Cooking with cast iron // Spicy beef meatballs
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Did you know that cooking with a cast iron skillet can actually drastically improve your iron levels? For my clients with iron deficiency anemia, I always recommend breaking out the cast iron skillet, or investing in one (they’re not as expensive as you’d think!) - cast iron cookware actually infuses your food with iron! This is also really helpful for those pregnant or trying to conceive to help prevent anemia and boost your nutrition status, ESPECIALLY if you aren’t eating meat, poultry and/or seafood. I also love that cast iron cookware allows you to start cooking on the stove and finish off your dish in the oven for a variety of heat to get different textures throughout.
Lodge cast iron cookware has some great options; I own this pan. They’re good quality, made in the US, and affordable. I also really like that cast iron isn’t made with any Teflon or non-stick coatings, so you can decrease your exposure to PFAs (research shows high exposure to PFAs can negatively impact reproductive health) AND increase your iron intake by switching to mostly cast iron and stainless steel cookware. In my opinion, the cast iron step is one of the easiest to make in switching to non-toxic cookware. Here’s directions from Lodge on how to care for your cast iron, as it takes a little extra attention than a regular pan.
Since we’re on the topic of iron deficiency, I thought I’d give y’all a DELICIOUS recipe for beef meatballs! Red meat can 100% be included as part of a balanced eating pattern, especially when pregnant - it provides a whole lot of iron, B-vitamins, easily absorbed protein, and fat, all of which you need more of in pregnancy. If it’s in your budget to choose grass-fed beef, or beef from your local farmer’s market, I’d encourage that too! Grass-fed cows have meat that’s higher in Omega-3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory fat) and vitamin E as well. If you don’t normally consume much red meat for whatever reason, consider adding it in every once in a while to give yourself an extra boost of these important nutrients.
Meat is a controversial topic when it comes to nutrition and sustainability. While there are some valid arguments for limiting red meat consumption, I’m of the opinion that eating locally raised, grass fed meat as part of a varied diet that also includes plant-based protein is a balanced choice. This is also a very personal choice, and I’m of the stance that you should get to decide what feels right for YOU. I’m here to support you with the science in whatever way you need.
Let’s get cooking!
To quote my roommate, these meatballs are “dank.” They’re not your traditional meatball - more of the kind you might eat as an appetizer at a party, or the taste might remind you of meat loaf you’d eat with mashed potatoes. The week I made them, I chose roasted sweet potatoes, sliced avocado, and a green salad with a chipotle dressing as my sides.
The sauce combination is a mixture of Trader Joe’s Sriracha and Roasted Garlic Barbecue Sauce and Soyaki Sauce. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s accessible to you, try a mixture of your favorite spicy barbecue sauce and some teriyaki sauce. Add sriracha until it’s as spicy as you want it to be, and maybe an extra clove of garlic too! The flavors should be fairly similar.
I actually didn’t have any bread crumbs on hand when I made this recipe. I ended up throwing some whole grain crackers I hadn’t really been eating in the food processor until it made a fine crumb. You can use any bread or cracker crumbs, but I wouldn’t use ones with a strong taste or seasoning as that will likely mess with the meatball flavor.
Spicy beef meatballs
Iron-rich and friggin' tasty.
Makes: ~18 meatballs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb grass fed ground beef
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup bread or cracker crumbs, unseasoned
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup Trader Joe's Sriracha & Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce
- 1/4 cup Trader Joe's Soyaki sauce
- Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Combine beef, egg, bread or cracker crumbs, salt, spices, and garlic in a bowl using your hands to blend the ingredients well.
- Form individual meatballs about 1.5 inches in diameter, placing carefully in the hot skillet. You should end up with about 18 meatballs - adjust cooking time if there are less (cook longer) or more (cook shorter). Cook until browned on the bottom (about 3 minutes) and then flip and cook 3 more minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix together sauces. After the meatballs have been browned on both sides, cover meatballs in sauce and carefully stir so they are evenly coated. Place cast iron skillet in preheated oven and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
- Remove skillet from the oven and let sit a few minutes before serving. Enjoy hot as an appetizer or as part of a meal with a starch and a vegetable!