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Polished Cast Iron--The Way It's Supposed to Be


I was surfing eBay tonight and saw a vintage Griswold Scotch bowl, highly machined and polished. It occurred to me that many folks have not seen bare cast iron ground and polished to this degree of smoothness. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Griswold-ERIE...

Is there anyone who really thinks the crude sand-finished new production is better?


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  1. I looked at it and I don't know if it is 'ground and polished" Never heard of that. However it looks to be beautifully seasoned. My cast iron, which I inherited from my mother, has the feel of satin. It's Wagner Ware, and I admire it every time I use it. I have seen the Lodge pans that are mentioned so frequently on Chowhound, and I don't understand the roughness. But, I guess I'm just lucky to have what I have. I have to imagine, that, in this case, older is better.

    1. I used to use cast iron fry pans as sauté pans.
      I've switched to carbon steel pans as sauté pans recently; because the cast iron pans have a rough textured surface that is not as silky as the steel and because the carbon steel pans have the rounded rim of a sauté pan rather than the angled rim of a fry pan. The weight is similar.
      I know I could smooth the cooking surface of the cast Iron with steel wool, but that is a lot of work.
      For real frying I also like my cast iron dutch oven, because the taller sides limit splatters somewhat.
      Does anyone else have opinions on carbon steel as contrasted with cast iron?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Phood

        "Does anyone else have opinions on carbon steel as contrasted with cast iron?"

        since getting a carbon steel skillet, i've stopped using my cast iron one. It seems that the best I might eventually be able to do with "the crude sand-finished new production" is to get it as smooth as the carbon steel pan already is.

        I use my bare cast iron dutch oven for no-knead bread.

        1. re: seamunky

          "since getting a carbon steel skillet, i've stopped using my cast iron one. It seems that the best I might eventually be able to do with "the crude sand-finished new production" is to get it as smooth as the carbon steel pan already is."

          Definitely not my experience. I have a smooth carbon steel frying pan and a rough surface cast iron skillet., They both have their usages and I definitely would not say the cast iron is worse.

        2. re: Phood

          I have a Debuyer carbon steel skillet and a cast iron skillet, brand unknown. Both have a smooth finish and an even black seasoning.

          I like the cast iron skillet a lot better. The seasoning is much more durable and it is more nonstick. Eggs and pot stickers are no problem in the cast iron but they are tricky in the Debuyer. The only advantage to the carbon steel is lighter weight and quicker heat response.

        3. What a unique bowl. I have never seen one before.

          >Is there anyone who really thinks the crude sand-finished new production is better?<

          Well, I don't know if it is better, but I can say that it is just as good. Because I use the newer lodge pans all the time. It seems to me that the seasoning sticks and holds up better on the rougher pans. I find that I need to reseason my old smooth vintage skillet more often. And things cook in them exactly the same. I can fry or scramble an egg with the same results in either pan. For me, I really don't care either way, for my cooking is no different with either type pan.

          1. No, I really dislike the rough finish. Fortunately, I only have a couple of pans like that, that I don't need very often, the others I managed to buy before Lodge changed their process. I really don't understand the theory behind it either, I've just been assuming that it was a cost-cutting move.

            1. I must have the old stuff. Looks like regular, seasoned cast iron to me.

              4 Replies
              1. re: wyogal

                The "old" stuff need not be that old, the new finish is still only about 10 years old, I think. For a while they were leaving the pans rough without pre-seasoning - I have a couple of those - and they are a supreme PITA imo. Have not tried the newest pre-seasoned versions so I don't know what they're like.

                1. re: MikeG

                  >Have not tried the newest pre-seasoned versions so I don't know what they're like<.

                  The cast iron is the same as my older ones, but that pre season is sorry. After using the pan a while it comes off and takes the seasoning on top with it. I don't know why. It is supposedly just vegetable oil seasoning. But so far, all of mine have been a problem. But if you get that factory seasoning off, your fine from then on. Lodge pans are still fine and dandy for me.

                  1. re: MikeG

                    Believe me, mine are more than 10 years old. The newest one is probably over 30 years old.

                2. We have my grandmother's old Griswold frying pan, it must be 9 or 10 inches. It's smoth as can be, but I was never sure if that was the way it was made or the way it became after close to a century of use. It's a great pan, we don't use it nearly enough, I made a fratata in it a couple of weeks ago and didn't stick at all. I've actually started using it more since coming to CH and reading all the posts on cast iron. I can't help but think a smoth surface is better for cooking, but I haven't tried the new stuff, ever. I consider myself fortunate to have such a piece of family history.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mikie

                    Hi, mikie:

                    I think a fritata or Dutch Baby might just be the *ideal* things to use this pan for. My mom did a mean version of Craig Claiborne's DB recipe in a square skillet, that I cannot yet replicate.

                    I'm pretty sure your gran's Griswold started life very smooth. People tend to jump to the conclusion that the rough modern pans hang onto seasoning better, but I'm not convinced. I think they think if you can't actually *see* the texture, the seasoning won't stick. I'm tempted to leap the other way, i.e., the more *depth* there is to all the rugosities, the thicker the seasoning layer has to be, and therefore the increased chance it will release under mechanical or chemical action. That's my theory anyway.


                    1. re: mikie

                      Made that way. TG!!! The only way I would trade my old ones is if I found some with machined inner bottom (and sides?) AND a long handle and helper a handle because I am getting old, losing my strength somewhat, have Dupetryn's (the Irish) syndrome, but love to cook at home and take care of myself.

                      Never used the El Cheapos (jmnsho) but cannot imagine trying to scrape fried eggs (or ???) off such a rough surface. Seems to me one would have to SCRUB, a definite NO-NO, one every time it was used. I don't even WASH mine, only rarely if a sweet sauce sticks; even then a quick soak and a LIGHT brushing along with some heat and a bit more oil rubbed in brings them right back.

                      I was raised to not be overly-proud but when I see my girls hanging on there hooks all oily-shiny I feel happy.

                      Anyone knows who makes skillets, etc., with all the above-mentioned features - machined inner surface, long handles, and helper handles?


                      1. re: Iamafreeman

                        Can't help with your search, but I use new Lodge with the rough surface. Eggs do not stick. No need to scrub.

                    2. I think this has been discussed at length, K! Some of us prefer the older CI, and others don't see what the fuss is about, and are happily using their Lodges. It is getting harder to find the older skillets in antique shops though.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: sueatmo

                        Hi, Sue:

                        Yes, it's been discussed before--to no consensus. I just saw that photo, and I think the contrast between old polished and new "pebbly" is dramatic. That this Scotch bowl is exceedingly smooth is my only point. Thought others would like to see it.


                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Kaleo, I found the bowl very interesting. What is/was a bowl like this used for?

                          1. re: dixiegal

                            Hi, dixiegal:

                            I do not know its particular use, sorry. All I know is it's called a Scotch Bowl. I was tempted to buy it because it looked like I could use it like a wok by siting it down inside my wood cookstove's lid holes over the firebox.


                          2. re: kaleokahu

                            Thanks for posting that-seems unique in the world of machined CI both finish and shape. I love the old machined stuff.

                            1. re: wekick

                              The design hearkens back to the era when cooking was done in a large fireplace, and most pots hung vs. sitting on a flat surface. As stoves came in (a long, drawn-out process), pots were increasingly made with flat bottoms. This seems like a great transitional piece.

                              1. re: ellabee

                                "Scotch bowls were hung over a fire to cook scotch broth* or porridge; both dishes need to be stirred constantly, hence the rounded bottom and no lid."

                        2. Kaleo,

                          I think it's a really nice example of what can be done with cast iron. It's evident that a bit of work went into it after it was pulled from the casting.

                          I'm not fanatical about machined vs. shot finished but I wish that machined was still an option. The logic behind Lodge's thinking has perplexed me for some time. They fly the flag one minute and totally drop it the next. The used market shows there is demand for machined cast iron. Add to that the fact that cast iron is in the category of cookware that has grown the most in the past decade.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: SanityRemoved

                            >The used market shows there is demand for machined cast iron<

                            Sounds like someone could make a business out of buying cheap lodge stuff and machining down smooth, then reselling for a profit. Sorta like refinishing furniture.

                          2. That is a great picture to show the difference between the two. My Griswold has that same glassy smooth finish and I use those pans to cook on daily. My smaller frying pan is the perfect omelet pan. I do have a few Lodge pieces too both the old unseasoned and the new pre seasoned, they really do not compare. I reach for my Griswold if I have one in the size I need for the dish.

                            1. I don't agreee that the new stuff is crude. It's media blasted with steel shot to get rid of the sand and rough edges. IMHO, and I'll report back later as to whether or not I'm right, the new stuff can be seasoned to be as non-stick as the old stuff.

                              Those little bumps are not a problem. It's the seasoning that makes the skillet non-stick. Have you ever seen a skillet where the Teflon has worn through? The metal on those skillets is not very smooth and the Teflon still worked when the skillet was new.

                              There are too many myths surrounding cast iron cookware. Bunches of speculation and conjecture without any solid logic behind it. As someone else called it, "Voodoo!"

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pgmrdan

                                My $0.02- my Lodge preseasoned cast iron wok has never once stuck, and I havent' always been as careful with it as I should. It's been a real trooper and I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's not machined smooth, but it does NOT stick.