Products today have become more and more disposable. Tools, appliances and homewares are all manufactured with built-in obsolescence – they are not designed for the long term because companies want you to keep buying more. But one Auckland-based company has taken a different approach.

Ironclad portrait INP
Ironclad founders Joe Carter and Kate Slavin. Photo by Manja Wachsmuth.

The Ironclad Pan Company launched in 2020 with the aim of creating cookware that lasts more than a lifetime. In fact, their cast iron skillets are guaranteed to withstand 100 years of daily use. That’s three meals a day for three generations. 

Kate and Levi Slavin and Joe Carter founded the company in 2019 with the goal of creating a sustainable product using traditional techniques.

Every Ironclad Pan is hand-poured and hand-finished with high-grade recycled iron in their Auckland foundry. “The important part is that we're not taking anything out of the ground – we're repurposing existing iron into cookware,” Joe Carter explains. “It hasn’t been an easy process!” he continues. “Designing the patterns took a lot of research and development, with a lot of refining along the way. The moulds are made by hand-packing sand into our custom patterns – each having a top and a bottom, which are connected after the sand has set. There is also a science to getting the molten iron the right temperature on any given day (it is affected by weather conditions and humidity). This is then poured – at the right velocity – using a bucket and pulley system operated by a crew of experienced workers into the prepared sand moulds.”

The iron is left to cool, then is removed from the sand and painstakingly completed by hand – buffed to a smooth finish. “We wanted to have a beautifully smooth finish, rather than the coarse textures often associated with cast iron cookware,” Joe explains. 

“Finally, the pan is shot blast with millions of tiny metal balls. We ship the pans unseasoned, which means there are no unnecessary chemicals, dyes, enamels or paints in the production process.”

By using traditional methods of cast iron production, every Ironclad pan is unique and built to last. Currently the Ironclad range includes a family-sized Legacy Pan, and a smaller Lil’ Legacy, with a 4.5 litre Dutch oven – The Old Dutch – currently in production. “Since we launched, we have been overwhelmed by the support from our customers as well as some of the best chefs in Aotearoa,” Joe says. “Covid has forced many people to adjust their values and discover the joy of cooking at home again. We’re delighted to help them by providing durable, sustainable cookware. And we’ll continue to be here, for generations to come.”

Reported by Jo Percival for our Autumn 2022 issue

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