Whether you’re talking to a seasoned cast iron collector or someone who would wash a cast-iron skillet in their dishwasher, South Pittsburgh, Tennesee’s Lodge Manufacturing is guaranteed to come up in conversations surrounding the heavy stuff.
Of all the great cast iron makers of old — Griswold, Wagner, Vollrath and so on — the only one to survive the rise of stainless steel cookware was Lodge. The rest were fated early deaths, dissolved into larger conglomerates or were bought out and dismantled.
Why Lodge, though? The simple and rather boring answer is the company understood the economics behind making cookware. Prior to World War II, nearly all cast-iron cookware was made and tooled by craftsmen and in considerably smaller batches. The cooking surfaces were as smooth as steel (a feature many upstart cast iron brands have taken up) and the skillets were cast extraordinarily thin, so they were much lighter and easier to manage on a stovetop.
These features, while great to cook on, are expensive to replicate. Lodge did away with machining surfaces and trimming weight, and instead aspired to be America’s first mass-produced cast-iron cookware company. It wound up being its only mass-produced cast-iron cookware company.
Today, it is still the only big-time American maker of cast-iron cookware, and its wares still reflect its original intent to democratize a centuries-old craft. That is to say they are very, very affordable.
Today, an 8-inch Lodge cast-iron skillet is just under $10 on Amazon. A worthy gift for the intrepid new cook.
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