Cast-iron chronicles book 1: accepting your new god

Kevin Reber/Staff

It’s always seemed silly to me: the unspoken rules we follow while at university so as to not forsake our beloved college years (“They’re the best days of your life, bro!”).  Don’t sleep much, because these four years need to suck. Get drunk a bunch, because this is totally the only time you can do that. And eat shitty, cheap food. We’re only inhaling these rock-bottom rations because everybody told us that’s what we’re supposed to do.

But I’m here to tell you “no.” When it comes to food, the dogma of ramen with ketchup or rice with mango juice is a disgusting farce. Seriously, why are you putting that stuff in your mouth?

The indoctrination starts early. They normalize garbage can cuisine at Crossroads and Cafe 3 until they’ve beaten you into culinary submission. You’ve been lied to and made to consume cheap nonsense because, well, you’re poor. But guess what? We’re all poor. The truth they don’t want you to know is that cheap food doesn’t have to mean bad food. Cheap can taste great, be healthy and, with a little work, be fun too.

Friends, come join the revolution. Get yourself a cast-iron skillet.

Not only is this sexy, sturdy and oh-so-lustrously black weapon of mass de-scrumptious a great tool for anyone’s kitchen, its supreme multitaskability and truly insane value make it an even more perfect addition to the “broke college kid who can eat well” aesthetic that, hey, we may as well go for.

You can make anything from biscuits to fried chicken in this beast. I’m talking eggs and burger patties that would make a diner line cook blush, along with crazy fluffy pancakes and French toast, not to mention killer veggies, and we haven’t even put that puppy in the oven yet!

That’s right — a skillet can go from stovetop to hot box without breaking a sweat. A world of cornbread, cobblers, deep-dish pizzas and mac n’ cheese lies just beyond the horizon — all you must do is reach out for it.

The comeliness of the cast lies in its pure simplicity — one giant, hugely versatile hunk of forged iron that can replicate (among other things) a flat top, a deep fryer, a casserole, a pie dish and a panini press in the blink of an eye. Once heated thoroughly, no cookware holds heat as well or as evenly as a good skillet. And did I mention that it’s literally the most natural and durable nonstick cooking surface in the kitchen?

But, like that degree we’re all shelling out for, a skillet is a lifelong investment. A good cure — layered fat that has been cooked down to bind to the metal beneath — is what gives this wand its magic, but it is neither borne quickly nor on its own. It’s up to you, the diligent guardian, to take good care of a pan that will in turn take good care of you. And that’s where the fun comes in.

I can feel you’re still unconvinced. Why shell out for a big, heavy chunk of metal when your own scuffed-up saucepan works “just fine”?

For starters, a good skillet doesn’t mean an expensive skillet. You can get a small one for less than 15 bucks on Amazon (I personally have a 12 incher, but that’s just me). Communities exist everywhere for enthusiasts to swap tips and tricks — there’s even a subreddit for it.

It will also last forever. I’m talking cop-from-”The Sandlot forever. Treat it well, and it’ll be with you until your dying day. They’ve found usable cast-iron pots in the ruins of Pompeii — I think one could survive your move from north to south campus.

For those of you ready to take the plunge, get excited. In the coming weeks, we’ll go through proper maintenance and care for your new favorite tool, learn some great recipes for which only a cast iron skillet will do and grow to appreciate the true zen of self-sufficiency that handling such a beautiful responsibility will bring you. And isn’t that what college is really all about?

I know this sounds like you’re joining a cult. And, well, you are. Life is just way better when you can make dank hash browns at 2 a.m. And I won’t hear any different.

Contact Austin Isaacsohn at [email protected].