One of the earliest manufactured metals, cast iron has a long and varied history. Used for everything from plowshares to cookware, cast iron was an early manufactured metal because of its relatively low melting point. Cast iron makes a good manufacturing material not only because of its low melting point, but for its fluidity, castability, machinability, resistance to deformation and wear. Because of these benefits, cast iron has been used to make a wide range of items including, pipes, machines, automotive parts, weaponry, tools, cookware and more. The earliest cast iron examples date to the 5th century BC in China, used for weapons and tools. Cast iron was used in the 15th century in Europe for artillery and weapons. By the 1700s, cast iron began to be used for construction in bridges and buildings.
Cast iron is made when low grade iron is melted, introducing new chemicals and elements while removing unwanted elements. Cast iron products are made when the melted iron is poured into molds. Original manufacturing methods included pouring the molten metal into sand cast molds by hand. Current modern casting operations include automated molding processes, leading to safer factory conditions and increased production speeds.
One of the oldest American cast iron manufacturers still in existence, Lodge Manufacturing Company in South Pittsburg TN originally, opened in 1896 under the name The Blacklock Foundry. After burning down in 1910, the company reopened a few blocks from their original location under the name Lodge Manufacturing Company.
Cast iron has long been used for cook ware because of its heat retention and ability to be a non-stick surface. Cooking with cast iron can have health effects due to the iron leaching into food – beneficial for those with anemia or iron deficiencies. In more recent history, the popularity of enameled cast iron has risen. With all the benefits of cast iron including its ability to withstand high cooking temperatures and heat retention, the enameled coating prevents rusting, doesn’t require seasoning and is easier to clean. With its long-lasting quality, cast iron is often passed down from generation to generation. With its resurgent popularity with celebrity chefs, its sentimental value and long lasting quality, cast iron cookware, and those companies that manufacture it, will be around for many years to come.
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