About a month ago, I received my Stargazer 10.5″ skillet. While, I haven’t had a chance to use it as much as I would like, I have done a fair amount of cooking on it. I purchased the bare skillet, partially because I was interested in how well the seasoning process would go comparing the smooth cooking surface vs. the rougher areas of the skillet. Their seasoned skillet is only $8 more, so if you want to use it right out of the box, it’s probably worth it.
Opening the box, the skillet was well packaged and sufficiently protected. I understand that Stargazer has since re-worked their packaging to provide even better protection for their pieces. In addition to the box and padding, the skillet was wrapped in plastic, and had been coated with a light film of oil to prevent rusting in transit. I didn’t get any pictures of the packaging as I was admittedly a bit excited, and just tore into the box.
The Bare Skillet
The bare skillet came, as mentioned above, with a light coat of oil. It was the nice dull gray that you would expect from bare cast iron. A few pictures are below (Click for larger images).
The craftsmanship is immediately apparent. The machining of the cooking surface is very well done, with only slight evidence of tooling being present. I thought the logo and markings on the back were a good throwback to the “old days” when companies were proud of their product and were happy to have their name stamped in it for ever.
One of the most notable departures from the construction of most skillets on the market today is the lack of “pour spouts”. Stargazer compensates for this by adding a flared rim to the circumference of the pan.
The size and shape of the handle also were a bit different than what might be expected or “normal” in vintage or modern skillets. In addition, the handle design seems to be one that would be comfortable for use. The assist handle is pretty well in line with most skillets that have one (along the lines of the Lodge assist handles).
Overall, the weight felt much lighter than most skillets in the 10″ range. Stargazer claims that their skillet is a full pound lighter than the “competition”. Though they don’t specify who the competition is, I have no reason to doubt this. I didn’t even bother to weigh their skillet or compare it to others. For me, weight is much less of an issue when compared to design and performance, so it’s just an added bonus.
I followed the directions that came with the skillet for seasoning. These instructions can be found on their website as well. There are no major departures from most seasoning guides that are out there, but since it’s their skillet, I figured I would follow their instructions with one exception. I used three layers of seasoning rather than their recommended two. Overall, the seasoning was as expected with no major issues, and resulted in a beautiful bronze color.
I used Canola oil as recommended, and found the seasoning process to go nearly as smoothly as expected. The only issue I had was that, due to the fine machining on the cooking surface, it was actually very difficult to tell if all of the oil was actually removed from the surface before putting it back in the oven for the first round at 475º. As a result, and likely at least partially due to my excitement, there are some dark “splotches” that you can see in the pictures below. These pictures are of the skillet after the initial seasoning.
Second layer of seasoning:
Third layer of seasoning:
Real World Use
My initial use of the Stargazer 10.5″ cast iron skillet was to cook a few eggs. I used a touch more butter than I normally would, but I had no problem pulling the eggs out when they were done. In fact, I had a hard time pulling them out because they just kept sliding around and I couldn’t get my spatula under them. I ended up “pouring” the eggs out onto my plate. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the eggs (or most of what I cooked).
One thing I noticed was how cool the handle stayed. The handle stayed cool enough to manipulate without a glove or towel or anything throughout the whole process. It actually was cool enough that I forgot I was using cast iron. The assist handle does not stay so cool. I learned this the hard way.
Next, I cooked some meatloaf. Again, as expected, the skillet performed flawlessly, though I did burn the meatloaf a bit. I suppose I could hold that against Stargazer, but that’s probably not fair.
In addition, I’ve cooked chicken and pork chops in this skillet. No issues at all with anything sticking. When pouring oil off after frying pork chops, the lip on the circumference of the skillet worked as well as any pour spout I’ve used. There was still a little dripping down the side of the skillet, but nothing excessive, and perhaps a little less than with other skillets I’ve used.
- Well made
- Light weight
- Smooth cooking surface
- Ergonomic and cool handle
- Attractive design
- No lid available
- Only one size available
- Cost (see my final thoughts)
The Stargazer 10.5″ cast iron skillet is a perfect addition to any kitchen. All around, it quickly became my favorite piece. It’s perfect for cooking for 3. The design and “feel” when using it is superior to most pieces I’ve used, especially those of more modern design. My only real complaint is the lack of a lid. There were a few dishes that I hoped to use this skillet for where I needed a lid. For those, I had to revert to other cookware. I’d also really like to see additional sizes available.
As I mentioned in the “Cons” above, the cost may be a factor for some. The bare skillet is $80 with the seasoned skillet being $88. Shipping is another $10, but isn’t unreasonable. This puts the cost of ownership well above some of the competition such as the Lodge 10.25″ which can be picked up for about $15-$20. This price tag, however is still far below some of Stargazer’s more comparable competition. The quality, light weight, and cool handle are well worth the cost, however. This is a piece that I can see using as long as I’m alive, or at least until I hand it down to my daughter.
Overall, I’d rate the Stargazer 10.5″ Cast Iron Skillet a 9.5 out of 10. The quality, craftsmanship and design are all top notch. In addition, the fact that Stargazer Cast Iron is an American company, and keeps all of their production in the USA is a plus. I highly recommend this skillet to anyone that’s looking, and will seriously consider any products that they put out in the future (like a lid)!
As a side note, we’ll be (reluctantly) loaning this skillet out to the folks at American Camping Today to get some open flame use. We’ll let you know when they’ve given their thoughts.