Cast Iron Rocks!!!
I have lots of foofy cookware which I won't get into. I used to use non-stick, my only comments on non-stick now is: ICK.
Over the years I have slowly focused most of my cooking on my two cast iron skillets. a 10 inch and a 12, both that my dad picked up at a church yardsale for $2-3.
Just yesterday my GF picked up a slightly rusty one at Todd Farm Antiques & Flea Market in Rowley, MA. I scrubbed it with a scouring pad for 10 min or so, and seasoned it 2-3 times REAL HOT, with some canola oil and it is as good as new, er... as good as old. Figure we can get another 200-300 years out of it.
I use cast iron for:
Seared fish - crispy outside, slightly rare inside
steaks - first seared, then finished in the oven
stir fry (cause I don't have a restaurant grade gas circle hot enough to do real justice to a steel wok)
potatoes with cheese and onions in the oven
crispy --- anything
8 hour, slow baked, pork shoulder, Boston butt
And on, and on...
Basically, I cook a lot, and 90% of what I cook is prepared using one of the two skillets. They never fail me. If you don't have one, Amazon sells them for small money. I would start with a 10 inch:
But even more fun, pick up a 100 year old one at a yard sale and give it another 50 years or so.
Do keep in mind that cooking, cleaning, and caring for one is a little different then a regular pan. This site looks pretty respectable with regard to care and use:
Have fun, your food will never taste better.
I am definitely a FAN of cast iron...scored a 10" frying pan and outrageously heavy dutch oven (both Wagner Ware yet...yay!) from someone who gave up her camping gear a few years ago in the classifieds for $10 <weeping>...one of the *BEST* purchases I have ever made in my life! Love the stuff! For cornbread, you just cannot beat it...heat it up in oven with some bacon fat...when it's hot, pour in your batter, return to oven and then prepare to enjoy a crusty awesome cornbread! Takes you to another dimension altogether!!
I too love love love cast iron and use it mostly! I have a nice cast iron dutch oven in which chili is the best. my 12 in fryer is for everything. I'm always on the look out for more at 2nd hnd stores, yard sales etc. cast iron muffin tins are the best too - my parents have an antique one that looks like little corn on the cobs.
Forgot to mention that the pan my GF picked up was in the $1 bin at one of the antiques dealers.
I totally agree. I now use the nonstick skillets only when both of my cast irons are filled. I have nice big muscles on the backs of my arms from lifting the cast irons and scraping out food, but I've been amazed and delighted by the way both of my pans (10" and 12" as you say, StriperGuy) are so beautifully nonstick from use -- even scrambled eggs scrapes out easily, pancakes release, I get beautiful crusts on my meat and fried potatoes. I love the way they cook so evenly too. One of our pans was my husband's grandmother's and by the time it got to me it was all rusted out. I scoured, seasoned, and then cooked in it a lot. Good as new, well, probably better with its beautiful seasoning.
Oh, and IMO, nothing works for seasoning better than bacon grease. You make one pound of bacon and have enough grease for a whole year or two of keeping the pan seasoned -- assuming you don't start cooking everything in bacon grease as I have.