A cast iron skillet is one of the most versatile pans you can buy. It can be used for almost everything, from getting a good sear on meat and popping it in the oven, to making a frittata. Cast iron is popular among chefs because it heats and cooks evenly, can reach high temperatures, and holds temperature well.
of the best things about cast iron is its ability to get better with
time. When cared for properly, the patina (the cast iron code for
"nonstick") improves and you don’t need to add any cooking oils to the
pan. While some people believe maintaining and cleaning cast iron is difficult, but it's actually quite simple. It can last a lifetime if cared for properly — one brand we feature even offers a 100-year warranty.
We, in the Just Cooking Institute, have been testing cookware for decades, from stainless steel cookware sets to nonstick pans and of course, cast iron skillets. When we test, we evaluate performance and ease of use through a set of tests that determine how evenly they heat, how well they maintain temperature, and how easy they are to handle and wash. We also considered useful features, like helper handles which make the pan easier to hold and move around, as well as pour spouts that allow for the easy removal of grease build up. Our picks for best cast iron skillets are:
- Best Overall Cast Iron Skillet: Lodge 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
- Best Value Cast Iron Skillet: Utopia Kitchen 12.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
- Best Lightweight Cast Iron Skillet: Field Skillet No. 10 Cast Iron Skillet
- Longest Lasting Cast Iron Skillet: Butter Pat Heather 10-Inch Skillet
- Best Vintage Cast Iron Skillet: Stargazer 10.5-Inch Skillet
- Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillet: Le Creuset Cast Iron 10 1/4-Inch Skillet
- Best Oversized Cast Iron Skillet: Amazon Basics 15-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
Whether you’re a beginner or a professional chef, there’s a cast iron skillet for everyone. Our favorites feature traditional cast iron skillets, as well as ones that are pre-seasoned and others that are enameled and easier to clean. They also include a combination of cast iron skillets we tested, used in our own homes, and stood out from brands we’ve used and trust.
In addition to being a great value, Lodge cast iron pans are made to last. The company was founded in 1896 and continues to make high quality cookware and accessories in the United States. Their 10.25-inch cast iron skillet arrives pre-seasoned so you can start cooking right away. The pan heats very evenly, making it one of our favorites for cooking larger batches of food without fear of the center overheating or the edges being too cool. We also like the short handle, which makes moving it on and off the burner easy, in addition to its relatively lightweight (4.29 pounds). This pick comes with a red silicone handle protector, to help keep the handle cool, but you can pick from a couple of colors and materials on Amazon. Lodge makes a very wide variety of cast iron pots of pans, many of which we've used and recommend. The 8-inch is one of our favorites for cooking single portions and finishing in the toaster oven, while the combo cooker is a great value for someone who wants a skillet and a pot. We're also fans of the reversible grill, which makes grilling indoors possible.
- Comes pre-seasoned
- Short handle makes for easy maneuverability
- Weighs under 5 pounds
With a helper handle, two pouring spouts, and a 12.5-inch diameter, Utopia's pre-seasoned cast iron pan is hard to beat when it comes to price and function. Although reviewers say they still needed to season it before using for the first time, it's a solid choice for newbies who don't want to spend a ton on a more stylish or smoother finished pan. You will need some arm-strength though; this pan weighs a hefty 8 pounds.
- Two pouring spouts and helper handle
- Weighs a hefty 8 pounds
The Field cast iron skillet, at 4.3 pounds was the lightest 10-inch skillet we reviewed. It has a simple yet elegant design, and its ergonomic handle was one of the most comfortable. It doesn't have pouring spouts but it does have a helper handle, and its lighter weight makes it easier to pour from. These American-made pans come with a smooth surface, pre-seasoned with two coats of grapeseed oil to make them immediately nonstick. Field Company's website helps guide you to the right pan size using helpful illustrations and contains a collection of recipes that will keep you coming back.
- Lightest 10-inch skillet we've found
- Ergonomic, comfortable handle
Butterpat's American-made cast iron skillets are true collector's items. Each pan is handcast and designed to have a smooth polished surface that's nonstick right out of the box. It also has thin walls, which help make the pan lighter than competitors. At 4.8 pounds, the 10-inch pan was one of the lightest pans we tested. It's also the most expensive pan we tested, but with a 100-year warranty, it's destined to become a family heirloom. In our tests, we liked the short handle that allowed us to get a firm grip on the pan without hurting our wrists — just don't forget to use oven mitts.
- 100-year warranty
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver
The thin walls and smooth cooking
surface on the Stargazer 10.5-inch compare to vintage cast iron
skillets of the past. It also has a beautiful stamped logo on the
underside, which adds to its charm. The high sloping walls
make it easier to toss than most, and the flared rim helps make pouring
easier from any angle. In our tests, the forked handle, designed to stay
cool, was a little hard to grip, but the helper handle helped. The
pans are made in the USA and pair quality with affordability.
- Thin walls and smooth cooking surface
- High, sloping edges are easy to cook with
If the care of a traditional cast iron pan puts you off, Le Creuset makes timeless enameled cast iron skillets in an array of colors. The enamel helps prevent sticking and makes it easy to clean. (The pans are also dishwasher-safe, but we still recommend hand-washing to help maintain its longevity.) Another pro of enamel is you don't have to worry about cooking acidic foods that some say react negatively with cast iron. One con is the nonstick properties will diminish over time and the coating can crack or chip, so you shouldn't be too rough with it.
- Enamel makes cleaning much easier
- Many color options
- Nonstick properties will diminish over time
- No patina
When size is everything, rest your eyes on AmazonBasics 15-inch cast iron skillet. Reviewers claim it's even bigger than they thought it would be, but that sounds like a good thing if you're searching for something larger than your traditional 10-inch. The pan doesn't come with the same smooth finish that a higher-end pan does but at under $40, it's an excellent value for the size and will comfortably cook a couple of rib-eyes or a whole chicken.
- Large area is perfect for family meals
- Excellent value
- Finish isn't as smooth as other picks
To tell if a cast iron is good, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. Here, our pros’ advice.
Size: Cast iron pans are measured in diameter. A guide to finding the right one for you:
- 8 inches and under: Smaller sizes are good for single-serve meals. You can pop them right into the toaster oven without having to power up your entire stove or oven.
- 10 inches: This is the most popular size cast iron skillet. They can handle one to two steaks at a time, or up to four chicken thighs, ideal for a family of four. They’re also a medium weight, so you won’t struggle when moving them from the range to the oven.
- 11 inches and above: Larger sizes are good for a crowd or for batch cooking. The tradeoff is that they can get quite heavy, so make sure you’re able to lift it, even with the added weight of a full meal inside.
Shape: A rounded skillet is the most popular and versatile pan shape for most cooking needs like searing and braising. For stews, soups, of Dutch babies, you may want to opt for a deeper shape like a Dutch oven.
Features: Beyond size and shape, there are design considerations that can make all the difference in your cooking experience. Here's what to consider:
- Helper handles (a small handle opposite the main handle) are extremely useful since cast iron cookware has a tendency to get quite heavy. This makes lifting and storing pans easier. You’ll especially want to prioritize these on larger or heavier pans.
- Pour spouts are ideal to have on both sides. These lips make pouring grease out during cooking easier which promotes browned, crispy, seared food. Spouts are also useful for making a sauce right in the pan and easily pouring over your food.
- Edges: Look for edges that slope outward slightly instead of straight edges you might find on a saucepan. This shape allows for more airflow which makes for a crispier finish and better sear.
Enameled vs. non-enameled: Enameled cast iron pans are much easier to clean and don’t need to be seasoned. If you hate the idea of keeping cast iron clean, enameled might be your best bet. Keep in mind, though, that a huge appeal of cast iron is that it gains a patina over time: Patina is a buildup of natural fats and grease that creates a nonstick coating and imparts fantastic flavor to food (which is why cast iron is known to get better with age). You won’t get a patina from enameled cast-iron since it has a finished surface.