If you don’t own a Lodge Cast Iron skillet, your parents or grandparents likely do. This beloved Tennessee company has been making heirloom-quality cookware in South Pittsburg, TN, for over 125 years and has achieved many milestones over its flavor-rich history. They were the first to produce pre-seasoned cookware. They’re home to the world’s largest cast iron skillet. Like its products, the company itself has proven to endure a lot. Here’s a look inside the world of Lodge, along with some tips and myths about cast iron.
The History of Lodge
“Adapting to change has been part of our culture since we were founded in 1896,” says Laura Candler, Lodge’s Senior Manager of Brand Engagement, who’s been with the company for nearly a decade. “We’ve prided ourselves on being able to rise to any challenge. During the Great Depression, for example, we started manufacturing household items outside our typical catalog. This was to keep our team employed and bring affordable, useful items to our customers.” The original foundry also suffered a devastating fire in 1910 but rose from the ashes just three months later to become the Lodge we know today. In 2017, Lodge upped its output by 75% when the second foundry opened, and it started making seasoned carbon steel and enamel products. Pan fans worldwide can now come to Lodge for all their cookware needs.
Pulling back the curtain at the Lodge Museum and Factory Store
Tucked between the Appalachian mountains and the Tennessee River, South Pittsburg, Tennessee, has become a destination because of Lodge. “As a fifth-generation, family-owned company, Lodge continues to stay deeply rooted where it was founded with all of our facilities — including the foundries, museum, and factory store — together in South Pittsburg,” says Laura. The Lodge Museum of Cast Iron opened in October 2022 to give visitors an up-close view of Lodge’s rich history, culture, and process.
Explore numerous interactive exhibits, including How It’s Made, a recreation of the foundry experience; The Lodge History & Legacy Exhibition, which showcases the story of Lodge over multiple generations until today; and Cast Iron in Culture, where the versatility of cast iron is put on display. The museum also houses the “World’s Largest Cast Iron Skillet,” measuring 18 feet across! If you love that, you’ll love these other quirky roadside attractions in the South.
A day at the Lodge Cast Iron campus
The campus in South Pittsburg is a hive of activity and is home to “two foundries, an enameling facility, our distribution center, a culinary studio, and office buildings for our team,” Laura says. Every day is different. “In our Third Street Foundry, for example, we’re preparing iron for melting; pouring it into different sand molds to create your cookware; grinding, cleaning, and seasoning the iron pieces; and packing them for distribution.” While Lodge relies on some automation, a large team is always working in the foundry. “Some of them have worked here for over 40 years,” Laura adds. “Meanwhile, walk into our culinary studio, and you’ll find people testing recipes and creating videos for our community.”
Three cast-iron myths, busted
- MYTH: No soap in your cast iron EVER!
- TRUTH: “It’s a common misconception that soap will ruin the seasoning on a cast-iron pan when, in actually, a small amount of soap is perfectly safe to use from time to time,” Laura says. “Using too much soap may remove some of the pan’s seasoning, but it can easily be reseasoned as needed.” For everyday cleaning, Laura recommends using their pan scrapers or nylon brush.
- MYTH: Cast iron cookware is indestructible.
- TRUTH: “While cast iron is durable, it can still break. In fact, cast iron will break before it bends. If treated and cared for properly, cast iron cookware can last for generations,” says Laura.
- MYTH: You can’t use cast iron on induction cooktops.
- TRUTH: Laura refutes, “Cast iron can be used on any heat surface! You can use cast iron in the oven, on the stove, on the grill, or over a campfire. The only thing cast iron can’t be cooked in is in the microwave.”
Three tips for long-term cast iron care
- Soaking your cast iron in water might cause it to rust. “On the chance that your cast iron rusts, the Lodge Rust Eraser is the best way to remove rust as it’s easy to hold and use to remove surface rust and tarnish with precision,” Laura says.
- Avoid the dishwasher, as it will remove the seasoning. “Instead, wash your cast iron cookware by hand with a small amount of soap, dry promptly with a lint-free cloth or paper towel, and reseason your pan with the Lodge Seasoning Spray,” Laura suggests.
- Don’t use steel wool on cast iron. “We recommend using a Chainmail Scrubbing Pad or Pan Scrapers to remove any stuck-on residue.”
A piece of cast iron for every cook and setting
When building your cast-iron collection, start with a cast-iron skillet, which can go anywhere and cook anything like cornbread, steaks, or risotto. Then add a piece of enameled cast iron, which is great on the stove-top or oven but can also go into the fridge for marinating or storing that giant vat of chili we love to make in the fall. “There’s a piece of cast iron for every kind of cook!” Laura says. “If you’re looking for something lighter, our advanced line of Blacklock cookware is specially engineered to be lighter. If you’re cooking outside, we have iron made for grilling and campfire cooking. And if you’re a baker, our full bakeware line helps you deliver bakery-quality results at home.”
Thank you, Laura, for chatting! All photos courtesy of Lodge Cast Iron.
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