COOKWARE REVIEW: Field Company Cast Iron Skillet
Everyone is into cast iron these days, not just hipsters. It works great! Folks love it! So why do I lack any?
A good question, one easily answered. Cast iron is damn heavy, and I always had food stick when I tried it in the past. I never had the patience to get a good seasoning going, much less handle ongoing maintenance. I was too cheap to buy anything but crude bumpy stuff from Lodge.
I shy away from campaigns that try to do too many novel things. It’s a good rule that has saved me from backing failure-bound products in the past. For this skillet, they wanted to recreate the experience of fine vintage cast iron with its smooth interior, in upgraded ergonomic form. Their main goals were pretty simple:
- Machined-smooth cooking surface.
- Lighter than the norm, under 4.5 pounds. (Not lightweight.)
- Ergonomic handle.
That sounded like a winning, yet doable, combination. I pulled the trigger. A mid-campaign change in foundries delayed them a few months, but in good time I received my skillet.
This seems like a mighty fine skillet to me. Let’s look at their goals…
The smoother cooking surface is the main draw. Old cast iron skillets were cast, then machined smoother. Today if you buy a nice Lodge pan, the surface will be pebbly because Lodge doesn’t machine them smooth.
The Field Skillet, like many other artisanal skillets, is machined smoother on the inside in an attempt to replicate vintage cast iron. This surface isn’t smooth like glass. Looking closely will reveal concentric grooves from the machining. It looks a little like a vinyl record. The seasoning needs a little texture to give it something to hold. Vintage cast iron shows the same sort of light pattern. In any case this skillet is dramatically smoother than the pebbly surface of Lodge cast iron.
One concern about this sort of machining is that some artisanal skillets have had problems holding a good seasoning. Speaking of seasoning…
It arrived pre-seasoned and ready to use, so use it I did. How does it cook? Delightfully. It browns food beautifully maintaining a constant heat at the same time. It has been very non-stick for me. Granted, I’m being generous with my fats. Still, nothing has stuck at all and clean-up has been a breeze. The pan heats quicker than I expected, perhaps due to the reduced weight.
I’m not an expert chef by any means, and this is my first cast iron skillet. I can’t draw on much experience. That said, I like this surface. Our variety of other skillets are rarely touched now.
To be fair I also have a cheap Lodge griddle, bought to complement the skillet. It’s pebbly as all get-out, fairly non-stick and works nearly as well as the Field Skillet. It’s not the refined experience that the Field skillet offers, and is not as non-stick, but it works just fine.
They hit their target of less than 4 pounds 8 ounces with mine weighing in at just a shade under 4 pounds and 7 ounces. This isn’t a dramatic drop from other skillets. It’s still a heavy chunk of cast iron. It’s not half the weight of a Lodge, but it is noticeably lighter. On its own, how important the weight is may well depend on your upper body strength. I like the weight.
The handle vastly improves upon the oblong loop many cast iron skillets feature. It feels good in the hand. It gives you good control over the pan. It does stay warm longer than you might expect, lacking a big gap in the center, so take care. The handle and lighter weight combine for a skillet that’s a pleasure to use.
There really isn’t much to mention, but for the sake of completeness…
These aren’t cheap. Via Kickstarter, prices ranged from $85 to $135, depending on how soon you wanted yours. They should retail at an even $100. Certainly that’s more than a similarly sized Lodge skillet running twenty bucks. Compared to other kitchen items $100 isn’t all that much. For a nice chunk of cast iron that should last your lifetime? Certainly reasonable.
Like most Kickstarter campaigns, this one is running a bit behind. In this case, the inability to get the quality they wanted from their first foundry forced a switch to a new one part-way through the process. That’s an understandable delay. However, that does mean that they’re still fulfilling Kickstarter backer rewards. If you want one of these pans, you’ll have to get in the pre-order line.
Lack of Proven Longevity
Being cast iron it ought to last forever. People still have Griswolds and Wagners from decades past. Lodge stuff lasts forever, too. Will the Field Skillet last decades? It ought to, but we don’t really know. These folks don’t have a track record stretching back through the years.
Don’t get me wrong as I fully expect to have this for decades. There’s just no track record to back this expectation.
Reported Seasoning and Quality Issues
In the Kickstarter comments, a couple of folks have reported problems with the seasoning. As noted above, I’ve had no problems. Some folks have reported skillets with casting flaws. Mine is perfect. Most folks commenting seem pleased and the company seems keen to help those having issues. They’re casting these at a rate of a thousand a week. The few complaints I’ve seen are tiny compared to that volume.
So, should you buy one of these? I recommend it if you’re in the market for your first cast iron skillet and can wait a bit for delivery. It’s easy to use while working and looking great.
If you already have a skillet you like, there’s no compelling reason to change. For an existing skillet, check its feel and heft, then decide whether you want the advantages the Field Skillet brings to the table.
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