What’s Cooking with Grey Iron Castings

by Breana Cronk, IQS Editor

In an age of the latest and greatest in cooking technology, many chefs are making a surprising switch to one of the oldest cooking materials in the books. Cast iron pots, pans, skillets, kettles and more are often preferred to new specially formulated instruments in professional kitchens. Often more economical in the long run, durable cast iron cookware even add an extra something to every dish they help prepare. Chefs, food critics and researchers alike have long noted the benefits of this versatile material in the arenas of both health and taste. The advantages do not end at the dinner table, however, as is evidenced by the continued use of grey iron castings in the industrial sector for an ever expanding line of products.

Photos courtesy of Mabry Castings Ltd.

Constructing grey iron castings is not altogether dissimilar from the meals they are often used to create. Iron foundries, like any good chef must have a strong understanding of the basic recipe for iron castings. Grey iron is an alloy of the chemical element iron. As such, iron composes about 95% of the material with an additional 2 to 4% being carbon and 1 to 3% silicon. After the materials are heated to a molten state, they are cast using one of many methods. Green sand casting and die casting are two of the most popular techniques as they are relatively inexpensive and extremely versatile. Once filled, the die or preformed molds are cooled. Cooling at a precise rate bestows specific physical and mechanical properties in the casting. The process also results in the formation of graphitic flakes or nodules which give the castings their namesake color.

Photo courtesy of Mabry Castings Ltd.

This basic knowledge is integral to successfully manufacturing any grey iron product. Highly skilled foundry workers, much like a great chef, however, know not only the recipe from the book, but how to tweak it and make it work for them, or more importantly for their clients. Grey iron is not one specific alloy, but a family of iron alloys. Castings may contain fractional amounts of additional elements which, when added to the mix, significantly impact properties such as malleability, corrosion and wear resistance, oxidation resistance, compressive and tensile strength, hardness, energy dissipation and thermal conductivity. Ductile iron castings for example include between 0.1 and 0.5% manganese and even lesser amounts of sulfur and phosphorus, small changes which result in a tremendous improvements in the flexibility and damping qualities of the finished product.

Photos courtesy of Mabry Castings Ltd.

Finished grey castings are extremely diverse due to minor changes to both composition and processing. As a result, the clientele of any given foundry can range incredibly. In addition to the popularity of grey cast iron cookware, the material is widely used in a plethora of residential, commercial and industrial capacities. Grey iron castings are widely popular and used to construct engine blocks and cylinders, braces, structural beams, architectural arches and columns, furniture, hardware, grates, pipes, decorative ornaments and even entire bridges. Like any good kitchen, however, the grey cast iron industry continually strives towards improved and innovative was to serve its patrons.

Photos courtesy of Mabry Castings Ltd.

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