Cooking | May 27, 2021 12:20 pm

Review: Milo’s Fresh Take on Cast Iron Eclipses Other Trendy Cookware

We tested the young brand's enameled Dutch oven and skillet, and found plenty to like

A selection of Milo cast iron cookware in colors now available on Kickstarter
Milo is swapping its black and white color palette for something more vibrant. Should you add it to your kitchen?
Kana

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When Milo started selling cookware in 2018, the startup had plenty of competition. Trendy pots and pans were all the rage among entrepreneurs — similar brands like Great Jones, Caraway and Our Place were all launched around the same time — and direct-to-consumer, online-native kitchen essentials that promise to undercut the legacy names have only flourished in the years since. 

That means Milo, which originally began with just an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, had to duke it out against Le Creuset and Staub (which it set itself up as an alternative to), as well as countless flash-in-the-pan trendsetters. A few years later, after adding a couple other items, including an enameled cast-iron skillet, the brand has held its own against both the old standbys and the newcomers. In fact, it seems they’re just getting started; through June 6, Milo is running a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund new colors for their cookware, including hues like “Fresh Terracotta,” “Dijon” and “Eucalyptus.”

Over the last few weeks I’ve been testing out the three pieces available as the main reward for donating to the Kickstarter: the 5.5 quart Classic Dutch Oven, 10-inch Ultimate Skillet and the Universally Compatible Lid which fits on both. I’ve been using the brand’s classic white colorway (which is currently available for purchase), instead of one of the new colors which aren’t scheduled to be delivered until December. After cooking, cleaning and beating them up, it became increasingly clear that Milo has what it takes to stick around after similarly trendy brands and other Kickstarter companies call it quits.

What We Liked

Milo cookware looks impressive in your kitchen, on your stove and on your table. It’s just a fact. I’ve currently got a number of cast-iron pieces in my kitchen for testing purposes, but when I broke out this Dutch oven and skillet, my wife made a point to comment about its elegance. If aesthetics are high on your list, and if your kitchen has open shelves or counters, that’s reason enough to consider, especially now that they’re rolling out a new color palette. 

In terms of price, they undercut the big brands by a lot, though not quite as much as another of our favorites. A 5.5 quart Staub will set you back about $360, a Le Creuset $370, and normally the Milo Dutch oven goes for $135 and the three-piece set for $230, though during the Kickstarter you get all three items for just $175. That’s a lot of cast iron for a small chunk of change. And did we mention Milo makes its pots and pans from 40% recycled cast iron? That’s just one of its eco-conscious selling points, along with their parent company Kana’s partnership with 1% for the Planet. 

In terms of the actual cooking, the Dutch oven features a large cooking surface thanks to ever so slightly sloped sides, rather than rounded. And the universal lid is a lifesaver, as the lack of tight-fitting lids on cast-iron pans — and pans in general — is one of the real tragedies of the modern home cooking experience. The two pour spouts on the skillet came in handy, as did the enamel coating for my induction cooktop. Yes, all their cookware works on induction, and compared to bare cast iron the enamel offers a much gentler cooking experience.

A Milo cast iron skillet and enameled Dutch oven in the color terracotta
The new “Fresh Terracotta” color available during Milo’s Kickstarter campaign.
Kana

What to Look Out For

On Milo’s website, the FAQ section includes the question, “Why is your cookware so affordable?” Their stated answer doesn’t mention that the cookware is made in China, according to previous reviews. In fact, I couldn’t find that anywhere on the Kickstarter page or their own website. Instead, the company describes the cookware as “French-inspired, California-designed” — the latter designation is stamped on the bottom of both the oven and skillet. As we’ve previously explained, just because something is made in China doesn’t mean it’s worse than a product made in the U.S. (or France in this case), or vice-versa, but we do wish there was more transparency here, especially from a company that touts its environmental standards. 

In my test, there were a couple design features that stuck out. The skillet is described as “enameled inside and out,” but that doesn’t mean the cooking surface is the same as the enameled Dutch oven. Here, it’s more like a bare cast-iron pan, except with a sandy, grainy texture; you don’t need to season it, but it definitely was not nonstick, so use plenty of oil or butter when cooking. As for the Dutch oven, the interior coating of mine wasn’t perfectly smooth — there was a patch with a slightly perforated texture — but Milo offers a lifetime warranty for “normal use,” so I wasn’t as worried about that (other reviews mention Kana sending new pieces when those shipped have defects). 

Is It Worth It? 

For the price, especially the even more affordable price of the Kickstarter rewards? Certainly. If name brands don’t mean anything to you, but you don’t just want to buy the cheapest thing on Amazon, Milo strikes a nice balance of legitimate performance, a keen eye for design and a price you won’t regret when you realize buying a nice pot doesn’t automatically make you a better cook. Although, these pieces did make me want to cook more, which led to more hours in the kitchen, so maybe in a roundabout way these will make you a better home chef.