2

votes

Is new Wagner cast iron as good as the old stuff?

Answered on December 18, 2014
Created June 06, 2012 at 1:54 AM

We are ready to dump our non-stick cookware and switch to the real deal. From this thread, it seems there is some consensus around Griswold/Wagner for quality/value:

http://paleohacks.com/questions/35332/are-expensive-cast-iron-pans-worth-it

Many recommend to buy them at garage sales or on craigslist and clean them up. I am not opposed to this, but wife is a bit of a type A personality and would rather just buy a set than to buy it piece meal over time. I found this website:

http://www.wagnerware.com/ProductDetail.asp?Filter=PL&PLine=4&Prod=102&PSub=38

Is this just as good as buying the vintage stuff? Or, is the new stuff just cheap crap sold under the old brand name? I.e., do they still make it like they used to? Any other good sources for buying new cast iron?

7e1433afbb06c318c4d90860d493c49d

(5959)

on February 21, 2013
at 03:12 PM

I took one of my Lodge frying pans and polished it as smooth as glass with angle grinder flap disks followed by fine sandpaper with an orbital sander. I then seasoned it using the flax oil method. As for new cast iron being aluminum, that's BS; if new cast iron pans were actually made of aluminum, they wouldn't weigh as much as they do.

E9140ef0ca0a76ea14b9ebccad234608

(615)

on February 21, 2013
at 11:36 AM

actually real cast iron was made by griswold until the 40s.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on December 13, 2012
at 10:34 PM

Thanks for the response. Yes, we found out about the "grainy" surface the hard way. Luckily, we had "inherited" the pan for free, but stuff really seems to stick to the grainy surface even when well seasoned. I've heard some people use a power sander of some sort to grind the surface smooth, though I don't own one to try it.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on July 03, 2012
at 07:23 PM

awesome! thank you so much.

C1484e8cfca0cc00f40da25d36f689b8

(374)

on June 18, 2012
at 03:57 AM

The disc bottom isn't the best for the frying pans/skillets but you may not mind depending on your cooking style. That being said, box sets can be a waste if you don't find yourself using all of the pans. Buying higher quality pieces as you find a need for them is worth considering. Start off with a large stockpot, a saucepan, and a cast iron skillet. Expand from there as needed. I make >80% of my meals with a small saucepan, a skillet, a baking sheet, and a wok. YMMV Here is a link to some reccomendations if you decide to take the latter route. amzn.com/w/2UKANWFH7VZ1V

C1484e8cfca0cc00f40da25d36f689b8

(374)

on June 18, 2012
at 03:53 AM

The disc bottom isn't the best for the frying pans/skillets but you may not mind depending on your cooking style. That being said, box sets can be a waste if you don't find yourself using all of the pans. Buying higher quality pieces as you find a need for them is worth considering. Start off with a large stockpot, a couple saucepans, and a cast iron skillet. Expand from there as needed. I make >80% of my meals with a small saucepan, a skillet, a baking sheet, and a wok. YMMV Here is a link to some reccomendations if you decide to take the latter route. http://amzn.com/w/2UKANWFH7VZ1V

C1484e8cfca0cc00f40da25d36f689b8

(374)

on June 18, 2012
at 03:44 AM

The disc bottom isn't the best for the frying pans/skillets but you may not mind depending on your cooking style. That being said, box sets can be a waste if you don't find yourself using all of the pans. Buying higher quality pieces as you find a need for them is worth considering. Start off with a large stockpot, a saucepan, a frying pan, and a cast iron skillet. Expand from there as needed. I make >80% of my meals with a small saucepan, a skillet, a baking sheet, and a wok. YMMV

C1484e8cfca0cc00f40da25d36f689b8

(374)

on June 18, 2012
at 03:31 AM

Hey Mike, The panman site seems to be good for picking up the cast iron skillets. If you decide to order, ask him if he is pre-seasoning them for you or not. Big plus if he does get you started off on the right foot. Revere Ware has been around for a long time and some people love it. My old housemate had a set and I used it for a year, didn't care for it. The metal is quite thin, and the copper layer is far too small to truly make much of a difference. This leads to hot spots. The Costco Kirkland Set is similarly priced ($189.99) and seems better IMO.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 17, 2012
at 05:40 PM

Also, does this look like a reasonable way to get vintage cast iron? http://www.panman.com/sale.html Any other recommendations if we're not willing to wait for a good find at a garage sale?

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 17, 2012
at 05:38 PM

@AStar, my wife asked me to ask you about this set: http://www.shopworldkitchen.com/revere/copper-bottom-set-1095183 What do you think? In addition, we have enameled cast iron dutch oven from my mother-in-law and we plan to buy a small and large vintage cast iron skillet.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 06, 2012
at 03:33 PM

Awesome response! We will start working through this list. Thank you so much.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on June 06, 2012
at 03:18 PM

I lack the means to do so, or I would. :(

4498698fa91a620e4ee5b618da71016a

(427)

on June 06, 2012
at 07:04 AM

Wow. That is some serious research you did there. Thanks for the info!

B1859f696e88d25460a6b8a333412ea3

(837)

on June 06, 2012
at 03:14 AM

I have a friend who ground down his Lodge skillet to a smooth flat surface. I've seen him make scrambled eggs in it. It's as non-stick as you can get.

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8 Answers

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9
C1484e8cfca0cc00f40da25d36f689b8

(374)

on June 06, 2012
at 03:52 AM

The older Griswold and Wagner pans were significantly smoother than most of the new cast iron cookware sold today. After removal from the mold they were polished, which significantly helped their non-stick qualities. The new pans are, from what I've seen, are sold without this extra polishing step which leaves somewhat of a pebbled interior. This is with Lodge and some of the imported varieties. I have not personally seen any of the new Wagner so no comment there. However, no matter how smooth the pan is on the inside, it still must be seasoned significantly before you can slide eggs around or get anything sticky to not really stick. This is not difficult, but is a necessity even in the older pans. That being said I wouldn't get rid of my Wagner or Griswold pans for the world and neither would my mother. I love my cast iron, I've got an entire shelf of it, but realistically it isn't the best for everything.


  • If I were getting new cookware, I'd go for this combination.
    • Vintage Cast Iron Skillet: 2-3 is a plenty, various sizes are nice. Worth the search IMO
    • Cast Iron griddle: Don't spend a lot, Cost Plus World Market normally has them for $20 or so.
    • Enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven: Staub or Le Creuset (pricey but incredibly high quality)
    • Cheap stainless steel stockpot with colander insert: no need to spend a lot on boiling water.
    • Large carbon steel wok: Joyce Chen or any inexpensive carbon steel one is fine.
    • Large disc bottom stainless steel saut?? pan: Sitram Profisserie is a good brand, you want disc
      bottom to retain the heat on the bottom.
    • Disc bottom stainless steel sauce pans: Sitram again is a good brand, though you don't really need to spend a lot of money on these as they will be primarily for heating liquids.
    • Clad or copper saucier: if you make a lot of sauces that require reducing or whisking, nothing beats the heat distribution and responsiveness of copper, clad is also a more than adequate close second.
    • Clad or Carbon Steel Frying Pan - De Buyer for the steel. Cuisinart, All Clad, Calphalon, etc for
      the clad. Look at the middle layer (the aluminum), the thicker the better here = even heat
      distribution.

This is based on what I find myself cooking, countless hours of researching, and the courses needed to understand all the thermodynamics and metallurgy talk of the particularly devoted cookware zealots. If everything must match, I suggest going for a set of tri-ply clad cookware, Costco normally has something decent in a box set. It's not nearly ideal from a performance perspective, i.e. highly conductive sides wicking away heat from your boiling stock pot or hot saut?? pan but it will be plenty functional and a whole lot better than nonstick. I realize that is a whole lot of information, but if you can't tell, I like cookware :) Cheers Mike

4498698fa91a620e4ee5b618da71016a

(427)

on June 06, 2012
at 07:04 AM

Wow. That is some serious research you did there. Thanks for the info!

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 06, 2012
at 03:33 PM

Awesome response! We will start working through this list. Thank you so much.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 17, 2012
at 05:40 PM

Also, does this look like a reasonable way to get vintage cast iron? http://www.panman.com/sale.html Any other recommendations if we're not willing to wait for a good find at a garage sale?

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 17, 2012
at 05:38 PM

@AStar, my wife asked me to ask you about this set: http://www.shopworldkitchen.com/revere/copper-bottom-set-1095183 What do you think? In addition, we have enameled cast iron dutch oven from my mother-in-law and we plan to buy a small and large vintage cast iron skillet.

C1484e8cfca0cc00f40da25d36f689b8

(374)

on June 18, 2012
at 03:57 AM

The disc bottom isn't the best for the frying pans/skillets but you may not mind depending on your cooking style. That being said, box sets can be a waste if you don't find yourself using all of the pans. Buying higher quality pieces as you find a need for them is worth considering. Start off with a large stockpot, a saucepan, and a cast iron skillet. Expand from there as needed. I make >80% of my meals with a small saucepan, a skillet, a baking sheet, and a wok. YMMV Here is a link to some reccomendations if you decide to take the latter route. amzn.com/w/2UKANWFH7VZ1V

C1484e8cfca0cc00f40da25d36f689b8

(374)

on June 18, 2012
at 03:31 AM

Hey Mike, The panman site seems to be good for picking up the cast iron skillets. If you decide to order, ask him if he is pre-seasoning them for you or not. Big plus if he does get you started off on the right foot. Revere Ware has been around for a long time and some people love it. My old housemate had a set and I used it for a year, didn't care for it. The metal is quite thin, and the copper layer is far too small to truly make much of a difference. This leads to hot spots. The Costco Kirkland Set is similarly priced ($189.99) and seems better IMO.

C1484e8cfca0cc00f40da25d36f689b8

(374)

on June 18, 2012
at 03:53 AM

The disc bottom isn't the best for the frying pans/skillets but you may not mind depending on your cooking style. That being said, box sets can be a waste if you don't find yourself using all of the pans. Buying higher quality pieces as you find a need for them is worth considering. Start off with a large stockpot, a couple saucepans, and a cast iron skillet. Expand from there as needed. I make >80% of my meals with a small saucepan, a skillet, a baking sheet, and a wok. YMMV Here is a link to some reccomendations if you decide to take the latter route. http://amzn.com/w/2UKANWFH7VZ1V

C1484e8cfca0cc00f40da25d36f689b8

(374)

on June 18, 2012
at 03:44 AM

The disc bottom isn't the best for the frying pans/skillets but you may not mind depending on your cooking style. That being said, box sets can be a waste if you don't find yourself using all of the pans. Buying higher quality pieces as you find a need for them is worth considering. Start off with a large stockpot, a saucepan, a frying pan, and a cast iron skillet. Expand from there as needed. I make >80% of my meals with a small saucepan, a skillet, a baking sheet, and a wok. YMMV

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on July 03, 2012
at 07:23 PM

awesome! thank you so much.

1
C0a2ac89af2e254e55ae5e52e9ea5fc9

on February 21, 2013
at 04:38 AM

If you know anything about cast iron, you would know that REAL cast iron has not been manufactured since circa 1920. The last true cast iron was cast buy Tubal. Even Lodge and repo wagner etc is made of cast aluminum ( they call it cast iron which is a misconception ), thats why no matter how much it is used it never blackens. This is the reason why the new stuff is rough, it cannot be polished like real cast iron after it was fired and cooled. Real cast iron is porous. Aluminum is Not. Also the reason why you can never really season the new stuff. If your truly wanting the best cookware, shop around at antique stores, flea markets, garage sales and buy the real stuff. I have been using real cast iron for over 50 years, pans handed down from my grandmother. The best way to keep a pan seasoned is TO USE it. Hot water to clean, and because real cast iron is porous, no do not use soap. Heat the pan add hot water, wash it out, wipe it dry, sit it back on the burner, add a little oil, rub it around good inside the pan but be sure there is no excess, heat the pan gently, rub it down while still warm and let cool. I always take a paper towel and rub any excess after heating on the out side of the pan. A good pan should be smooth, shiny but not oily to the touch.

E9140ef0ca0a76ea14b9ebccad234608

(615)

on February 21, 2013
at 11:36 AM

actually real cast iron was made by griswold until the 40s.

7e1433afbb06c318c4d90860d493c49d

(5959)

on February 21, 2013
at 03:12 PM

I took one of my Lodge frying pans and polished it as smooth as glass with angle grinder flap disks followed by fine sandpaper with an orbital sander. I then seasoned it using the flax oil method. As for new cast iron being aluminum, that's BS; if new cast iron pans were actually made of aluminum, they wouldn't weigh as much as they do.

1
722640c12df86be17d3b545b5b6d8218

on December 13, 2012
at 09:05 PM

Apparently you don't know why the newer ones (30 y/o or so) have a bit of a "grainy" surface. That is to help what you're cooking to "release". If you'd done much cooking in one you'd know that. I bought mine in '80 and lost it 2 years ago and if i knew where it was now, i'd go in with a swat team to get it back! And don't worry bout what you wash it with, it'll be fine. It's cast iron for Gods sake, you can't hurt it Old Alabama Gal

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on December 13, 2012
at 10:34 PM

Thanks for the response. Yes, we found out about the "grainy" surface the hard way. Luckily, we had "inherited" the pan for free, but stuff really seems to stick to the grainy surface even when well seasoned. I've heard some people use a power sander of some sort to grind the surface smooth, though I don't own one to try it.

1
F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 06, 2012
at 05:50 AM

I use LE CREUSET with LIGHT ENAMEL on the inside, and the outer color is dune.

Do not buy red pots, because during the manufacturing process they add something to the paint, and when the enamel chips (and it does) that red coloring that they use can leak out so it is not exactly safe. I have read somewhere they actually had to change their red coloring due to the fact it was dangerous.

Buy either dune or white - they have no dangerous additives for sure.

I used to own one with black enamel on the inside, but I did not really like it.

I love my Le Creuset - the best thing ever!

1
58d456f4c4d551a697e65ada8c32ad4f

on June 06, 2012
at 04:38 AM

My mom and grandma both had the same piece from Wagner when I was a kid, bought in the early 70s. They got me a similar one in 2006... and its not similar and I believe the box said it was made in China. :(

I own a couple of Lodge skillets and some Le Creuset enamel covered cast iron pieces. I use them all regularly. The Lodge pieces are obviously a bit cheaper than the Le Cruset, but I have to say that even though they cost more the investment was well worth it, they're pieces I've had for years and see owning for many more years to come. I have Revereware with copper bottoms that are 10 years old and needing to be replaced soon. I'll be looking probably at more Le Creuset and Calphalon for my replacement pieces. And, I'm skipping buying a boxed set of anything, I have a few pans that I rarely use would really love the space for other stuff.

1
276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on June 06, 2012
at 02:12 AM

My experience with new vs vintage Lodge skillets is that the old ones have a smooth cooking surface, whereas the new ones are very rough/bumpy. The newer ones are significantly less non-stick, even after being properly seasoned. I don't know if other manufacturers are doing the same, but you really can't go wrong by buying a name-brand vintage cast iron piece.

B1859f696e88d25460a6b8a333412ea3

(837)

on June 06, 2012
at 03:14 AM

I have a friend who ground down his Lodge skillet to a smooth flat surface. I've seen him make scrambled eggs in it. It's as non-stick as you can get.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on June 06, 2012
at 03:18 PM

I lack the means to do so, or I would. :(

0
98f3b1e6ef84ea1c7b9c1f0fe8341230

on December 18, 2014
at 06:13 PM

The good polished Wagner skillets are available at American Culinary.  Make sure to select the polished version.

0
Aee875e984a69be09e8d9786aac6fc90

on March 29, 2014
at 06:24 AM

Real cast iron is still being made today - sadly quality isn't. Go find a dealer with a great reputation in restored vintage iron like the Cast Iron Guys (www.castironguys.com). I've dealt with them for a while and have always been happy.

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