By Kim Newsom
To many Tennesseans, a cast-iron skillet is considered just as precious as a great-grandmother’s quilt or a treasured family photograph.
I’m one of those people.
Last Christmas, I received my first piece of cast-iron cookware. It was a cornstick pan – given to me by my grandfather, who thought my late grandmother would want me to have it.
He was right; I felt so honored to receive it, and the pan is now one of my prized possessions. Every time I use that cornstick pan, I think of my grandmother.
I consider cast iron to be more than just a type of kitchenware; to me, it represents Southern cooking at its core. Seasoned with memories and love, cast-iron cookware represents family gatherings around a Dutch oven full of stew or the early-morning smell of bacon frying in a skillet wafting to the bedrooms of sleepy children.
Beyond its personal meanings, cast-iron cookware has its definite advantages to other kitchen products.
Cast iron absorbs and retains heat more efficiently than most other cookware, which means you use less energy. It also distributes this heat evenly, which provides for perfect cooking all the way through. (Related article: How to Care for Cast Iron)
For recipes that require both the stovetop and the oven, cast iron moves effortlessly from one to the other.
Cast iron has health benefits too. Well-seasoned cast iron boosts your iron intake, and it requires less or no oil as compared to other kitchenware – perfect for heart-healthy recipes. And best of all, cast-iron products (when properly maintained) last nearly forever, making those family pass-downs even more special.
In our celebration of cast iron, we’re sharing a few recipes that are truly best when prepared in this unique cookware. We hope you’ll enjoy them, and we invite all our Southern cooks to tell us your cast-iron memories and recipes.
Tennessee-Made Cast Iron
Did you know you can find great cast-iron cookware that’s made right here in Tennessee? In fact, South Pittsburg-based Lodge Manufacturing is the oldest family-run cookware business in the country. Started in 1896, Lodge has built a reputation as one of the premier cast-iron companies in North America – with an expanded product line that now includes enamel-coated cast iron.