The history behind magnalite cookware is quite an interesting history. Possibly one of the most interesting out of all the cookware brands.
Magnalite cookware is a type of aluminum cookware. It was created in 1919 by Alcoa and then sold to World Kitchen, Inc. for $230 million dollars in 2007.
The first version of Magnalite called WagnerWare was originally introduced under a Wagner Ware partnership with Aluminum Specialty Company, and then later became the Magnalite brand when it was sold to American Sales corporation.
The company used the name “Magnalite” as it combined “magnesium” and “aluminum”.
Many people are unsure if Magnalite cookware is still being produced today or not because it has been over 10 years since they were sold to World Kitchen, Inc.
However, I found an answer from a source stating that they still produce the cookware. It is not clear if it has been under the Magnalite brand or not because it was sold in 2007.
Since the mid-1900s, there has been several pieces of foreign made counterfeit cookware that falsely claims to be Magnalite. Even more shocking that a company with the reputation and status of Corning Ware can be a source of these counterfeits. It’s also frustrating to know that the counterfeits do not fit any original Corning Ware pieces.
The Magnalite cookware line includes everything from stove top to oven and roasting pans, in various sizes and shapes. You can see the difference between them and cheaper, lighter versions of cookware, right off the bat, without even handling the pots and pans.
What makes Magnalite stand out from other cast iron cookware?
Iron is the material of choice for professional chefs and competitors due to its high heat retention characteristics. The Magnalite team, however, wanted to make a difference on a more fundamental level. They wanted something better for you – the consumer – from every angle. Their core philosophy is to make a cast iron cookware that’s healthy for the home and heart.
If you are interested in a set of quality cast iron cookware, Magnalite is one of the top brands to consider. The company was founded in 1945 to answer the demand for a superior cast iron skillet. Magnalite cookware is tough, durable, and looks modern. It can be used on conventional stoves as well as glass-topped ranges. However, this brand is quite expensive, so if you’re looking for a bargain, you should consider Magnalite copycat brands.
Magnalite is crafted from aluminum that has been oxidized under a controlled heat environment resulting to its unique dark-gray cast. The pots and pans are then electrostatically coated and finished with a special graphite thermal coating that provides fast, even heat distribution, making cooking with Magnalite equally enjoyable as cooking good food itself.
Magnalite ranges from $100 to $300. It’s similar to All-Clad. The pots and pans are made of copper, aluminum, and other materials. The quality is superior.
There are certain types of cookware that inspire an almost religious devotion among people for whom the kitchen is a sacred space. There are the believers in the magic of copper pots and pans. There are those who swear up and down by ceramic cooking vessels. There are the collectors of cast-iron cookware. And then there are perhaps the most devoted of all: the disciples of Magnalite® cookware.
The Magnalite History
Magnalite fandom has been an American tradition for more than 85 years, ever since the Wagner Manufacturing Company of Sidney, Ohio, poured the first cast for WagnerWare Magnalite (Magnalite, for short) in 1934. Made of a unique, durable aluminum and magnesium alloy, these shiny silver kitchen tools have a denser base and thinner sides than most of their cookware counterparts, allowing the pots and pans to first heat more evenly, then distribute that heat faster during the cooking process. (“A cast as thick as two silver dollars!” claims an original Magnalite instruction manual.) Magnalite lids also sport a vapor-tight seal, ensuring that the utmost amount of moisture is retained. Plus, Magnalite cookware can go from stovetop to oven – and refrigerator to stovetop – without missing a beat. Perhaps the most iconic of all the Magnalite pieces is the oval-shaped roaster, a pot that resembles a very stout rocket ship or chunky UFO and is the preferred gumbo-making vessel for many a grand-mère (that’s grandma, Cajun style) across South Louisiana.
A Beloved Connection to South Louisiana
Home cooks across the South – and in particular, Louisiana’s Cajun country – have a soft spot for Magnalite, and sets of the cookware are treasured family heirlooms passed down through generations. Chatty praise of Magnalite can be found everywhere in the South Louisiana online orbit, from local Facebook trading groups in Lafayette to Louisiana State University football message boards, where one poster recently gushed, “What a great cooking utensil! By far the best overall pots ever!” In an interview with Serious Eats about the “everyday sacred” ritual of making gumbo, Cajun cook and photographer Pableaux Johnson describes the comforting scene in his kitchen – one that is typical across Louisiana – featuring Pableaux’s own Turkey Bone Gumbo recipe simmering on the stove in “the oversize Magnalite roaster that’s gingerly straddling two pulsing blue gas jets.”
Photo by Chris Granger. Pableaux Johnson of New Orleans makes gumbo for Serious Eats.
Professional chefs in Louisiana also swear by the cookware, particularly a line of sturdy, professional-grade Magnalite that was introduced in the 1970s. Cajun Chef John Folse’s cookbooks and recipes mention it repeatedly by name. A Magnalite pot used by legendary New Orleans chef Leah Chase is now on permanent display at the National Museum of African American Heritage and Culture in Washington, D.C. And Brenda Placide – the beloved chef-owner of Brenda’s Diner in New Iberia, Louisiana – in an interview with The New Iberian, recalls when actor Tommy Lee Jones asked her to come cook for him in Dallas: “I told him ‘Tommy Lee, I’d need to cook with my Magnalite pot, but I’m not driving and it is too heavy to carry on the plane. They won’t let me on with all my pots.’ He told he was going to send his chauffeur to pick me up.” Now that’s devotion to Magnalite.
A Cajun Heirloom in Uptown New Orleans
This devotion is endearingly evident in the kitchen of New Orleans Chef Melissa Martin, a native of Terrebonne Parish (in the heart of Cajun country) who inherited and regularly uses her grandmother’s well-worn and beloved Magnalite soup pot. In her cookbook, Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes From a Disappearing Bayou, she explains that she kept this pot sitting on her stove for years “as a bit of comfort and a beautiful reminder of so many delicious meals” – and, we might add, many more meals to come. She shares the Cajun culinary traditions she learned from the women of her family at her restaurant, the Mosquito Supper Club, where she serves up platters of fresh Cajun food family-style to small groups of diners in a repurposed historic home in Uptown New Orleans. She uses her Magnalite pot to make her Monday’s Red Beans and Mosquito Supper Club White Beans recipes, both of which can be found in her cookbook.
Chef Melissa’s Magnalite soup pot, inherited from her grandmother. Excerpted from Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photograph by Denny Culbert.
Cooking Gumbo and Beyond
A big gumbo might be the first dish many people think of when someone whips out a Magnalite roaster, but these are kitchen tools that can cook just about anything: from pinto beans with ham hock, to catfish sauce piquante, to shrimp jambalaya, to red beans and rice. Magnalite is well known for its ability to both sear meat and help ingredients and flavors naturally mingle, which makes it a natural for dishes like white beans with sausage, smothered pork chops and a big pot of jambalaya. Some would argue that there are few things that a Magnalite vessel can’t do.
Keeping it Clean
Like any beloved kitchen tool, Magnalite also has a legendary list of “best practices” for keeping the pots in tip-top, shiny shape. One Magnalite owner’s grandmother swore by cleaning the pots first with a healthy rinse of Coca-Cola, then scrubbing with lemons. Another Magnalite fan agrees that the Coke-and-lemon process works, but that a person should add in a good overnight soak in water to keep the pots and pans looking like new. An instructional YouTube video for how to properly “season” a Magnalite pot uses tissue paper to spread oil around as a conditioner, noting that using paper towels can leave small fibers behind. “I love my Magnalite pot, and I can’t wait to get a second,” the YouTube instructor professes at the video’s end. The attention to detail when caring for Magnalite is almost reverent.
Today, new Magnalite is no longer produced by the Wagner Company or manufactured in the United States. If you weren’t lucky enough to inherit a set of Magnalite from your family, you can join the many Magnalite purists who seek out the original (and, in their minds, better) versions at flea markets, garage sales and trade shows. Etsy and eBay also offer a treasure trove of old-school Magnalite items for sale, with prices ranging somewhere between $60 and $150 depending on the item and just how covetable it is. There’s also a Mamou, Louisiana-based company, McWare, which produces cooking vessels that are decidedly similar to Magnalite – same aluminum build, comparable oval roaster shape, for a similar price point. Are they all worth it? That’s for each individual cook to decide, but one thing is for sure: a perfect pot of red beans is priceless.