Cast iron, once the hallmark of any great cook’s prowess, declined in usage over the years, but lately it seems to be making a comeback, and not just for campers and survivalists.
Cast Iron Usage Decline
As aluminum, glass, stainless steel, and Teflon® cookware came into existence, people set aside those cast iron frying pans, Dutch ovens, and even saucepans. They were heavy, prone to rust if not dried thoroughly after washing, and needed to be seasoned every so often (including before the first use). Small wonder that lightweight aluminum was popular, that see-through glass saucepans where you could stop those boil overs before they happened became hip, and that stainless steel and non-stick cookware still dominate the market.
Cast Iron as Décor
A lovely lady on Facebook has a page called Junkin Addict. She posts some really neat things, but it was this series of photos that really showed how cast iron is not just your granny’s pan of choice for making that finger licking, “eat til you can’t move,” “never tasted anything so good” fried chicken. As you will notice, cast iron is just as good with a modern stove as it was on that old classic. And these days it even comes with color coatings on some pieces. Hanging those frying pans not only looks great, all homey and harkening back to “simpler times,” but keeps them readily available for when you actually get the urge to cook.
Le Creuset Brings Beauty to Cast Iron
The Le Creuset company produces the best enameled cast iron cookware on the market, and their prices are high enough to match. Their cookwares are a reflection of our changing times. Eating changed around the turn of the 20th century from just something to keep your tummy content to a form of self-expression and a pursuit of sensory pleasure. Cooking became less of a chore and more of a joy. Part of this was due to the rise of restaurants such as Del Monicos, where patrons would enjoy strange new dishes and then try to replicate them at home. Le Creuset, to meet that demand, introduced the first vibrant, flame-colored enameled cast iron cocotte in 1925. This ground-breaking cocotte took a kitchen staple—cast iron cookware—and refined it, making it more functional, more beautiful and deeply joyful. This 90-year-old company continues to produce excellent products.
Fortunately, Le Creuset is found in many areas, including this wonderful store chockfull of items that your inner chef will crave!
Lodge Cast Iron a Cookware Staple
Lodge Cast Iron pre-dates Le Creuset by 10 years. Joseph Lodge and his wife settled into South Pittsburg, Tennessee, alongside the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian Mountains, and in 1896 opened the first foundry. It was originally named The Blacklock Foundry after Joseph Lodge’s friend and minister and burned down in May, 1910. Three months later and a bit south, Lodge opened a new facility called Lodge Manufacturing Company. They built up their reputation for quality and thrived through two World Wars and the Great Depression, continuing on even today.
Lodge’s dedication to quality, technology, and employees have helped it not only survive but flourish. In slow times, they innovated. Novelty items such as cast iron garden gnomes and animals were produced and sold to keep the furnaces burning and the paychecks issued. In 1950 Lodge, still a family-run company, converted its foundry from a hand-pour operation to an automated molding process in order to keep up with demand. This led to safer and more efficient manufacturing that at the time was very rare.
Today, Lodge has pre-seasoned cast iron, enameled cast iron, and more. So go for it! Lifting that cast iron will build up the pecs…maybe.
Netherton Foundry Getting Back to Basics
Another great manufacturer is Netherton Foundry, makers of traditional cast iron and spun iron items for food preparation in Shropshire, England. Everything from frying pans, tea kettles, and trivets, to fondue sets and tangines. Some items are enamel coated and available in an array of colors. They also feature recipes crafted specifically for preparing in cast/spun iron cookware. Their cookbook is full. They even have a cast iron cookbook stand to hold it at the perfect angle while you follow the recipes.
The Joy of Cast Iron
Cast iron will last far longer that most other cookwares. Aluminum dents. Glass chips, cracks, and shatters. Non-stick loses it’s non-stick (even the best ones need to be replaced every 5-10 years (in the author’s experience). And stainless steel, while probably the best option after cast iron, does not enrich the flavors of your foods.
Just food for thought.
© 2016-2020 A.C. Cargill photos and text
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