This includes both “raw” cast iron and enameled cast iron – the latter usually brightly colored, although some makers produce items that are virtually the same black (Staub) as old, well-seasoned cast iron.
I have several pieces of cast iron cookware that I inherited and several pieces that I have collected over the past five decades.
Cast iron, when properly seasoned and stored, can last for generations, if not centuries. Moisture and rust is a major destroyer but if protected from this, it will serve well in any kitchen.
The shapes and designs of these useful pieces of cookware are timeless and can grace a modern kitchen as well as a “retro,” “vintage” or traditional “country” kitchen.
These do have a considerable “heft” so are not for the cook who has less strength in hands and arms or people with disabilities.
They can’t be put in the dishwasher.
However, enameled cast iron is another story. It can be put through the dishwasher but should be dried immediately because there are sometimes parts that are not fully covered by the enamel.
My favorite in this category is Descoware, made in Belgium. Other manufacturers that produced enameled cast iron in years past are Belguique (Belgium), Chasseur, Cousances, Le Creuset (France), Copco (Denmark), Dru (Holland), Smorpanna Husqvarna, Klafrestrom (Sweden), Catherine Holm (Norway), Volrath, Griswold, Prizer (U.S.).
(Most of the Catherine Holm cookware was enameled steel but I have come across a very few pieces – small fry pans and a butter warmer – that were cast iron. These were marked only in Norwegian and I can only surmise that they were not sold in the U.S.)
I have some sauce pans made in Great Britain but they are enameled only on the interior. They do have a distinctive shape and most now fall into the “antique” category, being over 100 years old.
I have several pieces of Descoware that I purchased in 1968 and am still using and the stuff is pretty much indestructible. Some tiny chips in the enamel but they have no effect on the usefulness of the cookware.
Most pieces are the cherry red(aka “flame”) but I also have a couple of the yellow with gray interior, a blue and white oval covered baker and this teakettle/steamer – the lid was lost in the ’94 earthquake when it fell and hit the cast iron grate on my stovetop and the handle and half the enamel on the top broke off. I bought it in 1974 and got in in green because the store did not have it in either the flame or the yellow.
The “jewel” of my collection WAS this Descoware “Autumn Leaves” 5 1/2 quart Dutch Oven ca. 1970. It is virtually pristine, although it has been used. I love the design and the colors and it is my favorite of all the Descoware designs. Since I took this photo, I have given it to my daughter as it fits nicely in her kitchen that features orange and yellow.
This is the lid to my oval Descoware roaster:
I much prefer this type of handle to the applied handle used by Le Creuset and Staub. When the piece has been in an extremely hot oven, I use a hook to lift the lid as it is much easier than using a hot pad or ?.
These first photos are of ANTIQUE English cast iron cooking pots that are like those seen in the kitchen scenes on DOWNTON ABBEY.
The very large one is 6 IMPERIAL quarts – equal to 14.2 U.S. Pints. This is very heavy.
The smallest is One pint – also Imperial measure – equal to 1.2 U.S. Pints.
The two earliest are ca. 1895, the large one dates to 1910.
I also have a lot of AMERICAN MADE cast iron.
Including this huge oval roaster made by Griswold – the back stamp “Large Block” logo was used between 1920 and 1940.
As long as it is cared for and treated with respect, cast iron can last for decades or even centuries.
And even though many people collect it, there are still “treasures” to be found. One of the women who works at a local thrift store, found an Erie “Spider” skillet in a box of mostly junk that had been dropped off outside the back door of the store a few weeks ago. It was in almost perfect condition and looked like it had been used sparingly.
Go to the site Cast Iron Collector BEFORE you go shopping for antique and vintage cast iron.
This is what is sometimes called a “double skillet” – it is a Griswold “Chicken Fryer” with a loop on the deep bottom skillet and a “hook” on the shallower top skillet and a flange that allows the top to fit snugly onto the bottom.
This one is in exceptional condition and has the “large block” Griswold logo and the 1102/1103 numbers which show it was manufactured in the late 1930s.
This Number 8 nickle-plated skillet has the SLANT large logo, the ERIE designation and the 704 number, as well as the heat ring which was on earlier skillets that were intended for use on flat-top wood and coal kitchen ranges. I have a friend who has an English AGA range and has collected several Griswold and other cast iron skillets and other cookware with these heat rings which insure the bottoms of the skillets will not warp with high temps.
The plating on this one is almost 100% intact, with only a few minor blemishes.
This is another Griswold nickle-plated skillet – flat bottom, no heat ring, with the large BLOCK logo and the “Erie PA, U.S.A.” designation also numbered 704.
On this No. 8 skillet the plating is about 60-70% intact. It obviously has been scrubbed away around the inner portion where the bottom meets the sides.
The following piece is a very early Griswold pot – with a heat ring – with the only identification the lare “E R I E” on the bottom, which exhibits the pitted surface common to the early sand cast pots. The interior is well finished and smooth. This pot is in wonderful condition considering its age – late 1800s.
Dimensions are: Top diameter – 9 3/8 inches, Bottom diameter – 8 1/4 inches Height – 6 inches. Volume: 6 Quarts, with 1 inch of head room.
And here are some pieces of bakeware. Muffin tins, gem pans, “French roll” or “Cream cake” pans, cornstick pans. And a few steel muffin pans, of which I have too few to work into a dedicated page.
The following are corn stick pans, varying in shape and design. The “corn ear” shape pans were also available in cast aluminum. These are cast iron, even though they look lighter in color than other cast iron pieces.
The following are two “muffin” or cupcake pans of similar dimensions – one is enamel on cast iron, the other is plain.
This 12-section baking mold with rounded bottoms is called a “French roll” pan by many collectors, however my grandmother and her cook called this a “cream cake” pan and the little “sponge” cakes were baked in it. (think Twinkies) and when I was little, this had a flat plate to cover and restrict the height the cakes could rise. Sadly, that has been lost in one of my moves. It is obvious that this needs a good cleaning and re-seasoning and I may or may not get around to it.