I have a wonderful antique number 11 Griswold “ERIE” pan that has a hairline crack near the handle. I have had this pan for about 5 months now, and it is quickly becoming my new favorite. I have been using it almost every day.
I bought this pan for a pretty penny at an antique store somewhere in the south, on my August 2015 road trip. I was very excited to see it – size 11 pans are not common, and an old “ERIE” size 11 even less so. This pan was made between 1892 and 1905 by the Griswold Mfg. Co. in Erie, PA. Oddly, the person who had consigned it to the shop had painted it with some kind of blue epoxy-type pebbly paint. I examined it as best I could given the paint job, and happily brought it home. I was excited to get this pan cleaned up and put back into use.
When I removed the paint in preparation for re-seasoning, I was sad to see that there was a hairline crack near the handle (thus answering my question “why in the world did this person paint this pan?”) I considered listing it on eBay, which is where I often sell “scratch and dent” pans. I knew that I would never get back the money and time that I had put into it, however, and it is such a pretty pan with a gorgeous cooking surface and thin walls. I kept admiring it, and….before you knew it, I had a new pan in rotation in my kitchen.
I love this pan! It is a nice big but not too huge size (12-1/2″ diameter), it is lightweight (for a big cast iron pan), and it makes great food.
I would like to dispel a few notions right here, right now.
- False: Cast iron pans are indestructible.
- False: Pans with hairline cracks are useless.
- False: Pans with hairline cracks cannot hold liquid (“hairline” being the operative word here).
Some folks have this idea that cast iron pans are indestructible. They aren’t. Cast iron is brittle. Shipping cast iron pans requires careful packing. A cast iron pan may break or crack if dropped or banged about on a hard surface. More often than I’d like, I come into possession of pans that have hairline cracks. Sometimes the crack is hidden under layers of built up crud, sometimes it’s hidden under paint (yes – horrors – some people actually paint pans in an apparent attempt to disguise either a bunch of rust or a crack), sometimes it’s just one pan in a number of pans that I purchased in a lot. Other times, I come into possession of pans that someone had purchased cracked, or were shipped cracked. Sometimes I buy pans on the internet and they are not packed properly, and they crack. Once someone actually shipped a chicken pan to me in a brown paper bag. No other packing. I was astonished that it came through unscathed. But sometimes even when they ARE packed properly, they are banged about so terribly in transit that they crack or break. Cast iron pans do not require gingerly handling, but they do require attention and care.
I read somewhere recently that a pan with a hairline crack is “useless.” No, they are not useless. A hairline crack certainly diminishes the value to a collector, but the pan often can still be put to use and be a great cooker. I use my #11 pan for all sorts of things. I make pizza in it, sear and reverse-sear big juicy steaks, brown and bake chicken (when I’m not using my chicken pan!), roast and sauté and stir-fry vegetables, make casseroles…all kinds of things. The pan does not leak and it cooks beautifully. The crack does not impair its function whatsoever. I suppose at some time, when it gets banged on something again, the crack might widen or deepen, but for now this is one great pan; I am glad to have it and I am glad to put it into good use!
So if you are looking for a great cooker, don’t automatically rule out any vintage cast iron pan with a hairline crack. You can often snatch up a bargain on these pans, and get yourself a wonderful cooking pan!