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OT- kinda- Cast Iron Cookware, What Kind of Iron?

Arc-On

Aluminum
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Location
Holland, MI
If I wanted to pour some skillets for example, what kind of iron would I want to ask for at the foundry?

Just plain grey iron? Ductile? I don’t know much about cast iron in general, but I know enough to know there are many varieties. Is there such a thing as “food grade” iron? I’ve used cast iron skillets for years, never gave much thought to what iron they’ve actually used to make them.

Mostly just a thought experiment right now, but was considering making some cookware as a potential product for a friends company.

Not done much work with machining castings at all really. I know it’s dirty work, and probably something I want to do but I’m at least giving it the due diligence.
 

sfriedberg

Diamond
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Location
Oregon, USA
AFAIK, there is no "food grade" iron. Your main problem with skillets is the thin sections. The foundry will need to pour something that flows better than average (which will influence the choice of iron) and/or have gating that pretty much surrounds the skillet body and handle. It's quite likely you will not find a general foundry that is willing to mess with these.
You should have the castings annealed (not just stress-relieved), or you are likely to snap the handles right off. Ductile iron (as the name suggests) is less prone to that than grey iron, but given the part geometry it could happen with either.
These links might give you some ideas:
Field Company
American Skillet Company
There are several other US cast iron cookware makers, but those are the ones I could quickly find with some casting/production info on their websites. Of course, there are quite a few videos on YouTube, too.
 

Joe Gwinn

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Location
Boston, MA area
Thermal conductivity also matters far more than generally understood.

I grew up with Lodge and Wagner, and didn't know that anything else existed (in the US).

A few years ago, I rescued a Griswold nickel-plated cast iron skillet from the local dump. It turned out to work far better than Lodge or Wagner, to the point that these are now largely displaced. (I did replace the nickel-plated Griswold skillet with an un-plated pan, as the plating was worn off in many places, so seasoning didn't really work - the nickel areas don't really season)

As for seasoning, steel and cast iron all season the same. The big difference is the better thermal conductivity of whatever Griswold chose to use - they did boast about using a better grade of iron.

Ductile iron would make some sense, and it would make the pan harder to break.

Stainless steel is far lower conductivity than ordinary steel, which is why things tend to burn in spots.
 

Bill D

Diamond
Joined
Apr 1, 2004
Location
Modesto, CA USA
I wonder what kind of steel is used for those giant woks at the Mongolian barbecue place. How about those flat plate gas outdoor barbeques.
EG feel free to tell us how woks are made. Hubcaps are plastic now so boyscouts can not cook in them anymore, if they ever did.
Bill D
 

PackardV8

Hot Rolled
Joined
Jun 4, 2006
Location
Spokane, WA
I grew up with Lodge and Wagner, and didn't know that anything else existed (in the US).

A few years ago, I rescued a Griswold nickel-plated cast iron skillet from the local dump. It turned out to work far better than Lodge or Wagner, to the point that these are now largely displaced. . . . whatever Griswold chose to use - they did boast about using a better grade of iron.
For true. If one has ever used the better grades of Griswold, the modern Lodge feel like junk. FWIW, there were different thicknesses of Griswold. The thinner versions are better to use, but are vulnerable to warping if overheated and/or quickly cooled.

As to the handles, they seem fragile, but in sixty years of using, buying and selling arn, the only broken handles were from being dropped and even then, the impact has to be exactly wrong.

jack vines, who has too much Griswold cast iron cookware to count and uses several every day.
 

Joe Gwinn

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Location
Boston, MA area
That is why the revere wear pans have a thick disk of copper bonded to the bottom of their stainless spans. To spread the heat out evenly.
Bill D
By the time I got there, that thick layer was a thin plating that did exactly nothing. In the 1970s, I ran across a Swedish equivalent - which had a thick copper ~dish silver-soldered to the bottom. No hot-spots there. And the pan was heavy enough that it was not made tippy by the weight of the handle.
 

dana gear

Hot Rolled
Joined
Feb 27, 2013
Location
Northern califorina, usa
If I wanted to pour some skillets for example, what kind of iron would I want to ask for at the foundry?

Just plain grey iron? Ductile? I don’t know much about cast iron in general, but I know enough to know there are many varieties. Is there such a thing as “food grade” iron? I’ve used cast iron skillets for years, never gave much thought to what iron they’ve actually used to make them.

Mostly just a thought experiment right now, but was considering making some cookware as a potential product for a friends company.

Not done much work with machining castings at all really. I know it’s dirty work, and probably something I want to do but I’m at least giving it the due diligence.
Hell, everyone on u tube is melting down old car disc brake rotors, not sure it's the best thing to do, but it would seem kind of popular on u tube anyway..
 

Joe Gwinn

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Location
Boston, MA area
For true. If one has ever used the better grades of Griswold, the modern Lodge feel like junk. FWIW, there were different thicknesses of Griswold. The thinner versions are better to use, but are vulnerable to warping if overheated and/or quickly cooled.

I did find some references that said that the difference is the shape of the graphite flakes in the iron, and that laminar flakes are the best. There was about a 2:1 difference between flakes and spheres.

"Thermal conductivity of cast iron -A review", Guang-hua Wang, *Yan-xiang Li,
https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s41230-020-9112-8.pdf
 
Last edited:

goldenfab

Aluminum
Joined
May 25, 2016
Location
USA Prescott , Arizona
I was just thinking about making my own pans at breakfast this morning and have had the same questions and as the OP for a while now. I think there is maybe a renewed market for this kind of thing too being that people are more health conscience about concerns with non-stick coatings. Addition to cast iron I have three pans that are plain carbon steel. I treat them just like cast iron. I like them better than cast iron as they are lighter. I get about a year out of a non-stick pan before the coating fails. My steel plans should last forever. Not to hijack the OPs thread but how does one assure the material is 'food safe' in practice and also in terms of liability?
 

dalmatiangirl61

Diamond
Joined
Jan 31, 2011
Location
BFE Nevada/San Marcos Tx
I was just thinking about making my own pans at breakfast this morning and have had the same questions and as the OP for a while now. I think there is maybe a renewed market for this kind of thing too being that people are more health conscience about concerns with non-stick coatings. Addition to cast iron I have three pans that are plain carbon steel. I treat them just like cast iron. I like them better than cast iron as they are lighter. I get about a year out of a non-stick pan before the coating fails. My steel plans should last forever. Not to hijack the OPs thread but how does one assure the material is 'food safe' in practice and also in terms of liability?
Start with a Lodge pan, mill out half the thickness and polish it smooth.
 

Scottl

Diamond
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Eastern Massachusetts, USA
I wonder what kind of steel is used for those giant woks at the Mongolian barbecue place. How about those flat plate gas outdoor barbeques.
EG feel free to tell us how woks are made. Hubcaps are plastic now so boyscouts can not cook in them anymore, if they ever did.
Bill D
And helmets are made of Kevlar so soldiers can not cook in them anymore and coffee cans are made of cardboard so "gentlemen of the road" can not cook make hobo stoves of them anymore.

Years ago bikers used to use old Ford van hubcaps as oil drain pans as they were often found on the sides of roads after they popped off in potholes and bumps.

Things change, but AFAIK woks are still made of relatively high carbon steel except nowadays by pressing instead of hammering. BTW, we have a stainless wok made by Revere many years ago so they don't have to be plain steel. Of course since it was made in America a certain somebody would call it junk.
 

Joe Gwinn

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Location
Boston, MA area
Start with a Lodge pan, mill out half the thickness and polish it smooth.
One can start by machining the pan outside bottom flat, for better thermal contact to flat-top stove hobs.

And after the milling and polishing are done, use a weed-burner or the like to heat the entire pan to red heat, and allow to cool slowly. Do not quench. Only then try to season the pan.

As for food safety, with seasoned iron pans, using an edible vegetable oil, there is nothing left to prove. That ship sailed in the first few millennia of the iron age.

I use sunflower oil for seasoning.
 

gwelo62

Aluminum
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
ga,usa
In Rhodesia and South Africa we used to make a "skottel-braai" out of plough discs. Effectively a shallow wok. We had one with legs and a tall handle to lift onto the fire. Now they are stamped and used on a gasburner. Allows you to fry eggs, make gravy etc. And can be used immediately on a long drive. People used to bring them while parked in a petrol-queues overnight. Might be happening here soon. I made one here with s harrow disc. Just welded up the centre hole.
 

dalmatiangirl61

Diamond
Joined
Jan 31, 2011
Location
BFE Nevada/San Marcos Tx
In Rhodesia and South Africa we used to make a "skottel-braai" out of plough discs. Effectively a shallow wok. We had one with legs and a tall handle to lift onto the fire. Now they are stamped and used on a gasburner. Allows you to fry eggs, make gravy etc. And can be used immediately on a long drive. People used to bring them while parked in a petrol-queues overnight. Might be happening here soon. I made one here with s harrow disc. Just welded up the centre hole.
Those are quite popular with the hispanic community in central Texas, I used to make several a year for the neighbors.
 








 
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