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May 8, 2012 07:19 AM

Is this cast iron?

Hey all, new user here, so I apologize if this has been done too much before.
I've got this old pan that I think (based on some quick internet research) is cast iron, possibly enameled at one point--see the shiny bits in the second pic. The bottom says "Chef Skillet - 9 inch - Made in USA - %" with an X at the base of the handle.
Following another site's instructions, I soaked it in vinegar and water for about 1/2 an hour before realizing the shiny stuff is not coming off (though it did remove a lot of rust).
So, does anyone recognize it? Any help much appreciated. :)

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  1. It looks like cast iron to me. If you put a magnet on the pan, it should stick. If it doesn't stick, the pan is probably cast aluminum, but from the pic, it looks like CI. The shiny bits could be old seasoning. If it was formerly enameled, I think more of the enamel would still be intact. I like the handle and what appears to be a decorative guard at the throat of the handle. I wonder what function that might have?

    And one other question. Have you checked to make sure the pan sits absolutely level? I looks as if the middle of the pan is slightly raised, which may be by design. But if the pan wobbles on the burner, it isn't worth restoring.

    I agree with using a steel wool pad or plain steel wool on the shiny bits. Or you could try scraping after soaking.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      I think it's a thumb rest for a better grip when the pan is lifted or tipped.

      1. re: kaleokahu

        It looks functional. And it is attractive--apparently good design.

      2. Looks like cast iron. That doesn't look like enamel from what I can see. Perhaps that's left over areas where the pan was well seasoned. I'd scrub the schneikies out of it with steel wool to get those spots off and re-season in the oven over and over until you get the finish you want.


        12 Replies
        1. re: TraderJoe

          If the shiny areas are metallic, please test for lead. Those of us who recast lead find cast iron to be great at retaining heat.

          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

            "If the shiny areas are metallic, please test for lead. Those of us who recast lead find cast iron to be great at retaining heat"

            Oooo good point! Lead melts easy so you can just get the pan nice and hot on a burner to see if those spots melt.


            1. re: TraderJoe

              I just put it under my broiler (about 500 F) for 15 minutes, and nothing happened--as lead melts at 425, I think that makes it safe to use, right?
              Thanks for your help!

              1. re: spaceface

                If you're open to another suggestion, try hitting the pan all over with Naval Jelly. Glove up, slobber it on and wait about 45 minutes. Then go after it with a stiff wire brush and rinse well before washing.

                Or take it to your auto mechanic for a quick sand blasting.

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  CI is porous. I've used Naval jelly. It is pretty strong stuff, isn't it? I would have concerns about the residual chemicals leaching into my food? I cooked. Am I wrong?

                  1. re: sueatmo

                    Hi, sueatmo:

                    Yes, Naval Jelly is a strong acid. But I don't share your concern about it getting in the food. I wash it out well and then boil it, and I haven't had any problems. If you want to be extra careful, boil baking soda in it to neutralize every last bit of acid, but I think that's overkill.


                  2. re: kaleokahu

                    I've never heard of sand-blasting. Guess that would be for really deep rusting?

                    1. re: spaceface

                      Hi, spaceface:

                      Well, yes. For totally reconditioning a bare pan (and fast), it works well. The best way is electrolytic cleaning (there is an instruction thread on it here somewhere), but that is time consuming and requires a battery charger, a piece of steel for an anode, and tubs of acid and base solutions.

                      I suggested the NJ as something you can easily do yourself and requires little fooling with hand sanding.


                      1. re: spaceface

                        Guess that would be for really deep rusting?
                        You can use sand or bead blasting to remove any material you can't get off. Deep rust in a CI pan would probably mean it's not salvagable or just not worth the effort unless it's a very special item.


                        1. re: spaceface

                          Sandblasting destroys the value of a cast iron pan as a collectible. Lead may have already done that, however.

                      2. re: spaceface

                        Skip the chemical crud and scrub with a good SS pad. Not scotch brite or brillo pads but a good SS scrubbie. If you have a GFS near you they carry them as do many Wally Worlds.
                        If that doesn't take it off you can always get it bead or sand blasted.
                        Personally I wouldn't worry much. If it didn't melt it's not lead and more than likely it's just old seasoning.


                        1. re: TraderJoe

                          if it is old seasoning, then oven cleaner, or baking at high temp for a while will take it off. I would do this before reseasoning.

                2. I don't recognize the brand, but it certainly looks like cast iron. It's difficult to identify the shiny stuff in the photos, but I suspect you're going to need to resort to a coarse scouring pad to get it off.

                  1. That's a Wagner un-trademarked chef's skillet.
                    They are great pans as the corners are rounded making it easier to toss or flip food. I own one just like it.

                    I don't remember them making an enameled version (not that they didn't - I just don't remember). But, IMO if there was enamel on it then remnants of the enamel would be visible on the handle and it would be unlikely any remained on the cooking surface.

                    Is that shiny material bubbled? The reason I ask is that a lot of cast iron was used to melt other metals and mostly lead for folks casting fishing weights or re-dropping shot for reloading shotgun shells. If it is lacking pigment you many be looking at someone's ersatz lead crucible and it would not be a pan to use to cook meals out of at all.

                    If you know someone that is a fisherman or hunter that has done the above please show them the pan so they can tell you if you are looking a metal or enamel. And then make a decision about what you want to do with the pan and if you can can clean it down to bare metal. A vinegar rinse won't do much.

                    Sorry to be a worry wart but would hate to see you use a pan that might be injurious to you and yours.

                    1. Oh one other thing. Lead starts to melt at about 625 degrees F. not 425.... So your broiler test won't tell you much. To get it to melt well you have to keep it at 650 to 675 for about an hour....

                      Please have that pan tested.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: slowshooter

                        Thanks! As to the possibility of lead, it's actually from a relative and was always kept in the family (no hunters or fisherman, I think), and in any case the pattern of shiny stuff on the inside is not bubbled and is continued on the bottom as well. I'm asking the relative to make sure, though. I appreciate your concern, lead's not something to mess with.