Everybody needs a cast iron skillet!

ci0089: Wagner Ware No 8 skillet... it turns out to be a spinner

Restoration of a number 8 skillet. Updated Oct. 16, 2015

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At the beginning, there is too much baked on grease and crud to tell much about this skillet.

Because of the thick layer of crud on the back of the pan and on the handle, it is hard to tell much about the skillet. It doesn't look like it has a heat ring, but the crud is too thick to be sure. It went into a tub of lye.

The crud is nearly 1/2 inch thick in some areas.

The pan will soak in a lye bath for several days. During the soak, it will be pulled out, scrubbed, and returned to the bath one or two times.

Compared to the back, the cooking surface looks smooth.

The cooking surface shows dirt and debris but nothing that looks like a problem. The sides have some built-up material. Overall the cooking surfaces look good. Questions of the moment: 1) Are there any cracks or other physical damage? 2) Who made it?. When the lye soak is over the questions will be easier to answer.

Mid-lye bath: bottom

After a week and a half in a lye bath most of the build-up has been removed. There was a lot of crud on this pan. It is taking a little longer than usual for the lye to clean it off. The skillet will be returned to the bath to finish the job. Between the time it first went in and this picture, it was removed and given a quick scrub. It will be scrubbed a second time after today's photos.

Mid-lye bath: manufacturer's trademark

The skillet was manufactured by Wagner. It has the "Sidney -O-" mark. The stylized Wagner Ware logo is high vs centered.

Mid-lye bath: manufacturer's id

The particular skillet is identified as item1058 . It is a "regular" skillet, size 8. It was made from the pattern identified with the letter "A". It does not have the "Made In USA" mark that was introduced in the 1960s. According to the Blue Book it was made between 1935 and 1959 and is not highly valued as a collectible.

Md-lye bath: cooking surface

The cooking surface still has some crud stuck here or there but seems to be in overall excellent condition.

Mid-lye bath: cooking surface detail

Underneath the remaining crud, the cooking surface shows a nice smooth quality that is admired in older cookware and no longer found in mass produced skillets.

Next Steps

  1. Back into the lye bath Another day or two will be enough.
  2. Electrolysis Electrolysis is commonly used for rust removal. Even though this piece shows no rust it will spend time in the electrolysis tank as a better-safe-than-sorry procedure. The treatment will not harm the skillet in any way.
  3. Scrub Scrub with a stainless steel scrubbie, cold water, and dishwashing detergent. This leaves the iron very clean with nothing on its surface except perhaps a light film of detergent that did not come off during the final rinse.
  4. Dry thoroughly Dry immediately after scrubbing. The goal is to minimize the development of rust.
  5. Apply vegetable oil Some people heat the dry pan in a 200-degree oven before applying the oil. Either way, after the oil is applied it will be wiped off using a clean dry cloth or clean paper towels. The desirable layer of oil is so thin that it cannot be removed it with a cloth. Many problems that show up after seasoning in a hot oven are due to too much oil on the surface.
  6. Bake Bake in a hot oven (450-500 degree F) for about an hour. This polymerizes the oil, darkens the surface, and creates the relatively non-stick surface for which cast iron is known.
  7. Repeat the oiling and baking steps.

To learn more about restoring cast iron visit these sites and and their forums: http://www.griswoldandwagner.com/ and http://www.castironcollector.com/. There are other ways to learn about restoring cast iron but these are a excellent resources. Both offer free memberships. WAGS offers access to additional information through an optional paid membership.

Cleaned but not seasoned: bottom surface

There are areas of light pitting on the bottom. Maybe the skillet suffered rust at some point in the last 60-80 years. The pitting is light and will not affect much of anything.

Cleaned but not seasoned: manufacturer's trademark

Cleaned but not seasoned: manufacturer's id

Cleaned but not seasoned: cooking surface

The cooking surface has a few pits but nothing that will affect the useability of the skillet. This piece is in great shape.

Seasoned: cooking surface

This pan is ready for active duty and could easily last another 100 years.

Seasoned: side view

It is a beauty - not perfect but beautiful nonetheless.

Seasoned: handle detail

It was seasoned two times using grapeseed oil.

Seasoned: manufacturer's trademark and id.

Some people think grapeseed oil produces a slightly darker surface than other oils. Currently I season with avocado oil, canola oil, Crisco™, grapeseed oil, and Original Pam™.

Seasoned: bottom surface

The bottom is slightly concave

There is a slight outward distortion in the center of the skillet.

It's a spinner

On a skillet with a heat ring you would never notice this imperfection. However this skillet will actually spin *a little bit* if placed on a smooth flat surface and given a push at the handle. For some people this is a fatal flaw. For me the very slight curve doesn't make a bit of difference. I would be comfortable using this on any cooking surface except (perhaps) a glass cooktop.

Biscuits for breakfast!

The next morning I decided to make breakfast using this skillet. On the menu: biscuits and eggs over easy.

Biscuit dough placed in ungreased skillet

The biscuit dough was place on the skillet directly - no oil, cooking spray, etc. The empty pan was in the oven part of time the oven was pre-heating. When the temp reached about 300-degrees-F the pan was pulled out. The skillet had cooled off some but was still too hot to touch when the dough was placed on it.

The biscuits turned out fine

The mass and dark color of the cookware helps make a good crust on the bottom of the biscuits. Over time I found the shelf height that makes a good crust on the bottom and the top. If the biscuits are placed too low in the oven the bottom crust is good but top crust is lacking. If they are placed too high in the oven the bottom crust is lacking but the top crust is fine.

The biscuits slid right out of the skillet.

Cast iron cookware is awesome. Cleaning up literally took 5 seconds

After a quick wipe with a dry towel and a little cooking spray the skillet is ready for the cooktop.

In a few moments these eggs will be turned together. The skillet did not require preheating because it was still hot from the oven. Normally it would be preheated for a minute or two before the eggs were started.

The eggs will be finished in no time

The eggs were easy to turn together. I used a flat metal spatula made for flipping pancakes.

Bon appetit!

A split-open biscuit drizzled with olive oil is underneath the eggs. They are topped with salt, pepper, and a few shreds of Cabot cheddar chesse.

Thanks for taking the time to check out this project and bon appetit!