This is a guest post from the B of the BFFs, Mary Jo Johnson!

The house I grew up in had only one skillet – an old cast iron one that had been my grandmother’s, and her grandmother’s before her.

I watched my Mama cook thousands of meals in that skillet. Bacon and eggs, gravy, cornbread, pork chops and many other delicious foods were prepared in that old skillet, and when Mama started teaching me to cook, that was our go-to pan.

When I moved out on my own, my Mama gave me my own cast iron skillet, but it seemed so… old-fashioned in my fresh new young adult life. Over the years I tried dozens of pieces of shiny Teflon coated, Calphalon covered, chemical laden pieces of cookware. Some were good, some were even great, but none could QUITE fry an egg like my cast iron, and they eventually all fell by the wayside and my old go-to would come out of the cabinet again.

At that point I was a relatively inexperienced cook and I didn’t really understand why the cast iron cooked my food so much better, I just knew it did. As my knowledge of cooking grew, I realized a huge part of it was how evenly it disbursed heat. There were no hot spots to cause my food to stick or burn. There are a ton of other benefits to cooking with cast iron as well. It’s naturally non-stick, you can move it back and forth from stovetop to oven in order to cook with a variety of cooking methods without using (then washing) a bunch of pans, and my personal favorite – they are cheap and they last forever. Really, these things are virtually indestructible.

Sometimes people are a little leery of using cast iron because there is the misconception that it’s a pain to season or difficult to maintain, but that’s just not true! You do need to start with a well-seasoned iron skillet, but it’s as easy as this:

1. Scrub skillet well in hot soapy water.
2. Dry thoroughly.
3. Spread a thin layer of your favorite cooking oil over the skillet.
4. Preheat your oven to 375°, then place the skillet upside down in the oven. (I would put some foil or a sheet pan under it to catch any drips)
5. Bake for 1 hour; let cool in the oven.

That’s it! Your cast iron is now ready to make many, many yummy meals. The beauty of it is that the more you use it, the more seasoned it becomes. Maintaining it is easy, too. When I wash mine, I use a stiff brush on it when it’s still warm (no soap necessary) then I dry it completely before storing it.

When my Mama died a few years ago, I got her old skillet. It has been used by generations of women in my family, and I often find myself imagining the meals cooked in it years and decades ago. It’s one of my most prized possessions, and every time I pull it out of my cabinet to use, it feels so sturdy and capable, which is exactly how I remember Mama, too.