Why Cast Iron Skillets Are Often Less Expensive Than Other Cookware

Cast iron cookware is praised by amateur and professional chefs alike for its ability to distribute and retain heat, its durability, and its versatility, transferring from the stove to the oven with ease. If you've got some at home, you've likely appreciated the kitchen tasks at which it excels, from searing steak to toasting spices to frying eggs — and you've no doubt appreciated its often-reasonable price tag.

Lodge, one of the United States' top manufacturers of cast iron cookware, retails its classic 10.25-inch skillet for just $24 — a steal, when you consider the fact that well-cared for (and well-seasoned) cast iron will easily last for several generations, even improving with use as the nonstick coating known as "seasoning" builds up on the pan over time (via Taste of Home). So if cast iron skillets are so coveted in the kitchen, why are they often less expensive than other high-performing items such as those made of stainless steel?

The process of making and shipping (most) cast iron skillets is simple

According to The Kitchn, which spoke with Lodge Manufacturing's CEO and president Mike Otterman, the brand owes its affordable prices to a few key factors: First, Otterman pointed out, the actual manufacturing of cast iron skillets is simple, involving only a few steps that are all completely automated — thus cutting down on labor costs. Cast iron pans are made of a mix of molten metals that are poured into a sand mold and baked. Afterwards, the sand is knocked away (via The Kitchn). With the exception of enameled cast iron, which goes through additional production steps, most cast iron pans don't require any additional work before they're ready to ship.

Shipping costs for manufacturers such as Lodge are comparatively low. Since Lodge and other cast iron cookware brands, including Smithey, are made in the United States, shipping to stores based here is cheaper than the exportation costs faced by countries such as China, a producer of cast iron brands like Utopia.

All that being said, Lodge is certainly one of the most affordable American-made cast iron brand available in the U.S., with similar skillets made by competitors such as Butter Pat Industries retailing for nearly 10 times the price, at $215. As explained by Gear Patrol, Butter Pat cookware is actually cast and finished by hand, as opposed to the cheaper, automated production of other manufacturers.