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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid