How can you tell if a cast iron skillet is good?
Cast iron heats slowly, but thoroughly, staying hot far longer than stainless steel pans. They also can withstand the high temperatures of an oven or grill, making them great kitchen workhorses. Here are a couple of things to look for:
A Seasoned Surface
All regular cast-iron pans require periodic seasoning to develop a nonstick coating; to season, coat the inside of the pan with oil and heat it in the oven for an hour. The more a skillet is used and seasoned, the less food will stick, so cookware connoisseurs seek out vintage pans. Today, many new cast-iron skillets are pre-seasoned at the factory.
Skillets with nearly straight sides hold oil better for deep-frying and have more surface area for searing.
Because cast-iron skillets are heavy, their handles are usually short, so the pan is easier to pick up. Some styles have a second, U-shaped helper handle that allows the cook to lift the skillet with two hands.