Where did cast iron cookware come from?

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I hear so many folks today are collecting cast Iron cookware. What is so great that makes one want to become a collector of this cookware was my question? What I remember about it is that it was very heavy and you had to keep it greased, (seasoned).

I also remember seeing it for sale in the windows of Trulock Supply in Climax. My Mother had several pieces and she did cook some of the best fried chicken in the county.
This interest in the old cookware got me to searching. By old I mean most collectors want the older sets of the cookware, however, there are new models that comes pre-seasoned and ready to cook.

When did we first use cast iron cookware? According to the history of the cookware, bare cast iron vessels have been used for over two thousand years. Cast iron pans were used as early as the Han Dynasty in China (206 BC-220AD) for salt evaporation. Cast iron cauldrons and cooking pots were treasured as kitchen items for their durability and their ability to retain heat, thus improving the quality of cooking meals. In Europe, before the introduction of the kitchen stove in the middle of the 19th century, meals were cooked in the hearth or fireplace, and cooking pots and pans were designed for use in the hearth. Therefore cast iron pots were made with handles to allow them to be hung over a fire or with legs so that they could stand up in the fireplace.

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The black cast iron cookware became especially popular with homemakers during the first half of the 20th century. Most American homes had at least one cast iron cooking pan and such brands as Griswold and Wagner Ware were especially popular. However, with the coming of the late 1950’s these companies folded, and the brands are now owned by the American Culinary Corp. The early Wagner and Griswold pots and pans from this era are highly sought after by many antiques dealers and collectors. These pots today are still being used by many households in America. The Lodge Company is currently the only major manufacture of the cookware in the United States.

Cast iron cookware fell out of favor in the 1960’s and 1970’s when Teflon-coated aluminum non-stick was introduced and quickly became the item of choice in many kitchens.
Today there is a large selection of cookware for the homemaker to choose from, but, the durability and reliability of cast iron as a cooking tool has ensured its survival, and cast iron is still recommended by most cooks and chefs as an essential part of any kitchen.

Its ability to withstand and maintain very high cooking temperatures makes it a common choice for searing or frying, and the excellent heat retention makes it a good option for long-cooking stews and such. The cast iron cookware has grown in the last few years to become more popular again especially with collectors.

I remember my Mother’s fried chicken so, I guess I’ll go to Gene’s barn and dig out my old cast iron pots and pans I got over 50 years ago when we got married and cook him some fried chicken! Or maybe a good stew. Oh goodness I am getting hungry! Who would have thought it with all the stainless steel cookware we now days!