Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Cast Iron Frying Pans

My life in appalachia cast iron

When I was growing up, most of our food was cooked in a cast iron frying pan. Oh Granny used sauce pots too, but her cast iron pans were used on a daily basis (and still are).

Granny has a whole set of cast iron pans that nest inside each other with the smallest one being no bigger than my hand. She’s had them since her and Pap were first married.

Even before I ever thought about cooking, I loved those cast iron pans. From the largest one that’s hard to hold onto with just one hand, down to the least one. The way the frying pans sit within each other always reminded me of a family, I think that’s why I was drawn to them from such a young age.

The Deer Hunter and I use cast iron too. We don’t have as many pans as Granny but we do have several sizes. We have other pans, but I prefer our cast iron ones.

Lots of folks complain cast iron pans are hard to cook in because they are too hard to get seasoned correctly. (a quick google search with show you all you need to know about seasoning cast iron)

I’ve found the more you use your cast iron pans the more seasoned/non stick they become. Granny’s pans are unbelievably smooth.

Cast iron is inexpensive in the sense that it will likely last beyond your lifetime. Sometimes you can pick up cast iron pans for a couple a bucks at yardsales and usually even the rough looking ones can be brought back to life by the seasoning process.

Cast iron pans are extremely popular in Appalachia how about where you live?

Tipper

Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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46 Comments

  • Reply
    Ed Hunnicutt
    October 24, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    I use Cast Iron daily, mostly skillets, but I have a large Deep skillet that uses a 9-inch skillet as a top and I use it for soups, chili and stews. As well as Meatloaf. (yes, round meatloaf). I have around 20 cast iron items, inherited from both grand parents, my mom, some I bought, and even chuck wagon oven from my Great Grand Parents.. I’ll pass them along to my kids

  • Reply
    Ripley A. Bradshaw
    November 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Tipper, I’ve bought several iron skillets, and use them all the time, but, unlike my grandmother’s, they are all unfinished inside, and are difficult to properly season. I buy mostly Lodge pans, and noticed they had stopped finishing theinsides several years ago.
    I still love my cast iron, though!!!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    November 11, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Having been born and raised in Erie, PA – the town of Griswold Iron, I have just about every size and shape of Griswold pan that was ever made and have used them often throughout the years. But when we moved to a house with a dishwasher and because the old Griswolds are almost worth their weight in gold to Griswold collectors, I packed them safely away and now have various sizes of ceramic-coated cast iron skillets, saucepans and griddles because those can go in the dishwasher.
    I wouldn’t cook with anything else but cast iron either – although I do have a large stainless steel pot for cooking a large amount of pasta/spaghetti in if I need to.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    warren
    October 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I live in Appalachia of course, but we def like them!

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    October 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I absolutely adore my cast iron. As a matter of fact, I’m getting rid of almost all my “non-stick” and purchasing cast iron. Since modern “non-stick” can only be heated to a lower temperature and can’t go in the oven, I really see no reason to hang on to more than maybe one skillet. Cast iron is tried and true and I will never be without it!

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    October 12, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Wanda,
    I am so excited that you said saucepans were called stewers at your house! We grew up calling them “stirs.” I have tried to think where the name came from, finally theorizing that it was an adaptation of the wors stewers.
    This tends to prove my theory, that is very exciting! I grew up in southern Ohio, lots of southern and Appilachian influence there.

  • Reply
    Dorothy McCarver
    October 11, 2013 at 8:53 am

    A friend of mine was told by her doctor that she tended to be anemic and to cook her food in cast iron.
    Dorothy from Texas

  • Reply
    TimMc
    October 11, 2013 at 7:00 am

    We have a collection of skillets,and also a Dutch Oven my wife cooks in from time to time,nothing like cooking with cast iron, my mother cooked with iron and both my Granny and Mamaw used cast iron.. The Lodge Company is not to far from here about an hour and a half drive, now they make the best cast iron cookware.. Most of ours was handed down or bought at a thrift store or yard sale..

  • Reply
    marshall reagan
    October 11, 2013 at 5:34 am

    I have a large collection of cast iron skillets. I salvaged them from the rubble after our house burned to the ground in October 2011. I put them in a tub of vinegar to soak & when I took them out they looked as good as any that you would buy at Wal-Mart . then I seasoned them with lard like they used to. I had rather use them than any of this new fangled stuff you see now days . you take a pot of green beans cooked in a cast iron pot & see if they don,t get better tasting every time you reheat them. I think that food cooked in them is better for you.
    Marshall from N. Georgia

  • Reply
    elithea
    October 10, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    i have four with a lid for the biggest. i keep them in the oven, too. i got my aunt’s big pan when she passed–nobody else wanted it! didn’t know you couldn’t use them on ceramic stovetops, though. i must use mine only in the oven, since nothing’s cracked yet!

  • Reply
    Bradley
    October 10, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    With the exception of my Momma, who was the kindest most gentle person I have ever known, I was raised around some of the strongest women in this world. My Granny could have been a champion fighter if she had been a man, I swear. This is also true of my aunts. Well Gina S. and her comment brought back a story my Granny used to tell about a man back then that would get drunk come home and beat his little meek wife.
    You know they say what goes around comes around and it finally did. One night this guy comes home stumbling drunk looking for a fight. Yes, he beat his wife up before going to bed. That was a big mistake this time!
    He finally passed out cold! Being a rather patient lady she went to get her sewing basket. She then gently took all the cover off him. He was only lying on nothing but a sheet. She slowly rolled him over and over wrapping him like an Egyptian mummy. Once she had him totally wrapped, she got her sewing basket and patiently hemmed the sheet so it would not unwrap. Bet you have already guessed what happened next. Next she went out on to the back porch and got his razor strop. She was like that guy in the Kenny Rogers song “Coward of the County” she didn’t hold back she let him have it all! Granny was not there but, she said the neighbors said that he would yell a while, and then you could hear him cuss, and then he would beg a while. She had a point to make and make it she did! She spanked him good. They said he never come home drunk again.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 10, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Tipper,
    Tell Ethelene that I loved her poem…just wonderful!
    How could I forget frying french fries and or potato fries in my big cast iron skillet. Before I got my new stove my daughter-in-law would beg me to show her how I cooked fried potatoes that were evenly cooked all over and thru.
    She always wanted french fries cooked in the iron skillet when she visited…Oh, how I miss my old crusty wire burners…LOL
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Maybe Ethelene should do a small book of her special Appalachian poems!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    October 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    My mother made the best fried chicken in the world in a cast iron skillet.

  • Reply
    Wanda
    October 10, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I guess what you call sauce pots were what were called “stewers” at home. I thought it was generally used but I guess not–can’t seem to look it us.
    I have several cast iron skillets–mostly to cook cornbread but tried fried fish in the big one & it did a good job.
    I want to try biscuits in one. I have heard you can heat the pan like for cornbread. My best friend sops her raw biscuits in bacon grease & then pans them. Think I’ll try that in an iron skillet.

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    October 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Cast iron pans were common all over the US, probably in most of Europe as well. Mrs. Wanda has hers, and I have my own set for camping. I use a couple of cast iron Dutch Ovens as well.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    October 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I, too, chose a coiled eye stove over the smooth glass top so I can use my cast iron pots. We also derive a little iron in our system when we cook with cast iron, so they are a healthy way to cook. I have a wonderful cornbread pan passed down from my mother in law and several other pans I collected over 45 years of keeping house and cooking.
    The weight of the large ones are too much for me now, but I love the smaller pans I have and use them every day.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    October 10, 2013 at 11:04 am

    My mother, grand mothers, and all kin folks used cast iron to cook everything from cornbread, to fried taters, to fish. Good morning from East Texas.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 10, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Tipper,
    Like Miss Cindy, I got a special
    cast iron pan just for cornbread.
    But fried taters seem to brown much better in cast iron too. I’ve got several to use when I cook-out for fish. Things just taste better!
    When I was a boy, mama baked a huge cast iron panful of biscuits for breakfast, and on a wood stove. She also fried lots of
    eggs in cast iron, never had a
    stickin’ problem cause we used
    lard rendered from our own hogs.
    …Ken

  • Reply
    Lise
    October 10, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I love and use my cast iron pans all the time, they make everything taste better! I’ve been on the hunt for a good Griswold dutch oven…they are hard to come by (in good condition).

  • Reply
    Gina S
    October 10, 2013 at 9:58 am

    My cast iron pans get good use frying taters, baking cornbread, and on and on. I can’t imagine cooking without them. I once listened as a woman told a tale about her husband coming home from a night of drinking. He woke her to fix him some supper. I think they exchanged some words about that. She cooked and put his plate on the table. After he took a few bites, he complained about something then shoved the plate into the floor. Flying mad she picked up her cast iron skillet and whacked him in the head. He fell into the floor unconscious. So, she dragged him out to their car and took him to an ER. When he came to, he told the doctor that he walked into a door frame. And, he never yelled at her or raised his hand to her again. So, I guess those skillets might have another use.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    October 10, 2013 at 9:58 am

    I have lots of sizes and shapes. I have corn stick pans, 14 inch, 10 inch shallow and 10 inch deep, several just the size for an egg and some just for a big personal cookie. My favorite are two square cast iron pans for cornbread. Fried potatoes, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, gravy,and cornbread aren’t the same if not cooked in well seasoned cast iron. I just hope the person that inherits my cast iron, cares and loves it like I have.

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    October 10, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Love my cast iron pans and use them daily.

  • Reply
    Tom
    October 10, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Cast iron pans are all we have ever known and used. My earliest memory of cast iron pans was Granny Mandy’s cornbread. We have tried the non-stick pans, but these never measured up to our cast iron pans. Like you Tipper, cast iron means family to me.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    October 10, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I use my big cast iron pan constantly and have several other sizes. They remind me of childhood – my mother cooking with them and my grandmother using them on her big wood fired kitchen stove.
    love them!

  • Reply
    Tamela
    October 10, 2013 at 9:14 am

    As a youth I have lots of trouble with anemia. Remember Geritol? I downed lots of it!! My granny poo -pooed the stuff telling my Mom that if she’d just use her old cast iron skillets I wouldn’t have any problems! Mom had just started teaching and with all that new-found “wealth” she had bought herself a set of new stainless steel cookware. She thought granny was too old-fashioned so I keep “drinking” Geritol!
    As a newly wed I purchased two skillets and a kettle and used them in spite of my husband’s teasing. Even after 44 years I have trouble keeping them seasoned because he thinks they have to be washed and does so behind my back! He is a very stubborn man!!
    One more story: my daughter married a New Jersey man whose family spends their summers in Maine. Daughter always entered the Women’s Skillet Toss at the local fair when they went. After doing well in earlier years, she came in second the year she was pregnant with her first child. At almost 8 months pregnant, she lost her balance and control of the pan. As she fell the whole town thought they’d be witnessing a delivery right their on the spot; but that child is stubborn too (comes by it honestly 😉 ) and wasn’t born for another 6 weeks.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 10, 2013 at 9:11 am

    My mother used cast iron for everything. We have one of hers that we use for cornbread, fried taters, squash and okra. Cornbread not cooked in an iron skillet is not real cornbread in my opinion!

  • Reply
    dolores
    October 10, 2013 at 9:04 am

    For many years I used my cast iron pans, then I discovered the newer ones. I still like the cast iron ones as they just never wear out. I used my large one when I make a pineapple upside down cake. It just comes out so perfect. Yeah! It is heavy to turn over, but the cake is well worth it.

  • Reply
    Charline
    October 10, 2013 at 8:59 am

    I was a young adult before I realized not everyone used them!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    October 10, 2013 at 8:49 am

    We love cast iron skillets and cornbread cooked in a cast iron skillet really does seem to be better. It seems to be a big enough piece of cornbread that the moisture is retained better. Fresh from the pan, the cornbread is steamy and moist. Great stuff!!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    October 10, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Cast iron for me! My mom had quite the collection — even two corn stick pans. She had a wall in the kitchen where the pans hung. One day she had two of the great-grandchildren over for lunch & hears one say to the other “grandma never has cooked us any hotdogs in those hotdog pans.” Nearly twenty years later, at Suzanne’s wedding shower Grandma gave her the ‘hotdog pan.’

  • Reply
    Shirla
    October 10, 2013 at 8:34 am

    When I updated my kitchen, I chose the coil-top range when the salesman told me I couldn’t use cast iron on the popular smooth-top stoves. My sister said it was not because of scratching, but that cast iron retains heat and will crack the surface. She should know, she cracked the top on her old one. I have Mom’s old cast iron cookware that probably belonged to her mom. I use it every day and doubt it will ever wear out.

  • Reply
    kay
    October 10, 2013 at 8:34 am

    i have 4 in my oven as i write. everything is cooked in my cast iron except tomato (tomatoe) products. all from one little ole egg pan to large roast/soup pots. luv em

  • Reply
    Beth
    October 10, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Love my cast iron!
    I use it almost every day and makes me think the food is better. I only have a couple of pans handed down, but the new ones season up well, too.

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    October 10, 2013 at 8:03 am

    There’s nothing like cooking in an old cast iron pan. I’ve had one for 43 years. Ever since we got married and bought it..My favorite. Tipper my books came in .

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 10, 2013 at 7:54 am

    I have a couple of cast iron pans that I only use for cornbread now. My wife just had to have one of those glass topped stoves and they don’t seem to heat up right on it.
    My daddy had a huge cast iron pan that must have been 18 or 20 inches across. It covered about half of our 6 eyed wood stove. He got it to make doughnuts in. He would put about an inch and a half of grease in it and let them little treasures swim around for a while. Unlike people doughnuts get tan on the bottom first so daddy would flip them over and let them swim some more. Then its “everybody out” to drip off and cool a little. Now a sugar shower and a final ride. Over the lips and around the gums, look out belly here it comes.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 10, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Tipper,
    Cast iron is a favorite here too!
    I bake all my cornbread in a round cast iron pan. I just wipe it out and back in the bottom of the oven it goes. If you wash a cast iron pan, you must season it again or cornbread will stick even if shortening, oil or Pam is put in it before baking. I always wipe a teeny bit of oil around the pan before putting up.
    Cast iron heats even and holds heat well. At home my Mother and also my Grandparents fried chicken in cast iron pans. We don’t fry chicken anymore here only fish. LOL
    We have a huge cast iron skillet that can be used camping to fry up a big mess of fish. It is really to big for a standard stove. Mom also used cast iron kettles for stew, etc.
    My stove (corningware top) don’t allow some pans or cast iron. I can’t even can with a pressure cooker on it…I don’t miss cleaning the eyes though..My canning days are mostly over anyway. I still use cast iron in the oven and love my cast iron.
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…A knowledgeable cast iron dealer, can clean up the crusties, rusty old burnt to death cast iron. I have seen the guy we used to know, take a burnt, baked on piece and clean it and season it until it was as smooth as the picture you have shown…He does soak his in something and buffs them with wire or something…He will keep it for a couple of weeks or so but it always came back in better shape. There are so many collectors of cast iron that really never use the pans…LOL
    I bought both my boys cast iron skillets for their cornbread and now they say their cornbread tastes just like home! LOL
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…When I was a young girl helping with company supper at home, my Mother insisted we bake up some corn sticks in the cast iron corn stick pan. She had two pans so usually that was enough for company! LOL

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    October 10, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Count your kitchen furnishings
    By cast iron pots:
    Frying pans, several stacked by size;
    Other pans, quite a lot
    In the dowry of any mountain girl:
    A dutch oven with cast-iron lid:
    At the hearth coals beneath and over it
    To bake the family’s bread.
    A covered iron pot hung on a spit
    Bubbles and boils, with beans and pork,
    Or stew with ‘maters and taters,
    Ready to feed hungry mouths after work.
    “Not much,” people say, “these people in the hills
    Have peculiar ways, not much of life to show wealth or ease.”
    But with cast iron pots and a will to work,
    A prayer for blessings and never to shirk
    Duties of living and working in harmony and peace
    They have a sense of purpose–deep,like the solidarity of cast-iron ease.

  • Reply
    Quinn
    October 10, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I had to reluctantly stop using my deep skillet last year because of arthritis in my hands – only a matter of time til I would have dropped it. I now keep it on the woodstove filled with water to put some moisture into the air, but I feel a little sorry for it, being “reassigned” to such a mundane task! Someday someone will come visit and take me to task for abusing a lovely cast iron skillet that way, and I will give it to them to put back into real service for another hundred years or so!
    I do still use the lid of that skillet to bake cornbread and Irish soda bread. That lid is the only cast iron pan I still use. It’s wide, but shallow, so not too heavy.

  • Reply
    Howland
    October 10, 2013 at 7:34 am

    I cannot remember when my Mom didn’t have cast-iron skillets; the Mountaineer and I have a couple that once belonged to her, now. I remember Mom starting to prepare the sauce for Saturday night’s spaghetti dinner in a cast-iron skillet at about 10:30 in the morning, Gramps showed up about four pm, dinner was at six. This was in the Frozen North in my teen years and I’m within a year or two of your Pap in age. Teflon was not an issue then because it didn’t exist, and the only non-cast-iron frying pan on the place was, I think, the sheet-iron skillet in my camping gear in the trunk of my car. Fried chicken just ain’t real if it ain’t cooked in cast iron..

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 10, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Oh yes, I love my cast iron pans. When I was growing up there was always a cast iron pan in the oven with oil in it and a spatula. It was for frying eggs. We ate a lot of fried eggs. That was before the cholesterol scare made people afraid to eat eggs.
    There were four of us in my family and we each fried our own eggs, usually eating at different times, then put the pan back in the oven to await the next egg cooker. About once a week we washed it and started it’s process over again.
    We also kept a dedicated cornbread pan. In order for the cornbread to fall out of the pan with a smooth golden crust the pan needed to be properly seasoned. For example, it didn’t work well to cook cornbread in the egg pan. LOL
    So, we had a dedicated pan for cornbread and nothing else.
    Who says life was simpler back then wasn’t thinking about the complexity of the perfect cornbread pan!

  • Reply
    pinnaclecreek
    October 10, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Healthy choice! I use them all the time. I read so much bad stuff about aluminum, so cast iron is choice. I have one with lid that I use constantly on top of stove to cook cornbread or fried potatoes.

  • Reply
    Carol
    October 10, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Yes,I enjoy using cast iron. I have started baking biscuits in a cast iron skillet. They bake evenly. My favorite size is not a Wagner or a Griswold…not named only made in the U.S.A. on the bottom. Have a terrific Thursday from middle TN!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 10, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Love them except for the weight. We were lucky enough to inherit my grandmother’s and my parent’s and my husband’s uncle who was a chef. We use ours on a daily basis.

  • Reply
    Susan
    October 10, 2013 at 6:44 am

    Cornbread made in a cast iron pan , heaven.

  • Reply
    Dan McCarter
    October 10, 2013 at 6:21 am

    I live across the mountain in Sevierville Tn and I have a good collection of cast iron pans and I love them.

  • Reply
    Bradley
    October 10, 2013 at 6:02 am

    I think most people have some cast iron pans around here. They never wear out and I believe they keep a more uniform heat than other pans. They have also been known to be a good tool to crack a few heads with when the situation arises. LOL

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