**Please note: To see the photos contained within a post, you must click on the title of the post to open it separately. Why? I don't know. I just know that it needs to be done to see the pics. :)
The premiere issue of Southern Cast Iron (Fall 2015) also featured The Pan Handler with an article about me and how I got involved in cast iron – one of these days I am going to write a blog post about that, too. It’s a bit overwhelming to see my face in the magazine; I typically try to fly under the radar. But…here I am!
(reprinted with permission).
Thanks for the shout out, Southern Cast Iron magazine.
And for the fabulous photos, S.Lamb Photography – you always do such an awesome job! Thank you.
And to you – my customers – thank you most of all.
I appreciate each and every one of you all day every day.
by The Pan Handler LLC, (c) 2015.
It is fun to learn the history and origin of old cast iron cookware. Sometimes it’s the thrill of the hunt; one person’s junk might be another person’s treasure! It can be challenging to identify pieces that do not have clear maker’s marks on them. It can also be a huge learning curve.
Here are tips to help you with your research as you venture into the world of vintage cast iron skillet identification. This is an overview; there are many ins and outs and exceptions, of course.
GENERAL TIPS FOR IDENTIFICATION
Does the skillet have any markings on it at all?
The Internet has opened up a myriad of ways to identify cast iron. It is a relatively easy process to do a Google “images” search on the web for the words or markings on a piece to see if you can find a match. Be as descriptive as you can when doing your search.
For example, if you have a cast iron skillet that has only markings on the bottom that say VICTOR 722 8, try a Google images search for “Victor 722 8 cast iron pan”, and see if a match to your pan shows up in the images. If not, try broadening the search, to “Victor cast iron pan.”
Many images result from the search. If you click on “visit page,” it will link to the page where the pan is featured. There, if you are lucky, you will find identifying information about your pan. Caveat: I have learned that sometimes people “guess” about the origin or manufacturer of a pan, or are sometimes careless in identification. While you might find information, verifying its accuracy is always a good idea.
Is there a manufacturer’s logo or name on the pan?
If the manufacturer has placed its logo or name on a piece, it is much easier to identify the time frame within which the pan was made. There are many resources to help you identify and date a piece when you know the manufacturer.
My “go-to” reference materials for dating and identifying pieces for which I know the manufacturer are two much-used reference books: Smith & Wafford, The Book of Griswold & Wagner, Favorite, Wapak, Sidney Hollow Ware (5th ed. 2013) (commonly called the “Blue Book”), and Smith & Wafford, The Book of Wagner & Griswold, Martin, Lodge, Vollrath, Excelsior, ©2001 (commonly called the “Red Book”).
There are also very knowledgeable and passionate long-time collectors out there who have a vast amount of information about vintage and antique cast iron cookware. Most are happy to share their knowledge with beginning cast iron enthusiasts. Two clubs that have been very helpful to me, and of which I am a member, are: The Wagner & Griswold Society, and The Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association. Especially as I began my adventure into the world of vintage cast iron cookware, collectors on the forums of these sites were more than generous with their time and expertise in helping me identify and date vintage and antique cast iron cookware that I came across. GENERAL TIPS FOR DETERMINING THE DATE OF MANUFACTURE
Does the pan have a gate mark?
A gate mark appears as a raised scar or slash across the bottom of pans. Gate marked pans typically do not have the manufacturer’s name on them. Gate marked pans are the oldest of the old cast iron cookware; almost certainly antique. The gate mark is a remnant of the casting process that was used in the 1800’s. In around 1890, this casting process was mostly discontinued.
Absent markings on the pan, it is often impossible to identify the maker of a gate marked piece. There were many cast iron foundries in the 1800s, and many did not put maker’s marks on their wares. If you have a gate marked piece, you have an old and valuable piece of history; you just might not know the maker.
Is the pan marked ‘MADE IN THE USA”?
If a pan is marked “MADE IN THE USA,” it is most likely that the pan was made in the 1960’s or after.
What is the “texture” of the cooking surface?
Pans of recent manufacture have a rougher, “pebbly” surface and thicker walls than pans of earlier manufacture. If your pan has a “pebbly” surface, it is more likely to be a pan of more recent vintage, or a pan that was not made in the United States.
How thick are the walls and how heavy is the skillet?
Pans of recent vintage have thicker walls than do antique pans. They are also heavier in weight. A number 8 Lodge pan of more recent vintage is more than a pound heavier in weight than the 1906 Griswold number 8 “ERIE” spider skillet, and almost a pound heavier than a Griswold slant logo “ERIE” number 8 pan.
TIPS TO IDENTIFY THE MANUFACTURER OF VINTAGE CAST IRON SKILLETS
Some of the unmarked pans you may come across in your cast iron travels were made by Griswold, Lodge, Birmingham Stove & Range (“BSR”), Vollrath, Wagner, Favorite Stove & Range, and Chicago Hardware Foundry.
Griswold Manufacturing Company, Erie, PA: Griswold manufactured pieces under names other than “Griswold.” Early Griswold pans did not have the Griswold name on them. Instead, they may have been marked “ERIE.” If a piece has only the word “ERIE” on it, it was likely made in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s by the Griswold Manufacturing Company in Erie, Pennsylvania. There are six different known “series” of the ERIE pans.
One of the most valuable, collectible, and sought-after Griswold pans is the skillet that is marked with a spider in a web, with the word “ERIE” in the spider’s body. This pan was manufactured in the 1890s. This skillet, in excellent condition, can be worth thousands of dollars.
A more common unmarked Griswold line is Griswold Iron Mountain pans. These pans were manufactured in the 1940s. Iron Mountain pans are fantastic cookers! I love my Iron Mountain pans.
The distinctive handle shape easily identifies Iron Mountain skillets. They also have a heat ring, pan number and 4-digit product number in a slightly italicized font imprinted on the bottom.
Griswold also manufactured skillets marked VICTOR, as previously mentioned. Some of the Victor pans have the Griswold name on them and some do not. Pans marked only VICTOR, with a product number, were manufactured by Griswold between between about 1890 and 1915. The later Victor pans also carried the Griswold name.
Griswold also manufactured pans marked BEST MADE, GOOD HEALTH, CLIFF CORNELL, some pans marked ANDRESEN, and some pans marked PURITAN or MERIT. If the pattern number is on the Puritan or Merit skillet it was manufactured by Griswold. If not, it was manufactured by Favorite.
Lodge Manufacturing Company, South Pittsburg, Tennessee: I often come across cast iron pans that have no manufacturer’s name on them, but have “notches” in the heat ring. If a pan has one or more notches in the heat ring, it is likely a vintage Lodge.
Unmarked pans with a heat raised letter on the underside, along with a raised number on the handle, may have been made in the late 1800s – 1910 by Blacklock, the foundry that preceded the Lodge foundry.
Vollrath Manufacturing Company, Sheboygan, Wisconsin: Vollrath manufactured many items of kitchenware from the late 1800s until today. Some of the Vollrath cast iron skillets have the Vollrath name on them, and some do not. If you run across a pan with an underlined number imprinted sideways on the bottom center of the pan, you likely have a pan that was manufactured by Vollrath pan in the1930s and 1940s.
Birmingham, Stove and Range (“BSR”), Birmingham, Alabama: BSR manufactured many pieces of kitchenware. BSR manufactured non-enameled cast iron pans between about 1957 and 1993.
Take a good look at the underside of the handle of your no-name skillet. Is there a ridge that goes all the way to the outer wall of the pan? This is a telltale sign of all unmarked BSR pans.
There are three primary BSR lines of cast iron skillets. All have the ridge on the underside of the handle that goes directly to the side wall. The “Red Mountain” series was manufactured in the 1930’s and 1940’s. These skillets typically have only a number, often followed by a letter, incised in the bottom of the pan near the handle. The number is typically about ¾” high.
The “Century” series BSR pans were manufactured in the 1950s and are quite common and easy to find. The pour spouts on these skillets are smaller than seen on other skillets. The number on the bottom of the pan is about ¼” tall. Beneath the number is the diameter of the pan in inches, i.e. No. 3, 6 5/8 IN. In the 1960s, MADE IN U.S.A. was added to the bottom of the Century series pans.
The “Lady Bess” BSR skillets were manufactured in the 1970s. They are marked the same as the 1960s Century skillets, but the name of the piece – i.e. SKILLET – was added at the bottom.
Wagner Manufacturing Company, Sidney, Ohio: Unmarked Wagner pans are commonly found. These pans were manufactured by the Wagner Ware Manufacturing Company in Sidney, Ohio. Often times unmarked Wagner pans are mistaken for BSR pans. One notable difference is that the ridge on the underside of the handle flattens out before it meets the side wall of the skillet. The flattening out is a telltale sign that the pan was not manufactured by BSR.
The bottom of unmarked Wagner pans may be smooth, or they may have a heat ring. They may be marked with the size in diameter, e.g. 10 ½ INCH SKILLET. In the 1960s, MADE IN USA was added. The pans often have a letter on the bottom of the pan in a Times New Roman-type font, and on the underside of the handle.
Wagner also manufactured pans for Montgomery Wards, calling them WARDWAY pans. They also manufactured pans marked NATIONAL and LONG LIFE.
Chicago Hardware Foundry, North Chicago IL and Favorite Stove and Range Company, Piqua OH: Chicago Hardware Foundry (“CHF”) acquired Favorite Stove and Range Company’s cookware line in 1934. The line is therefore somewhat blurred as to whether certain pieces were manufactured by CHF or by Favorite. In addition to skillets marked FAVORITE or FAVORITE PIQUA WARE, Favorite manufactured skillets with the word MIAMI outlined by a diamond on the bottom between about 1916 and 1935. There are also pans marked on the bottom with a number outlined by a diamond. There is debate in the cast iron world as to whether these pans were manufactured by CHF or by Favorite. Given that the diamond is the same as the “Miami” diamond mentioned above, my money’s on Favorite. CHF also manufactured lovely hammered cast iron skillets marked only with a pair of numbers on the bottom that are about 1” tall.
I hope that this little dissertation on identification is helpful to you as you hunt for vintage cast iron cookware!
Oh me, oh my. I love these little egg muffins! One of the things I love about them is that I can freeze the extras, and then pop them into the microwave for a quick “on the go” weekday breakfast. Another thing I love about them is that they have tater tots in them. I love tater tots. In fact, Ore-Ida should be paying me to advertise on my site. Years back in law school, my friends teased me that I was the “casserole queen” because I was always bringing leftover casserole dishes for lunch. And those casseroles often – if not usually – contained tater tots.
Old habits die hard.
Enough reminiscing. On to the scrumptious muffins.
This recipe makes 24 muffins. For grab and go, I’d estimate one muffin per person. For nibbling whilst lingering over coffee and news, I’d estimate two per person. Or three. Or six. They are that good.
Tater Tot, Turkey Sausage and Egg Breakfast Muffins
Ingredients:About half of a 32 oz. bag of Ore-Ida mini tater tots. 1/2 roll of Jenni-O turkey sausage, crumbled, browned, and well-drained. 1 red bell pepper, diced. Sliced green onions as desired. I like onions, so I used about 3/4 cup. 11 large eggs. About 2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped. 3/4 c (more or less) shredded low-fat cheddar cheese. Seasoned salt to taste (I used about 1/2 t – Lawry’s, of course). Fresh Roma tomato, sliced (optional, of course. As we only have excellent fresh home-grown tomatoes for about 10 minutes here in the frosty North, I add them to everything when they are in season).
Directions:Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the cups of a vintage cast iron muffin or popover pan liberally with Pam vegetable oil. I used four 6-cup Griswold #18, pn 6141, popover pans. Place 3-4 mini tater tots into each muffin cup. Place into oven and cook for 10 minutes. While the tater tots are cooking, crumble, brown, and drain the turkey sausage. I browned the sausage in my trusty cast iron #5 Griswold Iron Mountain pan. Crack the eggs into a vintage Pyrex bowl (okay, it doesn’t have to be vintage Pyrex; it is just better in every way when made in vintage Pyrex). Add seasoned salt. Whisk until blended. Add onion, diced red pepper and spinach, stirring after each addition. Add sausage and cheese. Stir. Spoon the mixture evenly over the tater tots in each cup. Each cup will be about 2/3 full. Place into oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until done to your liking. The eggs will puff up a bit and pull away from the edges of the cast iron. I placed a slice of fresh Roma tomato atop each cup about 5 minutes before they were done, so the tomato would soften but not get mushy. Carefully remove the individual servings from the pan. I used a fork to go around the edges while the iron was hot. Once cooled, I used a small spatula. Clean up was not tough at all, even though the muffin pans had just the one layer of Crisco which I applied after the initial cleaning of the pans. Just a quick wipe; not many food remnants sticking to the sides at all!
Eat and enjoy! Refrigerate the unused portions. Once cold, each portion may be placed into freezer bags and frozen for easy microwave heating on a busy weekday!
Need a cast iron muffin pan for next weekend’s breakfast? Here are a few just waiting to be put to work!
A friend recently posted a photo of himself holding a gorgeous, mouth-watering pizza made in a cast iron skillet. It started a craving in me. A girl needs her pizza.
I have been meaning to give a cast iron ‘za a try for a long time and am embarrassed to admit that this was my first effort. Not only was it delicious, it was really fun to make! I can imagine having parties where people make their own personal pan pizzas in #3 or #5 (or #6!) skillets, duo pizzas in a number 8 or 9, pizzas for a crowd in a #20, or like I did….pizza for about 4 in a #14 (a #12 would also be a good choice). You could also make the skillet on a griddle – a round #14 or #16 griddle would make a good large pizza. The long rectangular cast iron griddles would also work well for pizza-making.
The skillet I used for my pizza-making was a big Griswold large block logo #14 with heat ring. It will soon be for sale on the site – consider this a trial run of the pan with the bonus of an additional layer of seasoning. 🙂
I am not a particularly fussy cooker. I try to eat healthfully and I watch my caloric intake. I know what I like and what I don’t, and I am happy to take cooking shortcuts where possible. My friend Shelley, who is pretty much a pizza master, recommends the refrigerated Pillsbury pizza crust. Because she is a master and I am not, I went with her recommendation.
While preheating the oven to 425 degrees, I sprayed the #14 skillet with a light layer of Pam, popped the dough container open and plopped the dough in the #14 skillet. I then pulled and spread the dough out to the edges of the skillet. There was enough dough for a larger skillet; I bet you could even use one tube for a #20 pan if you wanted a nice thin crispy crust. If you were using smaller pans, the dough could easily be cut into smaller sections, too.
I let the crust rest about 5 minutes. Then, I placed it into the oven for about 3 minutes, so that the surface would crust a bit and I wouldn’t have a soggy pizza. Pulled it back out of the oven and let it cool a bit.
In the meantime, I peeled and chopped two big tomatoes ( drop into boiling water til the skin cracks, then remove and dunk into ice-cold water…voila! Easily-peeled tomatoes!) and marinated them in balsamic vinegar with a dollop of olive oil. I love chunks of marinated tomatoes on my pizza. If you don’t, of course, eliminate them! Easy as pie.
I removed the casings from 3 Jenny-O Italian turkey sausage links, cut the links into 1/2″ pieces, and browned them in my trusty Griswold #8 skillet. My pan is well-seasoned; I did not need any additional oil to brown the sausage.
For the sauce, I thickened a tomato caper sauce I had made over the weekend as a sauce for steak. Basically, the sauce was a mix of peeled chopped tomatoes, green sliced olives, capers, oregano, basil, parsley (the herbs are from my little herb garden!), and garlic, which had marinated in a balsamic vinegar / olive oil blend. To thicken the sauce for the pizza, I added about 2 T of tomato paste. Voila; pizza sauce. Of course you can make your own sauce; I also like the Contandina pizza sauce in the squeeze bottle.
Spread the sauce over the pizza crust, and top to your heart’s desire with whatever you like. You can add cheese if you wish; I used a very light scattering of 6-cheese Italian blend shredded cheese. I think the pizza would have been fine without, but I know that a lot of folks love cheesy pizza.
Pop the pizza in the oven and wait and watch. After about 15 minutes I pulled the pizza from the oven and put a layer of arugula (which I had lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil left over from the marinated tomatoes) on top. Back into the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the edges of the crust are brown and the toppings are fully heated through.
Once the pizza is thoroughly cooked, you can either cut it right in the pan or remove it from the pan to cut. As I was going to sell the pan I used, I removed it from the pan before cutting so as to avoid adding any tool marks to the cooking surface. It slid right out onto the cutting board; no particles of crust on the pan!
Cut however you like (I recently was out with a friend who was VERY unhappy when the pizza was cut into squares; he felt VERY strongly that the only way to cut a pizza is into wedges) – and serve. I served the pizza with a nice sparkling Shiraz (“The Chook”). I had crushed dried red pepper flakes and slivered parmesan available for additional toppings if desired.
Delish! I do think that this pizza would have been just as good if it were made without the sausage, and next time I will add more olives and capers (this girl loves her salt). The arugula lent a nice peppery flavor. Small balls of fresh mozzarella might have been a nice touch. Really, you can vary the toppings however you wish; you are limited only by your own imagination.
Ingredients:Pillsbury poppin’ fresh thin pizza crust (in the refrigerated section) 3 Jenny-O Italian Turkey Sausage Links 2 whole tomatoes. Roma would probably be best; I used “regular” tomatoes Balsamic vinegar Olive oil 1 small onion, cut in chunks 8 oz sliced mushrooms Sliced green olives with pimentos, as desired Shredded cheese of your choice, as desired. I used a 6-cheese shredded Italian blend, and used less than 1/4 cup. Some people love cheese; adjust to your family’s taste. Arugula (a bag of pre-prepared will be about twice what you need). I think baby spinach would also be a good choice. Pizza sauce. Mine was made with peeled chopped fresh tomatoes (you could certainly use undrained canned chopped or whole tomatoes – a 14-1/2 oz. can would be more than enough), fresh chopped oregano basil and parsley, garlic, sliced green olives, and about 2T tomato paste stirred together.
Directions:Preheat oven to 425 degrees Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the tomatoes. Once the skin starts to break – about 1 minute – remove the tomatoes and plunge them into ice water. Remove from water and slip the skins off the tomatoes. Chop into the size you prefer. Place in a bowl and put about 2T balsamic and 1T olive oil over the tomatoes; toss to coat. Remove casings from sausage (I use a kitchen shears and just cut down one side and peel it off), cut into chunks about 1/2 inch, and brown turkey sausage chunks in a trusty cast-iron skillet. Cut onion into chunks and sauté it in the skillet after removing the turkey sausage. Cook until softened; 3-5 minutes. Remove onion from pan. Lightly sauté the mushrooms and remove from pan. Spray a large cast iron skillet or cast iron griddle with Pam. Open the pizza dough container and place the dough into the pan, pulling and stretching the dough to the edge of the pan. You want a small “ridge” at the wall so that your toppings all stay on the pizza crust. Let crust rest about 5 minutes. Place cast iron skillet with crust into oven for about 3 minutes – just long enough for the crust to harden a bit on top (no soggy pizza!) Remove from oven. Spoon pizza sauce onto crust, spread with a spatula. Place your toppings on the crust in the order you prefer. I started with the tomatoes (save the balsamic and oil for the arugula), then sausage, then onions, then shrooms. Top with shredded cheese. Place into oven and cook for about 20 minutes – watch to see when the crust becomes browned on the edges. Remove from oven. Top pizza with a few handfuls of arugula that has been tossed in the balsamic and oil that you used to marinate the tomatoes. Place into oven and cook for about 3-5 more minutes. Cut as you like, and serve. No need for a salad – you’ve got your greens right on the pizza!