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Discussion in 'Cooking Equipment Reviews' started by mrdecoy1, Feb 9, 2012.
Is there a difference in production quality of old stuff vs new? Thanks
Generally, you can get smoother castings the older the cast iron. I have an old 16" spider that is amazingly smooth.
But Lodge, Camp Chef and MACA still make good products I'd feel safe buying sight unseen. You probably won't find MACA outside of the intermountain region of the USA. Other brands I'd want to see in person to judge the casting.
Lodge has some 10 and 12 inch skillets now with a rounded transition between the bottom and sides just like a standard skillet. I like those better than their other skillets. Those are only in their Pro-logic line and is more expensive than their standard shapes.
Granted I haven't seen all of the products that Lodge is now making, but my impression is that the older Wagner and Griswold pans have finer castings and have machined (smooth) interiors, unlike the Lodge pans I've seen and used. The problem with older pans, of course, is that they don't come with warranties and have been subject to (sometimes much) use before you get them. They may or may not have flat bottoms and may have small cracks. If you buy sight unseen, you take some risk. I've bought a number of Griswold and Wagner pans online, and only had one bad one (crack) out of all of them. But maybe I've been relatively lucky - it's a small sample. Given the choice, though, I'd rather take a Griswold or Wagner pan over a Lodge, particularly if I got to see it before purchasing.
Was researching this yesterday, coincidentally. Asked a friend of mine where she got her perfectly smooth bottomed skillets. Family hand me downs approx. 50-60 years old. Gorgeous seasoned pans. She couldn't determine manufacturer, no markings.
I went to Target after that conversation and reading past threads here and purchased a Lodge Pro-Logic 12" (pre-seasoned) skillet with a "helper handle" for $18.99. Very heavy.
It is far, far less textured than I thought. In fact, hardly at all but by no means smooth as glass. Took it home seasoned it with peanut oil (for its high smoke point) , heated it on the stove top til hot, brushed on the oil, popped it in a 350 oven for 1/2 hour. Seared a steak for dinner.
Love it. Perfect sear, no sticking. Once cold I cleaned it under very hot water and scrubbed it with my bamboo wok cleaning brush. Clean as can be. Will only get better with age obviously.
I recommend it if you can't find an old machined one in good shape.
I buy a few old cast iron pots and pans yearly, and, IMO, new does not even come close. The old are still available at garage sales, estates sales, and the like, and at a very reasonable price.
As a matter of course, all are cleaned and reseasoned. A time consuming process, but the end result is worth it.
Generally speaking, if it sits flat and is not cracked, it is restorable to like new condition.
I became reacquainted with cast iron a few years ago when I found 3 different size skillets at a yard sale. All "name" brands (Lodge, Griswold, etc), all totally CRUSTY with who-knows what... but $1 each. I went at them with... spray oven cleaner. YEARS of crud finally gone, reseasoned and try to use as often as possible. A well used/seasoned skillet is better than non-tick in many ways IMO. Less broken yolks in over-easy eggs when you don't have to chase them around non-stick surface as much.
I have to restrain myself when I see a piece... yard sale, thrift store, flea market... a good name. Have found a Dutch oven (no handle or lid), 2 burner grill/griddle, "corn" cornbread pans, Abelskiber (spelling) pan, and little diamond shaped Lodge marked 1 egg (I think) on bottom. Doubt if I paid more than $2-3 for any one piece. BEST find was a square LeCrueset grill pan... blue enamel exterior in PERFECT condition, cast iron interior with minimal schmutz in grooves... $5!
Would love to find DEEP skillet... for chicken frying. Or muffin/pop-over pan(s). Or loaf pan.
I have a feeling most of the pieces I picked up came out of a "Grandma's" kitchen and nobody knew how to cook with them or didn't like the weight or non-non-stick surface. Won't buy stuff "made in C" on GP's.
Lodge casts in some in Tennessee and more India as I recall.
Camp Chef casts in China with surprising quality control.
MACA is still US made.
Destry Alan Foyte says "The old stuff was made when they used more raw materials so I would say the actual composition of the material for the old stuff contained a higher quality of metal in it then today. Today's pans have more combinations of metal then ever before. If you took one of your grandmothers pans and a similar one from today and put them side by side and cooked the same thing at the same temperature I would be surprised if the results are the same. As with most things today they try to cheapen stuff up. Buy up those cast iron pans from estate sales when you can." Thanks from Destry Foyte
My problem with new CI is that you are buying an unfinished casting. Lodge has been very successful in convincing their customers that the rough interior is not a problem, but it is. Griz and Wag machined their product smooth. Well seasoned CI is non stick because it is smooth. So to is any other non stick finish. You cannot make a dimpled surface smooth by putting oil on it. Lodge preseasoning is a marketing tool.
There is plenty of old CI around. Generally at a bargain basement price if it is in a yard or estate sale. You also have the real possibility of purchasing something rare. 2 for 10 is the standard price for a 5 and 8 skillet set. Either Griz or Wag.
My method of restoration sounds complicated, but is relatively simple. I clean and reseason all purchases as I don't know what its last use was. My father had a pot of hide glue warming in a little 3 legged pot/lid on a woodstove for years. Basically, depending on the need, I burn the pot on the grill, starting at cold and letting the pot cool down slowly. The a trip to the lye tank, which is a 5 gallon bucket full of lye water. Careful with the stuff. Read the directions. Then I use flax oil in several thin coats. Heating, again starting from cold, for an hour or so, cooling down in the oven, and then repeating. The result is a finish better than any new. The new surface will be polymerized oil, which will not leave a taste or color to any acid, allows pan sauces, and is virtually indestructible.
There are plenty of sites going into the science of seasoning, but basically you need to create a plasticized finish into the pores and on the surface to make the the CI non stick,
I don't think so. I have new Lodges, Camp Chefs and so on that cook and release great. I have a Lodge 12" skillet with the sandy original texture, and it's seasoned out quite smoothly as the patina developed.
Similar concepts to the rough finish show up all the time in non-stick. The high points protect the patina from scraping up with metal tools for example. Circulon does this in their non-stick with the ridged rings and you'll see other textured non-sticks for the same reason. I'll grant you it saves them money, but the performance degradation isn't there. I did omelets this morming in a 10" sandy textured Lodge that's not deeply patinated yet, just slightly better than their pre-seasoning. No problems at all with sticking.
The pre-seasoning is a big step forward for most consumers over the wax/grease coatings of the past. It offers the rust protection yet starts off people who don't know cast iron with a good dark patina.
I hear this a lot but I've never seen any real data analysis to support it.
One brand I'm seeing a lot of with interesting shapes at low prices is WFS. Mostly copycatting shapes and haven't heard much about them yet. Seems to be China castings. I do have a small 8" cast iron grate from them I use over a gas burner on my stove for roasting peppers and that sort of thing.
I have one of each. I have my great-grandmother's cast iron skillet that is so crusty on the exterior of it,
(that's the best word that I have seen used yet thank you thatchairlady)
I don't dare put it on my brand new electric range top
(you know the ones that are glass top)
for fear of it totaling it, that I save that for the hot box.
I bought a brand new Lodge preseasoned pan for the stove top.
To tell you the truth, I love my great-grandmother's pan WAY better.
It's so smooth and non-stick on the interior, nothing compared to the new one.
Now if I could just figure out my to clean up the outside of that well used, valuable antique.
The outside can be cleaned up without reseasoning with a wire wheel chucked in a drill, or by scraping. You are not going to hurt the skillet, and the interior seasoning will remain. Just apply a light coat of vegetable or other oil when done, or reseason the outside with a light coat in the oven. The keyword is light. Rub as much off as possible with paper towels
Sounds good Jimbo68, the one hitch that I neglected to mention is, I think that the crust on the bottom is rust from the high humidity.
Great-grandma was from Portugal and immigrated to Hawaii and now I have the pan here in Arizona.
I'm deathly afraid to try too much with it, it is quite dear to me.
Rust will be brown and not shiny, crud is generally black and shiny.
There is a group WAGS (Wagner and Griswold Society) on the internet. These guys know more about restoring old metal than any group I know. Rust can be removed with electrolysis, but it is not a one time project. There may be someone in your area with an electrolysis setup that would work the pan for you. Otherwise, rust is fairly easily to remove with steel wool in most cases.
Crud can be removed in any number of ways, including physical removal, blasting, a simple lye tank, or oven cleaner. Each has it own merits and drawbacks, depending on the situation.
I have read that pretty much any crud as well as rust can be removed by running your cast iron through the oven self-clean cycle. The one time I tried it, it worked beautifully. Obviously it also removes the seasoning, but it seems like an easy, cheap way to deal with beat-up cast iron you got at a yardsale or whatever. Basically the end-result is bare metal and some fine powder that you throw away.
I'll make my usual suggestion for removing crud, rust. paint, etc. from cast iron- have it blast-cleaned. You will have to check your phone book or other reference to see who can do BEAD-blasting in your area. It may be a sandblast place, an auto-restoration shop, or some such place that has a sealed, ventilated blast cabinet.
The one thing I know for sure is - you do DO NOT want it sandblasted, which will abrade the living he!l out of the metal.
Using minute, spherical glass beads, as in beadblasting, will remove paint, crud, and rust like crazy, while actually burnishing the surface of the underlying metal. I've had a good deal of experience with glass bead blasting - to the point where I built my own blast cabinet - , and it's safe and effective. You might also ask your expert about blasting with ground walnut or other nut shells, which I've read about as very effective and equally non-abrasive, but I have had no experience with.it.
Just tell your blast guy to blast ONLY the outside, as you seem satisfied with the interior. If you DO blast-clean the inside (it will probably look cleaner), you will definitely have to re-season it.
If you do find a way to try this, please let us know how it turns out.
PS- this advice it offered with no money-back guarantee. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif
Ah yes the old NMBG, similar is many respects to YMMV /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif
I see some of these old pans at antique stores and yard sales. They are not cracked, but they seem to have surface rust on them. Can you give advice if they are worth buying and how to remove the rust so they are safe for cooking?