The earliest dated cast iron object is from the 5th Century BC in Jiangsu, China, however in the West it wasn’t until the 15th century at the direction of King Henry VIII where he starting casting cannon in iron which, although heavier than the bronze counterpart, was cheaper thus enabling him to outfit the entire British Navy.
Cast Iron is simply iron that is poured into a mold to create some useful implement. In 1707, Abraham Darby patented a method of making pots (and kettles) thinner and hence cheaper than his rivals could. This meant that his Coalbrookdale furnaces became dominant as suppliers of pots, an activity in which they were joined in the 1720s and 1730s by a small number of other coke-fired blast furnaces in England.
Using the same process that molded bronze would have used, cookware could be made by making molds out of sand and pouring molting metal into the mold.
Sand casting has existed for thousands of years and the basic technique has changed little over time: pour molten iron into a mould created in sand to create a shape. One creates a mold by packing sand around a pattern typically carved from hardwood, which when removed from the sand produces the void space into which the iron will flow. Sounds simple doesn’t it? You need access to the proper materials, especially 2500 degree molten iron!
Today we use the same method in a Canadian foundry – the traditional way. Some grinding done to get rid of the excess metal from the pour to show that each piece is inspected.
The original cooking pots generally had three legs because they were designed to be used over the open fire. Cooking in the home was done in the hearth of fireplace. Stoves with tops for cooking did not come into common usage until the 1700s. This allowed tremendous advancement in cookware, especially cast iron cooking when pots and pans began to be made in mass quantities.
Around 1960 cast iron cookware seemed to loose favour, possibly due to new “fad” cooking materials but today is experiencing a resurgence in popularity do to it’s many positive qualities, not the least of which is longevity and cooking characteristics for a population concerned with global waste and health. Questionable health side-effects of cookware materials such as plastics has helped to bring cast iron back as the professional chef’s choice for cookware.