Cast Iron Skillet: The Little Black Dress of your Kitchen

Cast iron pan on rustic grey concrete background close up - empty black frying pan frying skillet with copy space

Classic, long-lasting, versatile, affordable, accessible, inheritable. Every woman has or should have one. A little black dress? Nope. I’m talking about a cast iron skillet.

A great fitting little black dress can be dressed up with statement accessories or dressed down with a blazer and cute sneaks. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet can work as a griddle for french toast and eggs, a deep fat fryer, a roasting pan for chicken, a pizza stone, or a super-hot saute pan. You can use your cast iron on the stove and in the oven. It is naturally nonstick (more on how to season your pan below) and, unlike coated nonstick pans, cast iron withstands super high temps and distributes heat evenly, so you always wind up with perfectly crispy meats and exceptionally charred veggies. If I could only choose one cooking tool to use forever, it would be a cast iron. A well-made cast iron skillet is incredibly affordable, is the most versatile of vessels, and if properly cared for, will last you a lifetime. While you can find many fancy, enamel lined cast iron pans out there, I’m a personal fan of simple and classic Lodge brand, which will set you back a whopping $25.



Photo credit: Apartment Therapy


The number one reason that precludes most users from taking the plunge into using cast iron is the need to season the pan when it is either old and rusty or new and sticky. The process honestly is so simple. If you want to season a cast iron pan, apply a thin layer of neutral, high smoke point oil like vegetable, canola, or grapeseed across the surface and bake at 400˚F for one hour. Avoid using rendered animal fat or olive oil though, as they may go rancid. If you’re concerned about oil pooling inside the pan while it’s seasoning, place the pan inside your oven upside down with a sheet pan underneath to catch any runoff. After the initial seasoning, regular use will also help to keep a pan seasoned.



When I wear my LBD, I drop it at the dry cleaners until I’m ready to bust it out again. Similarly, a cast iron skillet is the most low-maintenance kitchen tool you can add to your arsenal. You don’t really need all that much beyond a basic understanding of how to care for it.

Clean the skillet immediately after use, while it is still hot or warm. Don’t soak the pan or leave it in the sink because it may rust. I always dump kosher salt into the pan, add a few tablespoons of water to create a paste and then wipe that with a paper towel. After, simply wash the skillet by hand using hot water and a sponge or stiff brush. Avoid using the dishwasher, soap, or steel wool, as these may strip the pan’s seasoning. After the pan is clean, thoroughly towel dry or dry it on the stove over low heat. After it is fully dry, using a cloth or paper towel, apply a light coat of vegetable oil or melted shortening to the inside of the skillet. Done and done.

Basically, it’s the best, and if you don’t already own one, you should seriously consider getting one ASAP.


  • The latest from Nicole
Head Janitor, Chef, and Proprietor | Stomping Ground
Nicole’s cooking style is rooted in, but not limited to, her love of southern biscuits and her diverse culinary upbringing. A military brat, she spent her childhood in the Chicago suburbs enjoying her great-grandmother Mae’s Lithuanian cooking. As a tween, she moved to Paulding County, Ga. where she begrudgingly fell in love with the charmingly perplex small towns of the Deep South. She fondly remembers grubbing on Martin’s biscuits, late-night Waffle House debauchery and cooking with her family. After graduating from the University of Georgia, Nicole started a marketing career at an art nonprofit in Atlanta. At 25 years old, she became the youngest executive at the local Atlanta NPR affiliate. Chasing her dreams, she moved to Alexandria, Va. where she took a short post in the Whole Foods marketing department. Realizing that cooking had been her true love all along, she began night courses at L’Academie de Cuisine. She completed her apprenticeship at Blue Duck Tavern where she was promoted to a line cook after graduation. From there, Nicole worked as a private chef for busy Washington D.C. executives and their families. As grown-ups tend to do, Nicole realized something about her childhood — the best parts were enjoying small town communities, cooking with her great-grandmother and sharing meals with family and friends. She opened Stomping Ground to build a safe and welcoming community around yummy, handmade food from local sources. As her first foray running her own kitchen, she has shamelessly hired better, smarter cooks to fill her kitchen and your bellies. Her great-grandmother’s recipes often appear on the Stomping Ground menu without advertisement and, no, she won’t tell you the secret ingredients. Nicole lives in Del Ray and won’t shut up about how much she loves living there.

If you wander down Del Ray’s, “The Avenue,” you won’t miss the farm-red building with a rustic fence bordering the patio. Stomping Ground opened two years ago and quickly became popular for its made-from-scratch biscuits and its neighborhood vibe. On weekends, excited guests line up before Stomping Ground opens hoping to be the first to get a just-out-of-the-oven biscuit or a fresh salad. Stomping Ground is mostly known for its fast casual breakfast and lunch but on Thursdays and Fridays they provide a full dinner service after 5:00pm. All meals are built from local, seasonal food that is organic whenever possible.

2309 Mt Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


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