I have one of these:
It’s a Wagner Ware 12" skillet. When my grandmother died in the late 90’s, my family asked me what I wanted from her house and I said, “Her cast iron frying pan.” She used to make me scrambled eggs in it. It’s perfectly seasoned, smooth-bottomed and a joy to cook in.
Compare it to your typical Lodge 12" skillet:
I used to own a Lodge skillet. I hated the knobbly surface on the bottom of the pan. It traps more gunk and isn’t as non-stick as the smooth Wagner Ware. I tried for years to season it to get it to behave, but no luck so I ended up giving it away.
The thought has crossed my mind to get another one and sand the bottom and insides smooth. Then season it and see if it behaves like it should.
So that’s my feelings about Lodge cookware. It’s not bad stuff. It’s just not great either.
My favorite piece of cookware is this big thing:
It’s a 7.5 quart Le Creuset Bouillabaise pot that was given to me one Christmas. These things run in the hundreds of dollars. WORTH EVERY PENNY! If I hadn’t received it as a gift, I would have bought one anyways. It is cast iron, but has an enameled coating that is reasonably non-stick.
The thing about non-stick is that non-stick is useful but generally overrated. Sure, you need non-stick for certain applications, such as potatoes or sunny side up eggs or things that need to retain their shape after frying or sautéeing. For making braises, you WANT some of the stuff to stick to the bottom, because that’s where the browning occurs. You want that fond to be there when you pour in your deglazing liquid, so that the deglaze boils, picks up those sugars and dissolves the flavors into the base of your braise. So, many times, you need things to stick at first so they can be used for flavor later in the process.
Browning is the common term for the Maillard reaction. If you are not familiar, please look it up and read about it because it is fascinating. The Maillard reaction is something that we humans respond strongly to in terms of the sense of gustation. Without the Maillard reaction, there would be no maple syrup. Maple sap has to be boiled to acquire its signature flavor. Many other recipes and ingredients rely on at least some Maillard reaction, or early browning, to infuse the final product with a richer, deeper flavor.
Gumbos, for example, have the Maillard early by browning the roux. All fried things have the Maillard as the principal outer flavor component. Breads taste bland if their crust has not been browned at least a little bit. Cheese toppings, roasts, casseroles, other baked and bbq’d goods, etc., all benefit from the Maillard.
Caramelization is the Maillard taken further, as the components are actively saccharifying starches into sugars. Blackening, as in blackening fish, is taking it even further to a limited amount of pyrolysis, to give it a signature flavor.
So, back to the matter at hand. I’m writing this to give a finer point to the concept of stick vs/ non-stick surfaces. They each have their uses. But they also each need to come under the cook’s control, via the surfaces inside the cookware and the techniques used. So choose wisely, and find out what works for you.