This Lodge skillet is the top-selling cookware product across the industry, and the company isn't looking to change a thing.

By Kat Kinsman
February 03, 2021
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Go to your kitchen, flip over your cast-iron skillet, and see what secrets the bottom reveals. Each maker employs a different system of letters and numbers to identify the line and size, and the code SK10—the Lodge 12-inch skillet—has been stamped into more pans than any other on earth. The fifth-generation-family-owned company sold 4 million skillets in 2020 alone, maintaining its standing as the top-selling cookware product across the industry, and CEO Mike Otterman works a shift on the factory floor or store each month, right there in South Pittsburg, Tennessee where Joseph Lodge opened Blacklock Foundry in 1896. "We are in a town of 3,200 and we will never move," Otterman says. That commitment to tradition is ironclad. The only design alterations Lodge has made to its signature design over the past 125 years have been adding an assist handle on skillets over eight inches in 1998, and seasoning them starting in 2002. 

That's not to say they're stuck in the past. For instance, the 2019 launch of the Blacklock line pays homage to the original foundry that burned down in 1910 (then reopened as Lodge that same year) while featuring a thinner, lighter lift than its classic counterpart. Annual "Made In America" 10.25-inch skillets have been cast with the American flag (2018) and bald eagles (2019) on the underside, but the 2020 edition featuring Rosie the Riveter may be Otterman's favorite. When he takes that shift in the packing department, he personally hefts 10-12 thousand pounds of iron alongside a predominantly female workforce who does this every day. "Everybody who works here has a really firm handshake."

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet with Melting Butter
Credit: Greg DuPree

By the numbers

50 million

Pounds of cast iron products Lodge produces each year

125

Years that the company has been in business, first as Blacklock Foundry, then Lodge 

10,000-12,000 

Pounds that a worker in the packing department will lift in a normal shift

72%

Of people on the packing line are women. The Rosie the Riveter skillet design celebrated the icon's 75th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the Suffrage Movement.

2

Design changes that the company has made in their 125-year history. 1998: an assist handle on skillets over 10 pounds. 2002: seasoning the skillets at the factory

2800

Degrees to which the metal is "superheated" and it's poured into the sand mold at 2450°F - 2550°F. 700°F is the temperature at which Lodge seasons their skillets, but whatever your home oven can manage is fine. 

1

Of a kind. Because the skillets are sand-cast, each one is technically slightly different. #1 is also where the 12-inch skillet (the 10 SK) ranks in sales across the entire cookware industry.

10 SK

Flip over almost any cast-iron skillet and you'll find markings that indicate the manufacturer and size. 10 SK has always been the SKU for the 12-inch skillet, and while that may seem strange, Lodge pans are measured by the width of the bottom ring rather than the top. 

3200

Population of South Pittsburg, TN where Lodge is based. 50% of their workforce comes from right there in Marion County.

20%

Of everything the 100% family-owned company makes goes back to the employees for profit sharing and 401k.

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