Griswold Egg Pan (Part One)

Some more backstory…

Just before the pandemic rolled in and I was nursing ideas about how to make effective use of my domain name I struck upon the plan of buying and “restoring” old cast iron pans. My plan was to scour through eBay, adventure through yard sales, and bumble among the aisles of second hand shops to look for old pieces.

I would buy them.

I would clean them.

I would re-season them and use them.

I would write about them.

So in September of 2019 I picked up the first of my project pieces from an online seller, a Griswold #3 Egg Pan which arrived in fair, but crusty condition, via the mail.

As is visible in the attached photos (the pan resting on a cutting board, snapped in September 2019 & after a light wipe down) the small pan needed a little bit of care. It was dirty for a start, as if the seller had cooked lunch in it, cooled it off, then packed it off to be shipped. Also, the seasoning had the chipped and peeling look of a wall that’s been painted a dozen times over the years and then started to erode and wear revealing the layers. Otherwise it’s a nice piece. There is some uneven casting on the bottom (and I have no means or skill to refinish this) but the cooking surface is smooth and clear of scars.

First, a little about the history of a piece like this. I specifically went looking for a Griswold pan because there they are kind of the stereotypical antique but affordable collector cast iron piece, new enough to find in your grandparent’s kitchen but old enough to say, hey… this is an old pan.

Griswold Manufacturing was an American manufacturer of cast iron kitchen products founded in Erie, Pennsylvania, in business from 1865 through 1957. For many years the company had a world-wide reputation for high-quality cast-iron cookware. Today, Griswold pieces are collector’s items.”

– Wikipedia

I’m not a cast iron restoration expert.

Over the last five years and in using multiple pieces of my (purchased new) cast iron cookware for that long, I would firmly tell you that as far as use and care goes, I’m in the intermediate “home cook” skill level.

That said, a caveat. Restoration is a new hobby for me. In other words, I’m probably doing something wrong and I’m not going to be doing much in the way of repairs so much as this more about simple cleaning and re-seasoning efforts. So… be gentle in your replies. I’m learning out here in the public eye.

Now, the Griswold #3 709 I is not a valuable collectors piece, but I think it’s at least sixty-plus years old. Tiny. Only about seven inches across, it makes for an ideal egg pan. I’ve been through a few forums and websites trying to put an age to it and as far as I can tell it was probably cast circa 1939-1957. Neither rare nor of import, I figured it was a neat first “old” piece to kick off my set, and I wouldn’t be destroying an historical artifact if I messed it up.

My first step was to run it through the clean cycle of the oven. This stripped the iron down to bare metal. Then I cleaned the char and oxidized powder off with soap and water then immediately ran a couple seasoning cycles in a hot oven with a light vegetable oil.

After it cooled I put it the cupboard …and forgot about it for a while.

The next two pictures (on a granite countertop) were snapped in January 2021, as I pulled the piece out and decided to write a short series on this new blog.

I ran it through another seasoning cycle (lightly oiling it and baking it with my latest round of sourdough bread).

I cooked a couple eggs in it.

I grilled a cheese sandwich.

It’s starting to develop a useful and seasoned cooking surface.

And as I continue to season and cook with this pan over the next few weeks and months I’ll write future posts with more info.

Stay tuned.

Recipe: Cast Iron Campfire Waffles

Even far from an electrical socket, when I wake up in the woods I still have a few morning rituals. I need my hot cup of coffee brewed in one of a variety of ways: steeped, perked, or filtered. I usually try to eat a piece of fruit to start my day off right. And then I set out to cook a hearty breakfast for myself and the family.

Recently, and thanks to an amazing find at one of our local camping shops, that hearty breakfast has included fresh campfire waffles.

Yes, waffles. Over the campfire.

The easiest way to do set yourself up for campfire waffle success is by prepping some of your ingredients at home first.

In a plastic zip bag at home mix:

2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt

In a bowl at your campsite mix:

1 bag of dry ingredients (as above)
2 eggs
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups of milk

Also, pack some extra oil for cooking and for caring for your waffle iron.

My waffle iron needs about five minutes to heat up over a cooking fire after you’ve oiled it. Having a grate or other surface to rest your iron on is useful.

When the iron is smoking hot (yes… literally smoking) open the iron wide (using heat-proof mitts) and add 1/3 cup of your waffle batter to one center of the grill plate. Close. Flip (and I do a gentle whirl to spread the batter out inside.) And return to the heat.

Add a bit more oil to the iron between waffles.

Figuring out when the waffle is done cooking without that handy beep of an electric iron is as much an art as a skill. Added to the complexity is that you’re cooking over a fire with irregular temperatures. Look for less steam. Look for visible doneness at the edges. Get a feel for the time it takes and be prepared to over/undercook your first couple waffles.

Then… serve. Hot. Add fruit. Syrup. Whatever you like.

Gaige’s Famous Inside-Out Grilled Cheese

Some day I’ll dig into my second-favourite cooking topic after cast iron, and write some posts about sourdough bread.

In the meantime, know that my classic sandwich loaf sourdough serves as the base for a mouthwatering recipe that blurs my passion for cast iron cooking with fresh bread and delicious lunch foods.

It’s a simple hack for your grilled cheese, but add a bit of grated cheddar to the buttered outsides of a classic grilled cheese sandwhich (bread, butter, cheese and heat.)

2 slices of sourdough bread
1 tablespoon of butter or margarine
1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese

Grill as normal. (My normal is on a hot-hot cast iron griddle.)

If you’ve got a soft spot for fried cheese, the crisp exterior of your sandwhich will warm your heart (and probably clog your arteries … did I mention that this is a sometimes food?)

Saturday Chocolate Chip Pancakes

My twenty inch cast iron grill pan sees service at least once a week (when we’re home, that is) on Saturday mornings as a pancake making workstation.

For at least a decade our family tradition is a fresh batch of these simple breakfast treats.

1 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 egg
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 1/2 cups of white milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips

The flour, sugar, and baking powder get mixed together in a medium bowl.

The egg is whisked in a 2 cup measuring cup, then I add the oil, vanilla and milk and mix again.

The wet and dry are combined, mixed lightly, populated with the chocolate chips, and let to sit for about 10 minutes to hydrate.

Batter is poured in 1/4 cup portions onto a hot cast iron grill pan and cooked to desired doneness.

We serve it all up with maple syrup and a hot cup of coffee.