Lodge Cast Iron Grill Pan | $20 | Amazon
When I moved into my first apartment on my own, I was pretty excited about the many perks it would offer: no dishes left in the sink for days at a time, no more listening to my roommate record a podcast about how The Godfather wouldn’t be appreciated if it were made today, and I could take a shower whenever I pleased.
When I started moving into my new studio, it seemed everybody on the second floor had a nice area that acted as a mini-balcony overlooking downtown. I mistakenly wished for th same perk. Instead, my apartment’s front door looked out on the wall of the building’s sole AirBnB, where I’d later encounter frat bros stumbling up the stairs at 4 AM, businessmen upset about the noise from the symphony of pups our tenants housed, and the occasional convention-goer who mostly hovered around to bum a cigarette or two.
Between that and neighbors who were seemingly incapable of shutting a door without going full throttle, living solo wasn’t all I’d hoped for it to be. Mostly, though, it was still pretty great. Losing that balcony space and nice view mostly bummed me out because I’d hoped to have a little space for a small coal grill, something I’d never really been able to do before.
Luckily, my grandmother had gifted me a cast iron skillet before my move. At first, I was afraid to use it for fear of damaging the seasoning and having to go through the ordeal of re-adding the coating, but that fear went away pretty quickly once I got to cooking. I really like the Lodge cast iron grill pan, which comes pre-seasoned and has nice grooves that let you put a sear on your steaks before you set the table.
For the uninitiated and intimidated, there are a few things you should know. First, unlike nonstick pans, cast iron skillets don’t have a chemical-based coating covering the surface of the pan. Instead, they’re coated with a layer of oil that’s essentially baked on. As a result, you can use them at higher temperatures without coating erosion. They’re also better at maintaining heat, which makes cooking with one a respectable alternative to grilling when you’re low on space or resources.
Because they can withstand higher temperatures than nonstick pans, and because their entire construction is made of iron, you can plop a steak or two on there and slide it in the oven without worrying about damaging the pan at all. If you’d like to make sure your steaks are cooked at just the right temperature without spending another wad of cash on a sous vide cooker, the cast iron is a worthy substitute.
To step things up a bit and get a perfect steak every time, a half-decent sous vide cooker paired with a cast iron skillet can’t be beat. Once the meat is cooked just right, toss it on the pan for a nice sear.