You might remember it as the heavy black skillet grandma fried chicken in (and later passed down to you). But versatile cast iron goes from stovetop to oven to grill with such ease that you can bake a gooey upside-down cake in it as well as fry unbelievably crisp catfish. So pull out your hand-me-down skillet, or buy a new preseasoned one―once you try these recipes, you’ll be a cast iron convert.

Photo: Jennifer Davick

Have you fallen for these misconceptions?

The cast iron skillet is the hardest-working pan in any Southern cook's kitchen. There are some rules you need to follow when it comes to caring for your skillet, but there are some things you might have heard that aren't necessarily true. Here are 5 common myths about cast iron.

Myth #1: Rust Means It’s Ruined

Cast iron is like a chalkboard—you can almost always wipe it clean and start fresh. Unless your pan is cracked or rusted all the way through, scrub off the rust with steel wool, rinse the pan with warm water and dish soap, dry it completely, and reseason it.

Myth #2: A Skillet that Comes Seasoned Doesn’t Need to be Seasoned

While you can cook immediately with a preseasoned skillet, it will get the job done better after it acquires a few more layers of seasoning—achieved either through regular use or additional seasoning time in the oven.

Myth #3: You Can’t Use Any Metal Utensils with Cast Iron

Cast iron can withstand just about anything, including metal utensils. Unlike nonstick pans, cast-iron cookware doesn’t have a chemical coating that will flake off, so use whichever utensils you prefer. If the pan’s seasoning gets a little scraped, it can simply be seasoned again.

Myth #4: There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Seasoning

Seasoning cast iron involves oil (it has nothing to do with salt, pepper, or other spices), and if you apply too much to the pan, it may develop a sticky film. A teaspoon of oil should be enough to coat the interior and exterior of a 10-inch skillet. Brush the oil on with a pastry brush or paper towel to achieve a coating that’s not too thick.

WATCH: How to Season a Cast-Iron Skillet

Myth #5: You Should Never Cook Acidic Foods in a Cast Iron Skillet

Acidic ingredients like tomatoes, lemons, and wine can be cooked in a well-seasoned pan for short amounts of time. You can sauté cherry tomatoes in cast iron, but don’t try making a long-simmering tomato sauce. If you recently purchased your skillet and it still needs to be “broken in,” acidic ingredients can erode the seasoning and even make foods taste metallic.