The Brother-in-Law, a sandwiched smorgasbord of chopped beef, butterflied hot links, and cheese, has a powerful (and well-deserved) reputation in East Texas, but order the old-fashioned hand-pulled-pork sandwich, filled with juicy shreds of perfectly smoked pork shoulder. Nick Pencis, the owner and pitmaster, follows a fifty-year-old smoking method—meats housed for sixteen hours in the pecan-fueled pit—to turn out some of the best barbecue in this neck of the Piney Woods.

It was when I was talking to our cover boy, Buffalo Gap Ranch owner Tom Perini, about frying chicken, that I realized something: The common denominator in a good half of the dishes we feature in our April cover story, “Cook Like a Texan,” is a cast-iron vessel. Think about it: If you own one – and of course you own one – you would definitely use a cast-iron skillet to fry chicken, catfish, and CFS. You could cook migas and enchiladas in it too. And while you would never do tamales or brisket on cast-iron, you could broil a ribeye or some jalapeño dove poppers on a skillet if you didn’t have a grill handy. The photo above comes from chili champion Christine Knight, who provided the Big Kahuna Chili recipe for the April issue. Say Knight:

My treasured cast iron is the same cast iron my Granny, Odessa Mickey Monroe, used to make EVERYTHING in. My Granny Passed it to my Mom who used it for 15+ years and my Mom passed it along to me and my husband about 10 years ago. We don’t actually know, but we think my Granny’s cast Iron is circa 1950’s. I myself don’t actually cook much in it, but I fondly recall beans, cornbread, chili and the chocolate icing for Granny’s sheet cake all coming out of that iron skillet!

Does your cast iron have a story? How long have you had it? What do you cook in it? Any special seasoning or cleaning tricks? Chime in with a comment.