Field Skillets draw inspiration from the lighter, smoother skillets of America’s cast iron manufacturing heyday — especially vintage pieces by Griswold, of Erie, PA, and Wagner, of Sidney, OH. For our first lid, we put our spin on a cast iron innovation.

Photo: Lauren V. Allen

What does a lid do?

A good lid broadens the applications of the pan it fits, turning a sear and saute-friendly stovetop skillet into a compact braising machine: a snug-fitting lid maintains a steady temperature, and traps steam to cook proteins and vegetables with wet heat. Where a partially covered releases steam during cooking, the closed system created by a tightly-sealed lid causes that moisture to condense as water droplets on the underside of the lid. That condensation then drips back down to the cooking surface, where the moisture is reabsorbed and continues the braising process.

But most simple lids have a key design flaw: a smooth, domed lid of any material will trap moisture, but the curvature of the lid will make water drip toward the outer edges of the pan — away from the center of the cooking surface, where proteins most in need of moisture are likely to be.

Photo: Lauren V. Allen

Without a lid, cooks redistribute moisture by basting: manually applying extra cooking liquid or spooning run-off juices onto a drying roast. By the early 20th century, cast iron cookware designers like Griswold’s C.A. Massing had developed a tool to solve this problem: the self-basting lid.

Illustration from C.A. Massing patent application for Griswold, dated November 25, 1918.

Massing’s 1920 patent (above) shows a hands-free system for recirculating moisture efficiently. The ridges on the underside of the lid cause moisture to collect and drip at regular intervals, releasing the cook from hours of manual basting for slow-cooking roasts.

Other manufacturers added distinct design flourishes: Wagner’s Drip-Drop series used an array of points and starburst patterns; Lodge applied a grid of points. In all cases, these new and popular designs pursued the same function: to make stovetop and oven braising easy, while delivering evenly-cooked moist roasts.

Vintage advertisements from Griswold and Wagner.

The Field cast iron lid keeps up the vintage-style tradition, using a two-ring concentric self-basting pattern to evenly distribute moisture. It’s a clean, simple solution that matches the silhouette of the No.8 skillet, and makes your everyday skillet an all-purpose, any-burner, chicken-braiser, mussel-steamer, rice-cooker, veggie-roaster, and grilled cheese melter.