A type of cookware made of cast iron. Typically big, heavy, and black. Usually, the whole thing (cooking surface, sides, and handle), are one uniform piece of metal. As it is made of a very dense material, it holds heat very well. It also provides very even heat across cooking surface.

In order to use a brand new cast iron skillet, it must be seasoned. Seasoning is a process by which the skillet is protected from rust by a layer of fat that is baked on. It also provides a non-stick surface. Though it periodically needs to be re-seasoned, oils from things that are cooked in such a pan will help improve the coating.

It is said that cast iron skillets get better with time. Comparing mine (given to me a year or so ago by my wife) to my mom's (which she has had since before I was born), I can certainly confirm this observation.

As mentioned earlier, a cast iron skillet can hold heat very well. Also, the handle is just an extension of the cooking surface. If you have been cooking with your skillet, take care when reaching for the handle, even after having the heat off for a while. You could wind up with a brand.

When it comes to cooking, my mom and Alton Brown really taught me everything I know. Also, the manual from my skillet was referenced. It is made by Lodge:

Caring for your cast iron cookware

Seasoning your pan is, of course, paramount. But even so, the iron is still very prone to rust. Therefore, the first rule of cast iron cookware is to never let it soak in water. Obviously this becomes impossible once something dries on, so make sure to always clean it shortly after use.

The slightly lesser known, but equally important tip is to avoid soap when cleaning. The surface of the pan is very porous (which is why it needs seasoning to begin with), so when you apply soap it breaks up the grease and gets in the little cracks and stays there forever. Not the end of the world, but something most would probably rather avoid. A common technique for cleaning is to wipe out the grease with a paper towel, then wash with a clean sponge and dry immediately. Do this every time and your cast iron skillet will be better than mom's!

Roninspoon adds: Many people, myself included, scrub their iron cookware with water and salt. Not only is the salt gritty enough to act as a cleansing scrubber, but the salt has the added benefit of preventing any cooked on grease from going rancid

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