Sunday Reader: Comfort In Cast Iron

I like to cook.

In fact, I’m a really good cook if I do say so myself. I don’t really have a “go to” recipe that I cook all the time, but I do have a “go to” piece of hardware. Well, really, two pieces of hardware: my 9-inch and 10-inch Lodge cast iron skillets.

There’s something about cast iron. It’s extraordinarily versatile, sturdy, and reliable. It’s a comfort. I’ve used it for just about every cooking application: baking buttermilk biscuits and cornbread to making grilled cheese sandwiches for my son Lucas to searing steaks and roasting chicken to making chili (yes, I know that acids in tomatoes will eat away the seasoning, but oil is cheap and reseasoning isn’t difficult) to making cobblers. A properly seasoned cast iron pan, in my opinion, is your best friend in the kitchen (or on the grill or at your campsite).

The staple of Southern kitchens is definitely the OG in non-stick cooking. Thanks to the miracle of science, polymerized fats keep food from sticking to the pan and makes cleanup much, much easier. In fact, it’s not uncommon to have cast iron cookware passed down from one generation to the next. Which, if you think about it, is pretty incredible since you can pick up a quality cast iron pan for about twenty bucks. I don’t know many people clambering for grandma’s toaster oven.

Why’s that? Think about the stories attached to family heirloom cast iron. The smells associated with your grandma’s or mom’s famous fried chicken or you grandpa’s or dad’s gravy. There can be a strong nostalgia that stirs up when you break out your family’s cast iron and recipe book. Now, that doesn’t mean newly bought cast iron is less worthy or desirable than heirloom cast iron.

In fact, it allows you the chance to build family traditions and experiment with recipes that can be passed down to future generations along with your cast iron cookware. Embarking on the journey as a first generation cast iron owner gives you the chance to write your own story and allow future generations to continue it.

I take comfort in the legacy I’m building as Lucas watches me cook dinner or his grilled cheese sandwiches. I hope to pass down my cast iron and my cooking skills to him, and I hope he will get as much enjoyment in sharing time in the kitchen with his kids in the future as I am sharing with him now.

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xdog
xdog

Good article. I own some legacy cast-iron skillets too that I use mainly for cornbread, eggs, and stews. I bet you’d agree that people trying to cook cornbread in non-cast-iron might end up with something interesting and even tasty but it won’t be cornbread.

Will Durant
Will Durant

I never agreed more with Lewis Grizzard in his stance that cornbread should be savory, not sweet. A pinch or two to counter the bitterness of the baking powder is OK but otherwise if you want sweet then make a pound cake. And yes, nothing but cast iron can achieve that perfect crust. No cast iron releases cornbread like a seasoned and smoothed skillet. My kick with the modern Lodge ones are that they leave them with the rough surface they come out of the sand mold with. You can get modern skillets with smooth bottoms but they ain’t cheap.

chefdavid
chefdavid

And the best part of Lodge? Made right around the corner. I would encourage readers to make the trip to the store in South Pittsburg, TN as they come to visit the State of Dade for Cloudland Canyon or go hang gliding at the Lookout Mt. Flight Park. I love my cast iron. One of the things I love most is teaching Odessa to cook. I cringe when she chops up stuff.

Will Durant
Will Durant

I inherited 3 Griswold skillets from my grandmother including a 14 inch one that sealed the fate of thousands of chickens. The best fried chicken I ever ate came out of this pan though after raising and dispatching them she never ate chicken herself. They are true heirlooms. I take my Lodge skillets camping.

downthemiddle
downthemiddle

BREAKING NEWS! We have a topic we can all agree on. STOP THE PRESSES!

I suck as a cook…no doubt about it….BUT I married one of the most wonderful cooks on the face of the planet.

I clean that sucker up quite a bit. That is my job. And IT DONT GO IN THE DISHWASHER…right?

Noway2016
Noway2016

Nathan, isn’t cleanup on one of those just to wipe it out after you’re finished with it? No dishwasher for sure but is it ever really cleaned in the normal sense?

Ellynn
Ellynn

I don’t own a cast iron skillet. Nor did either one of my grandmothers. Not even my mom. (I do own a Lodge over the burner flat grill). I have my grandmother’s old pieces of Le Creuset (porcelain enameled cast iron) that her great aunt on the Luxemburg/ Germany border near the Rhine valley shipped to her in 1938ish as a wedding gift. It is a Dutch oven and a cocotte, which has a cover they can share. The cocotte has been tested with my other grandmother’s cornbread recipe. It’s a sweet one that is served cooled with about a… Read more »