SOUTH PITTSBURG (WATE) - Although the U.S. imports a vast number of products from other countries, your cast iron cookware may be made in Tennessee.
Lodge Cast Iron is billed as America's original cookware. It has been in South Pittsburg, Tennessee for more than a century.
Company public relations manager Mark Kelly took 6 News on a tour of the foundry recently. "The company was founded in 1896 by Joseph Lodge," he said, adding that the original foundry was destroyed in a fire in 1910.
It was rebuilt in its current location and has been there ever since.
Lodge has modernized some things, for instance its computerized pouring technique.
However, the philosophy for making its cast iron has never changed. "It is still a sand mold with steel tooling making the impression in hot molten metal going into mold," Kelly explained as workers showed us. "That hasn't changed at all."
Although 6 News cameras were allowed inside during manufacturing, it's something most people don't get to see. The foundry is only open to the public during the Cornbread Festival, which was last weekend. Even then, all production is halted.
"I get at least four calls a week from all areas of the country from people wanting a tour of the foundry," Kelly said.
He explained that Lodge does not offer public tours because, "It's an insurance broker's nightmare."
Employees carefully examine each piece of cookware as it comes down the line. If they see something they don't like, it's discarded and re-melted.
Every half hour pours of 2,800 degree metal are made from the melting deck in the foundry into coin-like molds. Then each sample is tested to make sure the metal composition is up to Lodge's standards.
"By checking the metal chemistry every half hour, we make sure it's what we want and chefs want. Cast iron is all about heat consistency and retention," Kelly explained.
Not far from where the cast iron is manufactured, there's also a Lodge factory store.
A worker at the store, Janice Gudger, says she sees people from all over the world come in to add to their cookware sets.
Gudger really stands by Lodge's quality. Her father and cousin have worked there, making her one of many multi-generational workers on site.
But the biggest testament to Lodge's long lasting quality may be the fact that cookware is often passed down in families.
"I have my grandmother's skillet," Gudger said. "I still use it to make cornbread just like she did. It is wonderful."
We are talking solely about Lodge's Seasoned or Signature cast iron cookware being produced in Tennessee, not it's relatively new enamel line. That line of Lodge cookware is manufactured in China.
Mark Kelly said it was a choice the company did not want to make, but EPA regulations prohibit it from making bright colored enamel in the U.S. without heavy fines.