Best Vintage Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware was the default cookware of the ancient-times chef. Before it became a fancy piece of art, vintage  cast iron cookware was just – pots and pans. 

If you have a set of vintage cast iron pans and pots in your kitchen, you know their value regarding heat retention and expert handle of heat. They work excellently when searing and frying; recipes that call for high temperatures. One thing is expected; that this antique cast iron cookware will set you back a pretty penny!

One other thing that distinguishes cast iron pots from those made using other metals is its versatility. You can transfer it from the oven to the stove or vice-versa without needing to change anything.

Old and Antique Cast Iron Pots and Pans

It’s Been A Long Road

Cast iron goes back to the 19th century, where the makers made them bulky enough to handle open fire.  The oldest of the vintage pieces had a handle and three legs to keep them stable over the fireplace or hearth.

During the first half of the 21st century, antique cast iron skillet brands such as Wagner Ware and Griswold became more popular among the Americans, and the makers devised ways to make them smaller and more attractive.

Old cast iron cookware can last for ages, which is why pieces bought 50 years ago still work well to date. They are simply that durable. Having said that, a modern best cast iron cookware can be compared to them as well.

How To Differentiate Fake From Real Antique Cast Iron Cookware?

You may already know that there are more than a few fake pieces of your favorite vintage cast iron pans on the market. Counterfeiters have become good at their job that it takes an effort to tell the real from counterfeit (also known as reproduction).

The first telltale is usually the price. Most skillets have a set price and seeing as they will last you a long time, you will be okay paying the price to acquire a timeless masterpiece. If a dealer gives you a deal that is too good to be true, maybe it is. It would certainly serve you well to check out other sites and compare the prices before you get a raw deal.

The Size and Weight

Reproductions are smaller, seeing as their makers will use the original as the measuring pad. During the process, the new production will shrink, causing it to be smaller. They (reproductions) are also heavier, seeing as the material for making real vintage cast iron is unique and costly.

Being that counterfeits are meant to cost a small fraction of the original, makers will not go for high-quality material. So, essentially, they are smaller and heavier.

The Logo

The manufacturer’s logo will tell you the ingenuity of a vintage skillet, but only if you are familiar with the real product. Most brands have their unique way of engraving their logo that reproduction companies will not replicate.

Poor Workmanship

Reproductions have poor casting, and so they will not last as long as the real deal. They will need constant seasoning to retain their non-stick quality, and that is not a guarantee that they will remain so for as long as you use them. Unfortunately, you cannot tell a skillet’s nonstick quality until you have used it.

How To Care For Vintage Cast Iron Skillet?

You have probably looked at a second-hand cast iron skillet and wondered what it would take to remove the crud that may have accumulated will through the years.

If the rust on your pan is reddish-brown, then it means your vintage pan or skillet is at the close-to-damage stage. Orange rust is easy to clean.

How Do You Clean Your Antique Pans Without Damaging It?


If you are using it for the first time, your cast iron pan or skillet will need seasoning to get it ready for the heat. Seasoning means applying a layer of oil on your skillet then heating it (in the oven) to harden the season. The initial seasoning is quite important because it leads to a thin layer of protection, similar to a plastic film that cements the skillet’s non-stick qualities over time.

The more you use the skillet when cooking using oil, the better the film protects it from rust. With constant use and the creation of the protective layers, your pan will need proper cleaning that will not strip off the seasoning.

Washing: The Soap Myth

One widespread belief is that soap would strip off the seasoning. That is not always true, seeing as the oil polymerizes and so simply washing it with gentle soap will not ruin it. When cleaning, you want to avoid those harsh scrubbers that could ruin the seasoning. A sponge with warm soapy water will get rid of most of the dirt, and then you can use a synthetic scrubber on the more difficult ones.

If you have stubborn pieces of food that will not budge with all the scrubbing, pour some salt on the pan and then subject it to high heat. It scrubs all the burnt pieces without ruining the seasoning. You may have been told before that it’s unwise to soak cast iron cookware in the water. Just have it in the sink long enough for washing.

Drying Your Vintage Skillet

Before storage, you want to dry it properly because iron and water are catalysts for rust. The oil may protect the surface from rusting right away, but leaving your priced skillet with water will ruin it in the long term.

The first thing you want to do after washing, it is to dry your old cast iron pan using lint-free cloth. And if you can, heat it to dry it even further.

Getting It Ready For Storage

Now, time to keep it away until the next time. You will need to oil it lightly using a lint-free cloth and unsaturated fats of your choice. You will only need to use a little oil so that it doesn’t look as though you have greased it at all. After this, heat the skillet on your burner to prevent the oils from going rancid, and also to make the season intact.

Don’t be afraid to subject it to high heat until it is smoking. After it’s cooled, you can store your vintage cast iron cookware until the next use. The process may be cumbersome, but it is necessary for the longevity of the pan.

Griswold, Wagner, And Wapak, Which Is The Best Vintage Cast Iron Brand?

Griswold is one of the world’s best-known brands for vintage cast iron skillets. This company made its first line of premium cookware in 1870 and continued its operations until the mid-1900s. During this time, Griswold was credited with coming up with some of the most advanced skillets that opened the door for the competition.

Griswold cast iron skillets have been passed down for generations, seeing as they can last indefinitely, and they are a collector’s item. You will not find a new one from this brand on the market today. The brand is still the best the world has seen of antique skillets.

At one point, Wagner had a 60% market share in the cookware market. The name of the brand, Wagner, was and is still proudly found at the bottom of each skillet from the company. Just like Griswold, this company started its operations in the 1800s and became defunct in mid-1950s.

Wagner cast iron skillets are a collectible item, seeing as their quality is unbeatable. Not all of the company’s skillets have a logo on the bottom, something attributed to the company’s intention to sell its wares to smaller markets. The company did not compromise the brand’s quality.

The history of Wapak is quite short, with the company having folded in 1926 after a 23-year stint. Most of its vintage cast iron pans are being ‘thin walled’ and being seen to have borrowed quite a lot from Griswold. The logo, an Indian chief’s head, is to be found at the bottom of each of the Wapak pans, but the brand is not as prestigious as Griswold or Wagner.

So Vintage or Modern Cookware?

Vintage pans and skillets have these rough surfaces when you compare them to their new counterparts. You will know your pan is and recent when the surfaces are smooth and in compliance with the current stoves.

Pre-seasoned and well-maintained vintage skillets will be smooth and non-stick from the seasoning that will have happened throughout the years. They will also be reasonably heavy but not too much to make them impossible to handle. They will have logos from makers, mostly Griswold and Wagner, and they will have numbers scribed on the handle.

What do vintage cast iron skillets have over their modern counterparts? Well, old is gold, they say. Most vintage cookware have a prominent heat ring which helped the sit correctly on the eye of the stove. The modern kid does not have this ring, thanks to the change in stove designs. They will last indefinitely, all the while retaining their non-stick quality for the centuries.

Should you spend a fortune on a vintage cast iron cookware? Should you go for the best antique pans? Well, if you have the time and knowledge to differentiate the real from the fake old cast iron skillets, you will find great bargains in fleas markets and garage sales. So, with a little digging, you could spend peanuts for a skillet that would last for generations.

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