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Behind the Design

USA Enamel™: Drawing Inspiration from the Best in American Design

By: Lodge Cast Iron / June 7, 2023

Kelly Peterson is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Lodge. Part of her work involves developing new-to-world cookware, and she recently had the unique challenge of designing our USA Enamel™ Dutch Ovens—a multi-year process that took her from stacks of books to piles of pots. Learn more about the design inspiration for this new line of enameled cast iron and how we got here as we sit down for a Q&A with Kelly.

Kelly Peterson, Product Design
Kelly Peterson

Where did you draw inspiration for the design of USA Enamel™?

The runway was wide open in terms of what we wanted to do with USA Enamel! All we knew was that we wanted the cookware to feel like a piece of Americana—but honestly, that meant a lot of different things. I started digging into that whole notion and it led me to product design of the 50s and 60s time period, when things were really made with intention. It felt to me like a real turning point in American design: products were meant to be sophisticated but also special, which is what we wanted for USA Enamel.

Some of the key categories that we drew inspiration from were classic cars and guitars. We were drawn to really beautiful chrome detailing, rich colors, the contours of classic cars that were so simple but also striking. If you pass an older car on the street versus our current cars, you can tell immediately—contours were a big theme for us for that reason. We also looked at the spaces of that time—the diners and kitchens and places where people congregated. These spaces were full of the excitement of that era.

The nice thing about the design we landed on, though, is that if you have this design background, you can probably draw some correlations. But even without that, the pot feels timeless—not pigeon-holed to a certain era. It’s intentional but not dated.

"We wanted loads of beautiful detailing, but none of those could compromise the quality or durability of the vessel in any way. And the vessel had to be something we could make here in South Pittsburg."

- Kelly Peterson, Senior Product Marketing Manager and design lead on USA Enamel™

What were some “must haves” when you were envisioning USA Enamel?

When we started putting pen to paper, I knew it had to be something really iconic. We have a really high bar set with our seasoned cast iron: if people draw a skillet, most of the time it’s a Lodge skillet. So this line had to be equally timeless and look great in the kitchen for years to come. We wanted it to feel really luxurious, kind of like the centerpiece of your kitchen. Kind of like the crown jewel on your stove there that you’re really proud to leave out.

We looked at the current product landscape, which doesn’t have a lot of variation in it—a lot of enameled cast iron on the marketplace has a similar silhouette with standard loop handles; there’s not a lot of innovation in terms of knobs and hardware, either. Nothing breaks out from the pack in a stand-out way, to me. So another must-have was feeling different from all that.

USAE Enamel Anatomy of a Dutch Oven Infographic

What USA Enamel features do you think cooks are going to really love?

The knob for us was a big thing—it’s higher up so that if you’re wearing an oven mitt you have room to get under it and around it. We have the domed lid, too, giving you a little more room for larger roasts that may come up above the top line of the vessel. And we knew from research that people really want more generous handles, so we made sure to create something larger with a more intentional, square profile.

There’s a benefit in a dutch oven of having something with a flat bottom and more braising space, but there’s also the benefit of a curved side wall in terms of stirring. And so we rounded our corners to really balance both needs well: it’s not squared off to where you can’t stir and get into corners, but it still has that large surface area for braising. We shaped it in a way that would make for a great experience.

We wanted to make sure that it looks great from the inside and the outside, so taking that design and translating it to the interior is pretty different. The simplicity of the design works well on the interior and doesn’t impact the performance, but still gives you that chance to bring a real showpiece to the table.

How many “drafts” did you go through?

A lot. We had a great partner in Chris Dorion, our CAD designer in Chicago, and generated tons of sketches—though our current design was one that we all felt strongly about from the beginning. We made sure that this dutch oven was really beautiful from every angle. We were also interested in using the handles and accents as a way to elevate the look. We wanted to make it aesthetically pleasing and not just functional, and these details are what makes this more than just a dutch oven.

USA Enamel in Production

What was most difficult about creating this cookware?

We had to keep in mind the manufacturing process. Finding the sweet spot between having a really beautiful and stand-out design, but also making it functional and practical for consumers, and also something that we could produce, as an organization that is new to enameling… that was the biggest challenge.

We wanted loads of beautiful detailing, but none of those could compromise the quality or durability of the vessel in any way. And the vessel had to be something we could make here in South Pittsburg.

What’s the first thing you cooked in your USA Enamel Dutch Oven?

I made a roast for my grandma! That may not have been the first thing but it was definitely early on. We also tackled a lot of traditional “problem” foods to see if they’d impact quality, stuff with potential to stain or damage the pots. We were focused on testing more than anything else—it wasn’t about cooking something lovely, it was about cooking what we needed to to prove out the quality.

What was most exciting about creating this cookware?

Seeing Lodge come into color after so many years! It’s been a dream for a long time, for a lot of people. And it opens up a lot of use for iron. Between enamel and seasoned iron, that covers about 90% of all cooking situations. It’s the biggest thing that we’ve all wanted to do. It feels so natural and it was so exciting to lead the team that would ultimately determine what that dream looks like as a physical piece of cookware.

Shop USA Enamel™

The USA Enamel™ Dutch Ovens are made to stand out with intentional, timeless design paired with incredible, oven-to-table performance.

Contributed By: Lodge Cast Iron

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