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Vintage cast iron pans

As far as I’ve always been concerned, cast iron is all about the seasoning.  You can take just about any cheap abused cast iron pan, clean and season it well, and it will perform like a champ.

In fact, that is exactly what we’ve done personally, purchase some basic cast iron pans at thrift stores, and clean and season them.

But, I am also a huge fan of history.  So while I don’t think a vintage cast iron pan would necessarily perform better (feel free to make an argument against this presumption), The idea  of owning an using a cast iron pan that has been around for 100 years, is interesting.

Along those lines, here is a video on how to identify vintage cast iron cookware.

Now, the video raises an interesting point about older models having a smooth finish, vs newer models having a rougher finish, which made me wonder, which is better.

Here is an article which discusses the difference, although has a much more complex explanation of why newer pans are rough and older ones are smooth.

The entire concept of seasoning cast iron, which acts as a leveling agent so the proteins won’t adhere to the pan, was a result of home cooks trying to fill in this new, rougher surface. The roughness that you feel on much modern cast iron is sand, which used to be removed during the cast iron production process. However, that step has since been removed by many modern manufacturers. “A lot of cast iron today is produced in 90 minutes,” says Powell. “But at the turn of the 20th century, cast iron would sit in molds for upwards of 48 hours before then being tumbled for 24 hours before it then received its final packaging.” As a result of this, vintage cast iron was incredibly smooth.

Ah, so it turns out that not all cast iron pans are equal, and older ones with a smooth finish are much easier to maintain, don’t require the same level of seasoning, and generally work better.

I’m off to the thrift store to try and find a vintage cast iron pan.

2 Responses to Vintage cast iron pans

  1. Phil May 31, 2018 at 6:00 pm #

    Besides vintage pre-1968 Revere ware, i cook with vintage/antique cast iron. New cast iron is primarily junk, even if its made in usa, like lodge. Get pre-1960’s cast iron and its lighter, controls heating/cooling better and faster, and far smoother. Pre-1960’s will not say ‘made in usa’. I prefer wagner ware if i can get it cheap, but griswold is just as good, possibly better. Good luck with the thrift stores, cast iron is as popular as gold now and collectors know all the tricks. Ive found small antique stores might have some rare pieces for good prices, but its all just luck (if your not willing to pay exorbitant ebay prices). Love the site, thanks!

  2. Myrt April 24, 2019 at 8:24 pm #

    I have been cooking with cast iron all my life. The old Wagner Ware Cast Iron are the best! I recently bought a lodge cast iron and had a hard time keeping up the seasoning…the surface is ROUGH and my potatoes got stuck!!! Give me the old cast iron with smooth surface…very easy to maintain. Yes, I am off to the thrift shop to replace my Lodge skillet. I use them to make my deep dish pizza. I have a great recipe from King Arthur Flour. The cast iron work better than their pizza pan.

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