Lodge Cast Iron


There is no single cooking vessel in the Southern United States more revered than the cast iron skillet. And the only people who make them – at least the only ones who count – is Lodge. The pan above is my Lodge cast iron skillet. I have had it since 1993, which is young for a cast iron skillet. The surface is as slick as a baby’s bottom. It will never warp. If you treat it right, it will never scratch or rust. It is not uncommon here in the South for a Lodge cast iron skillet to be handed down from mother to daughter. And daughter to grand daughter. Sometimes I actually wonder how Lodge stays in business because these skillets never go bad. Ever.

I so love my Lodge skillet that I was thrilled when the Southern Foodways Alliance asked some of its members if we wanted to tour the factory. Heck, yes! Even in August in 100 degree heat. Even though my hair was just ruined for a reception a few hours later. Women who tour the Lodge factory do not “glisten”. They sweat buckets. And the safety glasses and earplugs are not fashion accessories.

So, this is Bob Kellerman, the CEO of Lodge. He is my new favorite boyfriend. Not only did he ask us to tour the facility, he and his wife, Cheryl, fed us first and Bob even offered to hold the baby of one of the guests while she went into the factory. Lodge has been a family business for generations. And the family is as nice as you would expect Southerners to be.

So here we go. Into the factory. This is Larry Raydo, Lodge’s quality manager. And he’s standing beside pure pig iron, which is what the cast iron skillets are made from. I was actually shocked to learn that some cast iron skillets are now being made in China from old car radiators, rusty pipes and who knows what else. Would you want to eat something cooked in that? I, for one, would not. Apparently, some of Paula Deen’s cast iron skillets were recalled after they started cracking apart on the stove. Yes, they were made in China. But you know what? I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that Paula Deen grew up cooking with a Lodge cast iron skillet.

But I digress. The pig iron is melted down and poured into a mold to form the skillets, pots and other Lodge products. I can tell you that this was the part I got a little nervous about. They let us stand fairly close – but not too close – to molten iron.

You see that really large dot of light? That is the iron being poured into the mold. Can you understand why children or frail people are not allowed on this tour? I think you can. But how fascinating to see the origins of my beloved cast iron skillet. My skillet came from six feet  away from where I was standing, 17 years ago. I am about to tear up.

At the end of the day, the cast iron dances off the line like elegant if somewhat hefty ballerinas.  Not two hours from being raw pig iron, the Lodge cast iron is ready for the box and shipment. Two hours. It’s a little humbling in a way that a raw element can become heirloom cookware in two hours. But it makes sense. It’s pure. It’s simple. And, at the heart of it, that’s what Southern is.

Just so you don’t think cast iron skillets are only good for fried chicken or catfish, here’s what I made in mine last night.

Ribeye Steak with Red Wine Sauce

2 ribeye steaks

Montreal Steak Seasoning

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 medium onion, sliced

Butter

2 tablespoons Marsala

1 cup dry red wine

1.5 ounces beef demi glace (available in gourmet stores)

¼ cup cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add a little vegetable oil. Season steak with Montreal Steak Seasoning and add to hot pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until medium rare. Remove steak, cover with foil and reserve.

Add mushrooms and onions and enough butter to sauté them sufficiently. When mushrooms and onions are nicely browned, add marsala and reduce until liquid evaporates. Add red wine and reduce by half. Add demi glace and melt it into the sauce. Add cream and combine well. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, slice steak and top with sauce.

10 Comments

Filed under beef, Uncategorized

10 responses to “Lodge Cast Iron

  1. I’m jealous – you get to do all the fun stuff ! What an extremely interesting tour this must have been – know Leon & I would have enjoyed it.

    Must tell you a story about two gifts. Roger & Judy Bixby brought us a gift at Dillard – Stone Ground Cornmeal from the historic Graue Mill, Oak Brook, IL, accompanied by a brochure of recipes with a corn bread recipe marked for us to try. The recipe said to bake in an 8 x 8 inch pan or muffin or corn stick pan. But I used the iron frying pan that I inherited from my grandmother. She was 81 when she passed away in 1981. A lot of corn bread and other wonderful things have been cooked in that pan!

    The corn bread made with the Graue Mill corn meal was absolutely scrumptious! Leon and I almost ate the whole cake at supper before I snatched it away from him and put it away for the next day.

    A few days ago, I made another batch of corn bread batter with Roger & Judy’s gift and cooked it in a muffin pan. The muffins were very good but the cake of corn bread cooked in Mama Kate’s wonderful old iron pan was tops! A perfect combination of two gifts!

    By the way, I’m ordering stone ground corn meal from Graue Mill!

    • the south in my mouth

      Wow! I would just dream of my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. Neither my mother or grandmother cooked so I had to start the skillet tradition. I’ll look into the cornmeal. I hear Anson Mills is also very good. Now I want cornbread!

  2. I got my first Lodge about five months ago and I’ve been using it a lot. I’m starting to see some more non-stick behavior, but I’ve got a long way to go. How long should it take to get that baby’s-bottom smoothness?

    • the south in my mouth

      It kind of depends what you’re cooking in it. The more you can fry chicken, sausage, etc. the quicker it will get there. Also see the comment above about putting the skillet in the oven with a thin coat of oil after every use. That speeds it up, too.

  3. “The surface is as slick as a baby’s bottom.”
    Next post request… how?

    I have a couple of Lodge skillets, and the only one that is well seasoned is my mother-in-laws. She’s a bit off these days and stays out of the kitchen (which is a very good thing), otherwise, I’d ask her what she did to the thing. I’ve read articles, instructions, how-to-manuals, etc… slathered mine with grease, shortening, oil… baked it for an hour, or three, or sometimes overnight in a low oven. My skillets look like a pock-marked teenager. Help!
    ~Jessica

    • the south in my mouth

      There are two key things that it actually took me years to learn. One is that the more you use the skillet, the more nonstick it becomes. I was only using mine once in a blue moon when I first got it and it definitely was not non-stick. Then I started using it a lot for things I knew would be successful like frying chicken or sausage – things with a good built-in grease quotient. Now I use it for everything. The other tip – which I actually learned from a guy at Lodge whose mother did this – is after you clean it, dry it thoroughly and apply a thin coat of vegetable oil, stick it in a hot oven for about 15 minutes. That lets the pores of the iron open up and absorb the oil. My husband, whose grandmother used a Lodge, pointed out to me that back in the day many families only had one skillet for everything and so it would naturally get nonstick very quickly!

  4. Gail Kerr

    Well, y’all have made me feel lucky today! I have three cast iron skillets that were my paternal grandmothers, little, medium and big. Like the three bears. Which I could cook in them. They are so smooth the butter slides around on contact.
    I also have some of the heaviest corn stick pans you’ve ever seen (they have an ear of corn pattern in them – really) that were also Nanny’s. I could kill burglers with them they weigh so much. Here’s a tip that works: when you’re making cornbread, grease them to death with Crisco shortening (NOT healthier oils). Put them in a 450 degree oven until they are smoking hot, then pour in your batter. Nothing sticks. Promise.

    • the south in my mouth

      You are so lucky! I have cornstick pans, too, and I agree that you can barely fit enough Crisco in there. That’s what makes the cornbread crust so shamefully good.

  5. pop

    i use the one that i bought 15 years ago a whole lot and it still does not compare to the ones that i inherited that are about 65 plus years old. they don’t make them the same.

  6. pop

    and ditto on everything said (including the corn muffin pans – mom has those). and even with the grease and bake in the oven dealy, the old ones (3 bears also) work better than the newer lodge one.

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