Cast Iron Collector

I’ve been a collector of vintage cast iron cookware for quite some time; and prefer a vintage Griswold or Wagner over the current offerings such as Lodge. The vintage is lighter in weight and smoother in appearance. I also have some unmarked vintage pieces that I consider to be equal in quality to Griswold and Wagner. I can’t attest to claims about hot spots or other performance-related qualities. I just know my chicken fryer is up for any task — deep frying, sauteing, baking, roasting. Just think — the same pan for all this.

As far as the cleaning and re-seasoning — it’s a past-time for me. I enjoy seeing the difference between the neglected, often rusted, item I purchased and the restored item. I frequent resale shops and thrift stores for deals on vintage cast iron. I’ve even won a piece on eBay. As far as cost, I’ve paid as little as $3.99 for a “mut” skillet at Goodwill and over $30 for a covered dutch oven at a consignment shop. This summer, however, I did have to draw the line at a Griswold covered dutch oven that was priced at $95.99 at an antique shop. It’s probably still there. Griswold is rare; but it’s not that hard to find. For me, the thrill is in the hunt; and, as the saying goes, “I have more time than money.” So I’ll wait. Over the years, I’ve had to become more discriminate when it comes to grabbing every piece I come across. I’ve learned to walk away from some pieces; and purchased a couple with the sole intent of restoring to give away.

I’d love to have a story about using my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. I wonder, even, who ended up with it. My Mother and all her siblings are gone. I wonder if Grandmomma’s skillet survived and is being used by one of my cousins. I think I’ll check into that just to satisfy my curiosity. As a matter of fact, I don’t have any specific memories of my mother cooking in a cast iron skillet. The only thing I can think is that she may have used one when I was too young to notice. I do remember, however, that when US Steel went on strike in the 1950’s, my Daddy started selling Presto Pride cookware door-to-door. I wonder if the cast iron was laid aside so he could become familiar with the product he sold. I do still have a few random pieces of it.

On the other hand, I have given pieces to my sons and to a family acquaintance. And, my niece rescued one that her friend was going to discard during a move. Try as I might — that skillet just didn’t like me! It would not cooperate with any of the techniques I’ve used on other pans. Determined to restore that skillet, I repeated my process three times! When I looked closer, I realized it was made in China — a significant deterrent when it comes to cast iron cookware. That stubborn rust didn’t budge! Never buy cast iron that was made in China. In addition to an inferior casting process, I’ve also read warnings that the quality of materials used are detrimental to your health.

I’ll write about the breaking down and re-seasoning process in a future post. I’ve even found an unexpected method of seasoning. The photo above shows my trusty chicken fryer on the back of the stove and a cleaned 12″ Griswold ready for firing.