As a culinary school graduate, I’m very particular about what I use in the kitchen. I like simple items that aren’t going to create a clutter space and I also want something that is efficient. These two reasons are why I’ve used my cast iron skillet for seven years. This classic companion has stood the test of time, proving itself indispensable every single time. There's something undeniably magical about the sizzle of food meeting the seasoned surface of a well-loved skillet, and it's this alchemy that has elevated cast iron to iconic status in kitchens around the world.
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The cast iron skillet has many amazing qualities - as you will see. These unique features set it apart from all the other “high-end” skillets. From its unmatched heat retention to the natural non-stick properties that develop over time, a cast iron skillet is not just a piece of cookware; it is a kitchen workhorse with a rich history and a promising future.
Let’s jump right into the 10 things I learned after using my cast iron skillet for 7 years!
It’s not that hard to keep a cast iron skillet non-stick.
Cast iron skillets can seem intimidating because you have to “season” them in order to keep them non-stick and working well. But here’s what you need to know: it’s really not that hard! Basically a “season” is a thin layer of oil that is baked into the skillet. So if you do end up washing the cast iron skillet with soap and water, you can simply re-season the pan and keep it working for years to come.
Cast Iron Skillets make the best steaks (when a grill isn’t an option).
I’ve lived in apartments for seven years and have not had the luxury of a grill. But I quickly found that the cast iron skillet makes amazing steaks, so I didn’t miss out at all. In fact, one year, I made Filet mignon for Valentine's Day! And let me tell you, they came out just like I would make in a high-end restaurant. My date was highly impressed. They were so tender, we could easily slice with a butter knife, but the crust on the outside of the steak was easy to create by searing each side in the hot skillet.
Acidic foods didn’t ruin it.
It’s actually a myth - sort of - that acidic foods ruin a cast iron skillet. I’ve seared cherry tomatoes, onions, and spinach in my cast iron skillet for a delicious omelet without any issues. However, when I made a tomato-based sauce that had to simmer for a while, I did notice that the season on the skillet eroded a bit. That does not mean it’s ruined, however. After cooking, I gave it a quick wash with soap and water and re-seasoned the skillet.
I used soap - multiple times. My husband even put it in the dishwasher!
Like I stated above, I’ve used soap and water on my cast iron skillet several times. My husband has even put it in the dishwasher! The rules seem hard and fast and scary - but it’s not really that complicated. In fact, I haven’t found anything that will ruin my cast iron skillet. With how quick and easy it is to re-season the skillet, it’s worth the time, effort, and price considering how long this pan will last you.
You can use a variety of oils to season it.
Any oil or fat can be used to season your cast iron skillet. The options range from grapeseed to avocado oil, or MCT oil, to lard or butter. However, your best bet is going to be an oil that has a high smoke point so that it can stand up to the high temps that the skillet can reach. Fortunately, these high smoke point oils are often the cheapest options. Some great options are vegetable oil, melted shortening, or canola oil.
It’s a relatively cheap investment and can be found at almost any store.
You can find them at almost any store - Lodge being the most popular brand. Depending on where you buy your skillet, you’re going to get a range of prices. I’ve seen a cast iron skillet go for about $200 at Smithy Ironware Company, and I’ve also seen skillets for about $17 at Walmart. Fortunately, cast iron skillets are the exception to the rule of “you get what you pay for.” A $20 cast iron skillet can last you years and years, as long as it’s taken care of properly. And even if it’s not, it’s still going to hold up under wear and tear. I personally got my 12” Lodge skillet from Target.
It’s my favorite stove to oven pan.
Some of the best dishes start on the stovetop but need to finish cooking in the oven. The stove top gets a sear on food that cannot be achieved in the oven- especially when cooking neat. Whether I’m cooking a pulled pork roast or a casserole, I love starting my ingredients on the stovetop to make sure the seasoning and flavor are going to be there, before letting it finish cooking in the oven. The ability of the cast iron skillet to be used on both the stovetop and the oven is one of my favorite things about it.
My cast iron skillet heats evenly
I’ve read of some complaints that the skillet doesn’t heat evenly, but that’s just not true. It cooks more evenly than most high-end skillets. It just has to be pre-heated correctly! Before you actually start cooking something, turn the stovetop on low and let your cast iron skillet pre-heat while you chop your ingredients. This will ensure the entire bottom heats evenly, so it’s ready to cook your dish perfectly.
Any utensil - even metal - can be used on a cast iron skillet
I hate when I previously bought non-stick pans and then ruined them by using metal utensils. Sometimes I just had to use a spoon, you know?! I tend to forget to never use metal utensils, even though most of my spatulas are silicone and I have plenty of wooden spoons. I’ve gotten in the habit of walking around the kitchen with a typical serving spoon, stirring things. So I’ve ruined my fair share of non-stick pans. I love my cast iron skillet for that reason- it’s not bothered by a measly serving spoon.
It lasts long term- I’ve put it to the test!
I’ve lived in 8 different places in 7 years, and this skillet is the one kitchen utensil I’ve taken with me to every single place. No matter how I pack it, it can’t be destroyed. Yes, it’s heavy, but I don’t have to worry about ruining it with travel, scrapes, knicks, or bangs. It’s sturdy and ready to go when I need a hot, homemade meal in my new place.
This timeless kitchen essential continues to hold a special place in my heart as a seasoned chef, and a home cook! From stovetop to oven, campfire to kitchen, the cast iron skillet is a versatile tool that transcends trends, providing an unparalleled cooking experience that stands the test of time.