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Cast Irony

Cast-iron cookery is enjoying a moment, but its greatest asset is also its biggest liability, reports Zach St. George in Bloomberg Businessweek (5/19/14). The asset, of course is cast-iron’s durability. "The bitch of it is there’s no planned obsolescence," says Bob Kellermann, ceo of Lodge Manufacturing, a leading manufacturer of cast-iron skillets, dutch ovens and the like. "When people say, ‘I’ve got my grandmother’s pan,’ I say, ‘That’s not helping me a damn bit’."

Cast-iron’s staying power doesn’t actually seem to be hurting Lodge all that much, either. Ever since "Lodge won a Good Housekeeping ‘Good Buy’ award for its pre-seasoned skillet" in 2002, and "appeared on Food Network," its sales have grown with each passing year. The company currently turns out some "20,000 pieces a day," and with new equipment will soon increase production by 50 percent. Overall, US shipments of cast-iron cookware has "increased more than 225% since 2003," according to industry data.

Some of this growth comes from collectors like Greg Stahl, who "once owned about 2,000 pieces." But even he says he "loves his hundred-year-old waffle iron" best. Others attribute cast-iron’s renaissance to "a response to consumerist throwaway culture." Its rise is also thought to be connected to growing interest in Southern cuisine, as well as its affordability relative to stainless steel, copper and even cast-iron from China. What’s more, "most of the the raw materials" used to make cast-iron "are recycled."