Tarter rules her kitchen with iron skillet

September 22, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

Debbie Tarter has a secret for making her food taste different. It's in the type of cookware she uses - iron skillets.

"When we camp and cook over an open fire and fix beans and weenies, they have a totally different taste."

She also prefers cast-iron for making breakfast.

"Sausage and eggs, the food tastes so great."

Of course, for frying a chicken, Tarter would not use any other type of skillet.

"It tastes a lot better than the Teflon-coated."

Corn bread is a favorite dish in an iron skillet, but Tarter will try almost anything.

"I'll even make meatloaf and put it in the oven because they're better."

Cooking in iron skillets was a skill Tarter acquired while growing up.

"Off and on, I started when I was 12 years old. My mother taught me a lot and my grandfather taught me a lot."


One of the best things about the iron skillets is their durability and Tarter still uses one that belonged to her grandfather. She says he had a way with cooking.

"He could cook the best pot of green beans. I've tried to make them like he did."

Teaching a class called Cookin' Country

Tarter will share her knowledge in a Danville-Boyle County Community Education class. Cookin' Country will be 6-7:30 p.m. Sept. 29, Oct. 6 and 13 at Boyle County Middle School. Cost: $16. Call (859) 239-8986.

She plans to start out making biscuits and fry a chicken in another class. She recommends seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper.

"That's the best seasoning you can use. I usually mix salt and pepper in the flour before I roll the chicken."

To make the chicken crispy, she cooks it about 45 minutes on medium heat.

Tarter doesn't get to cook for family as much as she would like. Her job for the past five years as a truck driver with PFT Roberson takes her away from her home off Battlefield Road for a couple of weeks at a time. Her family includes her husband, Ray, and her daughter, Cassie Lopez, and 4-year-old grandson, Hunter, and 2-year-old granddaughter, Breanna.

Tarter things the care involved with iron skillets may discourage some people from using them. When her skillets acquire a crusty buildup on the outside, she burns it off.

"You go outside and build a fire and you've got to put the skillet in the fire. You've got to leave it in there for two or three hours to get all the crust off."

When the skillet has cooled, she recommends spread a thin layer of grease in it.

"Lard is the best," she says, noting that any type of oil can be used.

Cleaning the skillet

In cleaning the skillet, care must be taken to not mess up the non-stick surface the oil has created.

Tarter prefers to dip it in hot, soapy water, but not let it soak. She towel dries it and points out that it takes about 15 minutes for it to completely dry.

When cooking, Tarter recommends using low heat.

"Stuff will burn because the iron gets real hot. It holds its own heat."

Although many stores sell iron skillets, Tarter says the best ones probably are the old ones.

"The ones you buy now are not as good as the ones that have been cooked in for years," she says.

When not cooking, Tarter says she enjoys other domestic jobs. Tarter, who made lots of her school clothes while growing up and even made her own wedding gown, also will teach a beginning sewing class for community education.

Goulash (From Debbie Tarter)

1 or 1 1/2 pounds hamburger

1/3 cup onions, diced

1/3 cup green peppers, diced

Pinch of salt

1 cup cooked macaroni

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic pepper

1 quart tomatoes

Brown hamburger, then drain grease. Add onions, peppers, salt, pepper and garlic pepper. Cook macaroni and add to mixture. Add tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Makes three to four servings.

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