Do you like vintage cast iron but can’t find any that isn’t at least a little warped?
And now you’re asking, “Are most vintage cast iron pans warped?”
That was the case for one person. Everywhere he looked, the skillet wobbled a bit.
Finally, he gave up and bought a warped skillet because it was “practically free.”
He was tired of looking for the elusive flat vintage cast iron pan.
But he still wanted to know what other people’s experience was. So he asked.
You would be hard-pressed to say that most vintage cast iron is warped, but there are at least three reasons it could be.
So, let’s take a look.
Are Most Vintage Cast Iron Pans Warped?
Warped means bent, bowed, or twisted out of shape due to heat or moisture. I wouldn’t say most vintage cast iron pans are warped, but there are three main reasons why you will find many that are. Thinner cast iron walls are more likely to warp, which is how older cast iron was made. Plus, vintage cast iron has been around longer and had more of a chance of warping. Additionally, there was no reason for a pan to be level in the past since it didn’t sit on a flat surface.
1. Older Cast Iron is Thinner
Many people may not realize that most vintage cast iron was made with thinner walls.
That is true of such brands as Piqua, Wapak, Griswold, and Wagner.
The only brand I’ve heard that was made a bit thicker is Birmingham Stove and Range (BSR). Those who buy vintage cast iron cookware say they have had more success finding non-warped pans with this brand.
Admittedly, thicker pans are heavier, but they also have less chance of warping.
The thinner the metal is, the more susceptible it is to bowing either upwards or downwards.
2. Older Cast Iron Has Been Around Longer
Another reason vintage cast iron might be warped is its age.
The older something is, the more opportunity someone has had to mess it up.
Even today, you might hear advice telling you to throw your skillet in the fire if you want to remove the seasoning.
While the fire will remove the seasoning, the pan can also warp if it doesn’t heat evenly.
One person thinks that the “clean it by throwing it in the campfire” crowd is the reason why many vintage cast iron pieces have been warped or otherwise damaged.
3. Older Cast Iron Didn’t Need to Be Flat
Apparently, there are vintage pans from the 1930s and 40s that have never been used. They still have the original labels on them, and they wobble.
But even if that isn’t true, there really was no reason for skillets to be flat before glass and electric coil stovetops became popular. Cooking was done over a fire or on cast iron stoves.
Electric stoves came out in the 1930s, but most kitchens didn’t have them.
Neither did these stoves have flat cooking surfaces. It wasn’t until glass stovetops became popular that people became more aware of warped cast iron.
Which begs the question: is a warped cast iron pan that big of a deal?
Well, that depends.
Do You Plan to Use It or Sell It?
If you plan to cook in the pan, a warped skillet must be in pretty bad shape before it would be considered a problem.
However, warping is a significant problem if you are a collector looking for cast iron to restore and sell.
You can learn more at The Cast Iron Collector: Damage and Defects.
Although there is some debate over whether a warped skillet can be fixed, most people agree it can’t be done without extensive heat treatment. And the majority of homes don’t have access to this much heat.
Therefore, it is likely not worth the expense for most people. Collectors will then either find some use for the pan or hang it up somewhere. However, they won’t try and sell it.
But for those who simply want to cook in the skillet, here are a few things to consider:
- How warped is it? Does it wobble a little or a lot? Does it spin? A slight wobbling is common and still cooks well.
- If it spins, how much? Will it be too annoying, or can you deal with it? It’s often frustrating when the pan keeps spinning while cooking, especially on a smooth surface.
- What type of stovetop do you cook on? A glass one will be more concerning but not out of the question. I know someone who says they have been using a warped skillet on a glass top for 15 years. If you have an electric coil, the best way to preheat any cast iron skillet is incremental, whether it’s warped or not.
In the video below, a woman talks about four of her vintage cast iron skillets. Some of them wobble or spin.
RELATED > > > > > Why Does Cast Iron Warp? – Three Reasons to Consider
Wobble in a Cast Iron
So, are most vintage cast iron pans warped?
If not most, then at least many have some wobble to them.
Warping isn’t as much of a problem if you plan on cooking in the pan as if you want to sell it. Buyers are looking for cookware in pristine condition and are willing to pay more for it.
However, they look down on warped cast iron pans.
There are three main reasons why a vintage skillet might be warped.
Since they were typically made thinner, thinner cast iron will warp more easily.
And since they are older, vintage cast iron has more opportunity to get warped.
Finally, vintage cast iron was made by hand from start to finish, and its flat surface wasn’t as much of an issue as it is today. People didn’t cook on flat surfaces, so it largely went unnoticed.
Overall, it largely depends on what you plan to do with the vintage cast iron pan.
How much vintage cast iron do you have? Is any of it warped?
What do you do with your vintage cast iron pans? Restore them to use or sell?
Share your answers or other thoughts about warped vintage cast iron in the comments below.