This article was last updated on October 26th, 2020
When it comes to cooking, there are several types of materials that pots and pans are made of. A recipe from a trusted chef will guide you in which pot or pan one must use for cooking a specific dish. Cast iron pans are one of the many types of pans used for cooking. A good one is long-lasting and can last for decades or even centuries if they are well-maintained.
So how can you tell if a pan is made from cast-iron and is not a fake?
The weight of cast iron is the first give away. If you can comfortably lift the pan in one hand it is not cast iron. An authentic piece of cast iron will have a thick bottom and sides, hence the weight. Next check for markings on the pan manufacturers display with pride their brand, size, or range name on their pieces.
There is no denying that cast-iron is heavy. This type of cookware will weight from around 3 pounds upwards. So this is the easiest marker when trying to identify if a pot is made from cast iron.
Let’s jump further into the many ways how you can tell that a pan is, in fact, made from cast iron.
7 Ways You Tell if a Pan Is Made From Cast Iron?
1. Begin with The Brand
When buying a cast iron pan from the flea market, yard sale, or a junkyard, the pot could be a century old. To make sure that your pan is cast iron, one must first look for the brand.
When buying pots, make sure that the skillet has the brand characteristics mentioned, or there could be a chance that the pan is not a cast-iron one. Some famous brands include Lodge, Griswold, Camp Chef, Cuisinart, and Le Creuset.
2. The Surface of the Pan
The color of cast-iron will be black to dark grey and should have a smooth shiny surface (if in good condition)
New cast iron will generally leave the manufacturer with a light protective coating of seasoning. This will really only protect the cast iron while in transit or storage.
Cast iron should be seasoned before its first use. Then with continued use the protective shiny Patina, non-stick surface, will build up to protect the iron and your food.
The old or new cast can have a surface that looks slightly off-color like orange, this could be a case light, or heavy, case of rust.
This pot is cast-iron and perfectly normal. This surface can be rectified with the restore and re-seasoning process.
If the surface is shiny and uncharactoristically smooth it has a non-stick coating it will not be cast iron.
The caveat to this is enameled cast iron.
The same rules apply when inspecting enamel cast iron – It will be heavy and the handles will be molded to the pot not screwed in.
You will also see the rim of the pot and lid will have black cast iron exposed. This iron may or may not be sealed.
3. The Bottom of the Pan
Cast iron pans to date are pretty much the same as they were before. Our cooktops have indeed changed. To adjust to electric coils and induction plates pans also adjusted to keep up.
Many pans nowadays have recessed heating rings on their outer edges to adjust snugly to your electric stove. Old cast iron pans have three or four projecting nodes or notches. Nodes and crevices enable pans to sit on gas grills or electric heating plates.
New pans have concave bottoms for heat distribution. Some cast-iron pans have numbers at the bottom, which is another hint at recognizing one. A skillet with 3, 5, or 7 with S, is an economic pan from Birmingham Stove & Range or Lodge. Pans with a 3 or 4-digit code, a three-hole-handle, is a Griswold.
4. The Handle of the Pan
As cast iron pieces are manufactured in a one-piece mold the handle is included in the mold for form one piece of cookware.
So if the handles are screwed on chances are it is not cast iron. Or and least, not a good quality piece.
Because cast iron is so heavy when fully laden handles screwed on would be a real weak point and very dangerous.
I would not buy a piece that is unsafe.
5. The Spout of the Pan
A pan’s sides are one of the distinguishing markers of it. These include the pan’s depth, as a frying pan is more in-depth than a cast iron skittle or griddle. Another hint would be the angle; for example, sauté pans have straight sides while frying pans have flared outsides.
Older pans have larger spouts because spout-making tools were not as advanced as today; thus, dips were more defined. Older pans also had two pour spouts while new ones have only one. Modern-day cast iron pans may also have a helper handle and non-stick coatings.
While buying a skillet, make sure to check its insides. Wagner’s have spiral grooves inside their pans while Griswold’s are flat. Lodge’s have a pebbly texture and are rough. A cast-iron pan with a dimpled or hammered finish is a younger model. A skillet with two short handles and a dimpled lid is Birmingham.
6. Study Google Images of Cast Iron Cookware
In today’s digital age, one can use Google Images of cast iron pans and study pots with marks on them. By memorizing cast iron pans’ distinctive features, one can recognize hints or telltale signs while purchasing a skillet if there is no brand name printed on it.
One can also take a picture of the markings on their skillet and upload it to Google Images and reverse search any telltale signs whether the pan you are about to purchase is cast iron or not.
7. Look for Ghosts
At last, iron casting companies usually manufacture unmarked cast iron pans for big-name department stores. Some stores rebrand the pots similarly to Walmart.
Other businesses buy trademark pans, and then scrape off the original markings and then remarket old ones as new under the name of Wapak.
Refurbished pans do not mean that these pans are of lower quality or have any faults. Instead, these refurbished pans are prized possessions as their quality is high, and they have value.
To make sure that the skillet you have bought is indeed a cast iron pan, check for rough file marks as they usually have a ghost of a logo beneath them.
Ghost markings are left behind as a counterfeit mimicking the original brand’s logo. Griswold and Wagner cast iron pans get ghosted commonly.
To check the exact age of the cast iron pans, check the Wapak logo as it has a different version every year.
Do Cast Iron Pans Have a Coating?
There are two types of coating cast iron cookware can have.
- Is the polymerized effect that oil, cast iron, and heat makes when it reacts together. This seasons the cast iron and leaves a shiny non-stick finish.
- Enamel coated cast-iron that covers the cookware that is designed to use in a kitchen cooking environment – not outdoors over a campfire.
Final Thoughts of How You Tell if a Pan Is Cast Iron
Identifying fake cast iron is not difficult when you know what to look for.
- Check the weight
- Iron quality
- Handles safely intact and attached, not screwed, to the molded pot
Don’t think that because a piece of cast iron is marked “vintage” it is worth a lot of money.
If the piece looks in good condition including the surface – haggle for the best price.
If a piece looks worn out and rusty, but intact, it can be rescued with restoration and work for many more years – haggle for the best price.
If you do discover a piece that is old and you want even if you cannot safety prepare a meal in it – haggle for the best price Then display the piece with pride or use it for something other than cooking.
One-Pot Cooking Rocks
- Source – Cast Iron Identification Guide