I want to go to the cast iron market in Brimfeld, Mass

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/29/i-want-to-go-to-the-cast-iron.html


Cast-iron is for righty.
Silverstone is what lefty uses.

I know that the older mold cast pans are superior to the modern sand cast ones, but is there any real difference between all of these different makers? I have a Wagner, Griswold (though I only just learned what it was because it’s so caked with crap that all I can see is the logo) and a Sidney (which is Wagner, too I guess) as well as another with no marking. Honestly, they all seem about equal in quality. What makes these makers so desirable above others?

Some of it is finish, some of it is weight. The older pans are generally smoother and lighter than the new pans, with a few exceptions, like BSR which are pretty chunky, but very nice. But yeah, a lot of it is the logos.

Some of the best stuff is unmarked though, like the three notch Lodge and BSR pans.

The only problem with a cast iron market like this is that everyone there knows what they are selling, and price accordingly. I prefer to buy the crusty and rusty ones from the guys at the flea market or my neighborhood thrift, who set them aside for me.


I bought a nice big one from amazon for 20 bucks and works pretty dang well. Is there some reason the old ones are supposed to be better? I mean other than just the idea that it’s vintage and the joy of refurbishing something old?


My wife and I lived in a 300 sq ft cabin at 7000’ in the Rockies for the first 4 years of our marriage. The first week of our union we found a cast iron wood-fired cookstove at a farm auction for $10 - bought it and put it in the cabin. Used it every day - she cooked all our food on (and IN it).

Used cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, etc. every day.

Yeah… that was 30 years ago!

A few years back I ended up developing and running the Kickstarter campaign for FINEX - the octagonal cast-iron skillet. They’re still going strong! www.finexusa.com

My very good friend, Ben, is the webmaster and you GOTTA go see their site -outta this world!

But, nowadays, it’s all stainless thick-bottom gear for me!


They do not cook differently if well maintained. I use both.


Do we need it? I think so.


I’ve seen Finex pans at the local fancy market. Holy crap are they heavy (and also incredibly expensive). But I can gloat because I have a nice Griswold from my grandparents, that my eggs just fall out of without any coaxing at all.

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maybe it’s just me, but those prices were mostly insane to me. the only one that seemed reasonable was the half-price guy! it was fun to see some of the pans i have, and some that looked similar to ones i have. i was wondering how he could tell that some of the unmarked ones were Griswold – anyone know?


The main difference is the older ones were machined smooth which helps with the natural non-stick aspects.
I have one that belonged to my grandparents and they had it long before I was born so if I had to guess it’s ~70 years old.


Some of the older ones are lighter and most all of them have a smoother cooking surface than modern pans. That being said, I can’t detect any real functional differences between some 80 year old BSR/ 3 notch Lodge pans and more modern stuff. I prefer the chunkier brands, after being burnt by thin Wagners that tend to end up as “spinners” and Griswolds that are cracked.

Most of the joy for me is buying a pile of carbon and rust for a couple of dollars that’s been abandoned for a half century and returning it to a usable state. I end up giving away almost all of them that I clean up.


As long as I don’t wash mine - as long as I oil it every time and wipe it with a paper towel, it’s really better than any nonstick pan I bought. I love this thing. I’m always trying to convince people to switch from those non stick things that start flaking cancer dust over time. Ha. Although my parents have a glass top electric range and I’d sorta be afraid of cracking the glass on that thing. Why on earth would someone buy a stove like that?? Lol

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For the old stuff. Not much. We have Griswolds and some mysterious Canadian pans from my Great Grandmother and some unmarked ones from a family friend all right around 80 to a hundred years in use. And I’ve used Wagners and some other ones. There’s some very slight differences in shape (the Wagners have sharper sides, I’d like to track more of them down). But for the most part they’re all around the same for smoothness and what have. The newer stuff is primarily different in being thicker and heavier. The lodge pieces I’ve bought myself because my family won’t fucking die and leave me the good shit yet, eventually get nearly as smooth when the season builds up well enough.

I will note that there seems to be a lot of jackassery in terms of what’s claimed about the manufacturing difference. Some will claim hard molds, other sources claim the pans were sanded or machined after molding. But from what I understand the actual difference was the manufacturing location. The bulk of your American cast iron cookware manufacturers were located around the Great Lakes, and they were sand cast. But the sand they were using was finer grained than what’s commonly used now, and the sources of that sand aren’t exactly accessible anymore. With finer sand you not only get a smoother surface. But with the right hydration on that mold you can get very, very, very fine detail. Apparently some differences in iron ore source that lead to crisper molding as well.

More of a loss of knowledge/capacity than anything else. Having grown up with very old cast iron I can tell you that shit was sure as shit sand cast, not hard molded. You can see the grain.

I’ll see if I can remember where I caught the pedantic article that first pointed that out for me. Google’s not vomiting it out quick. People seem to have assumed hard molding or machining in an attempt to explain the surface difference, without realizing that the original locations of these factories were on much finer sand beds.

Value between vintage makers is just preference/collector value. The same way off kilter and less useful pieces are more valuable. More known brands are desirable. The prices on the old stuff is insanely inflated right now. Especially given how much of it is out there. You’ll see entirely routine skillets listed as SUPER RARE $175. For what used to be $25 10 years ago. Sadly yard sales, thrift shops and what have aren’t a decent place to find this stuff anymore. They know what they have thanks to the fad, and will charge for it even if its in rough shape.

Wash it is fine. So long as you don’t get more abrasive than a green scotch-brite (the ones on the sponges, not the stand alone pads) sol good. Regular dish soap is fine. If its too crudded up I use coarse salt. Or a paint scraper. Shits a LOT more resilient than the internet will tell you. Most important thing is never let it soak for more than a couple hours.


Had me until the Nazi memorabilia.



Have you seen this shit.

10 waffles. 4 patterns.


I got a bunch of cast iron from a co-worker who knew I was interested. She got them from a neighbor who was cleaning out the garage. My favorite is a large “Copco” skillet. Seems like most of what that Danish company produced was enameled, but this one isn’t. It’s nice and heavy and smooth.


That has to be the holy mothering grail of all Griswold waffle irons.

There are some hammered finish Griswold chicken fryers with lids that also elicit the “HMFS!” when I see them in the wild.

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If I’m remembering it right (beer was involved), I spotted that listing when it was a $375 buy it now. I have been asked to stop buying that sort of thing. So within the next 3 beers and god I hope it wasn’t an hour, it crossed into can’t fucking afford it territory. And I’ve been a little pissed ever since. I mean $375 was more than I should ever sensibly spend on anything short of a car, a computer, or medical care.

But fuck. I would have the best fucking waffles right now. Or so I tell myself. I suspect the “buy it now” button was a post family function hallucination. Also I’m pretty sure the waffles wouldn’t cook all that evenly, think that thing covers like 3 burners. The internet has reference to about the three of these fucking things. But ONE DAY.

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I get extremely frustrated when I hear all the old myths about how to clean cast iron, and never using dish soap. Never washing pans is how you end up with 1/2 an inch of crusty carbon on the outside of the pan. A properly seasoned pan, isn’t going to lose it’s polymerized coating to some soap.