Cooking Basics: The 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet
The most important piece of cookware I've ever owned
As a novice chef and a bachelor, the cast iron skillet is absolutely the most important piece of cookware in my kitchen. I own several different sizes of cast iron skillets, but the one I use the most is the 12 inch one. I buy my skillets pre-seasoned, but I've also learned how to do this myself at home (it basically involves putting them in the oven for a long time with a coating of oil.
A good skillet should last you a lifetime. Actually, it should last longer than that, but you won't be around to see it. Unlike some other cookware, a cast iron skillet doesn't need to be washed thoroughly. I know some people disagree with this, but I only rinse my skillet in the sink and wipe it dry with a towel. It never goes in the dishwasher, because then I'd have to season it again. If you use your skillet regularly there is really no reason for a thorough cleaning. The remnants from your breakfast can add seasoning to your lunch.
The list of things that I cook on my skillet is endless. It is my go-to piece of cookware because it spreads heat out evenly so there are no "hot spots". Virtually everything that makes up a good hot breakfast can me made with one skillet. That includes my eggs, pancakes, and of course bacon. For lunch, I'll sometimes just fry up a couple of chicken breasts in some cooking oil and a few spices. I won't bother cleaning this afterward, because I'll use the skillet again for dinner, which might be something like Bacon SPAM, home fries, and maybe a side of salad. So I can go a full day and only have one food item (the salad) that isn't made with the cast iron skillet.
If cast iron skillet cooking is new to you, let me give you a few quick protips: buy a cast iron cover and a tempered glass lid that will fit your size skillet, you'll learn how to use these properly as your cooking advances. Buy two oven mitts. Try to find a cast iron skillet with an assist handle, which makes it possible to pick up the skillet with both hands (cast iron is heavy). Buy a cast iron skillet cookbook. It will open you eyes to the things that are possible with this simple piece of cookware. Always remember your skillet when you go camping -- it's perfect for campfires.