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Cast-Iron Cookware

Author: Dana Bos
Issue: June, 2008, Page 46

The experts' tips for selecting cast-iron cookware:

What to Look For

Size and style: Standard sizes for new skillets are 10 or 12 inches. If you are searching for vintage cast iron, you may find unique older styles that are not available today. For instance, Executive Chef M. Allan Schanbacher found a 10-inch skillet with 4-inch sides—the high sides prevent splattering, making the pan ideal for frying.
Brands: Popular brands for cast-iron pieces, both vintage and new, are Lodge Manufacturing, The Wagner Manufacturing Co., Griswold Manufacturing Co., Le Creuset, and Emerilware from All-Clad.

What to Avoid

Cracks: Very little can damage cast-iron cookware; however, cracking, though unusual, is possible. It can occur when a very hot pan is placed under cold water. Examine vintage pans closely to ensure there are no cracks.
Severe rust: When buying vintage, check for rust. Most pans with a minor amount of rust are easily cleaned and seasoned, but a severely rusted pan that is flaking or covered in orange rust is not worth restoring.
Counterfeits: Validate that a piece is truly old, particularly if purchasing on the Internet. Check a Web site, such as the Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association——for more information regarding authenticity.

Where to Find It

Vintage retailers: Explore antiques and vintage stores such as Qcumberz and Michael Todd’s Estate Treasures in Phoenix, which often carry cast iron, along with flea markets and even garage sales. Various Web sites focus on vintage cast iron as well; try and
Kitchen stores: Such retailers as The Epicurean Palette in Cave Creek and Kitchen Classics in Phoenix sell new cast iron, as do major chains, including Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. Target and IKEA also stock it. 
Restaurant-supply stores: These shops offer cast-iron cookware at a good price, and the quality is excellent for heavy-duty use, says Schanbacher. Check out Standard Restaurant Supply, which has eight Western locations, including Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque and Las Vegas.
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