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Now, if you know me, you know that I’m a sucker for a great, single-use tool, as long as I know I’m going to use it all the time and get my money’s worth. (Looking at you, citrus juicer.) However, since my cabinets and drawers are already brimming with cookware, kitchen gadgets, and coffee makers, I tend to look for versatility when shopping for new pieces to add to my culinary arsenal. And, when you talk about versatility in the kitchen, you really can’t have that conversation without talking about cast iron. From the gorgeous, stovetop-worthy, enameled pieces from cookware institutions such as Le Creuset and Staub to your everyday, built-to-last pieces that you can snag on the cheap, there’s really no material that’s better for all-around cooking than cast iron. Recently, I picked up my new favorite piece, but one that might be daunting to some: a non-enameled cast-iron skillet from Lodge.
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You’ve probably heard all about different ways to cook with, clean, and care for cast iron — or you’ve at least seen the memes about never using soap — and while there are plenty of schools of thought on the subject, the one thing I’ve learned from years of using cast iron is that you shouldn’t overthink it. First off, you can definitely use dish soap on cast iron cookware, but you don’t have to. There are plenty of guides online that go into deep detail on how to care for your skillet, but I’ve found that as long as you use them often, and wipe them down with a thin layer of oil before putting them away, they retain their seasoning and cook like a dream. (If it worked for our grandparents, it works for me!)
Now, back to the skillet. The 10.25-inch pan from Lodge comes pre-seasoned, and is pretty much the perfect size for any kitchen — big enough to sear a steak, bake cornbread and biscuits, fry veggies, and (my personal favorite) whip up a perfect breakfast scramble. Yep, the thing I use my skillet most for is breakfast: Specifically, laying down a few strips of uncured bacon or breakfast sausage, rendering out all of the delicious fat within, and using the grease to cook my eggs and fry my toast. (Talk about a one-pot meal!) Then, once I’m done using it, I just wipe out the pan — after a few uses, it essentially becomes a non-stick — give it a quick rinse and scrub with a cast-iron scrubber or sponge, heat it on the stove to dry it off, then rub a thin layer of vegetable oil all over it. After it cools off, I hang it from an old, square nail that was conveniently driven into the brick wall of my apartment near my stove years and years ago.
I also find plenty of other uses for my skillet in the kitchen, most of which have to do with its hefty, 5-pound construction. It makes an excellent weight to make smashburgers; hold down bacon on the griddle; or smush chicken and pork into thin cutlets; set on top of tofu to help it drain; use as a “brick” for brick chicken; and plenty of other cases where a thin, lightweight pan just wouldn’t get the job done.
While the works super well, and is a super versatile piece of cookware — I mean, you can bring this sucker camping and set it directly on the coals — the nostalgic combination of cooking an old-school breakfast using an old-school pan, then hanging it on an old-school nail that sticks out of a brick wall just gets me every time. And, at just 20 bucks, this skillet is the perfect piece of cookware to buy now, use forever, and pass down from generation to generation.