Q: I've been experimenting with blackening meat and fish using a cast-iron pan I borrowed from my mother. I want to get a pan for myself and wonder if all cast-iron pans are the same and how I should "season" the pan?

And could I use a cast-iron griddle on my grill outdoors, since the blackening method produces a lot of smoke?

Lynne: Absolutely use a cast-iron griddle or pan on your outdoor grill. When buying a cast-iron pan, there are some quality features to look for. The pan should be thick and heavy and the surfaces and edges should be very smooth. One quality brand that comes to mind is Lodge.

When you get the pan home, scrub it with a steel wool pad to get rid of all the sticky surface coating designed to protect the pan prior to purchase. Set the pan over very low heat until it's thoroughly dry, coat it generously with a flavorless vegetable oil, then place the pan in the oven set at 300 degrees and leave it for several hours. Turn off the heat and leave the pan in the oven overnight. Lightly rinse the pan with hot water, wipe out the moisture, dry over very low heat, rub it with oil, and again place it in the oven to "bake" for several hours. After that, every time you use the pan clean it with hot water only, try not to use soap, wipe it out and dry over very low heat.

As you use the pan it will become more and more non-stick but if anything does stick to the surface scrub it off with salt. Because cast-iron is brittle, each time you use the pan start off with moderate heat to warm up the pan gradually, then increase the heat if you need to.