I decided to spend my morning hunting down cast-iron cookware. The older the better. I was specifically looking for a griddle rack, a Dutch oven, and some heirloom-grade old skillets to see if they were really so much better than the ubiquitous modern lodge pans, of which I already had one 10" skillet, one 10" skillet with grill lines, and one 8" skillet.

I went to two Value Villages in a row, and didn’t find anything but some cheap Chinese 8" skillets. I already had one, but at $3... Well. Now I’ve got another that I can dedicate solely for camp duty. Or give it to a friend who seems to be catching the cast-iron bug. It appears to be new, and the interior finish is much smoother than what I’ve come to expect from new Lodge cast-iron products. It easily matches or betters my well-seasoned and heavily-used Lodge pan.

Chinese pan on the left, USA-made Lodge pan on the right. While both 8" skillets, the Chinese pan is a bit smaller in all dimensions. Despite that, it’s noticeablely heavier than the Lodge. 3.37 vs. 3.31lbs... Hmm. It felt like aa much more substantial difference. On second thought I believe it’s because the Chinese pan has a handle design that makes you grab it further back.

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The Lodge has a ring engraved into the bottom, the Chinese pan does not. The finish of the Chinese pan is every bit as smooth as the well seasoned Lodge though.

I then moved on to some small thrift stores. No dice.

I had a vauge recollection of asking my grandma if she had any cast iron pans about five years ago, and turning them down when she revealed “old dirty crap”. Oh, the ignorance of youth.

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I was nearby, so I figured I’d make her day with a visit, and see if she still had anything worth salvaging.

JACKPOT.

First up was an 11" Erie Skillet.

11" Erie on the left, my old 10" Lodge on the right (which took some serious abuse from my last camping trip). The Erie is a bit deeper than the Lodge pan, and the finish of the cooking surface is a million times smoother. The walls of the pan are also a bit steeper than the Lodge. That said, the first thing you notice is the weight! It’s light as a feather compared to the Lodge, despite being an inch larger. 3.8lbs vs. 5.5lbs. That puts the 11" Erie almost at the 8" skillets’ weight!

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11" Erie on the left, 10" Lodge on the right. Both made in the USA. the Erie has a heat ring, although it’s worn down enough to protrude only slightly. The Lodge has the signiture engraved ring. The handle of the Erie is concave on the underside, as apposed to the fuller handle on the Lodge.

The Erie is going to take over as the main skillet that gets used daily at home. Which means the old Lodge will likely switch to full-time camp duty! I’m pumped. The weight difference is real, and I can’t wait to clean up the Erie and get it reseasoned. They really don’t make them like they used to, and the proof is right in front of me.

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A quick bit of research tells me this pan is likely from between 1880 and 1910. That’s some crazy history... Oh if cookware could talk. Another quick search shows simmilar Erie pans selling for $300+. Damn.

I’ll be spending some more time online to try narrowing down the dates and looking into the history of the company, but I’ll leave this here if that sort of thing interests you! Share any findings!

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Block letters and heat ring are the easiest to spot features that help date the iron.

TThat’s not even all. I found one more skillet at my grandma’s, from another distinguished USA brand. A Wagner. The specific branding is Wagnar Ware Sidney -O-. That branding (and the particular font/style) places the pan pretty definitively somewhere in the 1930's. Again, some crazy history, and again worth some money.

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The Wagner measures in at 11 3/4".

11.75" Wagner on the left, 10" Lodge on the right. Both made in the USA. The Wagner lacks the featherweight touch of the Erie, but according to the scales it still comes in well below what it’s modern equivalent would weigh. 5.4lbs for the 11.75" Wagner vs. 5.5lbs for the smaller 10" Lodge skillet. The finish of the Wagner skillet is sublime. Just as good as the Erie, and miles above any of my Lodge cookware.

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The Wagner backside. It doesn’t quite sit flat, but it’s veeeery close. I’m guessing 5 seconds with a belt grinder could fix that. No heat ring on this one.

For now I’ll bust out the Wagner when I need the extra cooking surface or I’m cooking a bunch of dishes at the same time.

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Thanks grandma!

Next stop was Good Will. The first didn’t have anything, but the second had some serious scores.

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First up, a super-tiny pan that at $0.99 I couldn’t resist. Crack an egg and make a perfect egg Mcmuffins. Boom. I’m sold.

0.95lbs. The casting isn’t great, a bit worse than my Lodge cookware. Sharp edges inside the handle hole. No branding, I’m guessing it’s another Chinese piece. It’ll do just fine. I’ll be testing my cleaning techniques on this before jumping on the Erie and Wagner skillets!

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Next up was this 5 quart Dutch oven made by Lodge in the USA. I ALMOST didn’t buy it. At $25, it was more than I really wanted to spend for something I didnt’t exactly have a clear use for yet. So it was with some guilt that I brought it up to the register, credit card in hand.

It rung up as $2.99. I was about to say that doesn’t sound right but thought better of it lol. Later when I stopped by the grocery store I found the exact same Dutch oven for sale.

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The full-retail price for buying new?

$64.99. Wooooooow.

Bit of rust, but nothing too bad. She’ll clean up nice! Surface finish is on par with the rest of the Lodge stuff. The lid says 10 3/4". I only wish there was a handle so I could more easily hang it down over a fire.

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Last but certainly not least is this beauty. Total dimensions are 14" x 24". The drip tray is about 2".

I think it’s cast iron as it’s heavier than a bag of bricks and looks like it, but... I’m not 100%. The surface finish feels a bit different, and while it’s heavy, it’s not quite as heavy as I’d expect a peice of this size to weigh.

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10lbs exactly, according to my fancy kitchen scale. Raised lip around the entire cooking surface. Absolutely no branding whatsoever.
I know cast iron cookware is normally blackened at some stage of the manufacturing process. Is this what unblackened cast-iron looks like?

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For now I’m planning to use this as the main cooking surface for car camping trips. Stick it over a fire and go nuts. Should be absolutely incredible for hibachi, and a game changer for slightly larger groups. Not really sure how I’d use it at home though. Any ideas?

Anyways, that’s my day in a nutshell. Got all this for a grand total of like $25. Another $20 for all the supplies I need to strip seasoning, clean rust and reapply seasoning. *Obama.notbad.gif*

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Something tells me I'll be going by the local thrift stores a lot more know that I've discovered vintage cookware. May god have mercy on my wallet.