One of the very first gifts my husband and I received was a cast iron skillet. That was 20+ years ago, when pre-seasoned pans were not on the market yet. We diligently coated the skillet with oil and placed it in the oven to bake… 2, 3, 4 times… Oh, the stink of that burning oil! But after the initial effort, we declared the pan "seasoned" and it became our best-appreciated and most-used cooking tool for some time.
I complained at first that the cast iron was heavy and not easily moved on the stove top. "That's the point," my husband said, and thankfully he did not listen to my whining. Over time we began to outfit ourselves with a full set of cast iron cookware: pots and pans of different shapes and sizes - a deep casserole, an even bigger Dutch Oven, even a small lidded sauce pan. The latest addition is a large wok, in which we warm or toast pita bread, re-heat rice to a crispy crackle, or dry-roast sunflower seeds and nuts.
Yes, these pans are heavy. But there are so many points to recommend them (not to mention increased muscle tone!)
1. They are the ultimate non-stick cooking surface.
2. They wash up easily with the scrape of a wooden spatula (a short soak for more encrusted conditions) and a quick wipe of a sponge under running water. (Generally stay away from using soap on them.)
3. They dispense heat evenly - so cooking is uniform from all surfaces.
4. Cooking with cast iron is a recommended way to ensure adequate iron intake in one's diet, as trace amounts are released during the cooking process.
5. They are virtually indestructible.
6. Cast iron is an excellent value for the money. These pieces are far less expensive than the fancier enamel ones that are so popular.
7. If you're lucky, you might spy a cast iron pan in a thrift shop for an even better bargain. A little rust? No matter. Bring a solution of water with a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to a boil in the pan, gently scraping the rusted spots with a wooden spatula; discard the solution and rinse under cool running water. The rust should be gone. Dry the pan thoroughly, and then coat the inside with a light film of cooking oil; put it on the stove burner on high for a minute or so to seal the pan again. That's it.
8. Of course, if you're buying cast iron pots and pans NEW, they now come pre-seasoned. The more you cook with them the better they become.
Whew! Never knew I could bang on so much about a few pans!