Kind of Obsessed

I Can’t Get Enough of This Weird Cast-Iron Pot from Japan

January 28, 2020 Home By

In Kind of Obsessed, we dish on the products we can’t get enough of. Ken Tomita, CEO of Portland-based design company Grovemade, is obsessed with Vermicular’s Musui Cast-Iron Pot. Here’s why.

I saw it on Gear Patrol, I believe. What originally attracted me to it was the manufacturing process, since I am a manufacturing nerd. Cast-iron cookware is all cast. You get that rough, pebbled-surface look that we are all accustomed to, but it warps and it is not a precise process by any means. Vermicular, on the other hand, casts the pot then machines the inside lip as well as the lip of its lid to fit perfectly together.

Despite prohibitive pricing (especially with the Kamado hub), I remained interested and looked deeper into the brand. Beautiful photography, slick animations and storytelling give its website a “thoughtful living” type feel. Out of curiosity, I found the Japanese version of their website; the brand was presented differently, with more content and more of a focus on community. They even have a “Vermicular Village,” where they have a restaurant, bakery and test kitchen where they offer classes (I need to go there someday!).

I showed my mom the pot — we are originally from Japan — and she suggested that she could buy it for us as our wedding gift (without the Kamado, to keep the budget reasonable). I was elated. I thought it was a great idea to have her gift be a tool that we can use forever that makes our lives better and was otherwise out of reach for us.

About the Author

Ken Tomita is the CEO and co-founder of Grovemade, a Portland, Oregon-based company that designs modern products for your workspace and home. He’s also an avid Trailblazers fan and designs furniture on the side.

When I got my hands on it, I was impressed immediately. It arrived accompanied by a gorgeous, full-size hardcover cookbook that explained how to use and maintain the device, as well as a number of recipes tailormade for it. It also came with a little stand where you could prop up the lid vertically as if it were artwork — which really makes sense, considering how beautifully made it is.

In actual use, I couldn’t be happier with it. The idea is that it works like typical cast-iron cookware, plus you can do “musui,” or waterless, cooking. For example, there is a dish I make frequently where I just put in onions, mushrooms, carrots, some bacon, potatoes, a bay leaf and some salt and pepper. I put it on low for 45 minutes or so, and after about half an hour the moisture from the vegetables starts to steam out of the specially designed lid. Basically the ingredients cook inside the steam and moisture from themselves. The result is tremendously rich flavor that is hard to explain. As for differences from Le Creuset and other cast-iron heavyweights, I think the aesthetic is part of it. Rather than the heritage look, the Vermicular is a more contemporary design, representing Japan, in a way, rather than Old World Europe.

After cooking many of the recipes in the included book, I got curious about finding more, and there was virtually nothing out there because it is still a new product (in America, at least). Fortunately for me, I can read Japanese. I found the Vermicular app — sadly, only available in Japanese — which aggregates hundreds of recipes from actual users. Very cool! In addition, I went to Japan this past fall and found many cookbooks specific to it. Now I just need it to catch on Stateside so I have people to bounce ideas off.

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Ken Tomita

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