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what's my perfect Griswold skillet?

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Being an engineer and a foodie, I sort of have this perverse need to have the perfectly engineered pan for whatever job is at hand. It's a compulsion, but of course I absolutely love all of the carefully chosen pieces that I buy. I've gathered that Griswold is definitely "it" when it comes to cast iron. I just want to know from the hardcore fans if there is much difference between early pieces and those produced later. Would you recommend a particular series, w/ heat ring or w/o, and what size? (Ideally, answers to this post do not lead me to a collection, but just one wonderfully versatile pan!)

My current skillet (Lodge) seems to be a very rough, heavy casting, and no matter the seasoning or the fat used sticking and cleanup are huge problems (yes, I know how to cook properly in cast iron, it really is the pan!) This skillet will be used on gas and electric ranges, as well as in the oven, and mostly for searing meats, cornbread, dutch babies (!), bacon and eggs.

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  1. Well I'm sorry to say it, but it really isn't the pan. It could be the seasoning or your care and cleaning practices, but it definitely is NOT the pan.

    As for the perfect Griswold? That's a slippery slope if I've ever seen one. If I could only have one size I guess maybe it would be a number 10? I don't know. I personally don't care either way about the heat ring - at least not from a usability standpoint.

    3 Replies
    1. re: chuff

      I suppose in the end it doesn't matter, but the surface of mine is quite bumpy and rough in some areas, the texture across the whole pan is very uneven. Some might say that there's not enough seasoning on the pan, but you'd pretty much have to coat this thing in thick resin for the surface to be smooth!

      In any case, I've decided that a time worn and tested model is the way to go for me. After all- if I only have room for one, I certainly want it to be one that I adore and use without fear of the aftermath! Thanks for the size recommendation, I may indeed fall for more Griswold iron later, but for now my cabinets need the most versatile piece they can hold.

      1. re: jmholsin

        A good stiff stainless steel spatula is the ticket. In the short term it helps "persuade" stuck-on items. In the long term, the spatula burnishes the surface of the pan. The pan will look like hell, since the seasoning at the high spots will be thin. If you use it every day, it will be in shape in a week or two (and just get better over time.)

        1. re: MikeB3542

          MikeB3542, Twenty-nine years of using stainless spatulas/turners on our 1980 Lodge rough-surface skillet never managed to burnish it. The cast iron was harder than the stainless, I believe, so it was like trying to sand down a rough piece of wood with a stick of butter.

    2. I have a 100 year old Griswold chicken fryer that I dearly love. But, on a day-to-day basis, I use my Lodge Logic 12 inch and 8 inch skillets over and over and over. I love all my cast iron pans. They are all well seasoned. I use the one that's the right size for the job at hand.

      1. jmholsin, the perfect Griswold sits flat and is not rusted to the extent that the surface cannot be made smooth; beyond that, the perfect Griswold is a matter of price. We were fortunate to score a non-prestige "small logo" (circa 1940) Griswold No. 9 off eBay a year ago for under $20, including shipping, and it is "perfect" for all of your purposes save one.

        As to Dutch babies, however, the perfect pan is a new (you are unlikely to fine one used) Nambu-tetsu "tempura" pan made by Iwachu in Morioka, Japan (also suitable for making tempura). Here is one vendor: http://naturalimport.com/inc/sdetail/... We're not saying that you cannot make a good Dutch baby in something else, including in a Griswold skillet, just that anything else will fall short of the perfection of the Nambu-tetsu. You will have to trust us on this -- but if you follow our lead, you will see that we speak The Truth.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Politeness

          Politeness- that is a fabulous pan! I love the history in japanese metal working of all kinds. For now though, the skillet is the much more prudent purchase.

          That said, the minute that the cheap sushi/ tempura place around the corner from me shuts down, or I move away, or I decide that I must have tempura available at every hour (a distinct possibility)- that gorgeous pan is going straight on the want list!

        2. I think I responded to you in another forum, but I'll reply here, as well: For sheer cast iron beauty, and function, I prefer the large logo Griswolds without a heat ring. They're gorgeous-shiny, classy and bold; the emblem could be exhibited in MOMA <g>--but still old enough (from the 1930's) that they were made with scrupulous attention to detail, still...And there are a lot of matching "self basting" skillet lids out there, too.

          I also really appreciate the very early (2nd series, if you get really specific) E.R.I.E. skillets, which were the first line sold by Griswold. These date from the late 1880's to around 1895. They are extraordinarily lightweight: my #12 ERIE weighs quite a bit less than a modern #8 Lodge, for instance. I have arthritis in my wrists and so I appreciate that I can just toss these around on my five-burner gas range (with continuous grates) without much effort. They're classy and elegant, but sometimes they crack near the handle because the walls were just made TOO thin to bear the weight of a full skillet full of food.

          Other lines I've bought and like are Wapaks (the company went out of business in the 1920's)...especially those with a stylized "Z" (like Zorro!) under the name, on the bottom. They have thin, high walls and very polished surfaces, too, but don't seem to season to a shiny onyx black, like Griswolds do...and I like the special line Favorite Piqua Ware made (late 20's, early 30's, as I recall; may be wrong on that) with a diamond mark surrounding the word "miami", under the name. These come only in sizes 7, 8, and 9 and are quite light, with shallower walls than regular skillets.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Beckyleach

            Here's a lovely shot of a Griswold without a heat ring (I think this is the photo responsible for my obsession, actually ): http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_9hKv1CCs0us...

            And here's one of the Favorite (Black Iron Dude really knows how to photograph cast iron. My pics always come out glare-filled or too dark):
            http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_9hKv1CCs0us...

            1. re: Beckyleach

              Oh, and I should have added: On top of my stove, right now, is my #8 Griswold--the first I bought, for $9 at a junk shop. It's turned out to the BEST one I own (I have 3-10 and also a few slant logos and a #9 with heat ring, and a 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12 Erie) as its surface is incredibly smooth and mirror-like---with lid, and a #10 Erie, and a #5 Griswold for the smaller tasks.

              1. re: Beckyleach

                You are so right, I must have that first skillet! Classy & bold are the perfect descriptors... I think the obsession has begun.

            2. I have Griswolds in several sizes, ranging from 3 to 12, and love them all. They all have large logos, but that's a matter of chance rather than choice, since they all came from flea markets and yard sales. The most useful (for me) has been the #9, which is about 11" in outside diameter. It's large enough to hold plenty of food but still light enough to lift without a block and tackle. When buying medium-sized vintage cast-iron pieces, I avoid heat rings, since they sometimes don't fit properly on the small round burner grates of my old gas stove. They'd probably be fine for most electric stoves, but don't seem to serve any useful purpose (other than to accrue gunk, if you like that kind of thing). Good luck in your search!

              1. Don't give up just yet on that Lodge skillet. It's still salvageable - most cast iron is. I purchased a Lodge skillet from my local supermarket a while back while I was waiting patiently for the perfect Griswold to show up on eBay.

                Like the pan you describe, my own Lodge was very roughly cast. My solution? I simply went at it with a power sander!!! I sanded it down with a rougher grit first to get it even and followed up with a finer grit to smooth it out even more. It took about an hour and made quite the racket, but it was well worth it. Just be careful to sand the cooking surface as evenly as possible.

                Now it stands proudly with my Griswold (which I've since acquired). Just a note though: The Griswold is clearly the superior pan, in terms of quality; it is absolutely smooth, while the Lodge has bubbles in the metal. Still, in terms of cooking performance, now that my Lodge is finally well-seasoned, it can perform just as well as my Griswold.

                P.S. I'm of the same professional background as you, so I can relate with your compulsion. I just hope you have more storage space than I do!

                2 Replies
                1. re: can_i_try_some

                  I admire your ingenuity and dedication! Not being equipped to physically modify my two modern, rough-textured cast-iron pieces (a Wagner dutch oven that's about 20 years old, and a newer Lodge 12" skillet), I just seasoned them and put them to work. They certainly don't match my Griswolds for beauty, lightness, or slickness; but for regular use, they're perfectly fine.

                  1. re: can_i_try_some

                    I may try out the power sander solution, but now BeckyLeach has gotten me all hot and bothered with those Griswold photos, so I'll be getting one either way!

                    Good to know that someone else out there is as OCD about their cookware as me, I wonder what some of your favorite pots/ pans are?

                  2. For all you engineers who like to cook, there's a website just for you:

                    http://www.cookingforengineers.com/

                    Lots of good information, even for touchy-feely types like me!

                    1. The golden age for Griswold was the 1930's. I believe at some point they had family factions inside the company vying with each other who destroyed the company and they sold the name. The later Griswold stuff to sum up is crap.
                      Look for the logo on the bottom that covers the entire bottom of the pan. That will ensure you get a pan from the right period.
                      Buying used cast iron is a bit of a minefield, if you're going to drop a lot of money on a pan make sure you will be able to return it if its warped or severely flawed.
                      However dont be scared of buying a pan with minor rust or surface flaws, with some seasoning instructions on hand and an hour or so they clean up perfectly.
                      The large Griswold pans sell for a lot of money and are in high demand by restaurants. This stuff is half the weight of modern cast iron, and cant be replicated today.
                      So frankly the best way to go is to buy a no. 9 pan. Those offer the best bang/buck. You could probably buy 4 of them for the price of 1 larger skillet. Just buy two of the 9's and have them going on your stove at once instead of spending $300 for a 12"+ pan thats my advice.
                      And yes everything you heard is true, these pans are magic. They heat up fast, they cook beautifully. The modern stuff cant touch it.