Can anyone ID this flattish cast-iron frying pan?
July 20, 2016 6:17 PM   Subscribe

I picked this up recently and unfortunately the bottom is too rusty to ID it. I can read "ERIE" on the bottom and nothing else. It measures 11" in diameter across the top and about 1.25" deep including the bottom. Any idea what it is? Also, the rust is pretty serious--how would I go about dealing with that? Is this still usable? Pics are here.
posted by Slinga to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just looks like a shallow cast iron pan. Erie cast iron is one of the out of production heritage brands floating around out there. Quite a bit of information over here. That rust does look pretty intense. I would start with this guide, but I wouldn't get my hopes up. That's some pretty serious pitting.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:23 PM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's an Erie skillet, which is a predecessor to Griswold. Maybe a crepe pan or something, even. I can't really make out what the walls are like.

That is a weird handle, and I'm not finding anything like that on an image search. It must be either really rare or maybe user modified somehow. Or maybe I'm missing something.

It does look pretty scuzzy, but if there's no real structural damage, I'll bet you could get it kind of functioning, at least, with a good cleaning and reseasoning. It looks like the outside might be worse than the inside.
posted by ernielundquist at 6:28 PM on July 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Cast Iron Collector has some info on how to ID these pans. It does look like it's from Griswold; see this list of marks.
posted by asperity at 6:31 PM on July 20, 2016

If there are no cracks, I'm thinking that you have a gem on your hands. You'll have to clean and reseason it. The pitting and heat damage seems to be on the bottom, so that's lucky. You won't know the real deal until you clean it more and check for cracks. Pitting and heat damage is not ideal, but it's OK. Cracks are a death knell for cast iron pans. This is a good guide as well.
posted by quince at 6:31 PM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Honestly, it doesn't look to me like it's beyond saving, though it's hard to really tell from the photos. The interior looks more like baked-on carbonized grease than rust, and could maybe be scraped off. The only deal-killer would be if the exterior rust was deep enough to compromise the structure of the pan, and it doesn't look like that to me.
posted by mr vino at 6:34 PM on July 20, 2016

You know, also, if you're brave and you've got enough thickness, you might go at that interior with a sander and see if you can get down to a smooth surface. I sanded down some damage to a beloved Dutch oven so it's usable again.

(It's also hard for me to tell from the pictures if that interior damage is pitting or buildup. Buildup would obviously be preferable.)
posted by ernielundquist at 6:35 PM on July 20, 2016

Memail mupuppie, who is an expert on all things cast iron.
posted by rtha at 7:25 PM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Serious Eats has a guide on how to restore cast iron. It should be salvageable. You have to strip the seasoning first with either oven cleaner or lye, and then vinegar to get the rust off before re-seasoning again.
posted by O9scar at 7:37 PM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nice! You have yourself a beautiful "pre-Griswold, Erie three-hole handle shallow skillet."

From your pictures, it looks like the condition issues with the cooking surface are a buildup of gunk, not pitting. If that's the case, that's very good news. If the photos are deceptive -- and they may be -- and pitting is an issue, that's bad, because you can't maintain a nice seasoning on a surface that has craters.

The rust on the underside of the pan is only a cosmetic issue so long as it doesn't keep the pan from sitting flat on a burner.

To deal with rust on cast iron: Scrub with a green scotch brite pad and a mixture of half vinegar, half water. The vinegar will get rid of the rust. It's then a race against the clock to dry the pan off quickly enough that flash rust doesn't form. Put it on a low burner and wipe off excess moisture constantly and you'll probably win. Now season.

The gunky buildup takes more effort. I use an electrolysis bath to strip cast iron down to bare metal, but that may be more than you want to take on. Google the oven cleaner method -- it's probably the best option for you with this skillet. Do NOT put the skillet through a self-cleaning oven cycle, into a blazing wood fire, or subject it to high heat on your gas grill. You will find information online trying to convince you to do all of these things, but you would then be the kid from "A Christmas Story" who licked the freezing flagpole and I would laugh and cry at you. (And while I totally adore ernielundquist, which she maybe does not know, but please do not use a sander or a grinder or a wire wheel on a drill.)

The one concern I have is that the reddish tint isn't just rust, but is the result of someone overheating the skillet in an effort to get rid of the gunk. It's hard to tell from the photos. If the red is just rust, and you can get rid of it with vinegar + water, you're fine. And -- fortunate, because that's an awesome skillet. You could sell it for up to or over $200, if it were in perfect condition.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:04 PM on July 20, 2016 [16 favorites]

PS: "Pitting" only refers to condition issues on the cooking surface. Baked-on stuff on the outside -- I'm not sure it has an official name, but it's not "pitting."
posted by mudpuppie at 8:08 PM on July 20, 2016

Neat find. I've cleaned up skillets that looked a lot worse. Just spray it down with oven cleaner and leave it in a trash bag for a day or two, then scrub it off and check for cracks. I like the handle on it.

On Preview: everything mudpuppie said.
posted by ridgerunner at 8:37 PM on July 20, 2016

I can't add anything to the advice on restoration. I would suggest posting those pics to the subreddit /r/castiron if you are interested in details on Erie cast iron. Those people know deep deep things about cast iron.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:31 PM on July 20, 2016

Response by poster: You folks are wonderful, thank you!
posted by Slinga at 4:51 AM on July 21, 2016

Heat (med-low)+oil+kosher salt+towel+tongs will allow you to scrub off the gunk, fill in the minor pits, scour the surface and oil flat. Dump used (dirty) salt into a ceramic bowl, re-oil, re-salt, scrub again until clean, smooth, and nonstick.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:03 PM on July 21, 2016

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