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"In response to the nay-sayers who claim the rougher surface of the Lodge cast iron skillet makes it difficult to achieve a non-stick seasoning: I received my Lodge 12-inch skillet as a gift in April of 2011 (five and a half months ago as I write this). I spent one Saturday morning enhancing the seasoning by giving it four additional coats of seasoning: I coated the pan with a light rub of generic store-brand vegetable oil, cooked it in the oven at 425 degrees F for 60 minutes, let it cool off for 30 minutes, then gave it another coating and cooked it at 425 again, a total of four times. The pan is a wonderful black color and the surface is slick. Even though it's not as flat and smooth as an antique Griswold skillet, the Lodge pan will take anything I throw at it, and cleanup is a breeze. As I write this, in the past week alone I've used it to sear burgers at the highest temperature of my electric stove range (after preheating it in the oven at 500 degrees); I cooked a Chicago deep-dish pizza in it, letting the dough bake and rise in the pan and cutting it with a metal chef's knife; I've covered it with the Lodge Logic 12-Inch Iron Cover and cooked pork chops and apple slices to the point where the meat pulled away from the bone and I didn't need a knife to cut it; I seared and fried six pieces of chicken in it with only 1/8 inch of peanut oil, searing it on the stovetop first then cooking it in the oven at 350 degrees; and today I used it as a baking pan to make a 12-inch diameter chocolate cake for my neighbors' kids. I used metal utensils, including the chef's knife. Nothing has stuck to the pan and the seasoning is taking everything, showing no more than a few scratches from where the pizza was cut. Only the seasoning was scratched; the iron surface itself hasn't even been touched. The scratches will be filled in and covered over with additional seasoning as I continue to use the pan, they will not be there forever. Each time I clean it, I simply use a green rough scrubbing pad under warm-to-hot running water; everything has come off with no sticking at all. After washing the pan out, I dry it on the stovetop with the burner on a low-to-medium heat for 15 minutes, then when the pan is bone-dry I turn it off, let it cool for ten minutes, then give it another light coating of vegetable oil. This skillet is a champion, and I've only been using it for less than six months. That's the way to get a solid non-stick seasoning on your Lodge cast iron skillet – you don't have to sand the surface down, and you don't have to use fancier oils like flaxseed oil (which has been shown to be no more effective than regular vegetable oil for seasoning cast iron). All you need to do is use your pan regularly, and it will reward you with the legendary black non-stick patina that cast iron is known for. This is a pan that will cook anything and everything. Every kitchen needs at least one of these."
If there's one piece I'd recommend as a person's very first cast iron pan, it would be the Lodge 12-inch skillet. It's cheap (just under $20 at Wal-Mart); it's available everywhere; it has a lot of surface space for cooking, so you can do everything from large dishes to individual portions; it's heavy and nearly indestructible. I'd recommend this even over Lodge's 10-inch skillet, which is also an excellent cooking tool. This is because it's much more difficult to find a big cast iron pan in the vintage treasure hunt. If and when you search at flea markets, antique stores, Goodwill-Salvation Army-Savers, thrift stores, yard sales, and so on, you will be much more likely to find a smaller cast iron pan than a huge monster like the Lodge 12-inch skillet. Big iron pans can be found in the used and discarded marketplace, but it could take a long time to find one. So, it would be easier to buy a brand-new Lodge 12-inch pan, and use it while you scour the area for an inexpensive, and smaller, cast iron pan to go with it.