Pros: Durable, yields great results, only cookware that gets better with age
I purchased this pan for only one reason: Blackening meats! I seasoned it out of the box by putting it in the oven with vegetable shortening for an hour. I started with blackening meats and it produces a result that is unattainable with any other cookware. I slowly started broadening my horizons with eggs, grilled cheese, pancakes etc. Today it is used more than any pan that we own.
I have even heated this skillet up on the grill, blackened the meat in the pan then right to the open fire on the grill.
This was my first cast iron pan and I made a lot of mistakes with it. I used metal spatulas to scrape the bottom and cleaned it with abrasive copper brillo pads. Sorry if I'm making you cringe! I did the research and found the proper techniques on caring for my skillet. After we use the skillet now, it sits for a while on the stove. This can be anywhere from hours to days, just out of laziness. At some point, it makes its way under scalding hot water and is scrubbed by paper towels. If need be, we use a vegetable brush to gently scrub the pan. From there it is dried and put on the stove under low heat. When all of the water has evaporated, a light coat of peanut oil is applied. I have done tons of research on cleaning cast iron and most manufacturers will recommend never using soap. One guy wrote that after he is done cooking, he empties excess oil from his skillet and puts it in the oven for 30 min. His pan never even sees water. I also have seen die hard cast iron people that soak their pans in a tub of soapy water. The one thing that I can conclude is after years of use, your pan will have a very smooth surface where nothing will stick and you won't need to scrub it.
Today the skillet looks impeccable. It had a rough start, but looks as if it was handed down through the generations. The one thing you absolutely have to remember is to leave it on the stove. It is too easy to pick up a lighter non-stick pan for your cooking. If this skillet stays on your stove, you will use it so much more, thus improving the non-stick coating.
During cooking, I am weary about deglazing this pan with cold liquids. Cast iron will crack if it is heated then introduced to cold liquids. You will also need to use a pot holder if you need to touch the skillet during cooking. The nature of cast iron is it heats evenly, this includes the handles.
Here is how I blacken meats: Heat the skillet very hot without any oil. If you have oil in the pan, it will start smoking. Add the oil just prior to putting your seasoned meat in the pan. Leave it alone until you are ready to flip it. Once you flip it, you can put the entire skillet in your preheated oven.