Hand Me Down — Katherine Hysmith of The Young Austinian

Photo: Youngaustinian.com

Photo: Youngaustinian.com

We’re foodies around here, and there’s no denying it. Our hearts melt for all things melted, baked and sugared, and when we come across fellow food enthusiasts like Katherine we get super excited. Katherine Hysmith is a Boston resident who has some serious food credentials to talk about. At every chance you get, try out her recipes on her blog, follow her drool worthy Instagram feed and follow along on her nesting journey as she prepares for her first child. We even had the chance to check out Katherine’s cast-iron collection that has been passed down to her and will continue, of course, to be passed down to another.

Hi Katherine! What’s your favorite hand-me-down of the moment?

My small, but growing cast-iron collection. My little collection currently has only 6 pieces: three usable skillets, two little novelty cast-iron skillets (not meant for cooking, but used as spoon rests or other non-heat applications – and also randomly used as ash trays in the 40’s), and one large bun or muffin form mold (perfect for individual cornbread muffins).


Who gave you this beautiful collection, and what do you know about it?

My larger pieces were handed down from my Dad who originally got them from his grandmother. The smaller pieces I’ve picked up at antique fairs, or my Dad (who also collects cast iron kitchenware) gifts them to me. My Dad is much better versed in cast-iron collection jargon and knows all the various meanings behind the little stamps on the bottoms of the skillets.

[I know that] certain numbers refer to casting locations, years, and origin and others refer to the size of the skillet. I’m currently trying to work on identifying old American manufacturers that have been around for generations – such as Griswold, Vollrath, and Wagner – and learning how to pick out particular models at antique and second-hand stores. The most well-known of these companies and longest living is probably Lodge, which was founded at the turn of the 19th century and is based out of Tennessee. I have several Lodge pieces and love to see their newer stuff on their well-curated Instagram feed. They’ve even featured some of my recipes using their skillets, which seems to really impress my dad.

How old were you when your dad handed down your first cast-iron piece? Do you remember how you felt about getting it?

I was 17 and heading off to college when my Dad gave me my first small, cast-iron skillet. Even though I would be living in a dorm for the next year – with no practical way to use a cast-iron skillet – I was excited by the prospect of doing my own cooking and at least looking forward to having my own kitchen in the very near future. Since then, I’ve added several other pieces and can’t wait to display the collection when I have a larger space to do so!

Where do you keep your collection now? Do you use it, or is it on display?

Cast-iron, while it makes nifty wall décor, is meant to be used, reused and passed down through the generations. It takes a lot to destroy cast-iron, and even the rustiest piece can be brought back to life. So my skillets, even those that hang on the wall for quick storage, are always in rotation from the oven or the stove.

Do you plan to pass this item to someone else?

I’m currently pregnant with my first baby, and while I’m giddy about all sorts of firsts I’m probably most excited about passing down family recipes and continuing the tradition of passing on the inaugural cast-iron skillet. I’ll have to make sure she knows how to properly wash and season it first, but as soon as she does I’ve got big plans to teach her the secret family cornbread recipe and to dream up skillet cookie flavor combinations!

Thanks, Katherine! We’d like a tiny taste of everything.

  • Jars

    My husband washes our cast iron with hot water and a scrubbie. Then he brushes it with olive oil and wipes that off with a paper towel.

  • Alexandra Riess

    How does Katherine keep her collection clean and from rusting? My mom uses coconut oil, and then I have a friend who swears by melting butter in the skillet and wiping it clean while hot. Any suggestions?