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Cold handle frying pans, they’re still out there.

On the weekend we were finally released from our dog minding, kid sitting commitments. It always feels so self-indulgent, to gather the threads of family in, weaving a warm sense of self, strengthening the bonds of familial love, and getting all cozy with it. But equally, there is a sense of newfound freedom when they all go home, to their homes, leaving our own grandma and grandpa home blissfully quiet. Know what I mean? Waking up on a lazy Sunday morning without any things to do left on the must do list felt like the first day of summer holidays. So I suggested a day out, knowing that's exactly what would make her happy. "How about an afternoon in the Waterford Antique Market? I know you'll find something you'll like."
And I did, er, rather, we did.



She showed me some small cute items, perfect for our young granddaughter's first Easter. While she cooed over them, I wandered off in search of my own treasures. Amongst a pile of Indigenous related books I found (and bought) The Lonely Land by Sigurd Olsen. This will replace the same title my brother borrowed some years back, a collection I'd started of Sigurd Olsen which he took an interest to. He later said he'd read them aloud to his wife while they sat in front of an evening fire. That made it hard for me to feel cranky about his tardiness in returning them. That, and his having given me 2 cold handled fry pans. Speaking of which, there, hanging from a hook, I found an enameled fry pan. It's handle looked similar to a cold handle, which puzzled me. Lifting it, I found it to be fairly light, but solid, and in very good condition. But the bottom had a sizeable bare patch where the enamel had worn off. I replaced it back on it's hook and have been thinking about that pan ever since. I wonder how hard it would be to remove the enameled layer just from the bottom, where I need it the least IMO. I imagine it serves as an aesthetic stick-free surface. Any ideas?
Another find that I left behind, was a nice old hatchet. The hickory handle is aged but otherwise perfect. Strangely, the head looks a little small in proportion. I expect it was refitted. The butt ends of wooden matchsticks sticking out from beneath the head tells me it wouldn't be too difficult to rescue both head and handle without too much trouble, and refitting them. Or, as this crazy old man thinks, setting a new head to one, and a new handle to the other, resulting in two new/old hatchets! A two-fer!!
Yeah, I think we've got to go back antique hunting on our next day of lazy day freedom.
 
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Enamel works fine over a fire. It was applied with heat in the manufacturing process so, theoretically could melt off if hot enough (1300*F on a wood fire?) but I have consistently used my enamelled plates as frying pans and mugs as pots with no damage.

Why bother removing the rest of the enamel from the bottom of the pan? It may eventually fall off in use.
 
I like old dishes, especially this kind of camping, I can immediately smell the campfire.
 
Now that I've cleaned and seasoned my 8" Cold Handel and Nationals , I'll really watch @ The Rutlige Flea market in Missouri this year for bigger ones .
 
Enamel works fine over a fire. It was applied with heat in the manufacturing process so, theoretically could melt off if hot enough (1300*F on a wood fire?) but I have consistently used my enamelled plates as frying pans and mugs as pots with no damage.

Why bother removing the rest of the enamel from the bottom of the pan? It may eventually fall off in use.
Unfortunately that pan was gone when I went back the very next day. I snooze so...
In this part of the world cold handles are a rarity.
 
I'm slowly working on a set of enamel cookware. I've got a couple of coffee pots, 2 pans, and a bunch of coffee cups, and on the lookout for the plates. It's a little too Patricia J. Bell but I thought I might try it.
 
I had never heard of cold handle frying pans, and asked a question about them in this thread. Specifically, why does the handle stay cold? Based on that, Sweeper generously sent me a cold handle frying pan, which I learned is made of carbon steel, which is much lighter than cast iron. Below is an image of the pan when it arrived. Needed cleaning and seasoning.

C0C8E376-5399-4B15-BEF7-D935CE0ABD85.jpeg

Based on advice in youtube videos, I soaked the pan in a mixture of half vinegar/half water, and then scrubbed with various grits of sandpaper and steel wool, with some baking soda to counter the acid in the vinegar. Below is what I achieved after several sessions. But I couldn’t get rid of the blackened pits.

6C620A2B-7F92-46E4-9748-F3CC56E837C8.jpeg

I contacted Robin, who suggested soaking the pan in a mixture of boiling vinegar/water. Kathleen and I simmered it on the stove for thirty minutes, and then scoured with an S.O.S. pad to achieve the following results. We were happy.


198B3908-3E17-4007-AD54-625104CC3303.jpeg

Then we started adding thin layers of canola oil to season, getting the following results. I kinda liked the shiny pan better.


E1605E2E-7B14-450A-BFC7-F4F3936F602D.jpeg
Then Kathleen fried up some bacon, which added another layer of sasoning.

57DB0067-9A31-49E9-BFFB-6FB4E19B20D9.jpeg

But the true test came yesterday when we headed to the hot tent to prepare supper.

4A085DB5-91DF-4F51-8783-52D5EC112390.jpeg



First we fried a mixture of sliced potatoes, onions and red peppers for 15 minutes.

5E8B6ADD-3115-42E9-949A-A8035247F904.jpeg


Then I added some moose sausage given to us by Kathleen’s Polish Priest, who is an avid hunter.

3DC584E8-259B-4EDA-BDF5-D24C950F8FD6.jpeg

Then I lazily stirred, while enjoying the beautiful heat of the hot tent.

00675892-A90F-40C1-BFFC-8177C3C91305.jpeg

Thanks for the experience, Sweeper. My only disappointment was the the handle was too hot to pick up bare handed. There was virtually no air gap between the skillet handle and the added handle. Perhaps it had been crimped too tightly. Are all carbon steel skillets also cold handle skillets?
 

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I do own one cold handled pan that I piicked up at a flea market a few years ago. Once it was cleaned up (I watched a Dave Canterbury video on YouTube to learn the process), it's been great. Last month I was in VT on my way to a winter living history event when I passed by an indoor shop that hosts many vendors. Since I had the time, I stopped in to see what I might find. Lo and behold, there were a few cold handled pans but they were all covered in enamel. Not knowing how that would effect the pan, I left them there.

So, the $64,000.00 question is does the enamel adversely affect the pan? Are they still no-stick if treated? Will the heat distribution be even with the enamel coating? I'm pretty sure those pans will be there when I go by again in May and, if the crowd thinks them worthy, I'll stop by. What I liked is a couple of them were smaller pans (mine is 10" across) which would fit my needs better than the larger pan most of the time.

That's all for now. Take care, thanks for any information you can share and until next time...be well.

snapper
 
Great post, really nice job on the photography to illustrate the process.
I have some carbon fry pans that the handles are a single piece of metal.
I have been seasoning my reconditioned pans with many thin coats flaxseed oil, that are baked on in a real hot oven. Liked so much that the outside of the pan gets a couple of coat too.
 
My only disappointment was the the handle was too hot to pick up bare handed.

😯 So is the "cold handle" handle really fake handle news? I'm the world's worst and least experienced cook, but I like wood handle fry pans. They are comfortable to hold, lightweight, and don't conduct heat.
 
Are all carbon steel skillets also cold handle skillets?
Not all carbon steel skillets are cold handles. I use a carbon steel at home that has a rolled handle (rather than the additional wrapped "cover" that cold handles have. Weight-wise, it tips the scales well below the weight of cast iron but about double what a similarly-sized cold handle weighs. I carried it along on my BWCA trip but I've been watching for a nice-sized cold handle for future trips and I think I've found a source.

fCKXFmvyZ9dfQFUkHWTNTI57uCuy2krPzJxSPS0qEHnfYrip8oHC5rlkeCpWBrKTLAZYx5gftkEXDzBnM0rKnh2K_CarBGT6eiiGml9XpkQOOMt6RGxREppmj_2cXIU_2MSXSENCpd09hjUZkh3PbSI8VqXuxEpWyIRlu-cI8lnHrfkkv62N6WHd_OBakukOW3IyiEtSt4-dyjDFAC4xhjNQ4sZ0UFHyxSOX3nywHSDmlVSz_wrS4smykMvevekWMqWOgBFzKsZJQLbw1jqtwze-YrMum7R5ImoqHLA6npEYf_lFGH3209EeBf0SuJYkY2jC3nKovU_l_jIo0o5dYvh546LUXG4yr19SHxUg8dT1zxJKXJL_PRSdYimqVLqm7_JOGaELe_ZdwTBHLVXWoJExZHBGn9yTd2Ioox5ld8DaXqzlnzCoHRjJlEn9fZpycCucbhCGTmraUULDYjI43DBoUDUAA_TNtnAg3GXyEUXLmtd5R3icqnGXFNVKrhwdE5qTqUqH6xgO1Fucyq9wg9Mvv7wMYqTzWheQ4chPGdlSOgwJzlNI0kz_RVp78QciXE28lOCVe49_32xTqlA5E35x09dZAck6kjkFP-T1-o6tjN74b1T0umoKkC9X75Z2JYOwVBZBtD_0VRP8nBfRzx-0lkgw8pGPfVnAEWtdhaY1wwV1JpMP8myIQokih3gNLrP01TTsX4l3jw7LsKo3kEdV9zBPwVB3tILWI1RWuG6MO90chCKN8MnlCm0R00TRryyASqIc-C4V90RMq_U1nRtsUJ2fJqJMXV6JTxPxe_DgszDkfaHLODAWgSHU9BhrPNOzHp8uyKbBO_s9zsZHSCN6PHd8l8O4wGOq5qaPfIBgHC396Km22Ip9xU2HzepvO1oH1XDIGWPTH0Dj8YYk5zp7Q76wJ-N7Q_6i5fhdNA7bUg=w1204-h903-no

You can see the rolled handle here. I'll post pictures of the "new" skillets tomorrow if they pan out. ;)
 
I wonder Michael if you over heated the pan on that woodstove? These pans are pretty thin making for fast heat transfer. Those handles don't look over crimped and flattened from where I am sitting (waiting for some of that moose stew).
The dings and dents in my pan bottoms don't make for a perfect surface fit on our glass top kitchen stove, so my CH pans are relegated to campfires only. All have been seasoned but only the darker one has seen canoe tripping action so far.
Thanks for the update Michael, Kathleen and Sweeper.
cold-handles-jpg.133402
 
You might be right, Odyssey, about overheating on the wood stove. When we were seasoning on our kitchen stove, we could hold the handle, even the the skillet itself was too hot to touch. I think we’ll try the pan on a campfire when the weather warms up.
 
I've been searching flea markets and so forth but a local friend who does house clean-outs informed me that, at least in this area, I should be asking for "cowboy skillets" and looking in antique shops.

My work schedule allowed for some rummaging today and I scored 4 of them: 2 Acmes which seem to have longer handles and 2 others with no name; just numbers. All were in to 7-10 inch range and 3 of the 4 were already seasoned to the point I see no need to strip and re-season them. I bought the 2 slightly dented ones in the first shop and then found 2 nearly perfect ones in the 4th shop. I bought all for an average of $15 but passed up a couple that were over-priced ($65 for a 14 inch was, I thought, just a bit too pricey for a skillet that was too large for my needs any way.

Today's haul: IMG_20230306_111001857.jpg
 
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They are out there at a wide range of prices, you just have to do the leg work. Just don't call them 'Antique Cowboy Skillets'. $15 is a good price for them, I paid $20 for a 14".
A while back we were at a shop, I was waiting at the register for my wife when a guy walked in with a 6" pan and started talking to one of the workers inquiring if she had any of them. I told him they didn't have one because that was the first thing I check for here, Pans, Lighting, and then up to sporting goods to check there. He told me I was the first person he met that knew what the pan was. We talked about them and the backcountry until my wife showed up.
 
I had never heard of cold handle frying pans, and asked a question about them in this thread. Specifically, why does the handle stay cold? Based on that, Sweeper generously sent me a cold handle frying pan, which I learned is made of carbon steel, which is much lighter than cast iron. Below is an image of the pan when it arrived. Needed cleaning and seasoning.

View attachment 134870

Based on advice in youtube videos, I soaked the pan in a mixture of half vinegar/half water, and then scrubbed with various grits of sandpaper and steel wool, with some baking soda to counter the acid in the vinegar. Below is what I achieved after several sessions. But I couldn’t get rid of the blackened pits.

View attachment 134871

I contacted Robin, who suggested soaking the pan in a mixture of boiling vinegar/water. Kathleen and I simmered it on the stove for thirty minutes, and then scoured with an S.O.S. pad to achieve the following results. We were happy.


View attachment 134872

Then we started adding thin layers of canola oil to season, getting the following results. I kinda liked the shiny pan better.


View attachment 134873
Then Kathleen fried up some bacon, which added another layer of sasoning.

View attachment 134874

But the true test came yesterday when we headed to the hot tent to prepare supper.

View attachment 134875



First we fried a mixture of sliced potatoes, onions and red peppers for 15 minutes.

View attachment 134877


Then I added some moose sausage given to us by Kathleen’s Polish Priest, who is an avid hunter.

View attachment 134879

Then I lazily stirred, while enjoying the beautiful heat of the hot tent.

View attachment 134881

Thanks for the experience, Sweeper. My only disappointment was the the handle was too hot to pick up bare handed. There was virtually no air gap between the skillet handle and the added handle. Perhaps it had been crimped too tightly. Are all carbon steel skillets also cold handle skillets?
Michael, the heat coming off the side of the stove could be enough to get the handle hot, especially when the pan was not on the edge like in that one photo. I don't think you'd have a problem if you put the pan on the stove with the handle over the stove door.
 
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