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Whether because it’s too heavy, they own a duplicate, or they simply don’t have room for it in their new place, there are plenty of reasons why a roommate might leave something behind when they move out. That’s how I wound up with my first-ever cast iron skillet: My old roommate got a place of her own, and left hers behind. Maybe she thought it was too heavy for her to pack, or she realized she wasn’t as into cooking with cast iron as she thought. Whatever the reason, the skillet hung out in my kitchen cabinet for months after her move untouched.

To be honest, I was scared of using it. I’d heard horror stories of people who had “ruined” their cast iron skillets, or (gasp) used soap on them — though it should be noted that even the CEO of cast iron giant Lodge uses soap on his. I’m not a great or devoted cook, and it seemed intimidating to use a piece of equipment that required dedicated maintenance.

Eventually, however, I knew push would have to come to shove. Either I had to start using the abandoned skillet myself, or donate it to a home that would get solid use out of it. So I pulled out *my* pan, cleaned off the rust that had accumulated, and got to work.

Here are five things I learned in my quest to become less scared of my grandfathered cast iron skillet.

1. Vintage and handed-down pans are part of a great cast iron tradition.

2. The only way to get better at using your cast iron skillet is by using it.

For months after my roommate left, the cast iron skillet sat untouched in my kitchen cabinet, to the point where it had begun to develop a thin layer of rust from lack of use. But as Kitchn has said before, “the single best thing you can do for your cast iron is to just use the darn thing.” It’s only with time and effort that you’ll get used to the process of using, cleaning, and seasoning your pan — in fact, the only way to not get better is by not starting at all.

3. Yes, it’s worth investing in a handle cover.

Cast iron gets hot, and when it does, it gets hot all over. When I first started using my pan regularly, I lived in fear of accidentally grabbing the handle with my bare hand. This $7.49 silicone handle sleeve helped assuage those worries substantially, and you can also buy silicone covers for the smaller handle if you’d like extra protection.

4. Setting aside a dedicated tool will help you feel more confident whenever it’s time to clean it.

5. If you mess up and accidentally flake some of the coating away, your pan will forgive you.

Ella Cerón

Lifestyle Editor

Ella Cerón is Apartment Therapy’s Lifestyle Editor, covering how to live your best life in the home you’ve made your own. She lives in New York with two black cats (and no, it’s not a bit).

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