HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Why bother stripping cast iron when you can buy a new pan for so little money?

At the risk of being flamed or misunderstood once again, I ask...

Why bother stripping cast iron when you can buy new for so little money?

A brand new Lodge Logic 12" skillet costs less than $20. A box of lard is less than $3. For $20, you're off to the races.

And yet, people fool with oven cleaner, lye, and scrub for hours.

Why bother?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Not all cast iron is created equal is my reply. Just because it's new, easy and cheap does not make a better item.

    1. Partly has to do with emotional attachment. Partly has to do with the preseasoning on the brand new cast iron cookware are usually not great. I stripped down the original seasoning surfaces from both of my Lodge Dutch Ovens.

      1. I always thought the easiest way to strip a skillet is to stick it on the self-cleaning cycle which is essentially free (if you were going to do it anyway) and no work at all. So I saved $20 in any case.

        2 Replies
        1. re: DGresh

          you can crack your pan in the self-cleanin cycle of an oven. probably not, but could so why take the chance?
          the oven cleaner way works and depending on your tolerance, is not a lot of work. like cleaning an oven, but you don't have to reach in there, lol.
          there are instructions all over the web for doing it that way.
          i find it very easy, but usually unnecessary. mostly just use the old ones the way i bought them. seasoned and ready to go!

          1. re: DGresh

            I'm with DGresh. The self cleaning cycle. I've brought some cruddy gunk covered but otherwise great pans back to life that way. I got a terrific Griswold skillet in a thrift shop. A very old one made in Erie PA. It was so disgusting looking people were passing it by. It is a 10" and does great fried chicken.

          2. I love my cast Iron pans. All were made before 1970, and many before 1930. The reason I have old pans is not that because of emotional attachment, but because of the quality of the pans. New lodge pans are useless. The casting is such that you could grate your nails on the surface, regardless of seasoning, such a pan will never become non-stick. The pans I have were made in America (Sidney, Ohio and Erie, PA) and have a glass-smooth bottom. The additional time spent restoring these pans will be made up for every time I cook in them and don't have to struggle with sticking food, and again every time I clean the pans simply by scraping them clean with a spatula and hanging them back up. I have talked to several people who say they don't like cooking in their cast iron pans. Further conversation often reveals that they own new, lodge-type pans, with rough surfaces and are trying to use a plastic spatula. To experience cast-iron the way it was meant to be used, you will need an old skillet and a nice thin metal spatula with a flat, sharp edge. No food stands a chance of sticking against such a combination. You may be able to buy a new lodge pan for $20, but it will be of poor quality and could actually turn you against all cast iron. I should also note that the "hours of scrubbing and use of oven cleaner" is often an exaggeration; only in the case of one pan have I had to go so far to restore it. Often, soaking in hot soapy water, scrubbing with a steel wool and some boiling out, will leave you with a pan that is ready to be seasoned. Old cast iron is so smooth already that really only a light seasoning will do, with some pans I have simply put them on the burner on high and wiped a little coconut oil on the surface once they are hot, and I have never had a problem with the seasoning. I suggest you find something old and beautiful that is well-made and you will love using it.

            6 Replies
            1. re: motownbrowne

              Great point. I've heard people talk about how great old CI pans are, but usually focus on the seasoning, not the quality of the pan.

              Mine are old enough to be high quality, and they belonged to my grandparents, so I'm doubly attached to them.

              1. re: Pylon

                I should also mention that besides the family heirloom method of obtaining pans, very high quality pans can often be had at garage sales, antique stores, etc. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can find some great deals, many in fact less than $20. Other than our waffle maker and our dutch oven, I haven't paid more than $20 for a piece of cast iron, and with the exception of the elusive Griswold #2, I don't think I ever would.

                1. re: motownbrowne

                  Last year I went to an antique tractor show that had a large flea market. You could get a set of 4 cast iron fry pans for $20!

                  1. re: scritch

                    I wrote about this on another thread but in my area of PA, every farm house has a pile of cast iron collecting dust in the basement. If the owner is lucky, it goes for a $1 or $2 a piece at auction. Often, the auctioneers will throw pieces in with box lots just to move it along. (this is true for the frying pans, I haven't seen a dutch oven in years so they are either rare back in the day or people still use them)

              2. re: motownbrowne

                I was going to say the same thing! I have almost two full sets handed down from my grandparents. They're 1930's era Griswolds from Erie and are amazing. The story in the family is that when the pans needed stripped my grandfather worked in the steel mills in Pittsburgh and would take the pans to the mill and fire them red hot and bring them home to be re-seasoned. The quality of the iron is radically different than the Lodge and similar pans. The pans I'm using release better than any non-stick I've ever seen and a joy to cook with.

                I'm surprised not more people have mentioned the recent Cooks Illustrated article regarding seasoning - it seems pretty solid: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/howto...

                So in answer to the OP - I keep mine for sentimental reasons as well as quality reasons. It's great to have such a useful tool that also brings great memories and history.

                1. re: Strangewine

                  strangewine: There is a long recent thread about the CI seasoning "method". It is less miraculous in reported results than you would expect.

                  "The quality of the iron is radically different than the Lodge and similar pans."

                  What do you mean by this, exactly? Is it the iron itself, or the casting? My understanding is that Griswolds and Wagners are prized because their cooking surfaces were machined very smooth, and are of different thickness from all that came after. I would appreciate knowing if you think the pig iron was different/superior, along with an explanation as to why. Thanks.

              3. Yeah just throw it away... some land fill somewhere needs another cast iron skillet that will never decompose.

                2 Replies
                1. re: J.Dish

                  It's called recycling. Look into it.

                  1. re: NotJuliaChild

                    Perhaps you should into the contents of what people are saying. They strip and reuse old cast iron, because
                    A) It is a better product. Look at a Griswold pan from the 1930's and look at a today's Lodge. It is like comparing a Dalton China to a dollar store plastic plate. Hell, why wash a plate when you can buy a cheap dollar one each day?
                    B) it is already here, not needing to use resources to make throw away cheap others. Which BTW is what true recycling is! Use what you have as long as you have and can so you do not need to do anything more to remake it into another product,.

                    Look into it, You might actually learn something.

                2. I have to say I never even heard of stripping a pan before I read this post. I can understand it for a poorly maintained pan or one that was misused, but if you use cast iron pans properly they are the lowest maintenance cookware you can buy.

                  Mine are also older, but my huge skillet (14" I think) is only about 10 years old and it is the one I use the most. After use, while they are still hot, they get run under hot water and scrubbed *briefly* with a brush with NO SOAP. This takes off detritus and the loose oil or grease. Then they get wiped down quickly with a paper towel and left to finish air drying on the warm stove. They all have a beautiful patina now, virtually black, smooth as glass, nothing sticks to them except if it burns by accident. A brief soak takes care of that infrequent accident.

                  Always pre-heat the pan (except when cooking bacon from stone cold) and never use it on "high". You shouldn't even need to if it gets properly heated.

                  Really, the whole point of cast iron is to get it to that point of well worn, stick-free patina. If it needs to be stripped then you have misused it. Simply buying a new pan and seasoning it defeats the very beauty of cast iron which is that its performance improves with age.

                  Lastly there is something beautiful about well seasoned cast iron. It has a glow to it and the look of a simple, well used tool that gives me a sense of satisfaction every time I look at it.

                  Here's a good link on seasoning cast iron that I found while looking for a pic of a well-seasoned pan. There is one on that page:


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: LovinSpoonful

                    I know some (most?) people will disagree, but there are people who claim that the new pans can be just as effective as an older pan. For example, Kenji Lopez-Alt who writes the "Food Lab" over at Serious Eats has posted the following:

                    Modern cast iron is bumpy like this because it has not been polished the way old cast iron has and retains some texture from its mold. Some people claim and that it's not possible to season these bumpy pans properly. I don't buy it. I have compared my shiny, totally smooth 1930s Griswold (acquired at a flea market) to my 10-year-old Lodge skillet (which I bought new and seasoned myself) and have found no significant advantages with the old pan, other than the fact that I didn't have to season it to begin with.


                    Vintage Wagner/Griswold's have smooth surfaces because they were polished after casting, which is no longer done because a) it costs a lot, and b) it's unecessary. The smoothness of a pan at the visual level is not what dictates its nonstick characteristics—it's the inconsistencies at the microscopic level that matters. An unpolished pan will become just as nonstick as a polished one given enough time to season it properly. If you really like that totally smooth finish, you can always buy a cheaper modern pan and polish it with sandpaper before you start seasoning it. You'll get a nearly identical pan in performance and appearance for a fraction of the cost.

                    PS..From what I've read, don't bother trying to sand a new pan as it can be quite a chore. If you want that smooth polished bottom, either get an old pan that was polished or be prepared to wait quite a while as you scrape down the bumps on a new pan over time using a metal spatula when you cook. Look about 3/4 of the way down on this page:

                    I just bought a new Lodge, washed it to get any gunk out of it and then seasoned it using Cheryl Canter's method (flaxseed oil at high heat in the oven).

                    I've cooked eggs that didn't stick, and usually clean the pan using Alton Brown's salt method.

                    Is it as good as an old pan that has been seasoned for years? Nope. But I didn't have to go searching all over the place for an old pan that was in good condition and didn't cost quite a bit more than a new one. You can find some inexpensive ones, usually not Griswolds, on ebay, but you need to make sure it sits flat, doesn't wobble, have pits, cracks, etc. If I came across a nice Griswold (or other old pans) that was in good condition, I'd probably buy it, but I'm not going out of my way to find one.

                    Also, depending what you are cooking, lots of people are using carbon steel pans (de Buyer, Paderno, Vollrath) instead of CI. I just got a carbon steel pan for eggs today, but haven't had a chance to use it yet. There are lots of threads on Chowhound on carbon steel.

                    Pic is of a new Lodge CI skillet after cooking eggs and then cleaning with salt and oiling for storage.

                    1. re: LovinSpoonful

                      Definitely well seasoned and well used long used Cast Iron has an unmistakable patina. That cannot be bought only earned.

                      1. re: Quine

                        I agree. I think I tried to relay in my post that even if you strip (which I did not do) and season using Canter's (or anyone other method), you are not going to match how an old pan looks, and probably not how it cooks right off the bat, as the key is to USE THE PAN and build it up over time. For me, it would take forever b/c I won't use it on a regular basis, so I did what I could to 'jumpstart' the process.

                    2. "You may be able to buy a new lodge pan for $20, but it will be of poor quality and could actually turn you against all cast iron."

                      Complete cr@p.

                      Nothing wrong with the cast iron being turned out by Lodge. It just won't have the 50+ year head start that those old Wagner/Griswold pieces have.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: MikeB3542

                        you can say that it's complete crap if you like, but in my experience, it isn't the 50 years of use that makes a griswold or wagner better, it is the quality of the casting and manufacture. I would not hesitate to bet that a new old stock, i.e. old, but never used, piece of quality cast iron would out compete anything made today. As Sawdin says, the new pans just don't receive the level of care in manufacturing that the pans of old. I don't disagree that a new pan could be sanded down and could then be as smooth as an old piece, but why wait, why not just find a quality piece of cookware to begin with?

                        1. re: motownbrowne

                          I would bet that a 50 year or more virgin Griswold if such could be found would get a huge bidding war started on whatever channel it was offered Oh PLEASE let me see such in a thrift store!

                          yes, the casting and quality of such is like old fine carbon steel knives to GINZU! Cuts anything, but wait...we will send you....

                          1. re: Quine

                            A 50 year old Griswold pan would be a FAKE...genuine Griswold is older, often double that!

                            1. re: MikeB3542

                              Well, maybe better to say "not manufactured in Erie" than "fake".
                              http://www.griswoldandwagner.com/faq.... explains a bit

                              But there should be "genuine" Griswold pieces manufactured after that point, just not from the original foundry.

                              1. re: will47

                                Griswold closed its doors in 1957, so a 1961 vintage piece would be something else (Wagner if you're lucky).

                                1. re: MikeB3542

                                  My point is, there is stuff with the Griswold name attached to it from after that time, just not made at the original foundry.

                            2. re: Quine

                              I happen to have a Griswold #4 with the original label still on it, never been used. It looks like it found its way to outside storage at some point, because there is some minor rust on it. But the machine work from that era is clearly superior to the new CI I got from my mother after she passed (new still in the box Martha Stewart set). I gave all my new CI to my brother after acquiring some nice Griswold pieces.

                              I don't think I'll ever be able to bring myself to remove the label, it is for display only!

                          2. re: MikeB3542

                            Bingo! If I had the choice, I'd take an old Griswold that was in good shape. But after looking at the prices on ebay for a Griswold, and not knowing for sure if the skillets on ebay were level, not pitted, etc., I bought a new Lodge. If I stumble across a nice old CI in my travels, I'll grab one, if not, I'll survive.

                            1. re: sawdin

                              If anyone thinks I don't know what I'm talking about, and that I have no idea what the difference is between a nice old Griswold and new Lodge, feel free to educate me. Just contact me and I'll give you my mailing address and you can send me your old Griswold to prove how dumb I am!

                              1. re: sawdin

                                keep your eyes open, and you will find a beauty hiding in a pile somewhere that has your name on it.

                              2. re: MikeB3542

                                I have both. The Lodge is quite a bit heavier than the Griz, and has a much rougher texture. I can do eggs in the Griz but eggs in the Lodge would be a disaster.

                                Lodge's heavier gauge excels at stovetop searing--such as making fajitas. It stores up a lot more heat and keeps the sizzle going.

                                But even with that caveat, I use the Griz probably twice as much as the Lodge, simply because the baby-smooth surface of the Griz combines with the seasoning to provide nonstick performance that seasoning alone on Lodge's rough surface can't hope to match.

                                I'm almost to the point of getting some sanding pads for my palm sander and going at that Lodge--because its heat retention performance is clearly superior and it is very high quality--plus I don't have to worry about warping it by forgetting and setting the heat too high too long. The Griz is a super performer but you have to take care not to overheat it.

                                If I could get the weight and inexpensive quality of the Lodge combined with the glass-smooth cooking surface of the Griz, I'd get that pan. Maybe with some elbow grease and effort with the sander I can have that smoothness in my Lodge. Success would pretty much relegate the Griz to cornbread duty.

                              3. Hi all,

                                I wonder if the old vs new difference has to do with the weight.

                                My Griswold 109 skillet griddle weighs 3 lb 12 oz. It's very old. I've had it for 50 years and it was old when I got it.

                                According to this website, a new Lodge equivalent weighs 5 pounds.


                                I don't know, just wondering...


                                13 Replies
                                1. re: I used to know how to cook...

                                  "I used..cook", test this, run your hand over the patina/cooking surface of your Griswold, see how fine and smooth that is? Soft, almost velvet like, if you were food you would slip slide away. Now run your hand over a new Lodge...sandpaper.
                                  Lodge more weight, less quality....rough cast surface...if you were food where would you slip away from. the smooth or the rough?

                                  1. re: Quine

                                    Hi Quine,

                                    It's like black glass. Shiny and very smooth. Seriously!

                                    No way to compare since I don't have any Lodge cast iron.

                                    So, in addition to not being as smooth, Lodge is heavier?

                                    Personally, I like less heavy vs more heavy.


                                    1. re: I used to know how to cook...

                                      Hi Iutkhtcook! Sorry, I am not a great typist, so if you do not mind.

                                      Lodges are sold in Walmart/KMart sorta places..slide a hand in and touch. Sandpaper. Vintage griswold, yes, black glass, velvet, I know I use them! And lighter. Less is WAY more.

                                      I love cooking, I love every sense of it. I love to share what I feel. I know that what people can sense helps them understand. You can feel the balance, the slick of a knife, slicing through a seriously tender item. You can know this is not user friendly weight. That *Snap!* of freshness in tghe veggie you are buying. That just had a seriously hard day and I can sit back and eat my (fill in that blank!) comfort food and breathe.

                                      We meed Air first, then water, then food, all else is luxury.

                                    2. re: Quine

                                      I second that. I just dare an egg to try to stick to my pans when I slide that razor sharp spatula under it. Also, about the weight, I have noticed a great difference in weights of cast iron pans, even those from the same manufacturer, depending on the year of their make. A large logo or older Griswold from before 1920 will certainly be lighter and thinner than the equivalent pan with a small logo from the 70s. Same goes for Wagner, my WAGNERs weigh less than my WagnerWare pans. Since some of us believe older to be better, and older is lighter, my usual rule for people looking for old pans at antique stores is that if it is light, with a smooth bottom free from pitting, and sits flat without rocking it is likely to be a good specimen, regardless of brand.

                                      1. re: motownbrowne

                                        Hi Motownbrowne,

                                        Not to derail the thread but you mentioned older is better and spatulas. I have a pancake turner and a pie server type spatula that are quite old. Old enough they were made in the USA.

                                        Lovely, thin and flexible. Wooden handles that have lost all their paint. Made by A J.

                                        Those will NEVER leave my kitchen!!


                                        1. re: I used to know how to cook...

                                          could not agree more! I have three red-handled Ecko carbon steel spatulas aka pancake turners. You just can not buy anything like them. They are worth their weight in gold. i look at every antique/thrift store I set foot in but they are exceedingly rare. If you find one, buy it no matter the cost.

                                          1. re: motownbrowne

                                            Oh yeah. New is not better in many ways. And if one is worried or PC. Buying from a Thrift store (donated items, profit goes to a non-profit)is way Recycled.

                                            Cooking items of real value, i,e. Ecko items like that are so often priced like a quarter, buck at most?

                                            I SO thrift shop kitchen items!

                                    3. re: I used to know how to cook...

                                      Hi, Lucy: I think you are "on to something" about the weight, but I am not surprised at how smart you are. Here's my take.

                                      First off, there are Griswold/Wagner afficianados who hold/bequest/collect/covet for the name alone. No amount of empirical evidence will change their minds, and they are actually getting very great satisfaction from using them, so we have to let them be.

                                      I think that the older, American-made pans were designed in the first instance for flat-surface, CI woodstoves--and later, conversions and dual-fuels. As such, they worked exceedingly well, especially because they were placed atop another very even-heated CI surface, the stovetop (In an oven, of course, it wouldn't matter that they were thinner than what's currently available).

                                      Yes, they were cast and machined better than nowadays. But nowadays, with less-even heating sources, CI is ever more prone to hot spots, and so, thicker/heavier is now better. Thin CI over uneven heat sources, generally = very unhappy cooks. To equal the evenness of 2.8mm copper on such sources, a cast iron surface must be nearly 3/4 inch thick. So I think it is unsurprising that modern CI pans tend to be much thicker and heavier than in the days of the original "closed burners". Lodge needs to put a little woodstove in the bottom of every pan it makes to give good results; the problem is they don't finish them right.

                                      I actually have a selection of more recently-made (1950s on) CI skillets made offshore (My mom liked the shapes, used and displayed them, knowing nothing about Griswold), and these pans are much thinner than what Lodge has made in modern times. They are great in the oven (Dutch Babies, Yorkshire Puddings, etc.), but are terrible at searing on my gas hobs--except directly over the hotspot.

                                        1. re: Quine

                                          But " empirical evidence" was surely a serious nice try, not.
                                          Oops did I bound into Meaning and Translation?

                                        2. re: kaleokahu

                                          Hi Kaleo,

                                          You know, I think you just hit the nail on the head. I remember one thread where I mentioned my griddle and that it takes only 2-3 minutes to heat up to pancake temp, which would be, oh, 350 degrees.

                                          Keep that in mind.

                                          I have a 1948 gas stove. The burners are quite large, big enough that the flame reaches all the way to the edge of the griddle. With a separate smaller (simmer) burner in the center. So the griddle is getting flame evenly over it's entire surface.

                                          Result? Even heating in a pretty short time. No need for thickness to compensate for the smaller heating area of a more modern burner.

                                          Just my thoughts... I could be all wet... :)


                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                            Your point about hot spots is well taken, kaleokahu. My beautiful smooth Griswold #12 skillet (about 13" in diameter) heats very unevenly on my mediocre gas stove. As a result, I rarely use it. My modern Lodge 12" skillet, though aesthetically inferior and a lot harder to heft, performs better under these particular conditions.

                                          2. re: I used to know how to cook...

                                            The weight difference (between Griswold and Lodge) is very noticeable; it is about a 2 lb difference between the equivalent size skillet (I weighed them both before I gave away my Lodge), and even lighter than a DeBuyer Mineral of the same diameter. The Griswold is much more comfortable to hold. Presumably the difference is the thickness of the pan, as folks have speculated.

                                            I guess it's a matter of personal preference, but I really do prefer the smoother surface pans as well. Even though the Griswold is old, it had been stripped and quickly re-seasoned before I got it. It immediately performed better than my Lodge, which even after 5-6 years of use wasn't that well seasoned. Now, I may be better at taking care of cast iron than I used to be, but I think a lot of it's the pan, because I didn't treat the two pans very differently.

                                          3. I just get a sense of satisfaction from finding an old classic and rejuevinating it.
                                            My Father was huge believer in cast iron cookware. I am still trying to duplicate his Sweedish meatballs, browned all over, and eventually simmering in rich brown gravy loaded with onions that were sauteed in the drippings.

                                            1. You'd think with all the love for old Griswolds here, some manufacturer would make a top-of-the-line CI pan, using time- and labor-intensive methods, and sell them for a good expensive price. I think Williams-Sonoma would be all over that in a minute, and find buyers.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: comestible

                                                I believe le creuset is the williams-sonoma version of a nice CI skillet. Does anyone have it? How does it compare?

                                                1. re: comestible

                                                  I agree. But so many cooks equate CI with cheap cooking, I think. If I bought new, I'd buy Lodge. In fact I have a Lodge piece. But the older skillets have a smoothness and a balance that Lodge lacks. And those pleasing pour spouts. I wonder how much a new Griswold would cost to mfg. these days? It is cheaper to get an old one.

                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                    Oh yes modern casting tecnology is far inferior to the "old" days, JC how many of you have viewed a brand new unused Griswold/Wagner 100 yrs ago,, man what a piontless thread
                                                    And by the way there is very little to no "machining" involved in making a ci pan, grinding maybe sanding the seams but no machining. If you want a smooth bottom ci pan get a 60 grit pad mounted on an angle die grinder, in 5 min it'll be smooth

                                                    1. re: Dave5440

                                                      Modern metal casting inferior....what sort of dope ya on, cuz ya better be sharing!

                                                      Metallurgy back in the "good old days" was AT BEST a black art...now it's a well-established science, with the proportioning of materials and temperatures carefully regulated, and heats regularly tested for mechanical and chemical properties. The molding technology back then was highly dependent on craftsmen...modern DISA casting allows superior consistency and productivity. There is simply no comparison. "Special ores" you say...nonsense, reliance on special ores like spiegeleisen was important back in the "black art" days when nobody really knew what the heck was going on in the cupola...besides most NEW iron is recycled FROM THE OLD IRON.

                                                      Yes, there is a lot of crappy cast iron cookware out there today (Emeril, Paula Deen, TexSport/StanSport)...there was a lot of crap produced a century ago, too. Nobody collects it, which is why you won't see too much of it, as it has either been reduced to rust in a junk pile or been melted down. That Griswold and Wagner is collected is a testament to the artisans and craftsmen that produced those pieces long ago--it is quality stuff. Just deal with the possibility that greatness is possible, and happening right now. You'll feel better.

                                                      And yes, the Griswolds and Wagners were machined down. That is the only way you get that mirror finish on a casting. Normal sand cast finish will be pebbly, there is simply no way around it.

                                                      1. re: MikeB3542

                                                        No dope mike, I was being sarcastic

                                                        1. re: MikeB3542

                                                          Mike, I agree. Dave was being sarcastic. Although it did confused me the first time I read it, its sarcasm shone through. :)

                                                          It is true that many of us romanticize the good old days and believe the best stuffs were made hundreds and thousands year ago. Some are valid, while many are not.

                                                          1. re: MikeB3542

                                                            Wouldn't machining the cast down expose the porous core? I was under the impression the crust is what you're after, but on second thought that may be why so many people think dishsoap will hurt CI, back in the good old days if you had a machined piece soap would probably ruin it, creating the ever now famous myth.

                                                    2. because the cast iron pan i have was given to my mom by my father's great-grand aunt as a wedding present, along with a recipe for cornbread. Both came from her mother sometimes around the turn of the century, the 20th that is. the cornbread recipe has since disappeared, but the cast iron is going strong.

                                                      1. Why in the world is anyone stripping cast iron? The only reason I know to strip one is if it has been mistreated, as I was taught by my Great-grandmother. One only gets a new pan when one gets married or first moves out from home. One scrubs it well, lards it up, and puts it in a good, hot oven. The oven is then turned off after 10 minutes and left overnight without opening. Absolutely no peeking! After that, if one cares properly for the pan, it should never, but never ever, need anything but a good wash out. One never, ever places soap or cleaner into a cast iron pan as it will get into the pan and flavor any food one cooks in that pan forever. You could always taste a certain ew de soap in her sister's eggs because she scrubbed her cast iron out with Brillo pads, plus her over easy eggs were always burst due to sticking, even though she would re-do the lard periodically on her cast iron. Instead, draw a sink of hot, hot soapy water. Great-grandma boiled the dish water on the stove and added a squirt of dish soap. If your water is not good and hot, it will warp your pan. Dip your cast iron in, swish it around, rub it out with a dish cloth, and rinse with boiling water from the tea kettle. Dry it out with a towel and put it back on the burner until the color changes so you know you got all the damp out. Shouldn't take more than half a minute back on the burner. Great-grandma did it for 60 years of marriage and never had to re-season her pan once, and I've been doing it going on 30 years myself. Only time I ever had to re-season a pan, my baby sister, who was never taught by Great-grandma because she died before baby sis was old enough, put my good 2-egg cast iron skillet to soak in a sink full of hot water. Then she scrubbed it out with plain steel wool. Up to then, one spritz of evoo from my refillable spray bottle was enough for eggs to slip right out but now I have to use at least four or they stick.

                                                        I'll agree the newer cast iron is in no way equal to the nice pans my given to me by my grandmother when I first wed, and I don't think even those are the equal of my Great-grandma's pans. I got my Great-grandma's chicken skillet when she passed, and it just has a nicer feel than the one I had. Although it is the same size, the sides are a tad higher, the handle fits the hand better and somehow stays significantly cooler, and somehow chicken fries up tastier. Or maybe that last is just to me because with it comes the memory of all the chicken dinners Great-grandma used to fry up in that pan.

                                                        1. My lodge pans (from early 1900s to the 2000s) all function the same when it comes to food release. There are only a few differences in performance from vintage to new pans.

                                                          - New pans, heat retention is better when searing.
                                                          - Hot spots in the older thinner pans can be a problem, as the metal will not conduct heat evenly. It’s even worse if you run an electric stove.
                                                          - Older pans are more fragile.
                                                          - Older pans cannot be heated to a high temperature without risk of bowing the middle of the pan.
                                                          - New pans are heavier but unless one has a handicap or is limited in some way, none of them weigh more than large stock pot full of soup. Use two hands.

                                                          If you don’t have the time (or cook enough) to build a good layer of seasoning on a Lodge pan of current manufacture, then it is highly unlikely that you’ll want to spend the amount of time it will take to source a vintage pan and then determine the best (not the easiest) way to clean, prep, season and use the thing.

                                                          Regarding Griswold?
                                                          It’s no coincidence that the brand most often referenced as the best is the one that is most “collectable”. It’s an interesting cross-pollination of perceived value of collectors getting picked up by the general public. You have no idea how many times I have heard folks say Griswold is a top brand when they have no reference other than the fact someone told them so.

                                                          Wagner, Piqua and many foundries made pans that are every bit the equal of Griswold. There was no magical *better iron* that Griswold used as they use the same ore that was available to most foundries. To be sure, pre World War II there was better ore available to manufacturers, but as the war efforts heated up that ore was shipped directly to foundries involved with defense. Did that cause a precipitous fall of quality at the cookware companies? Nope.

                                                          Regarding the question posed as to why one would strip iron? If you buy a vintage pan, you simply can’t know how the pan was used previously. Many muffin pans, biscuit molds and skillets were used to make lead weights. Bean pots and dutch ovens were used as crucibles. One gentleman I knew even used a large Dutch oven to catch motor oil…

                                                          So yes, you can get an old pan at a flea market and put it right on the stove sans stripping/re-seasoning to make your morning eggs… But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

                                                          11 Replies
                                                          1. re: slowshooter

                                                            One gentleman I knew even used a large Dutch oven to catch motor oil…

                                                            I remember my grandfather using old dutch ovens to clean engine parts.

                                                            1. re: cleobeach

                                                              My Dad did the same thing with an old aluminum one filled with a couple of quarts of gasoline. Wise to my father's ways, my Mom never let him get near the cast iron.

                                                            2. re: slowshooter

                                                              Love your post slowshooter. I have said the same concerning vintage pans. Those old pots and pans could have been used for a whole array of things other than cooking. And many times when those pots entered a life of 'non cooking', it was because they were considered not suitable for cooking anymore. Cracked, warped, chipped, etc. I have seen old cast iron cookware around farms being repurposed for many things. many of which that in my mind, I would not be able to get the pot clean enough to use fo food again. LOL.
                                                              I do love the vintage stuff, but for me to use in my kitchen, I usually use the newer CI. If nothing else, I appreciate the helper handles on those big skillets.
                                                              For me, Griswolds, Wagoners, and old Lodge are just fun to collect and have because they are no longer made (except for Lodge, of course). I have never found the vintage pots and pans to cook any better than my new CI.

                                                              Old dutch ovens also make good nest for chickens, and skillets to feed out of. Our dog always ate out of and old skillet.

                                                              1. re: dixiegal

                                                                I have seen old cast iron cookware around farms being repurposed for many things. many of which that in my mind, I would not be able to get the pot clean enough to use fo food again. LOL
                                                                OMG yes! Especially the skillets being used as outdoor pet dishes. (not that pet food is gross) Heavy enough to not get blown away or tipped over if stepped on.

                                                                I mentioned before on this site that in my neck of the woods, women of my grandmother's generation bought new/modern cookware as soon as they had enough money to leave the "farm" stuff behind. (not just CI, this also included quilts, old/antique furniture or any other reminder of what was often, a very, very hard upbringing) Every farmhouse has a piling of rusting cast iron in the basement or barn.

                                                                For years, we used a small dutch oven as an outdoor ashtray. There are a few in the basement my hsuband uses to store screws, nails, various hardware parts, etc.

                                                                1. re: cleobeach

                                                                  .For years, we used a small dutch oven as an outdoor ashtray.<

                                                                  LOL yep, and how about for spittoons.......gross for sure. and then there is pots that might be used for a chamber pot. Another gross factor.

                                                                  1. re: dixiegal

                                                                    Ah yes, chamber pots. That I can verify as true. We bought a house where the elderly owners kept "chamber pots" on the second floor so they didn't need to go down the (steep) stairs at night. It was a CI dutch oven with lid. My husband threw it into the dumpster when we cleaned out the house.

                                                                    1. re: cleobeach

                                                                      Friends were so excited when he got promoted and they could upscale. Their furniture up to then was oak and walnut, while the kitchen was full of red handled utensils and cast iron. She was sick and tired of having to make do with all of the family leftovers that they had pulled out of the barn in Ohio.

                                                                  2. re: dixiegal

                                                                    Thanks DixieGal,
                                                                    Sounds like we approach CI similarly.

                                                                    Admittedly, I'm just a big enough dork to have some skillets dedicated to baking, searing, frying and sauce making…

                                                                    Heard from many folks that the fall of CI was the purchase of Griswold by Wagner and that after that quality went down hill. What they are talking about for the most part is the fact that manufacturing changed and pans were made thicker and heavier - to many elegance/weight/age matters. That's the difference between a pan from the 40s compared to one from the 90s.

                                                                    But are heavier pans actually worse? Many collectors would say yes, but as a previous poster pointed out - sometimes a cook wants to make sauce like a béchamel.

                                                                    What should that cook use? A relatively new, heavy, circa 2000 and up pan with a lot of texture? A new Lodge with one coat of their pre-seasoning isn't going to hold up well to a lot of whisking and the texture of a new pan might cause some problems particularly in corners where a whisk might not reach.

                                                                    Would a light weight pan from the first half of the 1900s be better? An thinner, older and smoother pan isn't a good choice because the cook will end up chasing hot spots so their sauce won't burn. And the only way he/she will find them is when they notice the burning occurring, which is too late.

                                                                    I'd use neither and would kickstart the process by using one of those heavy pans that all the collectors hate…. Here's why. Despite the fact that manufacturing changed and pans got thicker, for a period of time (60's, 70's and 80's) companies still machined out many of their skillets.

                                                                    So folks that really like to make sauces can easily find the best marriage of heavy skillet (which have the best heat distribution) combined with a machined cooking surface - without having to pay some unreasonable price for a pre-1960 vintage pan. Using a heavy, machined skillet would give many a home cook a leg up on seasoning a brand new Lodge - or help them to avoid burning a sauce in a vintage pan that has capricious heat distribution.

                                                                    For example I've got some skillets from Wagner, Lodge, BSR (Birmingham Stove and Range) from that time period that work great for sauces. Granted, I use my pans a lot, so can and do make sauces even in a recent vintage Lodge… But for folks that don't use their CI pans everyday? The names above from that 30-year period are an ideal place to start if you are looking for a sauce pan and want to get it in action quickly. Because of the presence of a heat ring, I would probably start with a BSR or Lodge were I using a gas stove - and a no-heat-ring Wagner if I was using an electric burner, but folks should try either/or to find what works well for them.

                                                                    Certainly there is a lot to seasoning and everyone prefers one method over the other… But at a basic level, not all cast iron is created equally and the home cook has to find the best fit for their own kitchen and cooking style. Just hate to see recommendations on CI based on the fact it might be old or valued by others. A cook should buy the stuff that works best in the kitchen. Let the collectors collect and if cook wants to do a little of that as well? More power to them.

                                                                    1. re: slowshooter

                                                                      I have 4 vintage CI skillets, one no name and 3 Griswolds. I don't think my skillets are older than WWII, going by the logos on the bottoms. I do want to say that they don't appear to be thinner in spots, they do transfer heat well, and they just feel better in my hand that the new Lodge CI. Also the Griswolds have very nice pouring spouts.

                                                                      I can't imagine not getting down to the metal if I don't know where the pans have been! But I bought 3 of my pans already stripped.

                                                                      I don't see anything wrong with using new Lodge pans. But I don't see anything wrong with buying vintage either. I will say that Griswold pans seem to be pretty thin on the ground right now. The have been avidly collected and I know people are always saying that they exist on farms, but I seldom see them when I thrift or visit antique places.

                                                                      My point is, I think you've painted things with a broad brush. The old stuff works well in many cases. But I agree that you don't have to buy the old stuff if you don't want or if you are not inclined to.

                                                                      I've suggested in the past that people try to rescue their grands' old iron. Many on this board probably do not have grands old enough to have used CI, but some of us probably do have elderly relatives. I feel this is a good way to preserve the old iron. Even if you end up with only one old iron skillet, it is a nice thing to have from your grandma or your great aunt. And it is useful!

                                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                                        You're right, I was broad… But it's tough to be specific about a cooking tool with such a long history and there are certainly going to be examples and techniques that will be contrary to my general POV.

                                                                        IMO the primary benefit of CI is that the more mass there is to the pan the more it holds heat. With a heavy pan you can do a decent stir fry and in the case of making a sauce, get better heat distribution. The ones I mentioned also have the benefit of a machined surface, for those folks that don't have time or desire to build layer after layer of seasoning to smooth out a pitted vintage or new Lodge pan.

                                                                        If one is just doing a quick fry job on some apparatus or eggs, as nice as it is to bust out the vintage cast iron, those kinds of things can be done on everything from a thin carbon steel pan to a super duper heavy iron skillet.

                                                                        Looking at it from the CI manufacturing standpoint. When the manufacturing process enabled foundries to make thinner casts both sides of the transaction celebrated. The foundries could do more with the iron and the users could actually lift the pans more easily. But thermal retention and weight can run counter to each other and eventually the primary benefit (at least in my eyes) of cast iron was lessened as the pans got lighter. Does that make a light pan unusable? Of course not. I love my light weight CI as much as the heavier stuff, but know which will work better in my kitchen as an ersatz saucier, wok or just as a simple frying pan.

                                                                        When folks argue over the better pan or pot, be it 2, 3 or 5-ply bottom. The argument usually ends with many agreeing that heavier works better. When it comes to cast iron, it's my observation that not many people look at the same lines labeled heat distribution, heat retention and thickness/weight the same way. Why? Beats me. I find it entirely illogical.

                                                                        That said, have to admit to being very sentimental about a couple of skillets I have and have been looking for years for a specific one to match the one with which my Mom (and Dad) taught me to cook. When I get that thin pan I'll be incredibly happy - but I'll still use the heavy stuff as needed.

                                                                        I can see why collectors like to gather the large block logo Griswolds. The imprint on the back of those pans is gorgeous and they are as well made as any top of the line pan from that era. I would love to have a full set of them myself just because they look good and feel fine in the hand - but they won't make my food taste better - and they would just be on the stove and in rotation. They cook as well as the other good pans from the same time frame.

                                                                        Owning a lot of CI I can attest that each piece works as intended (if yours truly does things right). But depending on what's cooking, I'll grab the skillet needed - or the one that just happens to be the closest.

                                                                        I've no knock on older cast iron and like you think it's great when folks can save a little family history from the rust pile and even extend it to the next generation.

                                                                2. It's not that cast iron is the absolute best cookware available, but it does a pretty good job for little money. It is durable and requires little maintenance.
                                                                  Someone who wants to spend hours cleaning up an old piece of cast iron cookware is investing time in restoring something they feel is valuable to themselves or their family. That's no different if someone finds a "Classic" car in a barn and spends countless hours and dollars restoring it to new condition. It's still an old car and you can probably buy a new one for the same money you invested in the old one.
                                                                  Some folks take pride in owning vintage things and keeping them useful and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. These days we are a throw away society. It' nice to see that some people enjoy preserving and reusing old things. I am one of those who loves to refurbish old woodworking tools, bring new life to old rusty cast iron cookware, re-purpose old weathered barn lumber, drive old cars, ride old motorcycles and I think that in most cases things were just made better in the past. Maybe that is just because I am old and think that I am made of better metal than the newer models.

                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Whitworth1953

                                                                    Very well said. The new generation has lost self-pride (for a general accusation). It's a "right now, 10 second ADD, Vine app" society. Why spend 16+ hours restoring a pan? Why spend 60 hours making a gun stock that's going to get banged around in the woods? Because the final product is a fine fine piece of work that usually only the beholder acknowledges. And it's customized to our perfectionist needs. And they look good hanging on a wall, reminding us of the needed work that went into them. And that's all us craftsman need.

                                                                    Personally, I like the new generation of Lodge because of the sheer heft and thickness of them and the fact that I know I'm the only one who started cooking in them.

                                                                    That said, I totally redo a brand new Lodge though. With a Dremel tool and grinder bit (for the mold marks), wire brush, drill, sandpaper, steel wool, Ivory soap, white vinegar, Crisco shortening, blue heavy duty paper towels, 200F, 300F, 430F, 15 minutes, 2 hours, wipe twice, x3, etc. The equation is another thread. All that work for something that cooks AWESOME. Stock preseasoned Lodge isn't of my liking. But with some work, it's a piece of dark brown and black nonstick art.

                                                                    P.S. Oven cleaner is nasty stuff. I wouldn't even use it in my oven to clean it. That's what the self-cleaning high temp setting is for. To restore an old rusty piece of cast iron, a 60/40 white vinegar/water soak for a few days should do it. Or the self cleaning cycle in the oven.

                                                                    1. re: Muddirtt

                                                                      While I can understand your sentiment, my "generation" (I'm 26) feels some resentment for your "generation's" (I'm assuming you are 45+) embracing of manufactured goods--which, ultimately, actually led to the very things that you are ranting against. Do you really think that when I was 6 years old (back in 1994) that I really had anything to do with the purchasing power of your generation? The mid-90's correlates with Walmart's rise to power:


                                                                      I've spent hours reprofiling knives, thinning them out, and enjoyed the process. Most people that I sharpen knives for are 40+ years old and are just discovering that they don't need to throw away knives.

                                                                      A recent development in the past couple of years is "retro" objects becoming fashionable in my "generation." The DIY culture is, in my experience, much more prevalent with peers in my age group than those that are middle aged. In part, it is due to the disparity in purchasing power that still exists between the two "generations."

                                                                      1. re: Cynic2701

                                                                        "While I can understand your sentiment, my "generation" (I'm 26) feels some resentment for your "generation's" (I'm assuming you are 45+) embracing of manufactured goods..."

                                                                        My bad. It was an immature stereotype. I went back into this thread to edit my post adding that my generation is guilty of things too, as each generation is. I'm 37, the youngest of the "generation X." We were of the "depressed, life sucks, I'm just a number, mad at the world" generation. My parents were/are of the "anti-government, peace, love, happiness" generation. Your generation is the "generation why/Y" or the "Why do anything" generation. I agree generalizations and stereotypes are of ignorance and I should've stayed away from it... Especially on a cooking board.

                                                                        With that apology said, you also have some good points to be had.

                                                                        I guess my generation stereotype was pointed toward the teens of now generation, which probably aren't cooking with cast iron or anything at all lol. I should know, I live with 16 and 11 year old girls. I always wonder if they'll be able to wash their own dishes when they're out on their own, or if they'll expect a cell phone or maid to do it for them. I can only do so much to teach them and get them into good habits but, of course, their biological mom has the final say :)

                                                                        1. re: Muddirtt

                                                                          Thanks for taking it pretty well, I didn't mean to accuse you specifically of stereotyping, I just get worked up when "older" people stereotype "younger" people--every generation has done it, and I'm sure it will continue in the future with my generation.

                                                                          I'll be honest and say that I didn't learn how to properly wash my own clothes until I moved out of the house. You start learning pretty quick when you start having to take care of stuff you bought on your own dime. In fact, I started learning how to cook the most when I moved out of my parent's house--my Dad is a fantastic creole/cajun/southern cook and I didn't realize how good I had it growing up until I started eating cafeteria food...

                                                                          1. re: Cynic2701

                                                                            Haha. Yeah I guess I didn't cook anything more than Mac n Cheese or spaghetti until I moved out also. I've always been the artsy or crafty type though by starting out tearing apart bicycles and painting them when I was 10. Paper route from 14 to 16 while detassling corn 3 years around then. I learned early on that hard work pays off with buying things of my own (mostly more nice bicycles lol) and refinishing them or just taking care of them. I tweak almost anything new I get. I'm a perfectionist and sometimes I annoy myself with being so picky. I could go on but I think we're derailing this original thread lol :)

                                                                      2. re: Muddirtt

                                                                        Hey, Muddirtt:

                                                                        Careful about grinding away the gate marks on vintage 19th Century CI--you'll destroy the value.


                                                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                          Good to know. However, most vintage stuff I've seen is machined pretty clean. I have no interest in the older, thinner stuff as of yet. I spotted a nice unwarped 10" Griswold "cross" stamped pan uptown though. 10 bucks. I should probably go snatch it up. My 60 year old diabetic mom has been wanting cast iron again but Lodge is too heavy for her, so I was thinking that Griswold or a new 8" Lodge or a new carbon steel pan.

                                                                          1. re: Muddirtt

                                                                            Hi, Muddirt:

                                                                            Collecting tip: Look for the gate marks, because it will date a pan to about 1880 or earlier. The casting was done so that the molten iron passed through "gates" into the mold.

                                                                            I found a waffle iron with the marks, and later learned that it dated to the Civil War period. I like it because of the unusual pattern it puts in waffles, and it's small. You can see a gate mark in the upper left of the first photo.