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A hidden gem of vintage cast iron is the small pan. Everybody understands the need for a good sized skillet that you can cook for your family in, but sometimes people will look at their small pans, like their No. 3’s, and scratch their heads.
We did a whole lot of baking over many weeks to give you some ideas. Small pans are incredibly versatile, and once you’ve read this you’ll be brimming with ideas of how you can use yours. For this article, we used four Wagner #3 skillets. A Skillet Size Search will show you all our No. 3’s, right here.
We also took a lot of our inspiration from the 2017 edition of “Cast Iron Baking” magazine, which was written by Hoffman Media, the folks behind Southern Cast Iron and Taste of the South magazines. To get your own copy of Cast Iron Baking magazine, just click here, or to get a subscription to Southern Cast Iron, click here.
Firstly, the easy one – Eggs for one! If you’re making yourself one or two eggs, you don’t want a big 10″ or 12″ pan. These smaller pans are just perfect for when you’re frying up some breakfast just for yourself. They are small, light and take about 10 seconds to clean afterwards.
Second, Mac & Cheese! Whether it’s from a box, or made from scratch, mac & cheese is perfect for the #3. Best of all, you can serve it directly in the skillet. The one pictured was made using Cracker Barrel “Sharp Cheddar & Bacon”, and it was good.
Of course, there are also Desserts! You can bake mini skillet cakes in #3’s. We used this Strawberry Pound Cake recipe from the cover of the 2017 edition of “Cast Iron Baking” magazine.
We think that maybe the cakes are a little large for one person, but they are perfect for two! Our friend Bonnie was a taste tester and liked them so much she took all of the cakes home!
Please note that the recipe produced 4 x #3 skillets of cake, so adjust the quantities if you don’t have four #3 skillets.
Who doesn’t love a warm skillet cookie? This is something you can eat right out of the pan!
The recipe we used was from page 86 of the magazine, that we adapted from one big skillet, to 4 smaller ones. The recipe was perfect for either, but when cooking in the smaller skillets, take them out of the oven at the earlier end of the suggested cooking times. It tasted even better than it looked!
Cast Iron Baking also gave us permission to share the recipe, which is at the bottom of the page.
If you love the crusty edge pieces, then the smaller pans give you all that!
Cobblers are PERFECT for a single serving in the #3’s. We celebrated our first spring meal on the deck with a cobbler!
TipsAll the recipes produced 4 skillets of food The original baking times were perfect, just stick to the lower end of the recommended range The original cooking temperatures in the recipes were perfect.
Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
Reprinted with permission from Cast Iron Baking Magazine 20175 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened) 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 1 large egg 0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 0.5 teaspoon kosher salt 1.5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels Vanilla Ice Cream – to serve
First Preheat oven to 350’F. Spray a 10″ cast-iron skillet (or four No. 3 skillets) with cooking spray
Second In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, 3 – 4 mins, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add egg and vanilla, beating to combine.
Third In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating just until combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add cream. Fold in chocolate morsels. Press dough into prepared skillet.
Last Bake until golden brown, 20 – 25 minutes (20 mins for No. 3 pans). Serve with ice cream.
After the success of Round 1 of Waffle Testing, I was excited to get into Round 2, so without further ado, I’m going to quit my waffling and get into it!
This batter was from well known chef Alton Brown and I found it on the Food Network, right here! Like the last round, this recipe uses butter and not oil, but it also adds buttermilk, and mixes both whole wheat and all purpose flour.
Once again, I made this first to give it time to sit, and once again, it came out really really thick. Nevertheless, I let it sit, and moved onto heating my iron.
The Waffle Iron
For this round of testing, I used the super unique EC Simmons Keen Kutter Waffle Iron (No. 8). It looks all innocent from the outside…
But once you open it up, you’ll know that your waffles will not look like all the other waffles out there!
There is no way I would have done waffle testing without using this waffle iron. It is just way too cool!
With this pan, I did the identical steps to the Griswold in Round 1. I heated both sides for about 5 mins each on Medium – High, but it was immediately obvious that what worked the first time round wasn’t going to work in Round 2. The pan was smoking! The best time to put in the batter is when the pan is just beginning to smoke, but this was about to set off the smoke detectors. Clearly, the EC Simmons pan heats up faster than the Griswold.
I turned the pan down, and put in the batter. It started cooking way to hard and fast, another indication of a too-hot pan. I took a picture as it was a clear example of what not to do!
I reduced the cooking time down to 4 minutes, but I don’t think I reduced the heat enough for this (it was set at Medium), and the waffle ended up browner than I would have liked.
This pan not only heated up faster, but it produces a thinner waffle, so you’ll need to heat up on a lower temperature, and cook for less time to get a great waffle.
The taste, however, was fantastic! Alton really hit the nail on the head with the flavor. The waffle didn’t taste dense either, which I attribute to the thinner waffle size.
I tried adding some water too (a cup) and it became quite runny. It impacted the cooking time (needing less) and it made the waffles almost too light to be able to cope with the toppings I had chosen for today (cottage cheese and blueberries). In retrospect, Alton’s recipe was perfect the way it was written for this waffle iron. When diluting batter, don’t do what I did and lump in a cup of water at a time, add it in 1/4 cup increments. Learn from my mistakes!
Here’s a later waffle with the diluted batter.
And once again, nothing stuck to the paddles! Clean up was going to be a breeze!
Lessons from Round 2Use a really cool waffle iron, If your paddles are smoking like a chimney, they’re too hot. Let them cool a little before pouring in the batter. You may need to play around with the heat time and temperature before you find the perfect setting, You may need to play around with the cooking time before you find the right time for your particular iron You’ll still need to flip the waffle iron to cook both sides of the waffle When diluting batter, add your water in increments and test. You may need to vary the density of your batter depending on your waffle toppings.
In Round 3, we’re making Chocolate Waffles, and they will be awesome!
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Waffles!
I’ve received quite a few questions recently about how to cook waffles in our irons, so I figured it was time for a blog that answers all the questions and lets you in on the secrets of making perfect waffles in a vintage waffle iron. I think that vintage waffle irons are some of the most unique and beautiful of the cast iron cookware. I love that they look nothing like waffle irons of today and I was excited that I could spend some time cooking with them!
First – a confession. I have never made waffles in my life. This wasn’t a matter of learning how to adapt normal waffles or waffle batter to the vintage iron, it was learning it all from scratch. Hopefully this will help me provide enough detail for all of you to be able to make your own vintage, but highly edible waffles!
Before we get into the equipment, it’s important to note that the conditions in your kitchen, such as temperature and humidity, will impact your results. My kitchen was kept at 70’F with dry humidity, as being winter in Minnesota, I run our forced air heating 24/7. I also cooked on a Viking gas range.
I used 3 different waffle irons for this testing, and 3 different batters!
Now for the fun part – the waffle testing!
My first batter was from allrecipes.com. It uses butter, not oil, and is rated 4.5 stars by nearly 2,000 people. I figured it would be pretty good! You can find it here .
I made the batter first, as a lot of people recommend that your batter sits for 10 minutes or so. It turned out pretty darn thick though, but for my first waffle, I was going to make it exactly as written!
My first waffle iron was this gorgeous Griswold American Waffle Iron No. 9, pictured below. The No. 9 is a bit larger than your average waffle iron, but this is a deliciously minty piece and I just couldn’t resist. It has since sold (not surprising) but you can find all our waffle irons here.
Here it is sitting on my gas stove, ready for a busy day!
So as with most cast iron cooking, the thing to always do is to heat your pan. When it comes to waffle irons, this means both sides. This is my biggest burner, and I had it set to somewhere between Medium and Medium-High. After about 4 – 5 mins I flipped the iron and heated the other side. Another 4 – 5 mins later I sprayed Pam inside the paddles, and after another couple of minutes I poured in the batter. As I suspected, it was way too thick. Batter had come over the sides, and I didn’t have a good feeling about this.
Next thing I did was turn down the heat! I went to just between Medium-Low and Medium. I let it cook for 4 – 5 mins on that side, then flipped it over and cooked it for another 5 mins. I opened the iron, and I was amazed. Perhaps a tiny bit dark, but it looked perfect!
It came perfectly out of the iron with no residue and was cooked perfectly all the way though. The proof though, was in the eating, and it turned out to be too dense. This waffle iron makes for thick waffles!
With a ton of batter left to test, I added water to the batter and tried another. It was better! I added again, until I’d put in about a cup or so, and it was perfect. I also tried using melted butter instead of Pam in between waffles, but it tended to make the kitchen a bit smokey and I didn’t notice a difference in the taste.
Here’s our finished waffle, after we added water (and butter and maple syrup, of course)!
The biggest surprise was how good this waffle pan looked after a morning of waffle cooking. All I did here was wipe off the dribbles of batter on the side. You can’t tell it had been used! I had zero sticking issues.
Lessons from Round 1Make your batter first so it can sit Heat your pan before cooking Always flip to heat both sides Turn down the heat once the batter is added If your waffle is too dense, dilute the batter with water. Always flip to cook both sides Don’t be surprised (like I was) if your waffles look awesome first go!
Stay tuned for Round 2.. a new waffle iron, and a new recipe!
In collecting information around the world about vintage cast iron cookware, I keep running across the great “soap \ no soap” debate. Just do a google search for “soap cast iron” and a myriad of articles will pop up. Many sources routinely emphasize that use of soap will destroy your carefully-built up seasoning.
Nonsense. Using a drop of soap when you want to use a drop of soap is not going to remove the seasoning from a pan that has been properly seasoned. I use soap when I feel like my pan needs soap. Just use your common sense! Don’t soak your cast iron pan in hot soapy water, don’t scrub heartily with stainless steel (moderate is fine – just don’t go nuts), and use your chain mail scrubber when wanting to remove bits of food. Some folks use kosher salt – whatever works. And of course, never ever put your cast iron in the dishwasher!
After cleaning to bare iron, we heat-season most all of our pans with either one coat of Crisco vegetable shortening or one coat of a mixture of coconut and canola oils and beeswax. Our process is discussed in the FAQs section of the site. When I use my pans, I clean it of all food debris (using a drop of soap if I feel like it), dry it thoroughly with paper towels (sometimes I also put it into a warm oven), spray some Pam on a paper towel, and wipe it down. My pans are beautiful, seasoned well, and the soap doesn’t hurt the seasoning one bit. You can see my process on my youtube channel.
The misconception about soap use arises, I think, because people think that the “seasoning” is just a thin layer of oil put onto the pan. It is more than that – the heating process changes the chemical structure of the oil and it polymerizes and bonds to the iron. Continued use builds up more layers of that polymerized oil, eventually resulting in the almost-non-stick surface that is so desired on vintage cast iron pieces. A drop of soap is not going to remove that polymerized coating as it would a simple layer of vegetable oil that has just been smeared onto the pan.
As long as your pan has been properly seasoned, feel free to use a drop of soap to clean it when your common sense tells you that you should. Just be smart about it!
I will need to get these pieces cleaned and seasoned, but I am excited to share with you these photos which show a sampling of some of the 50+ baking and kitchenware pieces we will have coming soon.
Aren’t they wonderful? We have several Wagner bundt pans, Wagner single and double-bread pans, Griswold sundial (which will take a little while to list – a previous owner painted it and I will remove that paint before listing it), deep Favorite Piqua Ware muffin pan, doughnut molds, wafer pans, candy molds, beautiful old gate marked muffin and French roll pans, G.F. Filley gem pan, turk’s head pans, Griswold lamb and Santa molds, Vienna bread pans…and so much more!
Just wanted to share a few photos – I am very excited about these pieces and can’t wait to get them cleaned up, seasoned, and back into circulation!