How to Shop for Cast-Iron Pans
Before you cook with cast-iron pans, you have to shop for cast-iron pans. You may find your pots at a garage sale, farm auction, or antique store, but no matter where you find your cast iron, pay attention to the following features:
Uniform thickness of sides and bottom with no dips and valleys. Also avoid pieces that are warped. Dips, valleys, and any warping means that the pan is unsuitable for cooking.
Surface free of discoloration, blotches, and paint spots. Discoloration and blotches indicate that the metallurgy is suspect. Paint spots may signal that the iron has been repaired with epoxy. Also be sure that the surface is free from pits, chips, cracks, and scratches.
Manufacturer’s logos: American-made cast iron from now-defunct companies (specifically Wagner and Griswold) are collector’s items. The Lodge Manufacturing Company, the oldest family-owned U.S. producer of cast-iron cookware, puts the Lodge logo on every cast-iron piece that it manufactures.
Restoring possibilities: If you want to be able to cook in secondhand cast iron, you need to be able to refurbish it to cooking condition. Be sure that any imperfections don’t render the pan unusable for cooking and that you’re willing to work to repair it.