Reader Lara asks if it’s true that old cast iron pans are better than new ones. I think the answer is that old cast iron is marginally better. Why? Because pans made before about the 1960’s were polished after they were cast. That gave the surfaces a much smoother finish than the unpolished cast iron pans you find in hardware stores today. The cooking surfaces on new pans are more uneven and pitted as manufacturers have abandoned the expensive polishing step.
That said, good seasoning, or steady seasoning that comes with use, can make up for that deficiency by evening out the bumps and creating a slick surface. I’m lucky in that most of my cast iron is old, though I have a couple of newer pieces that also work great. It’s all about the use. Some hard cores buy new pieces and sand the surfaces down with coarse steel wool before they season them. That’s always an option, though generally I’d rather just start cooking. Thanks Lara!