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An Ode To Cast Iron

  • Food

As a child of the 70s I grew up with a mom who swore by her electric fry pan. She had one that was a lovely shade of harvest gold. You all know the kind I mean, right? Teflon was king and she made everything from boiled onions at Thanksgiving to our weekly rotation of American Chop Suey in that baby.

When I got married (the first time) she told me I also needed an electric fry pan. So I registered for one and it was a big heavy Farberware thing, I think. I never used it. It was cumbersome and awkward and I had skillets that were much easier to use. Teflon still ruled but by the time I married Dale we were hearing rumors that maybe Teflon wasn’t such a good thing. I continued to use it but I felt guilty about it.

cast iron skillet hanging for carole knits

Then. Oh, then. We became Civil War reenactors and everyone in the camp used cast iron. I had never cooked with cast iron before but we picked up a cast iron Dutch Oven at a swap meet and I started using it for stews and chilis. Soon after that I got a couple of Β cast iron fry pans. And then, Β I fell in love with the cast iron. It was non stick without using chemicals. It was period correct and easy to care for and so heavy that lifting it raised my heart rate. Silly me, though, I only used it when we were reenacting.

cast iron skillet handle for carole knits

One winter night, after we had been reenacting for a couple of seasons, Dale and I were in the kitchen and reminiscing about camp life and talking about how we missed it. And suddenly inspiration struck and I had him go out to the garage and pull out my camp kitchen box and get my cast iron skillet. I put it on the stove and I melted some butter and I fried us up a steak and it was the best steak ever.

fried chicken for carole knits

That cast iron skillet has lived in our kitchen ever since. I use it for steaks and fried chicken, for sauteing mushrooms and peppers and onions, for cooking bacon and pineapple upside down cake and just about anything else that gets cooked on top of the stove and even for things that get cooked in the oven. It’s easy to clean (I use lots of hot water and a Pampered Chef scraper to get rid of any leftover food and then I stick it back on the burner and heat it up until all that water evaporates then I hit it with a shot of cooking spray and I’m done) and I feel good about cooking food for my family in a pan that boosts their iron intake rather than, oh, giving them cancer.

Cast iron cookware is a very good thing.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Pineapple upside down cake in a cast iron skillet? Sounds like something we need the recipe for πŸ™‚

  2. It’s great how you can put them in the oven as well as on the stovetop. I use mine for hamburgers, frittatas and tarte tatin.

  3. Cast iron is AWESOME!! I inherited my grandparents cast iron fry pans and let me tell you – my grandfather’s chicken and wine only comes out good in THAT fry pan. My dad and aunt are so jealous! But we do really use them a lot.

  4. We have been talking about buying a cast iron pan as it would work better for most of the things I like to cook. After hearing you rave about it I’m going to find one TODAY!! xoxo

  5. My mother also cooked a lot in an electric skillet when we were growing up, but she always had an iron skillet that she used for some things. There were certain things that HAD to be cooked in an iron skillet. I have my grandmother’s iron skillet and use it frequently. Three things that must be cooked in an iron skillet are fried potatoes, pineapple upside down cake, and cornbread!

  6. I love mine! Being from the South that is we used for frying and even single layer baking! Could not do with them!

  7. I love my cast iron frying pans, and use at least one of them almost every day. Several of them belonged to my grandmother! But as I have become older, there are issues: 1) they are so heavy and hard to tip for pouring, and 2) in later life, women shouldn’t be getting as much iron replacement in the diet as I am probably getting from my frying pans. I haven’t decided yet what to do about this.

  8. I had a cast iron fry pan, but my husband, who is very, excuse the expression, anal about cleaning dishes always destoyed the pan’s seasoning. You make me want to try again!

  9. N just cleaned up a few rusty cast iron pans that were in the basement. I’ll be curing them this week and joining you in the cast iron cooking! Thanks for sharing how you clean them up after using.

  10. I, a child of the 50’s, grew up having to wash cast iron skillets. We had two, and a dutch oven. All I remember is how heavy they were, and how my wrists would give out trying to carry each one over to the stove to dry them out. Sigh. Suspect you can guess that I didn’t buy any for myself, and didn’t even keep the ones I inherited.

    I’m glad you enjoy yours, and thought to bring them in from the camp box.

  11. I have 3 of various sizes. My dad swears by them, and he got me hooked. It’s taking a while, but Tony is finally coming around. He grabbed the big one to fry bacon last weekend. Progress.

  12. My mother insisted I needed an electric fry pan (and an electric knife) when I got married, too. Neither one survived in my kitchen for very long. I also inherited a couple of her well-seasoned cast iron pans, but roommates never understood how to clean them. Besides, my dainty wrists had trouble with their weight πŸ˜‰

  13. We have a couple, as well as a huge dutch oven and a cornbread molded cast iron pan. We love them, but the rule in our house is that my husband has to take care of them (he’s the chief cook, I am the chief baker) because they are too heavy for me to handle. Plus he needs to do SOMETHING around the kitchen πŸ˜‰

  14. My Mom often used one – a hold over from camping. I know I have the big one and now I need to find it! Thanks for the cleaning info!

  15. I am a new convert to cast iron. My Mother used to make pineapple upside down cake in one. About five years ago I purchased one and never used it. Just last week I had a craving for pineapple upside down cake and pulled out the still unwrapped cast iron skillet. It turned out absolutely wonderful. Since them I have cooked steak and pork chops in it. Now it sits on the stove permanently. Best skillet ever. I have enameled cast iron pots which I use for soups and stews. The trick to keeping cast iron in good shape is to never wash it with soap, only hot hot water and in case of really stuck on bits, use coarse salt and rinse. Always dry it completely or it will rust. Great post!

  16. I love my cast iron fry pan – picked it up at a yard sale for $2.00. Best two dollars I ever spent. I do use my electric fry pan as well.

  17. Great post πŸ™‚

    I love making cornbread. I used to make it in my glass baking dish and it would come okay, but never quite like Grandma’s. One day a friend said “oh, you have to try it in your cast iron skillet”.

    I did and holy cow, was it fantastic. I’ve never looked back πŸ™‚

  18. Being a child of the South I have quite a collection of cast iron, which is well-used and much-loved. The huge dutch oven is great for jambalaya, chili, and of course, gumbo. There is a nice article about the cast iron collection of a famous golfer (whose name I cannot remember at the moment) in the Aug/Sept issue of “Gun and Garden” which you might enjoy.

  19. I, too, grew up with the Electric Skillet. (Hates ’em.) I’ve never had a cast iron skillet, but Tom used one all the time when he was in college and living on his own. He’s always wanted another; claims they make the best omelets ever! (As for me? I’m an All-Clad skillet kind of gal.)

  20. I just LOVED my Farberware electric skillet, and used to use it all the time. I especially liked using it for pancakes and french toast. I also used it for Hamburger-Helper-type meals, and when cooking meats. But since I don’t cook meat any more, and don’t make pancakes often, it tends not to get used too much.

    I like the cast-iron skillets too, but I hate the heaviness, so don’t drag them out too often either.

  21. We had an electric frying pan, too! There are a couple of them in my childhood memory, though I don’t think any of ours were Teflon coated. We certainly had other Teflon cookware! I even remember an electric frying pan being a bone of contention in my parents’ divorce agreement!! A man’s gotta cook, apparently.

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