News / USA

Cast Iron Revival Keeps US Foundry Cooking

Tennessee company is last in nation still turning out daily production

Lodge Cast Iron is the last company in the nation still turning out cast iron skillets daily. Its American competitors have all gone out of business.
Lodge Cast Iron is the last company in the nation still turning out cast iron skillets daily. Its American competitors have all gone out of business.

Multimedia

Audio
Mike Osborne

Tucked between the Tennessee River and the hills of Marion County lies the small town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Home to just 3,200 people, it has one claim to fame: a metal foundry called Lodge Cast Iron.

Lodge is the last company in the nation still turning out cast iron skillets on a daily basis.

"We produce about 80,000 pounds [36,000 kilos] of cast iron cookware daily," says Bob Kellermann, chief executive officer of Lodge Cast Iron. "We have two high-production molding lines and each molding line will crank out 400-plus molds per hour and we run two 10-hour shifts a day, so you can do the math."

It adds up to a successful fourth-generation family-owned business that's been turning out cast iron cookware for more than a century. Lodge used to have several American competitors, but they all went out of business years ago.

Investing in new technology was the key to keeping Lodge alive.

"We re-invested our earnings every year to become more mechanized," Kellermann says. "Had we not mechanized over the years, we would’ve been out of business many years ago.  Some years we survived in spite of ourselves."

Innovating into the future

Lodge has also continued to innovate. Its most recent improvement turned out to be a marketing bonanza. Several years ago, the company began seasoning its cookware before it leaves the factory.

Oil has to be baked into a skillet's cast iron pores before it can be used, a process many cooks find intimidating.

Many cooks consider cast iron to be an ideal heat conductor, which heats evenly and consistently.
Many cooks consider cast iron to be an ideal heat conductor, which heats evenly and consistently.

"In a short five years we went from nothing seasoned to everything seasoned," Kellermann says. "And our slogan, when we introduced it: ‘We should have thought of this a hundred years ago.’"

Lodge has developed its own recipe for consistently producing cast iron with just the right characteristics.

"We have a spectrometer that in, oh, about 45 seconds we know 19 different elements that we can adjust for," says Larry Rado, Lodge's technical manager who is in charge of quality control. "We know exactly what we melt and we know exactly what’s going into our cookware."

Lodge also adopted the Japanese approach to improving product quality, by empowering its employees.

"Anyone here at Lodge Manufacturing can throw a casting away," Rado says. "Anybody, from the grinders, finishers, packers, we can actually stop the line."

Cast iron revival

But advanced technology and management techniques don’t tell the whole story. Lodge is also benefiting from a kind of cast iron renaissance.

At the Hermitage Hotel, in nearby Nashville, executive chef Tyler Brown uses cast iron to prepare and serve some of the Capital Grill's signature dishes. The cholesterol-heavy cuisine of the American south fell out of favor for a time but Brown says southern culture and foods are suddenly popular again.

"The South is hot right now," says Brown. "People enjoy what we do, enjoy the tradition of our culture that needs to be spoken about, talked about, and passed on; and what better place than around the table to get that started."

Lodge Cast Iron, which already sells its cookware in Japan, Russia and the Philippines, is looking to grow its international market.
Lodge Cast Iron, which already sells its cookware in Japan, Russia and the Philippines, is looking to grow its international market.

Lodge Cast Iron is riding the crest of that wave, putting out dozens of new products, from cast iron woks to Dutch ovens made for the campfire.

Kellermann gets emotional when he considers what his great, great grandfather would think of his small foundry today.

"And I think old Joe Lodge and the rest of the family that's gone on would be very proud of the company seeing it as it is now," he says.

Lodge Cast Iron is looking to the international market for continued growth. Its cookware is now sold in Japan, Russia, and the Philippines.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid