Cast-iron cookware lasts a long time -- sometimes for generations. It is non-stick when seasoned correctly, can be used in the oven as well as the hob, and doesn't give off harmful chemicals. It distributes heat evenly, and because it retains heat so well you actually can use less energy for cooking. Considering how long cast-iron cookware lasts, a high-quality cast-iron griddle or skillet is a bargain. It's worth the effort to properly season the pan and maintain its patina with proper care. If food is sticking to your cast-iron pan, it may be time to clean and re-season the pan.
Preheat your oven to 177 degrees Celsius. Scrub the pan with a steel-wool soap pad and hot water. Try to remove as much of the built-up burnt grease as possible. Rinse thoroughly and dry the pan over low heat on your hob.
Remove the pan from the burner. Put about a tablespoon of oil or shortening in the warm, dry pan and use a paper towel to spread the oil around and completely cover all the surfaces of the pan. Use a little more oil or shortening on the paper towel to rub the outside and bottom of the pan.
Place a sheet of aluminium foil on the bottom rack to catch any excess oil. Bake the cast-iron pan upside down on the upper rack for an hour. Let it cool, wipe off any excess oil and store the pan in a dry place. For the first few uses after a thorough cleaning like this, choose fried foods. The additional oil and heat help build up the patina again.
To maintain the patina you have developed in your cast-iron pan, keep it oiled and dry. Each time you wash the pan, dry it over low heat and rub in a little oil on all surfaces. When you go camping, take your cast-iron pan along and put it in the coals as the campfire is dying down. Scrape some coals inside the pan too, and leave it until the coals and pan are cold. This will burn off even years of accumulated grease build-up and leave your pan like new. You'll have to wash it thoroughly and season it again, as it will start rusting very quickly.
Just a thin coat of oil or shortening is enough each time you wash your pan. Applying too much can lead to a sticky build-up of rancid oil that looks dirty and can contribute an off-taste to your food.