In the South, cast iron skillets are treated as family heirlooms. Folks bestow their well-loved, well-seasoned skillets in their wills and it's not surprising that there are bitter family feuds born from the bequeathed skillet's placement. You see, Southern cooks treat their cast iron skillet as a beloved friend. Caring tenderly for these skillets through regular cooking, cleaning, and curing means that some of us spend more time with the pan than our family.
There's a quaint Southern saying, "Cleaning another woman's cast iron is like kissing her husband," that rings true for me even as a Southern transplant. Here's why.
Cast Iron Skillets: The Ultimate Heirloom
The cast iron skillet is one of the few pieces of kitchen equipment that can become a family heirloom. I doubt one of my children will be waiting in anticipation for my old Instant Pot.
Most people aren't sure how to clean a cast iron skillet. Or worse, they've been misinformed about cast iron care. Caring for my pan is a tiny investment in a future family inheritance, and I have no qualms about protecting it from would-be steel-wool scrubbers or my husband, the notorious "soaker of pans."
The second reason I don't let anyone else clean my skillet is of course my own personal relationship with my pan. I have a set of cleaning and care rituals which work for me and my skillet. Essentially I've developed an intimate relationship with my favorite pan.
Cast iron skillets actually improve with regular use. My mom's cast iron skillet has the smoothest, nonstick surface I've ever seen on a skillet, and that surface has been earned by daily cooking and care. While I wait on inheriting that skillet, I'm making an heirloom of my own by using and caring for a newer skillet. When I cook something in my skillet, I think about my own daughter or son cooking in it one day. I'm working hard to smooth the surface and build a nonstick surface for them — not for me.
Learn more: 5 Myths of Cast Iron Cookware
Do you have a beloved piece of kitchen equipment? Any family heirlooms you love and take *special* care of?