What better way to celebrate the opening of Lodge Cast Iron's new museum in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, and fry up a little history and culture of cast iron cooking than with a contender for world's largest skillet?
The Marion County industry with roots going back to 1896 celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2021 and looks ahead to celebrating the opening of its first museum in late summer 2022, according to the company.
"Covering everything from the history of cast iron to how it's used today, the museum is an exciting opportunity to celebrate our community and share Lodge with the world through this unmatched experience," Lodge Cast Iron president and CEO Mike Otterman said in a news release.
The museum will offer a series of interactive experiences that take visitors through three exhibits: How It's Made, a recreation of the foundry experience; Lodge History; and Legacy and Cast Iron Culture.
The exhibits highlight the ingenuity company officials said kept Lodge thriving generation after generation and spotlight diverse uses of cast iron cookware ranging from the campfire to the kitchen. As part of the Cast Iron in Culture exhibit, there will be a special focus on southern food and cooks thanks to Lodge's partnership with the Southern Foodways Alliance, company officials said.
Museum visitors will also be able to see an 18-foot cast iron skillet - dubbed the "world's largest cast iron skillet" - as well as rare cast iron collections and learn the stories about the people behind them.
Adam Feltman, spokesperson for Lodge, said the museum will be tied to an already established and well-visited facility at Lodge.
"It is being built in the back of the Factory Store," Feltman wrote Wednesday in an email. The Lodge Factory Store is on Railroad Avenue, a block off of South Cedar Avenue - the town's main drag - and the museum site is along Third Street which intersects Railroad Avenue.
Feltman was unable to say whether the 18-foot cast iron skillet really is the world's largest or give its weight and capacity but there are a number of contenders, though the material they're made of might not be cast iron.
At first, an internet search for the "world's largest skillet" or "world's largest frying pan" only cooked up a 15-foot skillet in Rose Hill, North Carolina, that is operational with 40 burners under it and a capacity of 200 gallons of cooking oil, according to RoadsideAmerica.com. The Rose Hill city limits sign even boasts, "Home of the world's largest frying pan."
One skillet in London, Kentucky, claiming the title of world's largest stainless steel frying pan, is 10 feet, six inches wide and is made of hot-rolled stainless steel and can hold 300 gallons of oil, allowing it to cook 600 quarters of chicken at once, according to the site, chickenfestival.com. The site promotes the event where the skillet is used, the World Chicken Festival.
Another "frying pan" described as "impressive" is a nine-footer in Brandon, Iowa, also on RoadsideAmerica.com's list. That one is listed in places as the "world's largest" when measured from the end of the handle to the opposite rim at 14 feet, but that's still a far cry from Lodge's 18-footer.
But the clearinghouse of all things of the world record nature, Guinness World Records, actually lists a larger frying pan in Turkey at just more than 22 feet in diameter, but it doesn't provide the material it's made from. A photo of the Turkish skillet was published in the Daily Sabah in Istanbul when chefs and the town's mayor used it to cook about 1,323 pounds of lamb liver in 2018.
Maybe the Lodge pan's not the largest in the world, but it might still claim the national title.
Either way, the museum and its exhibits have people in Marion County talking.
It's something Lodge leaders have talked about doing for years, Marion County Mayor David Jackson Wednesday in an interview. Jackson was an employee at Lodge for 34 years.
"It'll be a great addition to Marion County and South Pittsburg, and hopefully bring more visitors to the county and create more tourism dollars for the county and South Pittsburg," Jackson said.
Jackson said the museum will be an interesting addition to the National Cornbread Festival in spring 2023.
South Pittsburg Mayor Samantha Rector said the museum will inject a little more flavor into the town.
"Downtown South Pittsburg, like many of these small towns, is like it's dying sometimes, so we look forward to any kind of new business, especially with Lodge, because we know that when they do it, they do it right," she said.
Lodge is the oldest family-owned cast iron cookware manufacturer in the country with two foundries at its South Pittsburg plant, according to company officials.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.