There are a few things the Southern cook can not live without. Cast Iron is one of them. Recently, my husband and I went to buy a stove. I’ve never had the joy of buying one. Ours came with the house 16 years ago. After a short discussion, before we left, we agreed on getting a sleek, smooth ceramic top. Good thing, that’s mostly what they had in the store. I walked around looking at all the models. I opened doors, checked the listed features, then found a salesman.
We were moments away from paying for it when he said, “You can’t use cast iron.”
“What?” I almost yelled from shock.
No cast iron!
My husband looked at me in question. I mentally rolled through the list of things I need iron to make. Moments later I said, “No. We can’t do it.”
We left without a stove that night.
What’s so important about cast iron? Everything. As a Southern cook part of my identity is wrapped up in that glossy black skillet. Families pass down well seasoned skillets from one generation to the next. They are sacred to Southern cooking.
My daughter questioned me about it later. I told her without cast iron I wouldn’t be able to make gravy. She almost cried. Here’s a short list of cast iron uses:
- Cornbread– You can’t make cornbread without a cast iron skillet. People try but you can taste the difference. Granted cornbread cooks in the oven but I start it on the stove.
- Roux– The gooey dark slime that is the start of multiple dishes must be made in cast iron. Gumbo, gravy, jambalaya- all of these start with a roux. The necessary rich, copper color can only be achieved in cast iron.
- Gravy– yes you need a roux, but it’s so important I’m listing it separately.
- Fried Chicken– actually everything you fry. Come on, this is the South.
Actually it would be easier to list what I don’t cook in cast iron:
- things that boil- i.e. veggies
- things heavy on tomatoes- i.e. spaghetti
That’s it. I can’t live without my cast iron. As I post this I’m waiting for old school electric stove.
What’s your favorite utensil?