VINTAGE CAST IRON: IT’S (NOT) ALL IN THE NUMBERS

It’s often thought that the large number stamped on a cast-iron pan (often marked on the handle or underside) signifies its size. And although this assumption holds true for a few new cast iron producers, vintage cast iron abides by a different set of rules—or really, no rules at all.

Grab a ruler, and you may discover your trusty No. 10 Griswold skillet actually measures up to around 11½ inches or that your Wagner No. 8 is actually 10 inches in diameter.

For vintage makers, these inscriptions weren’t meant to signify size. They denote a specific pattern. Though some companies published conversion charts to help cooks, these guides weren’t standard across brands.

Some makers further complicated the situation by intentionally producing cast-iron pans slightly larger than their competitors’ standard sizes so they could advertise their products as bigger and better. When it comes to deciphering vintage cast iron, well-studied collectors and aficionados may be able to use the inscriptions to crack the code on your pan’s history. But for the average cook who just needs to know size, breaking out a ruler is your best bet.

4 COMMENTS

    • Depending on the age of the skillet, the number may refer to the size of the woodburning stove “eye.” From https://www.castironcollector.com/numbers.php :

      “Often, the assumption is erroneously made that the large numeral, found normally either on the top of the handle or on the bottom of a piece, indicates its diameter in inches. A measurement of both the top and the bottom rim of a pan, however, will quickly confirm that the number has no direct correlation to either dimension.

  1. (Cast Iron Skillet Pan, 15 Inch)
    Skillet is great. Only downside is it wasn’t properly seasoned. But after a few coats with canola oil and after a few times cooking with it, it’s seasoned perfectly now.

    I took it camping and cooked bacon and eggs over the fire… worked like a charm!

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