If you do not have any cast-iron skillets, I advise that you obtain some for authentic results. The typical Lowcountry kitchen has several cast-iron pots and pans, all well seasoned. At the very least, you should have a small (seven- or eight-inch) and a large (ten- or twelve-inch) skillet, well seasoned, for making corn bread with a golden brown crust. Most of my gumbos and pilaus are made in a well-seasoned four-quart cast-iron Dutch oven with its own “self-basting” cast-iron lid. Shop for used cast iron in antique and junk stores; occasionally you can find skillets that already have a good patina. They should have a clean, shiny black interior. If you buy new cast iron, wash it once with soap and water, then render some lard in it according to the instructions. Wipe out the pan, but never wash it again with soap. After each use, paint the inside of the cast iron with lard or bacon grease, then wipe it out. And if you must wash it, use cold water and a natural-bristle brush.
As anyone who’s simmered a pot of catfish stew by a riverbank can tell you, a well-seasoned cast iron pot or skillet is impossible to beat for creating exotic flavors in many home-cooked meals. Where other cookware strives to leave no taste in food, the iron pot, when properly seasoned, will instill a distinctive flavor that becomes richer as the seasoning ages over many years of use.
Other kitchenware should be nonreactive. That means no chipped enamel, unlined copper, or galvanized cookware. Good kitchen pots should be heavy and well made. Heavy aluminum is fine for baking pans but should otherwise be avoided. One of the joys of visiting big cities is browsing in the great cookware stores such as Bridge (www.bridgekitchenware.com) in New York and Dehillerin (www.e.dehillerin.fr) in Paris, where you can find heavy, stainless-lined copper pots and wooden whisks to use in them. A particularly useful pan is a heavy, straight-sided sauté pan. A skillet is no substitute.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.