread stick pan.

Look for separate blog posts to follow with the dishes and recipes that the contestants created.

We had so much fun – I hope it will become an annual tradition!


L to R: John, Doug, Chris, Rob, Jerome, Jim


L to R: John, Mary, Chris, Linda, Linda the Pan Apprentice, Doug, Mary (note that Linda and I are wearing matching judge flannels?), Debra, Bonnie, Jerome, Maisie, Jim, Anoushka, Rob. Good sports, all!