In the South, cast iron skillets are treated as family heirlooms. 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.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.
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.
Read more: All the Things I Never Do to My Cast Iron Skillet
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?
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All the Things I Never Do to My Cast Iron Skillet