cast iron pan

Cooking and Cast Iron

Author: Brittany Joachim

Reliable and durable, many cookware items in the past were made of cast iron. From kettles to Dutch ovens, even toasters were made of iron. While other materials gained popularity in the early 20th century, a cast iron comeback occurred in the 21st century. 

Dutch oven pot
An example of a Dutch oven pot from the Mountain Gateway Museum's artifact collection. It could be set on coals and have coals placed on top of it too.

             China, India, and Korea house some of the oldest examples of cast iron cookware. Cast iron gained global popularity for several reasons. The first was its durability. Not only could it withstand high amounts of heat, but it could also handle "being tossed around". This made it popular amongst all classes of people. The first mention of any cast iron cookware in English popped up between 679-680. By 1180, the word pot appeared and was applied to cast iron cookware. To make cast iron cookware, a technique called sand casting was used. Because sand melts at a higher temperature than iron, that is the chosen base for the mold. Once cooled, sand molds reveal new cast iron pieces. Cast iron manufacturing helped build the British foundry industry and came on the heels of the British expanding their empire to North America. 

            Because of the featured mentions, this style of cookware became popular in European-controlled areas of the Americas. Even though other cookware such as clay and copper were available, the durability of this product kept it as the backbone of many kitchens and campsites. It was not until the 20th century that cast iron fell from many kitchens. The rise of aluminum and stainless steel changed the popularity of cast iron in the home. The addition of Teflon in the 1960s and 70s also saw a decrease in the use of cast iron in homes. However, in the early 2000s, cast iron made a comeback. Part of it was the rise of pre-seasoned pans, skipping a step from the past many had to do with their new cast iron cookware. "Seasoning" meant adding layers of fat, such as cooking oils, to protect the item from rusting. Pre-seasoned pans took that step out, getting to the good part of cooking tasty dishes faster.


Carter, Noelle. “Cast Iron Enjoys a Comeback Among Cooks”. The Los Angeles Times. 24 November 2012. 

Cast Iron Cooking Pot”. A History of the World. BBC. 2014. Website. (accessed on 17 May 2023). 

Ragsdale, John G. Dutch Ovens Chronicled: Their use in the United States. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2015. 


cast iron toaster
A cast iron toaster from the Museum's artifact collection. 

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