I have tried to take illustrative photos for this post several times over the past year - the problem is my black pans against the black stove. So I'll entertain you with my crisp prose, ok?
Why Cast Iron is Great
1. HEAVY - things cook better, more evenly than in thin pans.
2. VERSATILE - Use cast iron pans anywhere there's heat: stove top, oven, grill, campfire.
3. HEALTHY - Adds iron to your food every time! Don't we all love fortified food?
How to Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet or Dutch Oven
4. Get any saucy stuff out by swishing briefly with water. If food was cooked on, gently use a wire brush, scrub brush, or steel wool. The pan should be free of food.
5. Set the wet pan on the burner and heat until the water evaporates from the inside - stick around and watch it (I have forgotten and come back to scary smoke!).
6. Dip a rag or paper towel in grease (oil, shortening, lard, etc.) and rub it all over the inside of the pan. It is now seasoned.
7. Using soap or soaking your pan in water will remove the layers of grease that are known as seasoning. Just use plain water, heat, and grease to clean your pan. Some things, like eggs, are not messy and you can just put your pan away again when it's cool - hooray for less cleaning!
8. These pans are basically indestructible and only get better and more nonstick with age. However, if you are starting with a newly manufactured pan, use metal spoons when you cook and be sure to scrape around a lot. The newer cast iron is bumpier, and your metal utensils kind of buff out the surface and give it better seasoning. I know this from experience - I have 4 old pieces, and one new one.
9. I keep my cast iron in my oven drawer on a sheet of newspaper. It leaves black smudges sometimes, so I keep it separate from my other pans in their pretty white drawer.
Talk to me about your cast iron - are you a fan? Do you care for yours differently? Questions?