Treasured Cast Iron

Phyllis Inspiration 36 Comments

I asked my Mother how many cast iron skillets she has. And she replied “two.” One large black skillet she used for her specialty dishes and a small one that is used only for her cornbread.

She told me of when her Dad gave her this skillet when she got married and every “pone” of cornbread that she has ever made was cooked to perfection in that skillet. For 69 years she has flipped perfectly shaped, round cornbread onto the plate, piping hot from the oven. Hers has the perfect brown crust and is soft in the middle.

Cast iron is amazing and has found a resurgence of popularity in recent years. Young people are finding cast iron skillets in antique stores or sometimes finding them at their mom’s house and giving them a new home.

When Neal and I were visiting Paula Deen and Michael Groover, she brought from her oven the most perfect biscuits cooked on an iron rectangular pan. They were so crusty and good, especially with butter and honey. She has a wonderful collection of cast iron cookware and uses it every day.

While antiquing in Tennessee several years ago, I found a cast iron pan that resembled a muffin pan, but the cups were round. I had no idea what you would cook in that pan and very foolishly did not buy it. Do you know what it would have been used for? If you do, let me know. Curiosity has gotten the best of me, along with remorse for leaving that treasure in Tennessee.

I treasure my cast iron skillet and look forward to collecting some old pieces or some fabulous new ones. Make sure you season your skillet before you use it. With time, the iron will become very slick and fine.

What do you make in your cast iron cookware?

Comments 36

  1. It happens at times, I do this, heat the oven at 200, then I just wipe a bit of Crisco shortening around the inside of the pan, put it in the oven for an hour. Wipe out any excess when you remove it , should help. I find easy to do while cooking when you aren’t using it. Soap will hurt the finish, if something sticks and it does happen at times, I just soak it in hot water. I have a lot of pieces, so if rust appears, I scrub that down with a scrubber, then do the above a couple of times, works every time.

  2. Cornbread!!
    It just isn’t worth the effort if it’s not cooked in a cast iron skillet — preferably one inherited from a beloved Mother, Grandmother, Aunt,…
    Gail, thank you for the knowledge of the Danish Pancakes & the recipe. I, too, had seen those pans and never known that they were for a special Danish treat!
    Phyllis, thank you for starting this great discussion. I have enjoyed all that has been shared!!
    Blessings to each of you…

  3. What fabulous memories all you gals have! There is nothing like a cast iron pan to cook in… My husband makes some delicious steaks in ours and as much as I love it barbecued, this stands up to it and maybe a tad bit tastier!

  4. I have four cast iron skillets…..two are the same size and I use one as a lid….can not duplicate the taste of a pot roast done in that skillet. Like my meat loaf done in it as well and chicken browned and finished off in the oven is to die for. Must try corn bread….would you believe I never have

    1. I have several pieces from my grandmother and I watched her make cornbread never using a recipe. Put 1 egg in a bowl, add couple Tbs. oil and about a cup of buttermilk then add cornbread mix using White Lily with the baking powder and salt already in it. If using just the plain corn meal add a little BP and dash of salt. Mix all this and if too thin add more meal, if too thick add more buttermilk. Tweak it until it is perfect for you. I use either a corn stick iron sprayed with Pam spray or a small or medium sized iron skillet either pre heated in a 400 F oven. Pour into pan and remove when golden brown.
      Sometimes I put parmesan cheese in the batter and sometimes a can of Hatch green Chiles, sometimes cheddar cheese. Do your own thing. Sooooo good with real butter. Sorry I never measure. I always use a little Dawn soap and wash my pans out and wipe dry. Spray with Pam spray before I use them anytime for any food and I never have to reseason. They stay perfect and I am 80 yrs. old and been using them since my grandmother left them to me in 1969.

  5. I moved to an apartment (temporarily after my husband died.) ending up 2 1/2 years. I couldn’t barbecue so I hauled out my Mom’s cast iron skillet. I watch Masterchef Canada and saw how they pan seared beautifully juicy steak. I have now seared steak, pork and lamb chops. Now I have moved to a townhouse and can barbecue, but will continue to pan sear in the off season.

  6. I am an 83 year old woman who has cooked in an iron skillet since childhood and could not live happily without my iron skillets. I have many sizes and use them for whatever suits my fancy. Certainly cornbread and fried chicken just are not the same cooked any other way. I seldom fry chicken these days but may treat my family to some this weekend……their “once a year” fix!!! I NEVER make cornbread without cooking it in iron. I have told my children that if I’m ever near death, “make cornbread” and it will revive me for sure. My recipe made for my father-in-law many times is perfect for a 10″ skillet, which makes a thin “pone” with TWO crispy sides. That’s our favorite. I have sometimes given this recipe and a 10″ skillet as a new house or wedding present. I always buy an antique one to gift and use them myself. Lodge makes a good one but it is much too heavy for me and the old ones are already seasoned. I have always used soap and water and washed by hand and do not need to reseason. Just put your fat or oil in the next time you cook and proceed as usual. It makes everybody happy ….both the cook and his or her guests.

  7. does anyone use their cast iron on the glass topped stoves.? I understood you shouldn’t but my daughter-in-law and her brother use them on it. I have a brand new stove (range) with glass top and afraid to try it. Elaine

    1. You certainly may! I’ve done it many times. The only thing you want to be careful of is a skillet that sits on a rim. The rim traps heat in that tiny space and could do some damage to your flat-top. Look for a skillet or other piece of cookware that is perfectly flat on the bottom. I have a cast griddle that I can not use on my flat top because of this.

  8. My husband has collected cast iron skillets of every shape for about 15 years and has over 90. The majority are marked GRISWOLD or WAGNER, though he does have some very old unmarked ones that have a ridge on the bottom where they were broken out of the mold/cast.

    He is the cornbread maker in our house. He mixes up a huge bowl of batter after carefully picking out 4 or 5 pieces of cast iron. We eat a little that night and then freeze the rest. (It takes no time to reheat in the toaster oven.) The grandchildren love all the different shapes!

  9. I purchased an old cast iron chicken fryer at a garage sale in 1963 for 50″ cents. I have been using it ever since for everything. It’s great for a large batch of cornbread for a crowd and any large dish that you can fry or bake.

  10. A wonderful resource for learning about cast iron and cooking in cast iron is “cast iron cooking” on Facebook. A great group of wonderful and helpful, knowledgeable people.

  11. My mother left me several of her cast iron pans. The one I bought myself a couple decades ago was always difficult to clean. Learned the trick to cleaning baked on crusty layers is just put a thin layer of Club Soda to cover cooked-on residue and let it sit about 5-10 minutes. Wipe it out with paper towels. Re-season. Now I cook cast iron almost all the time. My mom also left me an electric cast iron fry pan which I love.

  12. I have three skillets, and a huge dutch oven. Cast Iron….it’s the best! Over the years we have gathered every luxury brand of expensive pans, but none compare to my cast iron. They are still my “go to” for just about everything. I see that others mentioned what kind of pan you passed up already. {I would have loved to have that pan in cast iron!}

    I suggest to everyone I know to try to buy their cast iron in an antique shop, or at a flea market. Those old, old ones are so much better than starting from “new” and some boiling hot water should clean off any remnants of germs or whatever might be on there. Did I say I adore my cast iron??

  13. As Gail already mentioned, and so well described, the half circle pans are for Aebleskivers. My mother has an Aebleskiver pan and we often had these as I was growing up for a Saturday breakfast . My mother would add about a teaspoon of applesauce to the center of each Aebleskiver after pouring the batter into the half circles. And while a special Aebleskiver tool or knitting needle can be used to turn them, my mother always used a fork, so I did the same. It took some practice, but I finally mastered it! We also had ours served with butter and jam, but my dad always loved maple syrup with his.

  14. I use my cast iron skillets for everything, and I mean everything. I bake perfect pineapple upside down cakes in my large one and I also do ginger peachy cakes. They are just like pineapple upside down cakes but I use peach slices and a ginger bread mix for them.

    Both are wonderful and nothing ever sticks. I always carefully wash my skillets by hand just with hot water and dry. They are waiting for my next adventure.

  15. I inherited 3 cast iron skillets, plus a small assortment of other shapes. I don’t cook pasta in them, but about everything else. So cooking is a sort of my daily weight-lifting exercise.

    I was in a hurry the other night. I instead of cutting up and stacking the biscuit dough (for easier separation at the table) the dough went straight into a lightly oiled cast iron skillet- filling it to the sides. My laziness was rewarded with compliments all around.

  16. Unfortunately I did not keep my mother’s cast iron skillet because I had an electric stove & was always told you couldn’t use them on an electric stove. Since then I’ve had people tell me that they do. I would like to get one – any recommendations on what brand to buy? Thanks!

    1. Lodge cast iron products, South Pittsburg TN, are found in many up scale hardware stores. However, many of their items are made in China

    1. To clean pour a thin layer of Club Soda to cover baked or burned on residue. Let sit for 5-10-15 minutes and wipe out with paper towel. Re-season. Don’t ever wash with soap and water as it does something to the finish and I’ve been told the pan also absorbs the soap taste which will of course affect the flavor of what you’ve just cooked.
      Also learned oil still needs to be used in the cooking. I use Mazola corn oil to season. Canola seems to go rancid.

      1. Thanks for the great advice, Candice.
        I recall my grandmother wiping the pans with a scalding hot washcloth then placing the pan on the gas stove with the burner turned on for about 30-45 seconds (to avoid rust?). She also used Mazola corn oil to season.

  17. Cornbread, biscuits, cinnamon rolls all taste better out of a cast iron pan. I live in Texas and pinto beans and chili come from a large iron dutch oven. Nothing better!

  18. I’m going to take a guess that the pan with round holes that you saw was an Aebleskiver pan. Aebleskivers are a form of pastry from Denmark. They are like little round pancakes. You can also put some filling in them. Very delicious. I just purchased a Lodge cast iron aebleskiver pan last month so I know they are out there.

  19. The pan you didn’t buy was to make Danish Aebleskivers (pancake balls). Recipe: 2 C. Buttermilk, 2 C. Flour, 2 Eggs, 2 tsp. Baking Powder, 1/2 tsp. Salt, 1/2 tsp. Soda, 2 tbsp. Sugar, 4 tbsp. Melted Butter.
    Separate eggs and beat whites until stiff. Mix all other ingredients together and beat until smooth. Fold in eggs whites quickly.
    Heat 1 tsp. vegetable oil in each cup of the Aebleskiver pan. Put 2 tbsp. of batter in each cup and turn when bubbly around edge. Use a long knitting needle or fork to turn. Turn 1/4 way over, then all the way over. Cook until middle is done.
    Serve with butter and syrup, or with powdered sugar and jam.
    Gail Appel, Galena, Illinois

    1. I have my husband’s grandmother’s pan, I make these quite a bit . How fun and I’ll see if your recipe is the one I have too.

      1. On top of the stove, Victoria. I just checked our pan to see if the tool that my husband’s grandmother used was there and unfortunately we don’t have it. It reminded me of a 6″ long, narrow and pointy tuning fork.

        “The Danish Ladies Aebelskiver Sale on the first day of the festival provided treats to many” is a newspaper clipping from my sister-in-law. She wrote “GREAT” in the corner. Our family tradition is to put the finished pastry in a paper bag, shake with a dusting of granulated sugar, then serve.

  20. My cornbead is always made in a round cast iron skillet. (I have two of these) Not the same if made in any other pan! I do not wash my cornbread skillet, but rather wipe it clean with paper towels. I found it is best not to use soap and water on the cornbread one. I also have a deep cast iron chicken fryer and it makes wonderful crispy chicken. In all I have five pieces of cast iron. I am glad others love this too!

  21. Just this weekend, one of my sons called to help bale him out of a problem…thinking he was doing a good deed of cleaning the kitchen, he had put his older brother’s cast iron skillet in the dishwasher, only to open it and see a rusted mess. No problem! Wash it, re-season it, and don’t do it again. Lesson learned and mom to the rescue 🙂

  22. I love my well-seasoned cast iron skillet that I inherited from my grandmother. I use the skillet for my now go-to recipe for apple pie that you published in your blog last year. Delicious!

    1. Almost! I knocked my husband’s vintage pan onto the floor, and to my surprise the handle broke off. I replaced it, and hope it will last me forever.

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