The Humble Cast Iron Skillet

Every kitchen in the South has one of these.


I have 2, plus a dutch oven. What does this have to do with writing?  Depends.  OK probably not much, but I write about all things Southern and yes, there is a cast iron skillet in my WIP.  Just a cameo.  When my grandmother died, I was curious to know who got to go home with her jet black, well seasoned skillet.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t me.  But that’s OK, it went to a great home and is well loved.  I like mine.  I don’t know if these are as popular up North as they are here.  Down South,  they are indispensable.  They are better than non-stick.  Actually, if taken care of, they will be non-stick.  Eggs’ll peel right off. Cornbread can should only be made in a cast Iron skillet, otherwise it tastes funny.  The same is true for making gravy and roux.  It’s impossible to get the deep copper color needed using stainless.

A worthy skillet is heavy. Most people will tell you to only buy a certain brand, and I agree. It starts with an L.  If you drop it on your toe, it’ll break.  The toe not the skillet.  It also makes a great weapon.  I’m positive the chick in Tangled wielded a cast iron skillet and not some flimsy stainless steel thing.

The only thing I can compare a cast iron skillet to is a wok.  What? No, I have not lost my mind.  My wok is my second most loved piece of kitchen equipment.  Both must be seasoned.  Both are very versatile. And both are culturally significant to those who love and use them. Trust me.  These skillets become members of the family and heaven help the person who messes one up.  The only other item that has the same feelings attached to it is the biscuit bowl.  Biscuit bowls are rarely seen or used these days.  My great-grandmother’s biscuit bowl was stolen from the family house after she died.  People are still talking about that fiendish theft.  Sorry, I’ll get back on track.

Things never to do with cast iron, or the owner of said skillet will never make you fried chicken and gravy again:

  • use a harsh cleaner or scouring pad to clean.  Honey, if it is seasoned right this isn’t necessary.  If something does stick, just re-season it, or make a pan of cornbread.  It does the same thing.
  • cook with tomatoes.  I know this is hard to believe but the acid in tomatoes eat the seasoning off.  Unless, you are frying the tomatoes, then it’s all good.
  • The Cardinal sin: Never leave water in the skillet for prolonged periods.  Water is the archenemy of cast iron and will cause it to rust.  That is one problem you do not want  to fix.

These skillets have been known to last decades, and in a world where everything seems disposable it’s nice to have something to hold onto.  Something that is both beautiful and useful.  Especially, when that something is associated with wonderful memories involving people and food.

What’s in your kitchen cupboard that you can’t live without?




2 thoughts on “The Humble Cast Iron Skillet

  1. I lived most my life with one. First there was my grandmother’s, then my mother’s, and then mine. Mine was the biggest one I could find! One day I’m going to make deep dish pizza in it.

    As for your question… I cannot live without my crockpot (slow cooker to some). It probably makes 3 of the top 5 family favorite dishes. And in summer it is better to make a roast in that than the oven!


  2. Pingback: Row80 Sunday Roundup | C.K.Rich

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