A couple of months ago two minor things happened that got me into cooking with cast-iron. One was a new guy at work brought a cast-iron skillet full of corn bread for a "feed" we were having in our office. Turns out he's quite the cast-iron aficionado.
He buys it cheap at auctions and yard sales, refurbishes it and uses it for gifts or collects it himself. I was intrigued. The second thing was another guy at work who I regularly ask for culinary advice told me he made "the best steaks ever" in a cast-iron
skillet (seared on the stove and finished in the oven). I knew I had a cast-iron pan or two at home so I thought I'd get in on this cast-iron thing.
It turned out I had a nicely used 12" Lodge skillet, an 8" round griddle and a brand new set of imported skillets (6", 8" & 10") but they were completely bare metal. I oiled them up, threw them in the oven at 400 deg. F and promptly filled the house with
smoke. Turns out I had missed the line about "wiping off the excess". Oops. But it worked and I've been using them ever since. The 10" skillet has gone from being completely raw to the point I'm able to fry eggs in it as easily as in my former Teflon 'egg
skillet'. They're not as pretty black as the Lodge one but they're well on their way. I also bought another Lodge 12" because I needed it for my first attempt at using an internet recipe (it was a spicy sausage potato soup and it turned out great).
It's hard to pinpoint exactly why I think cast-iron cookware is so cool. Maybe it's the connection to the past. I can remember my dad using cast-iron around the camp (sadly those skillets got sold with the camper several years ago). They've also been in
use for a long, long time historically.
Or maybe it's the fact that visually I just like the look of them. They're very masculine looking. Let's face it, there are more female cooks than male ones so a lot of cookware is designed to be attractive looking with the smooth shapes and pretty colors.
But I'm a guy and cold, black iron is perfect for me.
Could be that the cleaning is easy. Much has been written about how to clean cast iron, dos & don'ts, etc. I find a stiff brush and some really hot water followed by a few minutes back on the stove to dry it and make spreading a little oil easy to work
magnificently. It's better than the stainless steel pan I primarily used before. Everything stuck to that pan and it usually required soaking in the sink overnight to get it clean again.
Part of it is definitely that it's so easy to use. You can get it really, really hot with no worries about doing it any harm and it does seem to cook quicker than the skillet I used to use. I've learned not to touch the handle without a towel or hot
pad though. You don't have to be careful about what tools you use either.
But what I really think makes cast-iron such a neat thing for me is that unlike almost everything else out there it actually gets better the more you use it. The stainless steel and aluminum skillets I've owned are super-sticky and hard to clean. A new
Teflon skillet is great, the number of times you can use it is actually finite, eventually that finish is going to wear off and render the entire skillet useless. But with cast-iron every use makes it even more non-stick. It doesn't wear out, you can use
any kind of tool you want (though I still use my silicone flipper most often) and it will remain in good order indefinitely no matter how much use it sees.
I'm not done acquiring cast-iron either. I have my eye on a dutch oven, a skillet cover, a few corn-bread pans and one of the reversible two-burner griddle gizmos that have grill lines on the opposite side. I missed a super deal a couple weeks ago on
one (they were gone when I went back) and am still kicking myself for it.
Suffice it to say that I'm a fan and I'll be cooking with cast-iron for the foreseeable future.