Pros: consistant, even heat. durable. usable on/in range, oven, campfire, grill
Cons: Must be properly seasoned and cleaned. Does not come with a lid.
I've always loved the classics and you don't get much more classic than a cast iron skillet. The 10 1/4 inch skillet from Lodge is everything a cook could ask for. You could spend more time and money hunting down a Griswold or Wagner, but for bang for the buck, you can't beat the Lodge. I paid $15 USD at Bed Bath and Beyond. I've seen prices range from $12-20 online and in stores. If you like flea markets, you stand a good chance of scoring one for under $10. Don't let anyone trick you into paying more because it's "seasoned". (However a Griswold or old Wagner could cost you a bit more than the Lodge.)
I have two of these great skillets. One was purchased about 10 years ago, before Lodge began offering pre-seasoned cookware, and the second is a pre-seasoned model that was purchased a year ago. (Seems Lodge no longer offers un-seasoned cast iron.)
Both were easy to season. (Even the pre-seasoned stuff can benefit from a little more seasoning.) I coated each inside and out with vegetable oil and placed upside-down in an oven pre-heated to 425 F. (Lodge recommends 350, but at that temperature, I find the oil does not always carbonize correctly an turns to a dark brown plastic-like substance.) I let the piece sit in the oven for 1-2 hours and then turn off the oven, leaving the skillet in the oven to cool down naturally.
The first few uses I cooked oily, non-acidic foods like bacon, fried chicken, and Italian sausages with peppers and onions as recommended by Lodge. I was quite happy with the results. The food cooked evenly with a great fond. Because the heat distribution was so even, I could cook at a lower temp (med instead of med-high) without any hot spots or loss of fond.
After the first few times using the skillet, I've tried all sorts of things, including red sauces and de-glazing with red or white wine or cider. I did not notice any off or metallic tastes which can sometimes plague improperly seasoned cast iron.
I've heard many people complain that cleaning cast iron can be a pain, but I haven't found that to be the case. Running the pan under hot water with a good stiff scrub brush is usually all that is needed to clean the pan. For some difficult, burnt on food, I've put hot water in the pan and boiled it for 10 minutes to loosen the black debris. A quick wipe with a little vegetable oil (after drying) finishes the cleanup process.
All in all, this is a great pan that gets better with age. With a little care, this will be a pan your great grandchildren will be happily using. After a few uses it starts to get that great black patina. Continued use results in a non-stick surface without the health risks of out-gassing teflon.
The finish on the pan is great. No rough spots. Even casting. Lids (available separately) fit nice and tight. Loop handle and pouring spouts are great for draining fat or pouring a pan sauce. (Kind of hard to manage with one hand as this is a heavy pan.)
A few things to keep in mind...
Season it well. You cannot over-season the pan. If you see any silver/gray spots, or rust spots, re-season it.
Wash it properly. NO SOAP or detergent. Hot water and a stiff brush only.
No sudden temperature changes. Cast iron (even enameled cast iron) can crack and warp when a hot pan is plunged into cold water or a cold pan is put in a hot fire.
About the only negative I have is the lack of a lid, however lids can be ordered directly from Lodge for short money. If you have one of their 10" dutch ovens, the lids are interchangeable. The self-basting lids are nice, too. The little spikes on the underside do a nice job of returning evaporated liquid to the food.