Sunday, March 8, 2009

Old Wagner Ware Dutch Ovens

I have a weakness for old Wagner Ware Dutch Ovens. I find them to be the best looking by a small margin. All the qualities one finds in the older cast iron are present in these super useful pots. They have a level of fit and finish that is entirely absent from newer products.

The oven on the right is a #8 Drip Drop Roaster and it was made sometime between 1920 and 1941. The smaller #7 Dutch Oven was made in the 1940s.
In the above photo you'll see the drip ring design changed. I have to assume the simpler lid was easier to cast than the more complex design (with raised letters) previously used.
The #7 came with a trivet that may or may not be original and correct for this size oven. Trivets are nice because they lift your roast or bird out of the cooking juices.

I use Dutch Ovens in various ways from slowly cooking beans overnight to baking bread at 475 degrees. They make a great deep fryer or popcorn maker. Beef Stew and Arroz con Pollo practically beg to be made in an old iron DO.

What do you make in your Dutch Ovens?

43 comments:

Chilebrown said...

You got me hooked. I actually was hooked before and did not even know it. Now I am looking for the older stuff. You are the Man. Thanks!

Rev. Biggles said...

OooOoo, love the trivet. It also allows heat to move beneath the food, nicer caramelization and more evener cooking.

I use my dutch for quite a few things, many times as a fry pan. I like the high sides so splattering meat doesn't fly nearly as far.

Biggles

mlepenske said...

So how do you make popcorn in a DO? It seems like it would be a monster to shake! I barely manage all the shaking in regular pan.

Anonymous said...

Use my Dutch oven for frying, roasted chicken and bread. Beans and stews cause problems with the seasoning layer...yours must be extremely well seasoned.

Greg said...

Chilebrown - glad to hear you're digging the old stuff.

Dr/Rev. Biggles - Yep high sides can be a plus.

mlepenske - I use a thick pot holder on each hand and I pick it up and shake it a little until it is done. Doesn't take very long but I like my old chicken fryer (think DO with a skillet handle) better for popcorn.

Anon - You've just got to use your DO more and the seasoning will build up so even Chili won't faze it. They may knock the gloss off the seasoning a little but a thin coat of fat and 20 minutes in the oven to dry after washing puts that back on.

Eliza28 said...

Where do you find your skillets at prices that aren't thru the roof? Or maybe I am just too cheap??

I tried for some that looked just like those on eBay but just couldn't stomach the cost. Help?!?

By the way those are beautiful and we would love a D.O. for making stews, chili, entire chicken, and so much more.

Love the posts!

Greg said...

Hi Eliza28,

The best way to get iron at decent prices it to be willing to buy it when it looks like crap. As long as you are willing to do a little work you can snag it for much less than a nicely restored piece will bring. My pieces that look good look that way because I did the restoration.

I look for iron with flat bottoms and no obvious deep corrosion. Surface rust is OK but etching from rust means the piece was neglected. Cracks cannot be repaired so don't buy any cracked pieces.

Brand also matters. Griswold is super nice but they get the highest prices. I have to say the more Vollrath iron I see the more I like it and it may be the least expensive old thin walled cast iron right now. People don't know how nice it is so they don't bid and the prices are quite reasonable.

There are some sellers on eBay that are smoking crack but they tend to only do "Buy it now" pricing.
There are deals to be had. This is kind of a buyers market right now.

Good luck!

dancingmommy said...

Greg,

I just stumbled across your site today. This past weekend I inherited what I assume is my husband's Great Grandmother's cast iron skillet and DO. The DO is a Wagner Ware like the one you have pictured only a #9. It doesn't have any food residue on it but has been well seasoned from 40 years in a heavy smoker's house while being unused. It stinks and is coated in the smoker's grime. Do I clean it with the oven cleaner mentioned in the previous blog? Will that do it? Unfortunately mine didn't come with the neat trivet. Do you have any idea where I could find one of those? I can't wait to learn how to use my new DO. I may take it camping for all day cooking. Thanks in advance!

dancingmommy said...

Hi Greg,
I just stumbled across your site today. This past weekend I inherited my Great Grandmother's cast iron skillet and DO. The DO is just like the Wagner Ware one you have pictured here only it is a #9. It doesn't have the nifty trivet that yours does. Do you have any idea where I could get one of those?
Also, this DO doesn't have old food grime but it does have about 40 years of smoker's grime on it from sitting in the dirty kitchen of a bachelor chain smoker (grandpa). The thing stinks! Will the oven cleaner work on that or is there something that would be better? I can't wait to get it all clean and learn how to use it!

Thanks in advance!

Greg said...

Hi dancingmommy,

Thanks for reading and commenting!

If it is coated in 40 years worth of smoke and is unused I'd definitely want to strip it to bare metal.

The oven cleaner will do the trick. I don't know how quickly it will work but it is worth the effort as it is totally safe for the iron.

A #9 in really good shape is worth a fair amount of money. Treat it right and let the iron warm up and cool down slowly. The biggest problem with old DOs is somebody warped the bottoms by being in a hurry.

I'd watch eBay for the trivet.

Clausewitz said...

Oi. Parabéns pelo excelente blog. Gostaria de lhe convidar para visitar meu blog e conhecer alguma coisa sobre o Brasil. Abração

Pj said...

I use my Wagner Ware DO for making a pot roast on the stove top. THE BEST EVER. It will melt in your mouth!

Pj

Bosch said...

Great post! i been using old wagner DO too and its great in cooking. thanks, we will come back often.

David said...

Gumbo! I use my DO to make a hearty batch of gumbo. Usually it's chicken and sausage but I also like to make smoked turkey and sausage gumbo.

Another DO favorite is ropa vieja. It's a Spanish inspired dish of beef brisket braised with onions and peppers in a tomato sauce for hours. When it is cooked you shred the meat and I like to eat mine in a flour tortilla.

Rachel said...

Hi Greg,

After Google lead me to this post. I fall in love with the Old Dutch oven design. And in 48 hours. I bought one from ebay! Would you mind to take a look at ebay item 360178325537- there are some cleaning needed....

I don't have the cool Electrolysis tank set up. So I am thinking to follow the Easy Off step from your blog. That should be enough for this piece right? *finger crossed.

I am so excited to find your blog! Thank you for great writing and tips!

Greg said...

Rachel - Nice Griswold #8

It isn't very dirty and yes the oven cleaner method will work fine. Just give the oven cleaner the time to work.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Rachel said...

Thank you! :)

*I just saw your post on ebay bidding...I like to think I got an ok deal on mine. haha.

bb said...

I discovered your site tonite while searching for info on my old dutch oven I inherited from my Grandma. It says "WAGNER WARE CAST IRON TITE-TOP DUTCH OVEN" with a large cross in the center that says "GRISWOLD"; also "PAT'D MAR 16 20". Any idea when it was made or what it's worth? I'd never sell it, but am curious. Just made a totally awesome beef stew for dinner tonite! Thanks, Bill

bb said...

One other thing--the lid has a 10 on it. Thanks, Bill

Greg said...

Bill,

If it has both the Wagner and Griswold names on it it was made sometime in the 1960s-1970s.

These don't have any collector value so enjoy it by using it.

Greg

bb said...

Thanks for the info. I appreciate your willingness to share and educate others. I love my Wagner Ware DO, and, as they say, "Nothing but good food comes out of a big black pot."

Anonymous said...

Hi, my Dad just gave me a Wagner Ware Dutch oven #10 that belonged to my great grandmother. I'm trying to find something about it -- such as how old it is. Can anyone help? Thanks!

Greg said...

Anonymous - send pictures (including the underside of the oven and lid) for the most accurate dating. My email address is found on my profile page.

A #10 is a nice big DO!

Greg said...

Anonymous "B" - Nice #10. The DO and lid look to be of the same vintage. Date range should be between 1924 -1941.

Take good care of that one.

Beth said...

Thanks for the info. My dad says it's from the '20's. I'll be glad to make my first pot roast in this DO.

Beth said...

French Onion Soup!!!

It's three hours in the oven and more on the stove top. The house never smelled so good! :)

Should never have found this sight. Now I want to go out and find some of that older, well crafted cast iron.

What a fun read this site is.

Melissa said...

Hi,
I have a Wagner Ware skillet that I got at a garage sale for a buck. Didn't realize it until I got home but bottom is not perfectly flat (no heat ring), there is a bit of a wobble when i put it on my flat top range. Bottom says "11 3/4 INCH SKILLET MADE IN USA O". Is it okay to use in this condition or should I relegate it to campfire cooking? Any idea how old it is? Thanks, Melissa

Greg said...

Hi Melissa,

You won't hurt the skillet using it on your range but it won't heat very evenly due to the bowed bottom.

Use it in your oven and take it camping. That is a nice big skillet for a buck!

Age should be between 1960 and 1990 so it is fairly modern.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Anonymous said...

I have never used oven cleaner on my cast iron and have used mine for years. If ever I find a piece which is in need of deep cleaning to metal I was told by an antiques dealer who specialized in iron to on a summer day fill a bucket with water ..put in cast iron..pour in a box of lye (ask now at a hardware store as it is in back room because some people use it to make drugs)stir well & let sit 12 hours. take the iron out using fireplace tongs (don't let the lye splash on you) put in another bucket with a box of baking soda to neutralize it and scrub with steel wool - takes it right to metal...will not hurt your iron

Greg said...

Anonymous - The active ingredient in most spray on oven cleaner is Lye.

A lye tank is a great way to clean cast iron.

Anonymous said...

re the Wagner Ware flat bottomed pan with the slight wobble: I find the larger flat bottomed pans & DOs often have a tiny wobble. But they still work very well on my ceramic smoothtop stove. I've never noticed uneven cooking at all.

Greg said...

When I worked as a line cook all the frying pans were warped and battered.

This is one area where gas stovetops really shine.

appliejuice said...

Thank you for this post. I received a Wagner Ware pot yesterday, without a lid. I wasn't sure if it was suppose to have one. It looks just like the ones picture. Now I know it was suppose to have a lid. Guess I'll need to start looking to find one that fits.

Greg said...

appliejuice - the lids can be worth more than the pot itself so be ready. An old one in really nice shape should be 35-50 dollars.

In later years glass lids were made for these so these can be found as well.

Anonymous said...

I had a glass lid on my 10" DO and broke it - drat! Is there a site that sells just the lid? I would guess that the pans last forever, it's the lids that break?

Susan said...

Hi Greg,
I posted last April - I can't believe it has been that long! Anyway, I refinished a skillet that I inherited using your method of oven cleaner and it turned out beautifully! I then tried it on my DO, per your suggestion but it just didn't work. I ended up with these weird designs on the mettle. I tried doing it a couple of times and now the pot seems really light weight. I don't know what I could have done wrong! So now my DO is sitting on top of my refrigerator - stripped and dusty. :) I have some rust in the lid that I can't seem to get rid of either. Do you have any ideas? I would really like to be able to use it but am now afraid that I have ruined it. Thoughts?

Thanks!

Susan

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have a Wagner Ware 8 inch skillet.No heat ring..Only markings on bottom are WagnerWare stamped at the twelve o'clock position..At the six o'clock position is 8 inch skillet stamped..under that is Made in usa..under that is the stamped letter 'k'..There is also a " 5 " stamped on the handle..Would like to know what time period this was made..Thanks for your help..Rick

Greg said...

Anon - there are glass lids listed all the time on eBay.

Susan - Try sticking a magnet on the pot. I'm wondering if it is an iron pot. (If it doesn't stick it isn't)

The best thing for rust is electrolysis (there are 2 posts on it on this blog) If that isn't practical do the vinegar and water soak and scrub with some #0000 steel wool to lose the rust.

Season the lid as soon as you are done. FWIW the lids are often more valuable than the pots themselves.

Anonymous - It was made in the 1960s to late 1980s.

bc said...

Hi Greg,

I have a Wagner Drip Drop oval roaster approximately 18 X 13 inches not including the handles. I don't find the model number but do see some patent numbers on the inside of the cover. The cover has the zig zag pattern inside. Its pretty old but in reasonably good condition. Years ago I empirically worked out the timing to roast a turkey in it but shortly after became fascinated with an 18 hour 200 degree technique and haven't used the pan in probably 20 years. I am trying to bring my cooking up a level and suspect this old beauty might do a pretty nice job. My problem now is coming up with a turkey roasting technique that will keep the white meat moist but the skin nice and chrispy. I vaguely remember removing the cover for maybe the last hour to crisp the skin but that's about all I remeber.

Any suggestions how to best roast a turkey in this roaster?

Bruce

BTW, if you cook with a dutch over does that make you an "Iron Chef"? :)

Greg said...

Bruce- The Oval Roasters are great pieces.

My hunch would be to cook the bird covered (and maybe breast side down) at 275 - 300 F until mostly done, and then jack the heat up and uncover it for browning.

Experiment. And be prepared for it to cook faster than you expect.

Greg said...

You will definitely be an iron chef once you perfect the turkey technique.

Anonymous said...

Greg:

My mother just gave me a Wagner Ware dutch oven she acquired from a friend. The oven had the original label in it - Wagner Ware Randall a Textron company - on the bottom it is stamped "Tite-Top Dutch Oven" and "PAT D MAR 16 20" and then an "A". No Griswold or cross as in an earlier post. I don't want to know the value of this piece, as I am going to use it, but I am curious about its age. What can you tell me?

Greg said...

Anonymous - Probably sometime after 1960. I really can't be more precise than that.