Big cast iron pan, small gas burner
I got a big (12" I think) cast iron pan, but a very small gas burner. The kind of range that you find in a rental apartment.
The heat does not spread evenly to the edges of the pan. I thought cast iron would conduct better than this. It renders the outer 1"-1 1/2" of the pan useless (e.g. for chicken breasts).
I'm trying to marry a rich woman, and then buy a viking stove with a bigger burner, and to make my other rich friends jealous.
In the meantime, are there such things are flame spreaders (not for simmering, etc)? Can these flame spreaders also help me attract a rich woman?
If only the middle 9" of the pan is heating up, I'd guess that you have a burner that lacks not only size but output. If that's the case, spreading the (insufficient) heat around isn't going to fix the problem.
Until that rich woman comes along, you can pre-heat the pan in a 500F stove, then sear the meat and allow the residual heat, coupled with whatever the burner can deliver, to finish things up. Or you can go to an asian market and buy a burner that will kick a Viking's butt for under $50. Not pretty, and probably not certified for use indoors, but plenty big and plenty hot. Not only for cast iron cookery, but for making a stir fry with real wok hei. Which, as everyone knows, will in fact help you attract a rich woman.
This is possible with cast iron -- the center will heat up on a small burner. Rather than risk a burner not certified for indoor use, why don't you consider one of those small portable electric burners? The coils on them will heat up pretty nicely and should be better than the gas burner you have now, assuming you have a place to put this burner when you are using it.
The oven is the best tool for heating a large pan all the way to the edges. Preheat it, and then add the chicken. Check back a couple of minutes later, and turn the chicken.
Cast iron is not that great of a heat conductor; however, because of its thickness, it does have a high heat capacity. So it does not cool down excessively when you add the meat.
I know someone in a similar situation. (Their very, very, very old Westinghouse ceramic stovetop cracked over 3 burners after he let a Farberware stainless steel pot melt on it after it evaporated all liquid in it.)
Copper and aluminum are the best conductors of heat, but with a small burner left, it will always be hotter in the middle. The recommendation earlier to use cast iron preheated in the oven at a high heat, then used on the stovetop will work best. The only other choice is to use a good aluminum or copper clad cookware that will spread the heat best, but still be hottest in the middle.