The Best Cast Iron Skillet
Every year, food blogs, cooking magazines, kitchen resources, and chefs will make their line up to decide which is the best cast iron skillet. The recommendations from these articles often rate the value of a cast iron skillet with the following criteria in mind: price, quality, design, ergonomics, hand feel, size, weight, ease of use and cleaning.
You’re likely to see many of the same brands, year after year, ubiquitous in their familiarity, available for purchase everywhere from high end kitchen stores to Walmart. Lodge and Le Creuset come to mind, specifically, and reasonably so. They are two very well known brands, trusted for their lengthy history and extensive cast iron skillet collections. They are companies built on tradition, and trusted for it. While these two companies exemplify the wide price range and most common differences of utility in cast iron cookware, to look at them, they look incredibly similar, almost interchangeable, save for their color and finish.
This most notable similarity between them is because of their adherence to a very traditional design that has existed [and not changed] for over 100 years. Why no change? Some people might suggest that there’s been no change because there’s no need to, that a cast iron skillet, is a cast iron skillet, is a cast iron skillet, and will be forever… And perhaps, for utility’s sake only, that can be true. But I’d humbly venture to say that this design doesn’t effectively address some of what I’d consider the most crucial points of value in a cast iron skillet. Tradition is obviously valuable - but so is evolution.
Looking at our 9” cast iron skillet, it’s incredibly easy to notice a stark departure from the ordinary in our design approach. The most noticeable differences inquired about are the smoothness of the cooking surface, the color of the cookware itself, and the design of our handles.
The cooking surface is certainly notable - machined smooth all the way up the sidewalls. Its contrast to the textured appearance and feel of the exterior surfaces catches the eye for sure, but it also greatly improves performance. Our cast iron skillet (as well as all of the rest of our cookware) is machined smooth on its interior. Until just under 10 years ago, this would have been a crazy idea, but now it’s the benchmark standard for a premium seasoned cast iron skillet - and we were among the first companies to do it. In machining the interior surface, we smooth it out entirely, removing the sandy texture that is so frequently associated with food sticking to it. A smooth surface on cast iron will help your food release easier, which not only improves performance, but also eases cleanup. If food doesn’t stick, cleanup is a breeze.
Perhaps the most differentiated feature of our cast iron skillet to any other is our handle.
Upon first look, one can see that it is longer than average, both in absolute dimensions and in proportion relative to the dish of the skillet basin. Functionally, a longer handle on a cast iron skillet does two things: It creates a more even balance of weight [when held], and it slows the transfer of heat to the handle when cooking. Our handle also meets the skillet basin in a forked joint (rather than a butt joint). This increases the surface area of the source of heat transfer in contact with air, which creates a type of heat sync, also adding to the cooling effect (or at least slower warming effect). The combination of the advantages in this design is that there will be less strain on the users’ wrist, handling the inherent weight of a cast iron skillet, while simultaneously keeping their hand cooler for longer as they cook, for some meals eliminating the need for oven mitts. Not bad...
As mentioned earlier the design of a cast iron skillet has barely changed in the last hundred years, and this includes not just the length of the handle, but also the shape of the handle, which is short, flat, and oriented in such a way that it dictates the user to rotate their wrist into a position that limits blood flow, pinches nerves, and often strains muscles. For a cooking tool that is likely to be used every day, this is an area that was ripe for improvement. To quote Jeffery B Rogers (The Culinary Fanatic) “The handle is one of the most comfortable available.”
That comfort due to a very specific design approach as well… It goes without saying that handle looks quite different from any other on a cast iron skillet. Long, forked, asymmetrical, and curved, with subtle edges and contours that catch light and invite a touch. These handles were designed to resemble the beauty and grace of cherry branches. Not a direct likeness, but an inspiration of and toward beauty. They were sculpted with that DNA at their root, and made to actually fit the human hand. This is a big deal. Hands are adaptable and will work to hold nearly anything, but good design can facilitate the grip and ease any potential pain points. Our cast iron skillet handle was meticulously sculpted and tested in a variety of people’s hands, both left and right, large and small. It’s a source of pride on our end - we’re incredibly confident in the comfort we provide in the design of all of our handles, our 9” cast iron skillet handle being the most iconic in our collection, and arguably the most beautiful in its class.
Beauty itself is not simply a result of these design choices - it is at the heart of them. Cast iron is just that - cast. Meaning that it is molten, liquid metal, poured into a mold and able to take whatever shape it is intended to by its designer. Being able to take any shape, it still stayed the same for over a hundred years, with no attention to form beyond function, let alone any improvement to function. It’s with this understanding that I started my journey into designing cast iron cookware that would be aesthetically worthy of its lifetime as not only a product, but an artful object, an artifact. We state in our mission that we work hard to make products that will feel great in your hands, look at home in your home, and work as well as they should, forever. And we believe that if something is going to last forever, it shouldn't just work well - it should be beautiful.
Beauty is an intangible, subjective criteria by which to judge a cast iron skillet, but I’d assert that it’s important. Performance of any piece of cookware is paramount for the pragmatic user, but performance does not have to come at the cost of ergonomics and aesthetics. In fact, I’m of the opinion that a cast iron skillet that is seen as beautiful and feels good in the hand will actually improve a user’s approach to cooking itself. The questions of “How does your cookware feel in your hands? How will it look in your home? How do those things actually make you feel?” can be overlooked when set against a list of performance features and price. But we shouldn’t forget that cooking is often social and can be an extension of an emotional event or experience. Cooking for yourself is self care, in the same way that cooking for someone else can be an act of love. The way your cookware makes you feel can enhance that in wonderful ways. And to that, I’d suggest that a beautiful cast iron skillet is the best cast iron skillet, hands down.