Pros: Cooks and heats evenly, durable, scrapable, stovetop-to-ovenable, campable, grill-topable, etc.
Cons: It may be too heavy for the frail chef.
In the last two years, I had to move all our stuff three times. Unending mounds of boxes, out one house, into storage, then out of storage, and into the new home. What are the chances of losing a lamp, book, or Monopoly terrier token? Theyre high. What are the chances of losing your 12 cast iron skillet? Its about the same as losing a 16lbs. bowling ball. Well, my roomy kitchen was fully set up last year without my best stovetop friend. My skillet was gone. My wife posited, Maybe someone stole it? I tried containing the laughter on the inside, and replied, So they risked felony conviction, avoided stereo and stamp collection, and skulked away in the dark of night dragging the biggest piece of iron we own? (Looking back now, I wish I actually thought to say that.)
In any event, friends and family, aware of my desire to cook, showed me with two other stylish stainless steel show piece skillets. Its like they were replacing Ole Yeller with Lassie. Sure, Lassies pretty and will bark if theres trouble, but Ole Yeller would bite the bear in the backside. A cast iron skillet is the single most useful pan, yet is much maligned in the puff-kitchens of Upper-Suburbia.
Hey, I grew up in the Golden Ghetto of Suburbia. Heck, Im in a woodsier version of it now. Thats why I trudged out to Wal-Mart and replaced what was lost. The Lodge 12 Cast Iron Skillet returned home unlike Ole Yeller.
The immediate upgrade was the hand-sized handle on edge opposite the handle. One-handing a cast iron skillet full of red beans and kielbasa may ripple the biceps of a stud like me, but the average Joe hang on my wifes laughing over my shoulder okay, even the physically gifted should or the delusional need that handle to well, handle the often fully loaded 12 Lodge.
The rim is high, and spouted on one side for sauces and gravy. Its majorly hard to burn gravy in this evenly heating hunk of metal. Its also good for recipes that require heating oil in the oven first before pouring in batter for what we in the South call Cracklin Cornbread. This is a great tasting extremely distant cousin of the sugar-upped eight inch tall cornbread our Yankee third grade teachers made for our Thanksgiving play cast party.
Now the bigger upgrade was the seasoning. Unlike the Chicago Bears, it came fully ready in the pre-season. Seasoning the pan for Non-Casters is the process of burning oil on the surface of the cast iron until the oil makes a fairly permanent surface on the cast iron. I wrote fairly permanent because it can come off if you or someone whom claims to love you puts the fully seasoned Lodge 12 Cast Iron Skillet in the dishwasher or leaves it in a sink full of bilge water overnight because they were too tired to gently wash and completely dry the pan. There is no need to scour any skillet with an inch of soap unless warm raw chicken was left in the pan. The amazing thing is that the old pans came with a dark-silver-green-brown/black appearance and had to be seasoned before use. Some still come that way. Seasoning in urban and suburban areas would be lightly coating with oil, baking at 400F cooling reapplying oil and firing it up again and cooling. Washing would really be rinsing and wiping unless the obsessional thoughts of germs invading your personal space caused you to scrub the seasoning off.
My new pan was pre-seasoned evenly and was durable. However, I still fried, sauteed, and blackened in it, rinsed, mildly soaped, gently scrubbed, and immediately dried the first five or six washings. Now, the seasoning is so good Monk could compulsively clean it with a Dremmel and the seasoning would remain.
Now for the conspiracy theory generated by the corporate moguls in Big Stainless.
My oh-so-always-right neighbor said, Oh, you go cast iron too bad. I defensively wheeled around cut him to the core with, Oh? He came back with, I heard they say (never trust a They-Sayer) now that with the glass top ranges you cant use cast iron. Calmly sharpening my Wustof 8 Chromoly full tang chefs knife, I withered him with a Fascist-like German reply, Ya? Ignoring me, he dared to say, Yeah, they say the space between the raised iron ring around the bottom of the pan and embossed emblems cause the air between the bottom of the pan and the stove to heat so high get this, the glass cook top will explode. I calmly lifted the edge of the skillet and showed him the GE range elements fully glowing while I and he was still in tact. Mr. Smartest-Man-In-The- Room couldnt bring himself to admit hes been cast into the pit of cast iron lies. Ive lit this pan up like a dry Christmas Tree and so far there have been no explosions. However, to avoid being sued, check with your range/oven owners manual before even trying this cast iron IED.
This is not only a stovetop to oven thing, but a grill to over or maybe an over the fire to table thing too. You can bake a cake, cook eggs, steam stuffed grape leaves, and the more you use it the better the surface keeps it non-stick seasoning. Now frying with the Lodge 12 Cast Iron Skillet...Zowie! Anythings good fried, and even better in this pan. Even when I burn stuff in this pan, I can fill it with water, fire it up to a boil and gently scrape it off (as is the case with other pans) or even not so gently hack it off (as is NOT the case with other pans).
The only drawbacks are the weight and what your floor will look like when you lose your grip and this eight pound flaming bomb plummets 9.8m/sec (squared) to make a dent in your floor youll be talking about at every Christmas get-together.