I've always had a cast iron pan that I've cooked in a decent amount, but it wasn't necessarily my go-to pan. Then, a couple of years ago, I read about the benefits of cooking with cast iron (originally this is what I got me thinking) and I started using it more and more.
However, it wasn't until I bought an old Griswold pan that I realized how wonderful these pans could really be. It was with this pan (and with a subsequent Lodge pan) that I realized there really is a correlation in the manufacturer and the pan performance. My Griswold, Wagner and Lodge pans have a smoother seasoned finish, cook more evenly and clean up in a breeze compared to my first (it has no manufacturer name on it) pan.
So far my little collection of pans has come from flea markets where I've been able to get great prices (they can go for a lot online and in some antique stores, so when I see them for next to nothing at a flea market I snatch them up). My favorite ones, for pure cute factor, are these individual skillets that are perfect for an egg in the morning.
1. Start with a pan that has been cleaned and scrubbed to its bare metal (if you bought the pan in its bare metal state it probably has a light coat of oil to keep it from rusting). Clean the pan in hot, soapy water. Dry immediately and stick it in a 200 degree oven to completely dry. This is important as a bare metal pan will start to rust quickly!
2. Rub the entire pan with a light coat of flaxseed oil. I use a paper towel to rub the oil all over the pan so that it is a very thin layer. Put the pan, upside down, into a preheated 500 degree oven for 30 minutes (turn on your oven fan!). At the end of the 30 minutes, without opening the oven, turn off the oven and let cool completely.
3. Repeat step 2 two more times.
4. Your pan will continue to build up its seasoning with every use. I often fry bacon in the pan the first time to help it even further along.
P.S. I picked up this Wagner pan on our trip to Kentucky at an antique store that I stopped at on my way in to the grocery store! I figured if I had to grocery shop on my vacation I might as well throw in my favorite kind of shopping!