Looking back over a decade of purchases was a difficult and humbling task that brought on a lot of nostalgia — I bought my dog in 2010 — and a little bit of shame — a few years later I bought, and wore more than once, a T-shirt with the words BAE-Watch! emblazoned on the front. But of all the things I collected in that time, one very dependable and practical thing stands out: my Lodge cast-iron skillet. I use it every day, would buy it over and over again, and enthusiastically recommend it to everyone I know.
I bought my first Lodge skillet at a hardware store in 2012 after moving into a new apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. I considered it a commitment to a less transient life because it weighs a lot, and though it only cost me $15 bucks, I saw it as an investment. Up until that point my plates and cups were inherited from family members and my desk and other furniture was found on the street.
That first year I mostly used my skillet to make stir fry or pasta sauce, or to heat up beans and scramble eggs for breakfast tacos. This may sound gross to some, but I liked how the flavors of my favorite foods embedded themselves in the cast iron. This seemed to prevent the food I cooked in it from tasting bland. Especially after I realized I could bake in it too. Eventually I graduated to more interesting recipes, cooking everything from pork chops and shakshuka to pumpkin pie and homemade pizza. (For pizza you use the back side of the preheated skillet, dusted with cornmeal, to cook the dough.) Soon one skillet wasn’t enough. So I bought more. My kitchen now houses four Lodge skillets in varying sizes — the smallest an adorable 3.5-inch pan that’s perfect for frying one crispy and beautiful egg.
The allure of a cast-iron skillet is that it works just as well on the stovetop as it does in the oven. This means it can be used for almost everything I want to cook — a godsend for anyone who knows the challenges of a narrow New York kitchen. And, like a good leather jacket, if you treat your Lodge skillet well it will continue to mature and get better with age. (As an owner of both, I can tell you that the skillet is a lot easier and cheaper to treat well.) All of Lodge’s cast-iron cookware — including griddles, dutch ovens, corn-shaped muffin molds, and skillets — comes pre-seasoned and ready to use. This means they’re naturally non-stick and will stay that way as long as you promise to never use soap when cleaning yours (it can ruin the seasoning) and to dry it completely as soon as you’re done scrubbing to prevent rust. Even if you do happen to mess up and break the soap rule, it’s easy to rebuild that layer of seasoning.
While cast iron doesn’t distribute heat as quickly or as evenly as, say, copper, it’s far less precious, which makes me a more adventurous cook. Unlike with that beautiful and expensive copper skillet, I don’t worry about ruining my Lodge pans with riskier maneuvers like searing meat or creating a satisfying crust on hash browns. If I accidentally burn something in my Lodge, however, it’s no big deal. The pan is indestructible. It’s the best thing I bought last decade, and it’ll probably be the best thing I use in this new one. And maybe the one after.