How Cast Iron Skillets Became So Popular In The US

If you love cooking, we're willing to bet you've got at least one cast iron pan on your stovetop. A favorite piece of equipment of chefs and home cooks alike, cast iron pans are praised for their ability to distribute and retain heat, their durability, and their versatility, transferring from the stove to the oven with ease. They excel at so many kitchen tasks, from searing steak to toasting spices to frying eggs, and a well-made (and well-seasoned) cast iron pan will easily last for several generations, even improving with use as the nonstick coating known as "seasoning" builds up on the pan over time (via Taste of Home).

Cast iron skillets are often associated with traditional American cooking such as that of the American South, where the pans are often used to fry chicken and bake cornbread. And it's no wonder cast iron took off in the U.S., seeing as how the three most iconic cast iron cookware brands were established here in the late 19th century.

Industrialized cast iron took off in America in the late 1800s

According to Southern Kitchen, cast iron cookware's indelibly American character owes to the fact that early brands were all established on U.S. shores in the late 1800s. The site reports that as the nature of cooking changed from the late 18th to the mid-19th century and indoor kitchen stoves — as opposed to wood-burning hearths and outdoor brick ovens (via Smithsonian) — became more commonplace, cookware, too, evolved, favoring flat-bottomed skillets made out of the cast iron that was quickly becoming industrialized across the nation. Three major brands — Griswold, Wagner, and Lodge — were founded in 1865, 1891, and 1896, respectively — in order to market skillets, pots, waffle irons, and other cookware (via Southern Kitchen).

That last name, Lodge, probably rings familiar if you have a cast iron pan: Founded in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, Lodge Manufacturing is one of the oldest continuously-running cookware makers in the U.S., and is still run by descendants of its founder, Joseph Lodge (via Southern Kitchen). A top-selling manufacturer of cast iron cookware, the brand's iconic skillet is consistently among Amazon's best-selling pans, and is praised by outlets, including Serious Eats, the New York Times, The Kitchn, and Epicurious. The best part? Its versatile 10.25-inch skillet goes for just $23.95. That's just a chunk of change for a lifetime (or more) of cast iron cooking.