What’s the best first cast iron pan to buy?

First, always consider that the tool you’re most likely to get the most use out of is the tool you have the most reason to use. Buy a pan to suit the type of cooking you like to do.

A big flat skillet will let you cook big batches of pancakes or grilled sandwiches.

A small frying pan will be your breakfast companion for years to come.

A generous dutch oven will serve you well for chilis, deep frying and crunchy sourdough breads.

So, the simple answer here is buy the pan you need first and build out a collection from there.

But, you ask, what would the Cast Iron Guy recommend?

You’ve read all about this cast iron movement and you’re looking at your chipped and scratched collection of aluminum pans from the supermarket and pondering leaping into building a legacy collection of cookware and begin replacing your nonstick throwaways.

You can’t go wrong with a medium-sized frying pan, of course. A simple ten to twelve inch pan is a staple of any collection and will be of great use in any kitchen.

But the piece I recommend, the piece that sits atop my stove and rarely ever finds it’s way back into the cupboard, the piece that I would buy as a gift for a friend or family member who was debating their first acquisition is a round griddle.

I own the Lodge 10.5 inch round griddle. *not a paid endorsment

This piece is a low walled, simple round, smooth pan with a bit of a lip around the rim. It’s simple to use and maintain, and cooks just about everything day-to-day: grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, fried eggs, crepes & pancakes, and naan bread. It heats fast for warming leftovers. It packs well and I often take it local travelling to hotels (like when we go skiing in the mountians where we often have a kitchen but usually not-so-great pans.) It’s an all-in-one workhorse for egg sandwiches, grilling sausages, and my lunchtime meals-for-one. It goes into the oven as a roasting pan for numerous meat and vegetable dishes, and if I need to broil anything it’s the pan I turn to first.

And if I was rich, I’d buy these by the caselot and hand them out as gifts.

So, my recommendation: you need a great first pan, and you are not looking to fill a specific cooking need, I don’t think you can go too wrong with a simple round griddle.

Gaige’s Famous Inside-Out Grilled Cheese

Some day I’ll dig into my second-favourite cooking topic after cast iron, and write some posts about sourdough bread.

In the meantime, know that my classic sandwich loaf sourdough serves as the base for a mouthwatering recipe that blurs my passion for cast iron cooking with fresh bread and delicious lunch foods.

It’s a simple hack for your grilled cheese, but add a bit of grated cheddar to the buttered outsides of a classic grilled cheese sandwhich (bread, butter, cheese and heat.)

2 slices of sourdough bread
1 tablespoon of butter or margarine
1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese

Grill as normal. (My normal is on a hot-hot cast iron griddle.)

If you’ve got a soft spot for fried cheese, the crisp exterior of your sandwhich will warm your heart (and probably clog your arteries … did I mention that this is a sometimes food?)