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Brands of Cast Iron Skillets

Suzie Oct 10, 2007 08:58 AM

Are there different brands out there of cast iron skillets? If so, which ones are best?

  1. Funwithfood Aug 9, 2010 10:13 PM

    Find a vintage/seasoned pan at a thrift store or estate sale. That's what I do.

    1. MikeB3542 Aug 9, 2010 03:20 PM

      Assuming we are talking NEW plain cast iron.

      1. Lodge is the only domestic producer, and generally excellent quality.
      2. Camp Chef (also marketed under the Cabela's and Browning brands) is made in China but very good quality. Not a fan -- the finish seems a bit rougher, the castings heavier).
      3. TexSport, StanSport and Wenzel are PRC imports that cater to campers -- a definite step down in quality. The castings are often rough and uneven.
      4. Martha Stewart/Paula Deen/Coleman/Calphalon et al all have cast iron. The quality is all over the lot. Some looks VERY good, some, not so much. All of it is PRC made.
      5. Emeril: I single his stuff out because this stuff is rough and remarkably heavy. The pan is a real wrist-buster.
      Which to pick? It almost doesn't matter. It is all very inexpensive, so if you make a mistake, no biggie. Focus on the cast -- the thickness of the pan should be even -- no waves or swirls. Rough textured pans are better suited to searing and blackening, otherwise they can be frustrating until the pan gets some use.

      Personally, I go with Lodge, but I have my eye on a Calphalon square grill skillet, and would consider TexSport if I ever needed an unusually large camp oven (over 16 quart -- about big enough for a Thanksgiving turkey).

      BUY LOCAL. Cast iron is HEAVY and expensive to ship. Check hardware stores, big box retailers, sporting goods, surplus joints, etc Check a yard sale or Goodwill if you are into that. You might get out-of-production Wagner or Griswold.

      There are small producers around the world -- Japan and Finland come to mind -- that have lovely stuff. You will pay way more for it and get clobbered on the shipping, but you will certainly have a unique piece.

      About China -- the Chinese have been producing cast iron a really long time, long before anyone else. So it's a little silly to slam all Chinese-made cast iron. I think the trouble has been with the mass-produced imports -- I would lay the blame as much on the low-balling importer that doesn't put effort in to spec'ing and verifying product quality.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MikeB3542
        Politeness Aug 9, 2010 06:30 PM

        MikeB3542: "1. Lodge is the only domestic producer, and generally excellent quality."

        I have seen a lot of imported pieces bearing the Lodge trademark. Lodge does not machine or polish its cast iron, which some may regard as an element of "quality,"

        MikeB3542: "BUY LOCAL. Cast iron is HEAVY and expensive to ship. Check hardware stores, big box retailers, sporting goods, surplus joints, etc Check a yard sale or Goodwill if you are into that. You might get out-of-production Wagner or Griswold."

        Yes, the best value in cast iron, without a doubt, is used Griswold. The only caution is to stay away from the specific pieces the prices of which are inflated because they are viewed as collector items, not as cooking items.

        MikeB3542: "There are small producers around the world -- Japan and Finland come to mind -- that have lovely stuff. You will pay way more for it and get clobbered on the shipping, but you will certainly have a unique piece."

        There are a limited number of domestic importers of Japanese Nambu tetsu and Hackman (Finnish) cast iron. The cast iron pots and pans that they sell are more expensive than Lodge or used Griswold, yes. But they usually can be obtained for under $100, delivered.

        1. re: Politeness
          MikeB3542 Aug 25, 2010 03:53 PM

          All enameled Lodge cast iron is indeed made in PRC. Everything else is cast at South Pittsburgh, TN.

      2. Antilope Nov 23, 2007 04:00 PM

        IMHO the best cast iron skillets ever made were manufactured by Griswold. They went out of business in the late 1950's. Their interior surface is much smoother than present day cast iron skillets. You can buy used Griswold skillets, griddles, etc on Ebay. I bought a 6", 8" and 10" skillet along with a 9" round griddle with a handle.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Antilope
          paulj Nov 23, 2007 06:15 PM

          I think the smooth inner surface comes from machining after casting. Normally cast iron is produced using sand molds. The pans I bought in the 70s and 80s have the smooth interior. I'm a little surprise that current Lodge ones don't have a machined interior. Once a good coating develops, it shouldn't matter whether the original surface was smooth or pebbly. It is even possible that the pebbly surface develops a good nonstick coating faster.


          1. re: Antilope
            blondelle Aug 8, 2010 02:41 PM

            I agree. They are also much lighter in weight. I was really surprised at how much lighter it was compared to the heavy, clunky Lodge skillets. I have a #8 that was in my family. Has the larger Erie logo on the back. You can find them on Ebay. They are worth seeking out.

            1. re: blondelle
              Politeness Aug 8, 2010 03:00 PM

              Holy Thread Revival, Batman!

              Yes, the made-in-Erie Griswold cast iron pieces (as distinguished form the after-acquisition made-in-Ohio ones) are as good as or better than any cast iron ever made in the United States, and surprisingly light in weight.

              However, just-as-good (possibly even better than Griswold) cast iron cookware continues to be made, and you can even buy limited items of it in the United States. Nambu-tetsu is made (by many different artisan shops) only in an area near Morioka, in northern Honshu, the main island of Japan. (It is NOT made in China.) You can get an Iwachu (probably the largest of the makers) Nambu frying pan (and some other Nambu cast iron), among other places, here: http://www.naturalimport.com/shop_for...

              1. re: Politeness
                craigbuck1 Aug 25, 2010 03:22 PM

                How can you tell if it's made in Erie?

                1. re: craigbuck1
                  Politeness Aug 25, 2010 04:26 PM

                  The made-in-Erie Griswolds have the word Erie (and sometime the state abbreviation, PA or Penna, also) cast into the underside; it is that simple to identify one.

          2. e
            emhprogram Nov 21, 2007 10:54 AM

            I was looking at Lodge enameled cast iron today in the store. For years I have 'known' that Lodge was still made in the USA. And it used to be that Lodge was also very proud of this..... Imagine my dismay when I looked at the package and realized that this is made in CHINA! Do the lead test kits work on porcelain enamel?

            1 Reply
            1. re: emhprogram
              paulj Nov 21, 2007 06:00 PM

              According to the Lodge web site
              "Each Lodge Enamel piece is individually hand crafted in China and coated with several layers of strong, chip-resistant, enamel, imported from France."

            2. m
              MakingSense Oct 14, 2007 10:33 PM

              I have a 12" Lodge. It doesn't have a place in a cabinet because I just leave it on the cooktop since it seems to get used everyday at least once for something. It's big enough to be used more or less as a griddle for pancakes but I will use it for one pork chop or a single fried egg. I decided to get the larger one rather than the 10" because I can use it this way - sort of all purpose - don't need two.
              I also use it as a roasting pan for a chicken, reasonable sized beef or pork roast. It's the perfect size for 2 decent sized steaks or 1/2 pound of bacon.

              I got the preseasoned one and cooked a few pounds of bacon in the first weeks that I had it. It was slick as black satin in no time at all.
              I think that Lodge is the only brand still made in the US. Some of the Chinese manufactured cast iron is made from lower quality iron and can have "hot spots" from flaws in the metal from what I have heard. Strictly hearsay.

              1. Suzie Oct 14, 2007 01:59 PM

                Thanks everyone for the feedback!

                1. d
                  Diana Oct 12, 2007 08:39 AM

                  My Lodge has never let me down

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Diana
                    Suzie Oct 14, 2007 08:49 AM

                    Is there a typical size Lodge skillet that everyone agrees is the best size if you are only going to buy one?

                    1. re: Suzie
                      Clarkafella Oct 14, 2007 09:11 AM

                      Know what? If there is any way possible, I would go ahead and buy two- one smaller and one larger. Cast iron skillets are kind of like cats-it is just about as easy to care for two as it is for one, they nest well with each other, and no matter what your needs you will always have the right one handy...

                      1. re: Suzie
                        Hanads Oct 14, 2007 09:31 AM

                        I have a 9" Lodge skillet and I love it for making crabcakes. If you're shopping for this brand, you might try outdoor gear distributors. They tend to be less expensive there than at kitchen stores. Here's a link to Lodge online:


                        1. re: Suzie
                          anniemax Oct 14, 2007 01:53 PM

                          I just lucked out and picked up a Lodge 12" skillet on clearance for $4.25 at Meijer's- I probably should have bought 2 at that price. They got rid of them because they wanted to bring in a cheap (quality wise) Mexican brand of cast iron in instead.

                          1. re: Suzie
                            Diana Oct 15, 2007 06:26 AM

                            I love my 12 inch

                          2. re: Diana
                            optimal forager Nov 23, 2007 02:14 PM

                            A lot of baking recipes that take the cast iron from cooktop to stove (tarte tatin, cornbread, upside down cakes) call for a 10", in case you're thinking of using it that way.

                          3. c
                            celeriac Oct 10, 2007 02:36 PM

                            I haven't looked extensively, but Lodge is the standard-bearer, and I think considered best by most people.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: celeriac
                              Suzie Oct 10, 2007 03:16 PM

                              Thanks! I will look for a Lodge one.

                              1. re: Suzie
                                johnb Oct 11, 2007 05:08 AM

                                Cook's Illustrated recently did a test of them (Sept-Oct issue) and they like the Lodge of course but also Camp Chef, which is cheaper and also heavier.

                                1. re: johnb
                                  CraigH Oct 11, 2007 06:16 PM

                                  Both Lodge and Wagner used to be made in the U.S.A. while most others I see are made in China. Given all the stories about lead, antifreeze, and who knows what else gets into products from China you may want to see if any brand is still made here and buy that one.

                                  1. re: CraigH
                                    renov8r Oct 12, 2007 04:44 AM

                                    A good suggestion! Frankly I would put a lot more faith in an old skillet that I found in a thrift store or the dusty shelves of a rural 5 & dime than in ANYTHING made in China.

                                    Several brands of French made non-enamel cast iron skillets used to be widely available in the US, I see them at garage sales frequently. Unless the thing has been left out in snow/salt for years and the rust has destroyed the integrity of the pan these are often your best value. Though not as heavy as the most bullet proof pans, they generally have handles that are a bit nicer and perform perfectly well with modern gas cooktops.

                                    1. re: CraigH
                                      jayt90 Nov 23, 2007 01:44 PM

                                      Omigod! Cast iron was being made in China before there was a United States. It would be difficult to adulterate and there would be no incentive to add lead, a more expensive metal.

                                      1. re: jayt90
                                        jackie57 Aug 8, 2010 01:21 PM

                                        did you hear about the cracking, handle-falling-off and sometimes actually exploding Paula Deen cast iron? made in China???
                                        they were taken off the shelves at walmart. only her enameled ones remain, as of today.
                                        serves her right, in my opinion. nice "suthn" girl, oh sure. could not have her line made in this country. shame on her.

                              2. a
                                Alan408 Oct 10, 2007 09:05 AM

                                Yes, there are different brands of cast iron skillets. I haven't tried all of them, so I can't comment on which ones are best. I will comment that the older ones I have used are lighter.

                                I have read on this site, some like to shop "thrift stores and garage sales" for older pans and they recondition them.

                                I have 4 cast iron pans, two Lodges from the 80s, a Wagner that is probably from the 50s and one with no name. A friend has a cast iron pan in his camper his father gave him in the 80s and it was old then. The Wagner and the friends are the basis of my comment that older ones are lighter.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Alan408
                                  joebelt Oct 12, 2007 08:21 AM

                                  My Lodge pan works great.

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