Though the Lodge you know today is America’s cast-iron cookware juggernaut, it wasn’t always that way. The company, founded in 1910 after Joseph Lodge’s original foundry burnt down, played second and third fiddle to cast iron’s former flagbearers — namely, Wagner and Griswold.
Lodge was making skillets similar to the competition back then (all of which are highly collectible today). They had smooth cooking surfaces, light seasoning layers and lighter weights. But a reckoning came at the turn of the mid-century. The rise of stainless steel cookware forced every major name in cast-iron cookware to fold or consolidate. Lodge was the only manufacturer to make it out alive, and it did so by making the most resource-efficient cast iron ever.
The company shifted from handcrafting each and every piece to making heavier, more easily replicable pots and pans. Instead of machining the surfaces, they left them as-cast (this is when the gritty hand feel comes from). Instead of casting thinner iron and risking chips and breaks during production, today’s Lodge’s are thicker and heavier — a tradeoff that’s still hotly debated in the world of cast-iron collecting.
Most importantly, though, Lodge made its pans affordable, contributing to cast iron’s reputation as the most democratic of all cookware. Today, a host of its American-made skillets are discounted on Amazon, including an 8-inch skillet for just under $10.
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