From kitchen to campfire, a cast iron skillet is one of the most essential pieces of cookware you can own. Along with a Dutch oven, a cast iron skillet is an indispensable—and highly versatile—vessel in your culinary fleet.
Stovetop, oven, grill, campfire . . . a good cast iron skillet can excel in almost every cooking environment, and it can tackle a prodigious list of ingredients and recipes. With a little TLC, a cast iron skillet will last a lifetime, and then some. A few of the pieces in my cast iron collection are more than 130 years old.
For today’s review, I’m pitting two popular cast iron skillets against each other: Lodge Chef 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet vs. Smithey Ironware No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet.
Of course, Lodge Cast Iron in South Pittsburg, Tenn., has been a trusted name in cast iron since 1896, while Smithey Ironware Co. in Charleston, S.C., has earned a very favorable reputation since opening its workshop in 2014.
During today’s review from the Outsider Test Kitchen, I’ll put both brand-new skillets through the exact same challenges on a gas stovetop to create an Outsider-sized breakfast: bacon, sausage, hash browns, country ham, eggs, and pancakes. Then, I’ll pick an overall winner based on Usability, Aesthetics, and Price.
Cast Iron Skillets: Tale of the Tape
The Lodge and Smithey skillets feature a number of similarities, as well as a few standout differences.
Both skillets are roughly the same length, width, and depth, as you can see in the above graphic. In addition, both skillets features double pour spouts, an assist handle, and multiple options for wall/rack hanging. Both skillets come pre-seasoned (Lodge/vegetable oil) (Smithey/grapeseed oil). I typically season all of my cast iron with flaxseed oil multiple times before using, but not for today’s tests.
The Lodge skillet features a curved handle and outwardly flared walls, while the Smithey utilizes a horizontal handle and slightly open walls (what I consider standard). The biggest noticeable physical difference is weight. According to our scale, the Lodge weighed 6.3 pounds, while the Smithey registered 7.8 pounds. Yeah, 1.5 pounds is very noticeable.
I put both skillets through a breakfast obstacle course of epic proportions in this order: bacon, sausage, hash browns, country ham, eggs, and pancakes. Both skillets performed exceptionally well—by brand-new standards—during two straight hours of cooking on each.
The pre-seasoning on both skillets gets a passing grade (which is all you can really hope for). In fact, I didn’t add any additional oil during the Usability Test until cooking the pancakes at the end. While the interior of the Smithey was worse for wear than the Lodge, I attribute some of that to blemishes in the copper-colored seasoning of the Smithey being easier to spot. With continued seasonings, I’m confident both skillets will be remarkable additions to your kitchen and campfire.
However, the Lodge excelled in a few specific instances, in my opinion. First, I loved its spatula-friendly flared walls when it came time to flip the pancakes and remove the eggs from the pan. Second, the curved handle was more comfortable when lifting and moving the skillet, which there was plenty of. Finally, over the course of two hours, the lighter weight of the Lodge was a boon to my wrist and arm. Again, the 1.5-pound weight differential is extremely noticeable.
Usability Winner: Lodge
I’m convinced that the the Smithey is the most beautiful piece of cast iron on the market. With its polished interior and quail logo (both on the handle and underside), it looks like a piece of art fit for a cast iron museum. It’s stunning. The copper-colored interior will give way to a more traditional black coating as the skillet is seasoned (carbonized with oil) over time.
And look, the Lodge ain’t exactly chopped liver. It’s a handsome piece of ironware, but it pales aesthetically when it’s side-by-side the Smithey—even after cooking that Outsider-sized breakfast.
Aesthetics Winner: Smithey
Outsider purchased each skillet from the official Lodge and Smithey websites, respectively. The Lodge cost $49.95 + $7.99 (shipping) + $5.65 (tax) for a total of $63.59. The Smithey cost $200 + $15 (shipping) + $20.96 (tax) for a total of $235.96.
Now, the winner of Price isn’t simply the cheaper skillet. By coming in at a quarter of the cost of the Smithey, the Lodge easily wins that comparison. However, I’m also factoring in both Aesthetics and Usability. And, I’m also taking into consideration both companies. Lodge is the giant of the cast iron industry and can’t be matched when it comes to size, scale, and production. I think of Smithey as more of a boutique cast iron experience.
I could see myself paying $100 or even $150 for the Smithey, and declaring it the Price winner (that’s how much I love its beautiful Aesthetics), but at $200 (not counting tax/shipping), I just can’t pick the Smithey over the Usability-superior Lodge at $49.95.
Price Winner: Lodge
Cast Iron Skillet: Overall Winner
Both skillets are welcome additions to my cast iron collection. If you can afford the Smithey, by all means, buy it (or add it to your gift Wish List). But if you are looking for pragmatic bang to your cast iron buck, look no further than the Lodge.
Overall Winner: Lodge Chef 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
The following items were featured during today’s product review and are Outsider Approved. Some of the links below are affiliate links, so if you click on the link and purchase the item, Outsider may receive a small commission.