Why You Want a Vintage Cast Iron Skillet

griswold cast iron skillet

Did you know you want a vintage cast iron skillet? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t but after reading this post I think you will want one! I apologize in advance for tempting you with visions of the perfect new addition to your kitchen ;-). Cast iron is a must have for all southern cooks, but you probably already knew that. What you don’t know is why Grandma’s cast iron skillet is better than the one you have.

Southern cooks use cast iron skillets for all manner of fried dishes as well as quick breads. Before I discovered cast iron cookery, both enameled and raw cast iron, I had a love/hate affair with my stainless steel pans. I loved the healthy aspect of them, but often burned the outside of meat and left the inside undercooked. I was pretty new to this whole cooking thing and everyone I knew had teflon pans so no insight there :-). Then I was given a salsa recipe that absolutely insisted that you blacken the peppers in a cast iron pan. I was inspired to get one. So I bought a smallish square Lodge pan. And it was great! I made salsa, quiche, cornbread and fried everything in it but eggs.

vintage cast iron skillet

Note the smooth interior

But was never able to season that pan well enough to be completely non-stick. Maybe it was just my particular one … the surface was pretty rough. Also, I wasn’t the kindest to it, so maybe it just never got really well seasoned. Or maybe it’s just a bit trickier to get a non-stick surface from a modern machined cast iron pan.

The Trouble with Lodge

Most if not all of the cast iron you’ll find available new is made by Lodge. These pans have a very rough surface in comparison to quality vintage pans. So while cast iron is cast iron there is a difference in the quality of the machine work. All Lodge pans come pre-seasoned with a soy based vegetable oil now. Many are stripping this finish to apply their own seasoning. One of the advantages to new cast iron has always been that you can easily start fresh with your own seasoning. Looks like that is no longer true! And you can always start fresh with a vintage pan by strippin it of seasoning too.

No doubt many cooks are quite happy with their Lodge pans as I was for years. But I think most of them haven’t seen or cooked with either a Wagner or Griswold vintage pan.

Griswold Cast Iron

The Griswold Mark

Wagner and Griswold Cast Iron

These are the two big names in quality vintage cast iron cookware. Both brands can be easily found used. Simple fry pans are the most abundant and are usually priced pretty reasonably. Vintage pans on eBay should run around $50-60 for one in good condition. My double skillet shown pictured on the right is a little bit more than the price of two pans, but not by much. But Griswold and Wagner aren’t the only quality pans. Take a look around at thrift shops or antique malls and you’ll find many others. To assess the quality look carefully at the smoothness of the interior. It should look and feel very smooth. If buying online I’d stick with Wagner and Griswold since you won’t have a chance to inspect it in person. I bought mine on eBay rather than engaging in the treasure hunt, but I don’t know, maybe that would be more fun :-).

Happy Hunting!

Learn more about cast iron cookery

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This post is part of Butter Believer’s Sunday School, The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania and Traditional Tuesday at Cooking Traditional Food, Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager, Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday, Gnowfglins Simple Lives Thursday , Real Food Freak’s Freaky Friday and Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday.

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lives just outside of Austin with her husband of 20 years Barry, youngest son Jake, three cats and about a dozen chickens. She has another older son and a beautiful daughter-in-law who live in Austin. While not a Grandma yet, with two grown kids she remains hopeful. Kathy wants a world where everyone has fresh wholesome food and feels that cookin' like a granny woman is the surest way to get there.


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Granny LOVES a great discussion! A thoughtful, in-depth look from all angles benefits us all. If you disagree let us know! But please remember you're in Granny's house and be respectful of that. If you wouldn't say it in your Grandma's hearing please don't say it here! No name-calling or foul language. Those comments that don't respect Granny's home will be deleted.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Yolanda April 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

I have often thought the same thing. I am blessed with some vintage cast iron and even blogged about it a while back :

http://simplyhomemaking60.blogspot.com/2011/04/do-you-love-cast-iron-cookware.html

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Kathy April 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Thanks for sharing your cast iron story with us :-) It’s amazing sometimes what you find moving into a new place.

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Holly April 16, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I love cast iron. I wish I could find a decent old pan, I keep looking but never find them. It is a popular collectable at the moment, like my beloved Pyrex.

My parents have several old pans, and they are so much better than the new ones that I have. Although I have some older Lodge pans that are nicer than the newest addition, a grill pan my mom gave me for Christmas last year. It is truly horrendous, the surface is so rough, I can’t get a decent season on it.

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Jen April 17, 2012 at 10:43 am

AHHH! I knew that my pan was preseasoned when I bought it and figured I could compensate by using my own seasoning. I am sick now to think that it was seasoned with soy. Great. I can’t have soy. I did look around for vintage, but my hubs wouldn’t let me buy one. He said he was worried about what other peeps did to it and he’d rather pay full price for new. Now I wish I had pushed him a little harder. :(

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Kathy April 17, 2012 at 11:45 am

Cant tell you how many times I’ve had this sort of thing happen! I want to write a post about it sometime soon.

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Jen April 20, 2012 at 8:02 am

I can’t wait to read it! For the most part my hubs is pretty good about letting me have what I want food-wise and tool-wise. But I try not to push back when he is really against something since he is better than most when it comes to these things.

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Kathy April 20, 2012 at 8:40 am

Yeah it’s best not to push. My hubs is great about all of this too. He has strong opinions sometimes about particular ingredients. In those cases we generally go with his preference cause it’s more exacting than mine.

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Ronna January 4, 2014 at 1:15 am

Hi I have a Wagner Magnalite sauce pan I bought at a garage sale many years ago used it all the time, well the handle broke and did not want to use it for safety reasons…Do you know how I would obtain a handle for it?
Thanks,
Ronna

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Raising Isabella April 17, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I totally agree! My (new) pans are starting to get seasoned, but they’re still nowhere near where my mom’s inherited ones are. I wondered if it was normal for the pan to be “bumpy”. I guess so.

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suzyhomemaker April 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I had no idea that cast iron would have been different. I have a pan I bought at a some craft show or something. They all looked pretty old, but I have no idea for sure. Now I need to go look and see what brand it might be. Thanks for the info!

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Kathy April 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm

I stumbled across a little nest of them at a local antique mall a few weeks back. All of them beauties and pretty inexpensive. I picked one up to give away here on the blog. As soon as I get a little time, I’ll setup a giveaway!

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Laura April 23, 2012 at 12:59 am

love love love all the cast iron pans I’ve scrounged for free free free from folks who didn’t want to rehab them. Recently I was wanting to clean this nasty bumpy stuff from the sides and handles. Guess it was from cooking with oil and fat in the oven over many years. This stuff would not come off with washing. Finally took the two worst ones camping and after cooking dinner in them, nestled them in the fire pit with the inside directly touching the coals. Next morning come to find two perfectly smooth (albeit unseasoned) cast iron skillets. I wrapped them in newspaper to keep them from rusting and took them home to wash and re-season. Never reject a cast iron that is bumpy or dirty or even rusty, put ‘em in the fire! It really works, takes little effort, and is basically non-toxic.

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Kathy April 26, 2012 at 6:52 am

Great to know this method works well! I’ve heard it mentioned but haven’t had a pan to try it on.

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Keli December 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm

You can also clean them by putting them in the oven a starting the self cleaning.

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Kathy April 26, 2012 at 6:53 am

The Wagner Skillet giveaway has begun! Here’s the link to the giveaway

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Josh June 9, 2012 at 6:43 am

I know that the Wagner pans were re-released in the 90′s and the logo on the bottom of the pan changed. Are these new ones not as good as the old ones? Did anything like that happen with Griswold?

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Kathy June 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Hi Josh … I have seen some of the new Wagner pans and to me they seem very similar to the Lodge pans. They are not nearly as smooth and non-stick as the vintage pans. As far as I know the Griswold name hasn’t been used for any newish pans.

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David Webster August 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm

i have a antigue Lodge skillet 20 inches looks like the newer 17 inch

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Al Boss September 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I have read many articles about cleaning old cast iron. It seems as though people will go to all manner of machinations to acomplish this. It is really not a big problem. Simply visit an automotive machine shop and have them hot tank and crack check your piece. It will be completely stripped of all grease and scale, as it was when firs cast. It will have to be blackened and seasoned right away.

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Robin November 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Hi Kathy, I really enjoy your website. I love my Griswold, cast iron skillets. I’ve been wanting a #10 Griswold chicken fryer and can’t seem to find one anywhere. Do you know if they made that size?

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Kathy November 19, 2012 at 10:42 pm

You know I really wish I had one of the antique pricing books … I bet they would have a complete list of what was produced. I wonder if they make one just for cast iron? I’ll have to look on Amazon and see what I can find.

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Kathy November 19, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I found one … The Book of Griswold and Wagner: Favorite Wapak, Sidney Hollow Ware … it’s a little pricey but looks interesting.

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Andrew Blattenberger March 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm

They did make a #10 chicken fryer. I just bought one this weekend at an auction. It is a large slant logo, marked 734.

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Donna December 27, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Hey Kathy,
I ran accross your site tonight and was very interested. i was wondering how to get that “gunk” off the outside of my skillet for the longest time. and now i know thank you all for the info.

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Kathy December 29, 2012 at 10:31 pm

So glad it helped :-)

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Carol December 28, 2012 at 10:52 am

I was looking for the perfect cast iron skillet to buy yesterday when I googled it and found your article on vintage cast iron – can I just say “thank you”! Great info and it led me to find my perfect vintage cast iron skillet! I purchased a Wagner #8 – and…this is the other exciting part… it comes with a lid!! So, I had to pay a little more, but I know it’ll be worth it and I can’t wait until it arrives – both pieces looked to be in excelelnt shape and, I have to say, you’re so right – the vintage skillets are so much smoother than the Lodge’s.
One more thing, I kind of like the idea of my skillet being used by other people before me – a pioneer woman or farm wife back in the day cooking for her family like my grandmother (I wish I had gotten one of her cast iron skillets). If only these skillets could talk, they’re rich in history and I’m sure they’d have a good story or two to tell us.

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Kathy December 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Thanks for the kind words! I like to think about who had the pan before too … it makes me feel good to know that we’re carrying on a tradition :-)

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Angie December 29, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Growing up, my granny ALWAYS cooked her vegetables in a cast iron saucepan. (She calledit a boiler)…. I would love to find another one. Has anyone ever seen one? Used would absolutely be fine. Am I using the wrong name for my search?? Thanks for your time.

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Kathy December 29, 2012 at 9:28 pm

I think that old saucepans are more rare … I tried this search for cast iron sauce pan on eBay and found just a few. I’d keep looking there … most likely one will turn up that you like.

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almeda February 5, 2013 at 7:59 pm

I am trying to find some info on a cast iron electric crockpot made by house of webster made around late 1950 . Can someone help.

Thanks

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Jan April 4, 2013 at 11:12 am

I have quite a few old cast iron skillets and a dutch oven but don’t know how to find the value of them. I have a 6 1/2 fry pan, Two 10 1/2 fry pans that say AGNEWARE sidney -0- A #7 10 1/2 in Dutch oven with a bail handle, another skillet that say Wagner’s 1891-oringinal V-9″ , A square 10″ skillet, a breakfast griddle that says #11 BG-111/4 ” 49H-2 and a #1 fry pan that is 10 1/2 “. I also have a lid and don’t know if it goes on the dutch oven or what. Does anyone have an ideas on how I can find the value of these??? Thank You !

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Patti July 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm

hi I am wondering the same thing about some pans I have did you ever get an answer? Or have you come across any free sites that have helped you find the value ?

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Patti July 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I have a wagners 1891 original cast iron cookware 9 ” skillet with the seasoning instructions stamped into it do you have any idea how much I could sell this for
?

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Kathy August 1, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Patti, all I’ve been able to find so far is a book on Griswold and Wagner called The Book of Griswold & Wagner: Favorite Piqua, Sidney Hollow Ware, Wapak : With Price Guide (Schiffer Book for Collectors). It’s target audience is serious collectors so it’s pricey. I’ll keep everyone posted if I find an online source.

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Wishbone August 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm

$50-$60 is a bit much.. Maybe for some of the more collectable ones. I usually shoot for the $15-$30, and get some good Wagner stuff.

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Billy @ wagner cast iron September 1, 2013 at 8:52 am

We really love the vintage cast iron too. Once I started getting some cookware for my kitchen a few years ago, I got a Lodge 10 inch skillet and a 10 inch griddle. Wow, they were rough. I’ve actually sanded them down quite a bit and they are getting better. However, in the last few months I’ve gotten a few Wagner skillets from eBay and I love them.

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Katie October 5, 2013 at 6:44 am

I enjoyed your comments about different pans. I retrieved my grandmothers pan from the field a year after it was thrown out because my teenage boys burned something in it. It was rusted and bubbled solid! After leaving it in the garage and grumbling another year I decided to try to restore it. Went on line and read about this and now I’m using it! I made a dessert in it last week when my now adult boys came over and now they want one for themselves. I will look for another griswold on line!

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Sharon October 31, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I want to start cooking in cast iron skilets.

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