3 Modern Cast Iron Skillets Worth Considering

When you hear the phrase “modern cast iron,” you probably think about the Lodge cast iron that’s sold at WalMart, Bass Pro, bigger grocery stores, and even some Texas gas stations in my neck o’ the woods. Lodge is the brand of cast iron that I first bought when I decided to buy a skillet for camping. I had no idea what I was doing. No prior knowledge of cast iron, or how to cook with it. I had problems with food sticking to the surface of the skillet, and I ended up burning most meals. So the meals on that camping trip were (mostly) failures. I put that skillet away and never used it again.

Several years later I married a woman whose grandmother had taught her how to cook with cast iron. The stories she told about her grandma’s cast iron — non-stick, easy to clean — didn’t go along with my experiences at all. What made the modern cast iron so different from vintage iron? We started researching for answers. It wasn’t long before we found the Vintage Cast Iron crowd and learned that if we wanted the ease and quality of the real cast iron experience, we’d have to start shopping antique stores and flea markets because when it comes to cast iron, they just don’t make ’em like they used to. We started buying vintage cast iron skillets. We were amazed at how light the old cast iron was, how smooth the cooking surface was, and how easy it was to maintain. So now every time I pass an antique store, flea market or estate sale I always stop and look for those old Griswold and Wagner skillets from the past. I truly enjoy cooking with them; much moreso than the modern non-stick skillets.

Looking back at the Lodge skillet that I originally bought to take camping, I’d say there was nothing actually wrong with it. Lodge makes a great product; it just wasn’t finished. Back in the old days, the cast iron cookware manufacturers — including Lodge — finished off their cookware by milling the cooking surface to a glassy-smooth finish. Why did they stop doing that? The sand-textured surface of a modern Lodge isn’t impossible to season, but it does take a very long time and plenty of patience. Why not mill the surface at the point of manufacture, and give those using it a head start? We want a smooth surface on every pan that we use. So, it seemed like we would be haunting antique stores forever in search of vintage cast iron cookware.

But recently I’ve been hearing about people who are designing and manufacturing their own modern cast iron skillets with smooth cooking surfaces, cool-touch handles, and multi-directional pour spouts. And these new cast iron pieces are nice! Now, I’ve gotta tell you that they aren’t cheap. Neither is vintage iron — unless you get lucky at a garage sale or an estate sale. But if you take care of it, cast iron cookware will last for many generations and can become cherished heirlooms. Consider the $80+ you spend on a new cast iron skillet to be an investment in a life-long love affair with cast iron cooking.

Here are at three modern manufacturers that make products comparable to vintage quality cast iron.

Finex Cast Iron Cookware

Finex Cast Iron SkilletFinex is a company out of Portland Oregon. Worked by a small team of self proclaimed perfectionists, their motives to produce a modern cast iron skillet were initially health related instead of cooking related.

Our journey began with the search for healthier cooking. We wanted a pan that wouldn’t leave toxic residue in our food. Cast iron cookware has been trusted in kitchens for centuries. However, we quickly found that the quality of today’s cast iron cookware didn’t measure up. We became obsessed with the intentional design, quality and craftsmanship of antique cast iron cookware—and we decided we would stop at nothing to bring that back to the U.S.A. But we didn’t want to just recreate the same high quality cast iron cookware—we wanted to reinvent it. – Finex

Their final skillet design is an over-engineered thing of beauty. The exterior walls of the skillet are an unusual octagon shape. While the actual super smooth cooking surface retains the typical round shape. The octagon shape provides a natural spout for pouring liquids out of the skillet, and since there are several angles on the skillet wall, you can pour from any angle that is comfortable for you. Another unique design element is the what they call the “speed cool” spring coil handle. This is not a new thing, it is just not typically seen on a cast iron skillet.

The Finex skillet is available in three different sizes 8″, 10″, and 12″. Beautiful cast iron lids are also available for each size. Out of the three makers mentioned the Finex skillets are the most expensive. The 10″ version, which is equivalent to the vintage #8, is $165. With the lid it is $200. Learn more at Finex USA.

Field Company

Field Company Cast Iron SkilletThe Field Company cast iron skillet is the closest I’ve seen to the vintage cast iron skillet design. The company was started by two brothers who were curious about how cast iron used to be made.

Initially, the Field Company was never meant to be a company. We started by wanting to understand all the secrets of cast iron. We love all the lore, but wanted real answers. We didn’t know if we would make fifty pans in a barn for friends and family or if we would end up creating a larger scale operation. – Field Company

The Field Company skillet design is based off of a 1930s era Wagner skillet that was given to them by their maternal grandmother. They made a few modifications like removing the pour spouts, making a different shaped handle to match their logo, and adding a small lip opposite the skillet handle to allow you to use two hands to hold. The thickness of the skillet is thicker on the bottom to allow proper heat transfer and thinner for the skillet side walls to reduce weight. Making it much lighter than the equivalent Lodge skillet.

As of now the Field Company skillet is only available in the #8 size. Price is $100. Learn more at Field Company.

Stargazer Cast Iron

Star Gazer Cast Iron SkilletStargazer Cast Iron was founded in 2015 by three old friends with a shared vision: creating the best cast iron cookware around.

It started with an obsession. Peter Huntley, professional designer and hobby cook, went searching for the perfect skillet and came up empty-handed. Dissatisfied with the options on the market, he turned to vintage cookware to find the quality he was looking for. After nearly a year of collecting, restoring, and cooking with vintage cast iron, he saw the untapped potential and decided it was time for something new. He created a unique cast iron skillet from the ground up: reimagined, redesigned, and revitalized. Huntley enlisted the help of two friends to bring the vision to life and Stargazer Cast Iron was born. – Stargazer Cast Iron

The Stargazer skillet design resembles a modern non-stick skillet more than the other three makers. It has a forked primary handle, a full handhold secondary handle, and a drip-free flared rim for easy pouring.

As of now the Stargazer skillet is only available in the #8 size. It is the least expensive skillet of the four at $80. Learn more at Stargazer Cast Iron.

Conclusion

I love cooking with cast iron. Being able to cook on a stove top, bake in the oven or cook on an open flame using the same skillet is incredible. You don’t have that same versatility with the typical non-stick skillets that most people use today. Finding, restoring and maintaining vintage cast iron is a skill set that I still employ, but it takes a while to learn. With modern cast iron makers like Finex, the Field Company, and Stargazer Cast Iron there are some great alternatives to hunting for, and restoring vintage iron.

Additional Cast Iron Makers and Resources

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13 Responses to 3 Modern Cast Iron Skillets Worth Considering

  1. RayK November 27, 2017 at 3:38 am #

    Sorry, but I don’t understand. If the biggest flaw of modern cast iron cookware is that the cooking surface isn’t ground smooth, what prevents the purchaser from doing that and then reseasoning the cookware? A spinning buffing wheel as used for automobiles seems an easy tool to master for the job.

    That said, I have a skillet that I purchased new at least 40 years ago, and is in use today, alongside two other much larger Lodge skillets. I enjoy them all and all are non-stick for the most part.

  2. vocalpatriot November 27, 2017 at 4:10 am #

    I call bullshit.
    Cast iron needs to be seasoned and worn by use and lodge is good iron.
    Vintage cast is awesome, but the reason the author had trouble was not the pans fault,
    it was his lack of knowledge.
    Which raises the question:
    What gives this author credibility?
    Not seeing it.
    “Finding, restoring and maintaining vintage cast iron..”
    This is not a “skill set”..any more than being able to use the bathroom properly.
    Really dude.

    • Marc November 27, 2017 at 7:38 am #

      @vocalpatriot – thanks for commenting!

      Go back and read the post again. I do say that Lodge makes a good product and I do say that the reason I had problems with it initially was because of my lack of knowledge.

      I’ve been cooking almost exclusively with cast iron for many years now and love it. I own several old Lodge skillets and their product was better pre 1950 than it is today. It is lighter and a higher level of quality than today’s product.

      “Finding, restoring and maintaining vintage cast iron..” is a skill. You have to know that when you find an old skillet that is rusty or years of caked on gunk on it that it can be cleaned up and made into an awesome cooking skillet. If you have this skill and it is easy to you. Great! But most people will see that skillet and wonder why people are even trying to sell it. The will walk right by it.

      I don’t mind people coming to my site and voicing their opinion. Hell I welcome it! But before you call bullshit on me, make sure that you are right. Click into that first link on this post and read a little before getting upset at my “lack of knowledge”.

      I’d also welcome your experience on this site. If you have skills that people want to learn, write a post and I’ll add it to my site.

    • Marc November 27, 2017 at 7:45 am #

      @RayK Thanks for commenting!

      True. But who wants to have to modify a new product right after buying it?

  3. Linda S November 27, 2017 at 8:00 am #

    I recently bought a brand new cast iron griddle pan @ a yard sale for $4. It’s made by Emeril LaGassi (sp?). I seasoned it & have used it several times & I’m pleased with it. It’s terribly heavy, though; I have to use both hands to lift it. lol

  4. TieDyeMomma November 27, 2017 at 9:07 am #

    @vocalpatriot – You missed the point; all cast iron does NOT need to be seasoned and worn down by use. Modern Lodge does. This article is about how it’s possible to find a modern skillet that doesn’t need to be “worn down by use,” but is perfectly smooth from purchase. Yes, iron is seasoned over time. But when a pan starts off with a glassy-smooth surface, it’s non-stick, easy to clean, and a joy to use from the very beginning. That’s what a cook wants. This article was written for people who would rather not struggle with their cookware.

    @RayK – You’re right! It’s possible to use your own equipment to modify the cooking surface of cast iron. If you have the right equipment, the skill using it, and the desire to go to the trouble. I don’t have any of the above. I’d rather buy a skillet that’s ready to use. This article was written for people like me. 🙂

    • Bill November 28, 2017 at 3:30 pm #

      As far as I’m concerned the right equipment is no more than a piece of brick, a couple drops of water and 20 minutes to make the surface smooth.

  5. Gramma November 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    Retired restaurant owners here.

    We refuse to consider most of the current crop of cast iron. How am I supposed to impress a date with an omelet if a skillet or fry pan is as ROUGH AS A SIDEWALK! As PITTED AS A CROSSWALK!

    [emphasis added]

    We prefer cast iron. After snagging a cheap Lodge at a Goodwill (after the prior owner tossed it in the discard pile?), we experimented with an elliptical grinder to smooth some rough cooking. Hours later… fingernails tapping… all we accomplished was metal dust everyplace, and hardly any smoother. How many decades of daily use would be required to smooth it for our preferences? Dozens. Lifetimes. Lodge can go jump in the lake. Useable maybe for a dog bowl. Outside.

    At a local kitchen supply, we like the look and feel of the ‘aus-ion’ brand stamped steel pans from Australia, but can’t handle their us$135+ prices.

    Since we’re in Oregon == and Oregon people tend to be locavores == we’ll look into the Portland products. But we search the www weekly for quality cast iron, and they never showed. Odd.

  6. Old Bull November 27, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

    Gee, it is only a tool. Be nice.

    Marc, Thanks for the blog. I just bought a new Stargazer.

    RayK, I have over a dozen Lodge products. Some I have had for thirty years. All the new ones I have finished with with my drill press. I have finished many and given them away as presents. People love them. People remember when you give them a finished seasoned skillet.

    But, I have to try the Stargazer. I like backups. Two is one, one is none.

    BTW, the wife will not let me take her two favorite Lodge skillets outside to the grill.

    • Jimmy November 27, 2017 at 8:57 pm #

      Would you mind sharing what you used in your drill press to smith down your lodge? I have many but don’t use them and keep going back to my grandmother’s (I researched due to all the built up gunk). I would love to do as you have done and spend a little time to give a quality smooth skillet to friends and family. Thanks

      • Old Bull November 28, 2017 at 8:50 am #

        In the 1950’s my Mother had a great cast iron skillet. My wife and I wanted one. We started with a Lodge but it was too rough. I learned a lot by trial and error. I messed up a few skillets learning.

        Use gloves and eye protection! Wear old clothes. Plan to get very dirty.

        I would start with a die grinder and a stone to smooth out the corner first. It takes a gentle hand and practice.

        Second, I do the sides next. I want to finish the corner and side first because if I slip I don’t want to mess up the bottom cooking surface. I have a large sanding flap-wheel and work the sides. I start coarse then finer in steps. I have used a flap-wheel with a die grinder on slow speed. Be careful.

        After I have finished the sides and corners, I start on the bottom surface. I try to use the drill press for this. I have used fiber sanding disk and a paint stripping wheel. Use low pressure on the disk. I lock the press so I cannot press too hard. Again start coarse and work finer in lots of steps. I finish up with an orbital sander and very fine paper.

        It a lot easier to buy one already finished. I did it because I am old and head-strong.

  7. Survived on my own November 27, 2017 at 11:14 pm #

    Thanks for the informative article . The question is what happened to Griswold and wagner??? Is Chinese $&@$ now??

    • Marc November 28, 2017 at 7:36 am #

      @Survived on my own

      Teflon is what happened to Griswold and Wagner. At the time it was lighter and easier to maintain. 🙁

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