Cast Iron Cooking

By Joe Rector

It’s no surprise to folks that I love to eat. However, how picky I am about what I do consume might shock some. Whether the food was prepared by my mother or my wife, I never really considered the tools they used in preparations of those meals.

Mother had a couple of pans that matched. Copper bottom pots were the rage at some point, and she had a large and small one that held some of the most delicious food that was ever cooked.

My dear mother most often used the “old tools” of the trade. Yes, she had cast iron skillets. Fried food never tasted better than when it was prepared in those skillets. She kept them greased so that they continued to produce food with that “southern” flavor. A small pot sat on the stove. It contained the drippings from fried bacon or chicken or okra. A dab of that recycled Crisco made everything a special dish.

She also had a Dutch Oven. On Sundays, she’d be up early to start dinner. That cooking pot weighed a ton even before she filled it with beef roast, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Just before leaving for church, Mother slid the cast iron pot into the oven so that the food cooked slowly. After church, she removed the monstrous Dutch Oven and served up a meal fit for royalty.

One Christmas, Daddy gave Mother an electric skillet. We fretted that the chicken she’d always fried in an old black skillet wouldn’t taste as good. We of little faith discovered that our fears were unfounded. What made that chicken so delicious was a big scoop of Crisco and a ton of Mother’s love.  At the same time, we were thrilled that the cooking took less time.

Amy also has cast iron skillets passed down from family. She has a set of pots and pans that are stick-free, at least when she cooks. When I try my hand at the skill, gunk covers those same pots, and food is stuck to the “unstickable” coating.

We are living in a wonderful age. So many new appliances make cooking much easier for the family chef. The Insta-pot allows folks to load a meal into it and have it ready when everyone arrives home in the evening. It’s the latest version of a crockpot.

The most wonderful new product in our home is the air-fryer. We haven’t eaten fried foods in years because we work to keep our bodies healthier. This machine is marvelous because it offers consumers foods that have a fried taste without the Crisco or other oils that clog arteries and choke hearts. I personally like the air-fryer because of time. Our convection oven takes half a day to preheat; the air-fryer is ready in just a couple of minutes. I’m all about eating when hunger hits, not a half hour later.

I sometimes miss the taste of the food Mother made. However, after nearly 50 years, I prefer Amy’s cooking over anyone else’s. She’s perfected the meals we enjoy most and uses those appliances that prepare the food in a healthy way. If I ever crave Mother’s fried chicken, I can always make a stop at Gus’s Fried Chicken.