The 12 Most Reliable Cast-Iron Skillets You Can Buy
There’s a cast iron solution for every single cooking technique — the trick is knowing which shape, size, and type to use when. Use this list to guide your purchase, and you’ll be passing down these indestructible pans for generations to come.
Best value-priced 12-inch skillet
A cast-iron skillet is considered the workhorse of cookware because it retains and radiates heat, becomes non-stick if seasoned correctly, and is nearly indestructible. “I call cast-iron skillets my desert island pans,” says Lisa McManus, executive editor of the Tastings and Testings department at America’s Test Kitchen. “If I were stranded and could only bring one item, it would be a 12-inch cast-iron pan. This Lodge 12-inch is such a great piece of kitchen equipment, and such a great value at less than $30. Don’t miss these 10 foods you should always cook on a cast-iron skillet.
Best high-end 12-inch skillet
A 12-inch cast-iron skillet is a standard pan size that will allow you to cook a couple of large steaks with enough room to spare—McManus explains that food needs space, or it will steam versus browning. If you’re worried about the high price tag of Le Creuset’s model, think about how that cost breaks down over the decades. “This will last for generations,” she says. “You simply cannot ruin it and it’ll never wear down.”
Best value-priced 10-inch skillet
When you’re cooking for two or in the mood to bake a pie, you’ll want to reach for the Lodge 10.25 cast-iron skillet. “Most pans come pre-seasoned, but will take a little time and effort to become nonstick,” says McManus, who explains that seasoning with vegetable oil creates a shellac-like surface that bonds to the surface of the pan. “When you’re done cooking, remove the food, turn your sink on hot, and use a stiff brush to clean the skillet. Then wipe it with a paper towel, return it to the hot burner, add a couple drops of oil, and let it dry completely.” This version comes with two handles to help carry it safely and two pour spouts. Check out these kitchen gadgets you definitely don’t need.
Best high-end 10-inch skillet
If you enjoy being surrounded by beautiful colors and would rather not fiddle around with the seasoning process, then an enameled pan is the right choice for you. “Enameling creates a glass-like coating, like a glaze on a ceramic pot,” says McManus. “It seals up the iron so it never needs seasoning.” Le Creuset’s 10.25-inch Signature skillet comes with an oversized helper handle and wide pour spouts.
Best pre-seasoned 9-inch skillet
Perfect when cooking a hamburger or grilled cheese for one, a 9-inch pan is a kitchen staple. McManus gives high marks to the Le Creuset Signature 9-inch iron handle skillet, because of its satiny-smooth interior that keeps scrambled eggs from sticking and its ability to produce a cornbread that’s golden brown all over. Plus, it’s lighter in weight and therefore easier to maneuver than larger skillets and the enameled interior means no additional seasoning is needed. Feeling hungry? Don’t miss these 17 breads you can make in a cast-iron skillet.
Best high-end square grill pan
When Chef Jeff Osaka, owner of [email protected], Sushi-Rama, and Osaka Ramen in Denver, needs a pan he can trust to sear and caramelize, he chooses Le Creuset’s square skillet grill pan. With raised ribs that will leave perfect grill marks while also draining away excess fat, and a black enamel finish inside that means you won’t have to worry about seasoning your cast iron, it’s the go-to indoor grilling option.
Best camp cooker
“Their entire line is great for any application,” says Osaka, “but I particularly love their pre-seasoned camp Dutch oven. It’s all-purpose and great for baking bread, stews, and more.” Its three sturdy legs keep the pot at the perfect distance from hot coals, and the lid inverts for use as a griddle to make a nice hot breakfast of eggs and bacon after a night of sleeping under the stars.
Best enameled grill pan with press
Do you love paninis but hate the idea of purchasing a stand-alone electric panini press because it’s just a one-trick pony? Then you need to add a Marquette Castings enameled grill pan with press to your kitchen pronto—it’s versatile (can be used for burgers, shrimp on skewers, chicken breasts, and pork), allows you to grill indoors when the weather outside isn’t cooperating, and you can preheat the lid on its own burner to more effectively grill from both sides simultaneously. While some pans don’t have tall enough grill bumps to adequately keep the food from touching the bottom of the pan, Marquette Castings’ grill bumps stand a bit taller to keep your food out of the cooked-off fat. These are 15 of those most popular kitchen gadgets on Amazon.
Best Dutch oven
McManus is a big fan of cooking soups and stews in an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, but she also uses it to deep fry chicken and make French fries. “You don’t need an electric deep fryer when you have a Dutch oven,” she says. “Just clip a candy thermometer onto the side. Another benefit is that since cast iron retains heat, the temperature won’t dip when food is added.” The Le Creuset Signature Enameled 4.5 Quart Round Dutch Oven comes in a variety of stunning colors to match any kitchen décor and has 45 percent larger handles, which will help you grasp them while wearing oven mitts. Check out these secret uses for ordinary kitchen objects.
Best reversible enameled griddle
If the kitchen isn’t really your calling, and you’re more at home in front of the grill, then you can still enjoy the wonders of cast iron cooking with a Marquette Castings reversible griddle. Its rectangular design has one flat, smooth surface while the other side features rounded grill bumps. Of course, it also works in the oven (up to 500 degrees) and on top of any gas or electric stove, covering two burners. This bad boy is super heavy, weighing in at 16 pounds, so you’ll be thankful for the double handles.