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:
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:
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?
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.
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 sauté 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
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.
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.
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!
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
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.