About this project
Cast iron is one of the best materials ever used for cookware. Its legendary cooking properties, durability, and versatility make cast iron a staple in every kitchen. When Teflon took over the cookware universe in the 1960’s nearly all of the famous manufacturers stopped creating their legendary cookware and closed their factories. Non-stick coatings breakdown fairly quickly and become useless after the coatings flake off whereas cast iron cookware is routinely used for generations.
With the rise of the new foodie culture, there has been a renewed interest better cooking tools and better cast iron.
We decided to develop our skillets because none of the current manufacturers have created a product that can replicate the quality of the vintage pans. Our goal was to bring back the vintage quality and add some aspects that would make our pans easier to use. The weight of cast iron is one of the biggest drawbacks to the material. This is why reducing the weight of the cookware was one of our main design goals. Lighter cookware is easier to handle and clean. In order to make cast iron cookware more convenient, we knew it needed to be sold completely seasoned and ready to use, not just lightly coated to prevent rusting like some manufacturers. This is what drove us to create an industry leading seasoning process, so each pan is ready to use right out of the box. We also designed our cooking surface to hold the seasoning better than any other skillet, so that it requires re-seasoning less often.
Find out how Marquette Castings makes a better skillet.
Modern foundries are not equipped to achieve the desired wall thickness or surface finish with typical sand casting. Casting in sand and then milling is one way to reduce weight, but it introduces an imperfect secondary process and can’t correct every surface of the pan.
We discovered that by using a process called Investment casting (lost wax) that the wall sections could be thinner and the finished product would be much smoother on ALL surfaces – just like the vintage pans. We use investment casting for our 8" and 10" skillets, but due to its size the 12" is cast in sand molds then milled.
We are completing the tooling for all of our skillets and will be able to start production immediately after the campaign is over. We are currently going through test runs of our seasoning process at our factory so that all the details will be worked out once we start production.
Keeping the pans from rusting after manufacturing is a problem that any cast iron manufacturer needs to address. One coat of vegetable oil will solve that problem, but makes for a very bad “seasoning”. Also, if not done properly, the “pre-seasoning” oil can lift during use, making for a very poor base for future seasoning. We decided to turn this technical problem into a feature by finishing each pan with 4 coats of baked on flax seed oil.
Our testing and research shows that flax has among the best properties of any seasoning oil option. Since the inside of our skillets are extremely smooth, we found it necessary to use Greg Blonder’s etching recipe to better prepare the surface so that the seasoning oil can stick. After the skillets are cast they are soaked in a recipe of hydrogen peroxide and sulfuric acid for a short period of time. This etching microscopically erodes the surface grain of the iron, creating a “micro pitting” that provides a much better surface for the oil to adhere. This process results in a pan that is ready to use right out of the box with no further seasoning necessary, it also creates a seasoned base that is more durable and less likely to break down over time. The skillets are then finished with 4 coats of baked on flax seed oil. The skillets spend about 3 hours in the oven per coat to fully cure the oil. The flax seed oil creates a hard and durable base to build further seasoning upon as your pan ages.
One of the biggest drawbacks of using vintage cast iron pans is the short stubby handle. It is always too hot, sits very close to the cooking surface and has a look that should have been left in the 1800’s. Our ideal design kept similar dimensions, wall thicknesses and surface finishes on the pan part, but updated the look, feel and function of the handle.
We considered using alternate materials and metals for the handle in hopes of creating a pan that could be largely used without the aid of a handle cover or oven mitt. All of the options were compromises that took away from the timeless durability of a cast iron pan. We needed our pans to conform to the convention that cast iron pans are nearly indestructible. No matter the heat source, recipe or food – cast iron skillets need to perform. Over the lifetime of a pan, the seasoning will most likely be compromised. Stripping and re-seasoning often subjects the pan to conditions and chemicals that would damage lesser metals or other materials. A multi-material pan also creates a weak point between the pan and the handle which could break at some point in the future. These factors drove our decision to stick with a single solid casting. We did our best to mitigate the heat transfer by creating a crescent shaped gap between the pan and the handle, slowing down the heat transfer.
With skillets, there is no such thing as one size fits all. We knew we wanted to launch with 3 sizes. We started with the 12” as the largest commonly used size. Once we finalized all the elements we scaled down the design to make 8” and 10” versions. These pans were small and light enough to remove the helper handle. We found that “weight” and “heft” were some of the biggest complaints of cast iron users. Our designs are focused on reducing the weight and improving the feel making the skillets easier to use.
Working with an overseas manufacturer creates many opportunities for time delays. The partners at Marquette Castings have experience working with foreign manufacturers and importing consumer products. Once products are in transit to our warehouse there are still numerous transportation issues that can arise, and while they are rare, such issues could have significant consequences on our ability to deliver the project on time. The good news is that we already have a finalized product, tooling and supply chain to quickly put into action upon the completion of a successful campaign.
We test multiple samples from each production run to ensure the metal alloy meets our exact specifications and is FDA compliant. These reports will be available on our website.How does the Lifetime Warranty work?
It’s a piece of iron – not much can go wrong. If it does, we are here to help. We will also provide ample support and information on how to get your pan back to new condition if the seasoning is compromised.
The skillets will ship prioritized on what production cycle you have chosen, and then by when your order came in. Some sizes may be available sooner than others – if you ordered multiple sizes, we will do our best to ship them to you as soon as we have them. Multiple skillet orders are given shipping priority to single orders.
Initially our goal was to make the pans in Michigan (or the Midwest). After realizing that Investment casting would create a far superior product – we found that working with our partner factories in Hebei would be the only option to deliver a top-quality pan at a reasonable price without cutting corners on the design, manufacturing, finishing or seasoning of our skillets. The Hebei region has been casting metal for thousands of years and we were lucky enough to partner with a world class foundry that are experts in both casting and machining. We continue to explore options for manufacturing our products in the USA.
Risks and challenges
Working with an overseas manufacturer creates many opportunities for time delays. The partners at Marquette Castings have experience working with foreign manufacturers and importing consumer products. Once products are in transit to our warehouse there are still numerous transportation issues that can arise, and while they are rare, such issues could have significant consequences on our ability to deliver the project on time. The good news is that we already have a finalized product, tooling and supply chain to quickly put into action upon the completion of a successful campaign.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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