A perfectly seared pork chop, cornbread with a golden brown crust, vegetables roasted to excellence, all made possible with one indispensable, low tech, kitchen appliance: a cast iron pan.

Poor maintenance of this old time kitchen mainstay can lead to frustrating, or even disastrous, cooking experiences. Conversely, a well-seasoned and well cared for cast iron pan can be a chef’s best tool.

The key is to properly season your cast iron pan from the outset and to re-season it after each use. Seasoning simply means to carefully wash, dry, oil and heat the pan.

Initially, whether you have a brand new cast iron pan or one that you found in your great-uncle’s garage after he passed, this process takes about an hour and a half. Subsequent seasonings are quite painless and take just a few minutes.

This awesome video from the chefs at The Tasty Kitchen fully demonstrates both processes.

You can cook most anything in a well-seasoned cast iron pan.

They work particularly well for searing meats. This is true whether you are cooking a steak or just putting a nice crust on a pot roast before slipping it into the oven. Because cast iron pans retain their heat evenly, stir-fries are also a breeze.

The option to go from the stove top to the oven opens up endless possibilities, from caramelizing vegetables before you bake them to bringing hash browns to crunchy perfection. Cast iron pans are also excellent for frying.