Friday, December 27, 2013

A Roasting Pan Like Grandma's: Wagner Magnalite

I received a vintage roasting pan for Christmas from The Man of the House (who was also a beneficiary of the ham I baked therein).  

Yesterday I posted a photo of it on the Facebook page of Dusty Old Thing.  

This morning I awoke early to the notification system of my cell phone, a continuous tiny buzzing and fooping sound, telling me that Facebook was forwarding comments from other Dusty Old Thing readers about how much they love their old cookware.  Nearly 500 people (and counting) have chimed in on the subject of the Wagner Magnalite pan.

Guess I better put it on the blog too.....

The genesis of the story is as follows:  At Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law told me the story of one of her roasting pans.  It had come from the estate of her mother-in-law, who had purchased it new from a door-to-door salesman in the 1930s.  Grandma had always used it to cook pot roast, I learned.  

I do love to use old things to cook with.  My little kitchen is packed with RevereWare and Pyrex and Fire King, old cutlery and flatware.  

I looked on the bottom of the pan and saw the faded words  

Wagner Ware 

And below them


That sent me to the computer to look up the history of the company.  And what in the world is Magnalite?

The American Culinary website gives some of the history:

Matthew and Marvin Griswold first manufactured articles of light hardware but are credited with making the firm a leader in the manufacture of cast iron cookware. Roger Griswold foresaw electricity as an ideal heat source and developed the first complete electric commercial cookware line in Erie, Pennsylvania, USA.

Bernard and Milton Wagner first manufactured metal castings of light hardware for general stores and tin hollowware for government contract work. They are credited as the original and first to cast iron for cookware and holloware in Sidney, Ohio, USA and WagnerWare was born.

William and Louis Wagner joined the partnership and they built the first and most modern cookware manufacturing facility of the time. The Wagner brothers were pioneers and the first in America to cast aluminum and iron cookware. As sole manufacturers of WagnerWare, they won top honors at the Chicago, Nashville, Paris, Buffalo and St. Louis Exposition and further acknowledged at the Panama-Pacific International Expo. in San Francisco, California as the finest aluminum ware in the World.

Wagner created a chemistry of blended metal and named it Magnalite. They retain, John Gordon Rideout who along with Frank Lloyd Wright, were original Fellows of the Society of Design Engineers, and proponents of the design philosophy "form follows function." This unique vessel design and mission style handle gave birth to this respected American Classic.

A buyer's guide to Magnalite on eBay provides details on the metal itself:

Magnalite by Wagner was hand poured and cast in Sidney, Ohio (1934 - 1999). It is considered to be some of the finest American made cookware ever produced. Genuine Magnalite cookware is in high demand by collectors and daily users, alike.

From an Original Magnalite Care and Use Instructions Booklet...  "Magnalite [cookware] is made from aluminum and a special magnesium alloy which is an excellent heat conductor and reacts well to change in temperature, it is 'cast as thick as two silver dollars' and 'cooks food from all sides-it's like having an oven on top of your range (heat radiates from every part of Magnalite not from the bottom only).  Can be taken from refrigerator to the oven."

As long as I was on eBay, I noticed that there were several dozen Magnalite roasting pans for sale.  

And Christmas was coming!

That was enough for me.  I told "Santa" about his grandmother's pot roast pan and provided some directions about how he might acquire a similar one.   

By Christmas morning, a big box was under the tree.  I opened it and took my new, old pan to the kitchen.

The pan even had a trivet, on which to rest the roast.

By Christmas afternoon, the ham was on the trivet in the pan in the oven:

Christmas dinner was assured, with the promise of split pea and ham soup to come.

(Magnalite brand cookware is still being made, by the modern incarnation of the same company.  It is also being faked in a country overseas, so be careful if you decide you need to have one of these pans.)

The Dusty Old Thing website is here:

And the Facebook page is here:

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