Startups that are transforming the cookware world

If you haven’t upgraded your cookware in years because of the sticker shock of brands like Le Creuset, All Clad and Staub, you might want to investigate the cookware startups that have sprung up over the past few years. A bevy of companies are taking aim at the venerated but costly giants in the industry with new lines of cookware that aim to compete on quality but cut out the middlemen to offer prices that won’t break your bank account.


Some of the new companies offer value propositions based mainly on quality and price, while others up the ante by also touting sustainability, ethical treatment of workers, ergonomic design, and local sourcing of raw materials. The bulk of these new startups are marketing to millenials, who find that Le Creuset Dutch ovens and similar cookware are priced out of reach, and who are comfortable with the direct-to-consumer models for home goods that have proliferated in the past few years. 

Taking their cues from startups like Casper (which sells mattresses) and Brooklinen (which features luxury bedding), these entrepreneurs offer kitchenware online without investing in brick-and-mortar stores. Companies that have made inroads in the field include Made In, which touts that its five-layer stainless cookware is made in the USA; Great Jones (named after cookbook editor Judith Jones), which produces enameled cast iron Dutch ovens among other products; and Field, which manufactures US-made cast iron skillets that are allegedly lighter and easier to season than competitors’ products.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the roasts and braises). So how do these products stack up against titans like All-Clad and Le Creuset? It’s probably too soon to know if they are durable enough to be passed down from generation to generation, but judging by online reviews, much of the new cookware will give the old guard a run for its money in performance and aesthetics. 

I was an early backer of The Field Company’s Kickstarter because I loved my hand-me-down vintage cast iron skillet and wanted another like it, but couldn’t find anything comparable in stores. The promotional materials looked promising, so I plunked down a pledge for two No. 8 skillets in the first production run. After a few development delays, Field shipped the skillets several weeks behind initial estimates. The pans (one of which is shown at right in the above photo) were worth the wait. The finish was ultra-smooth and seasoned beautifully, and now these skillets match the performance of my vintage cast iron while weighing slightly less. 

The online cookware space is increasing at a rapid pace. While most of these companies sell directly to the consumer via a website, some are venturing into partnerships with restaurants, brick-and-mortar stores, and online aggregating websites. You can buy Smithey skillets on Food52, for example. Companies that employed a traditional venture capital route may find themselves under pressure to quickly expand their product lines or number of sales outlets, while those who chose a crowd-funded approach often move more deliberately. 

Bridal registries will probably still include the old guard like Le Creuset and All-Clad for the foreseeable future, but in a few years’ time that might not be the case. Some online bridal registries are already offering products from some of these startups. This unexpected competition has also pushed some of the big names into producing new lines with lower price points.

Have you tried any of these or other similar products from new cookware purveyors? If so, please share your experience in the comments. 

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