The growth of boutique cast iron makers has been one of the more surprising kitchen trends of the past 10 years. After all, most cast iron cookware is affordable and lasts pretty much forever, so who could have predicted more companies enter the market?
The State Of Cast Iron
Despite the heavy weight of cast iron cookware which makes for serious shipping and logistics issues as well as the existence of low cost, high quality companies already in the space, like Lodge, a number of new (relatively speaking) companies have gotten in the game recently.
Here is a list of the most notable small and boutique companies selling cast iron cookware in 2021.
Butter Pat Industries
Butter Pat Industries makes high-end, polished cast iron cookware, mostly skillets, in the US. With the stated goal of making skillets as thin and light as they were made in the 1800s, Butter Pat has made a name for itself since the company was founded in 2013.
Their 10-inch model is known as the “Heather” and it sells for $195. Features include two pour spouts, a split handle for better cooling, a completely flat bottom, a polished interior, and a 100-year warranty. The 10-inch model has a 4.8 pound weight.
Made in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, Borough Furnace makes dutch ovens and skillets that have considerable flair and a much more modern design than we’ve come to expect from a cast iron pot or pan. The company has been making products since 2011 and has made a name for itself with it’s cool designs, interesting non-skillet products — like a cazuela — and by how often their products are sold out.
Borough Furnace doesn’t has a 10-inch skillet, but they do have a 10.5-inch one and it sells for $300. It’s made of 100% recycled iron and it weighs 6.0 pounds. This skillet is light on features, but it does have a super cool angular design, lightly sloped sides for better access to the corners, and an extra large handle for control when pouring,
One of the best reviewed of today’s up-and-coming boutique cast iron companies is Stargazer Cast Iron. This company has made a name for itself by making super smooth skillets that are lighter than the competition with cool-touch handles.
A 10.5-inch (No. 8 size) Stargazer skillet sells for $115 and weighs 5.2 pounds. It’s made in the US, has opted to remove the pour spouts, and has a cupped handle that is designed to stay cool longer than the competition.
While Lodge is a historic brand, it’s the main name in cast iron cookware in the US. But recently Lodge relaunched their high-end, boutique line, known as the Blacklock cast iron cookware. These skillets are lighter than the standard Lodge stuff, and a good deal more expensive, but we’re talking $60, not $180. The skillets are made in South Pittsburg, Tennessee.
The Blacklock 10-inch skillet, known as the “96” sells for $60 direct from Lodge’s website. It weighs just 3.9 pounds, making it a featherweight in the world of skillets. Like all Blacklock skillets it’s triple-seasoned, has dual pouring spouts, and has a long, thin handle that stays much cooler than a standard Lodge handle.
Finex is known for their heavy and handsome cast iron cookware. Based in Portland, Oregon and producing all their cast iron in the US, Finex combines an interesting design with quality workmanship in truly unique products.
Finex products have, generally speaking, met with just OK reviews but have excelled in the aesthetic department thanks to beautifully crafted lids, spiral metal handles, and cool octagonal skillets.
Finex’s 10-inch skillet sells for $175 ($225 with a matching lid) and it weighs 6.3 pounds. Features include a quick-cooling steel coil handle, a handsome brass end cap at the end of the handle for hanging, 8 angled sizes for an interesting shape, and a machined surface for the flattest possible cooking area.
Lancaster Cast Iron
Founded in 2018, Lancaster Cast Iron sells an American made (in and around Pennsylvania) cast iron skillet called the No. 8. The design is reminiscent of the Butter Pat, but the Lancaster is inspired by the Griswold skillets of 1800s, which is why the company used the traditional No. 8 name and size.
The No. 8 is, in keeping with tradition, a 10.5-inch skillet with roughly and 8-inch cooking surface. It has a machined smooth cooking surface, dual spouts, and a cool wooden wagon embossed into the bottom. The rest of the design is simple and straightforward, almost like a standard Lodge skillet. The No. 8 sells for $150 and weights an impressively light 3.8 pounds.
Field Company was one of the first companies to make a name for itself by marketing its boutique, US-made cast iron skillets. They are generally known for coming in at a lower price point that most of the competition as well as receiving numerous excellent reviews over the years.
Field Company’s No 8. 10-inch skillet sells for $125 and it weighs 4.5 pounds. It has one of the simplest, cleanest designs of any skillet on this list, with a machined flat cooking surface, but no pouring spouts, almost no logos, and a very simple handle. There is a second handle on the end, but even this is small and very low-profile.
Founded by a pair of brothers in Michigan, Marquette Castings makes cast iron coated in enamel, carbon steel products, and a 10.5″ skillet. Their skillet is reminiscent of the Blacklock, with a streamlined body, a low-key design, and pouring spouts, but it has a large, deep handle for added comfort.
The Marquette No. 10.5 skillet sells for $250, putting it as one of the most expensive models in this list. It weighs 4.1 pounds, meaning it’s lighter than most of the competition, but not as light as the Blacklock or Lancaster. It’s a great looking skillet with a super clean design that is made with a lost wax method which is more closely associated with making jewelry than kitchen equipment.
Smithey Ironware is another brand that wants to get the great skillets of the 1800s and bring them into the 21st century. They want to do this with a machined smooth cooking surface and a rounded bottom design to their skillets, creating a design that looks one one part futuristic and one part old fashioned.
Smithey’s 10-inch skillet is known as the No. 10, it sells for $140, and it weighs 4.75 pounds. It has a super smooth surface and looks somewhat like the Stargazer. Other features include an extended handle for better cooling, an extra handle on the far side for controlled holding, and holes in both handles for easy hanging. The entire bottom is rounded which likely saves weight but means more rocking on gas ranges and grills.
Weight Vs. Price
There seems to be only a loose correlation between weight and price of boutique cast iron skillets. You are mainly paying for the design, brand, and low capacity production, more than you are features or weight.