I am a lover of stainless steel.  I adore my stainless steel tri-ply cookware.  I saved up for months and months to purchase the set and it was sure worth it!  I find, though, that I really only use two or three pieces frequently, so I’m not sure if a set purchase was the wise choice, but often times buying pieces together becomes more economical.

I love the way the tri-ply cooks evenly and literally “locks in” the moisture with a tight fitting lid.  Everything seems to taste phenomenally.  Another great facet of stainless steel (my dishwashing partner will attest to this and will, perhaps, suggest this to be the BEST part of stainless steel) is that any burned (gasp) food scraps leftover and caked to the pot or pan can easily be buffed out with a scrubby and some Bar Keeper’s Friend.  You know me, most everything in my life revolves around cleanliness…

I know I will never give up my fondness for stainless steel, but lately I’ve become enthralled with cast iron.  I’ve read so much about the quality, the endurance, and the adoration of fans.  I must admit as well, these days the bright and vibrant colors of the best brands of cast iron are quite appealing.  I imagine myself one day with a kitchen full of cookware in a rainbow of colors.

All that aside, the price-point of these pieces had been preventing me from trying them out for some time.  I certainly understand the adage, “you get what you pay for,” and highly respect the saying.  I believe it to be true with my whole heart.  That said, I also know that these pieces tend to become somewhat of a household heirloom – they are lifetime keepers, and may be passed down from generations within the family, so the investment would certainly be worthwhile.

Pans

Knowing all this information, I was still anxious to try out some cast iron for myself.  The skillet piece has been the most fascinating to me.  I’m all too familiar with the cooking properties of stainless steel, but know cast iron to be a bit different.  The reputation of exquisite heat retention and, of course, the ability to pop the skillet right in the oven without a problem certainly is a plus.  So, in all my desire to try these pieces, I wondered about brands.  The price point of these pieces is high for sure, but the price does differ a bit between brands.  What’s the true difference, I wondered, and does price really, really make a difference here?

I am truly so honored, then, to have had the opportunity to do a bit of a comparison: a cast iron enameled skillet comparison.  The three best brands: Le Creuset, Staub, and Lodge.  Perfect.  THRILLING, in fact.

All three brands have great reputations, with Le Creuset and Staub leading the way.  Le Creuset, so I’m told, tends to be the favorite for the home chef, as where Staub holds a candle for the professional chef.  Lodge has a nice reputation too, but on a much more economical scale.

The signature 11 3/4″ Le Creuset skillet runs around $165.  A 12″ Staub can go for as much as $236.  And Lodge retails for about $69.95.

Visually, they are all rather similar with the one large exception of the internal enameling of Lodge.  Both Le Creuset and Staub are glazed on the interior, with a bit of a glassy look.  Lodge, on the other hand, is not. This did result in some fibrous residue from the cleaning towel in the Lodge, which was not an issue with the smooth surfacing of the other two.  None of these three are advertised as “seasoned,” but they also state that they do not necessarily need to be pre-seasoned, due to the special internal coating.  This aspect certainly appeals to me, but I do look forward to a good seasoning of my own over the course of time.
The shape of each pan was slightly different, as was the feel – which can be expected, of course.

The comparison test went as follows:

All three skillets were preheated in a 300 degree oven, to ensure temperature consistency.  Each was then transferred to the stovetop for the test.  A bit of pastured butter and a NY Strip ensued.

In terms of cooking quality, all three performed quite well.  The steak cooked evenly and tasted pretty much the same among the different cooking vessels.

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Following the meat, I chose to deglaze and fry up some onions, only out of curiosity regarding the deglazing capacity of all three.  Again, there was not a whole lot of difference between the quality of the three.

cooking

The final test, though, had me wondering.  The woman with whom I spoke at Staub suggested this last part as the “real” test – the thermodynamic properties of the pieces, so to speak.  The mission was to take the piping hot skillet from the stove top directly to cold water.  Yikes!  In my normal cooking routine I would never dream of attempting such a temperature shock.
With much drama and steam, but without a flaw or a crack, all three withstood the test without a doubt.  I was quite pleased.

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As I formulated my thoughts to compile a proper review, I must say I was a bit surprised at the lack of variety in performance.  I really felt no huge difference in terms of how well each skillet cooked the food or even cleaned (cleaning was a breeze, by the way – just a little water and wiping the inside clean).  I was actually expecting a bit of a “shock” in the thermal test with the Lodge, only because the reputation is not as solid as with the two French brands.  I somewhat expected a crack or something to go ‘wrong.’  Good job Lodge, – you held up!!!  I think I still, though, have my trepidations and suspicions about whether or not the Lodge will stand up to the test of time.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an outstanding product.  In fact, I own a Lodge Dutch oven and adore it.  My feeling at this point, though, and my doubt, I’m sure, is only a conditioning and a preconceived notion.  I’m surely excited to continue using the piece and relying on it for decades to come –

I will say, though, that the test did determine my personal preference.  While they all three performed equally well, they also all three felt different to me.  The Lodge was uncomfortably heavy for a little lady like me.  I was forced to “double fist” it, as they say, to remove it from the oven.  I could see that becoming an issue until my little forearms build up some strength!  The size and shape if the Staub proved to be my favorite.  The circumference of this skillet was slightly larger than the other two, but it was lighter overall.  I liked that.  And, I love the deep vibrant color offerings of this brand (that’s important, trust me).  In terms of my favorite and preference in all regards, I chose the Le Creuset.   The sides were a bit more “rounded,” I suppose than the Staub and just hit home with me.  Even though it was slightly heavier than the Staub, I just loved the way it felt in my hand and the way it sat with my wrist and forearm.

In conclusion, all three products are great.  Go out and buy one today!!!  Honestly, do it.  As I said before, I’ll never give up my stainless steel love, but I know for sure this love affair I’m having with cast iron is continuing to grow.  In fact, Mom, watch out!  I’m coveting that bright orange Dutch oven sitting in your kitchen every day, more and more.

Thank you so much to Le Creuset, Staub, and Lodge for the opportunity for this review.  I learned a great deal about the importance of consistency and about all three products in general.  My thought process was much more detailed than what was shared – only due to the fact that I refuse to bog down readers with all my words.  But, as I said, this was a great experience and I’m so happy to share positive reviews for all three products.

7 thoughts on “Comparing Cast Iron

  1. This was interesting — I know you gave all three an impartial test. I have a set of Le Creuset in the garage — it’s heavy and takes up too much room in the kitchen. I know — it will never get any use that way… I love the small size skillets Lodge makes, and I really like that they’re made in the USA.

  2. I worked for a cookware store when living in the States, one of my biggest regrets is not buying myself a cast iron pan, I had a great discount working there too!

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