Why You Should Probably Have A Cast Iron Skillet — & The Best Ones To Buy

Shakshouka (spicy tomato stew with chicken eggs) with feta cheese - traditional dish of israeli cuisine in a black cast iron pan over light slate, stone or concrete background.Top view.

It’s been said that if you want to be successful in the kitchen, you’ve got to have the right tool for the job. Luckily, whether you like searing tempeh or steak tips, making deep-dish pizza or pancakes, a single cast iron skillet will have you covered. Lauded by chefs for their durable, heavy construction and even heat dispersion, the best cast iron skillets can handle a wide range of tasks, and are so versatile they can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, or over a grill or open fire. So if you’re shopping for a cast iron skillet and don’t know where to start, here are a few things to keep in mind.

When it comes to size, you have a huge range to choose from, but it’s worth investing in a cast iron skillet that’s at least 10 inches in diameter. A 10-inch pan fits a steak nicely, or two chicken breast, and most skillet cake recipes (like cornbread) recommend a 10-inch pan. A 12-inch pan, on the other hand, is also a fairly standard size and can handle bigger jobs. If you regularly make multiple servings for meal prep or entertaining you may want the extra surface area.

Heavy cookware can be challenging to lift, so look for a skillet with dual handles to make moving it easy and safe. Some skillets even come with silicone handle covers and potholders. While standard cast iron skillets have a smooth surface, you can also find grill pans with ridges if you like the look of grill marks.

No matter what you plan to create, these are the best cast iron skillets.

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The Best Cast Iron Skillet: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

Lodge has been manufacturing cast iron skillets for well over a century, and they make the best overall skillet in a variety of sizes from 3.5 to 15 inches in diameter. This skillet has been pre-seasoned and is an all-purpose size for most cooking, roasting, frying, and baking tasks. With repeated use and proper maintenance, the cooking surface will develop a patina with non-stick properties so food releases and it can be cleaned easily. Dual pour spouts make it easy for lefties and righties to pour-off juices or fat, and the 5-inch helper handle assists with lifting and transport to and from the oven, campfire, or trivet.

According to one reviewer: "This pan never leaves the stove. I use it at least once a day, it is so versatile... This Lodge Chef's Skillet was what I was looking for. The sloped sides let me sauté just like with the stainless steel pan, plus I can judge whether it's too hot just by putting my hand near it. What can't I cook with this thing? I sauté veggies, make grilled cheese sandwiches, fry eggs, reheat tortillas, make omelets, sear steaks, and make sausage gravy to go over biscuits. This is a real workhorse of my kitchen. You can see why it never leaves my stovetop."


2. The Runner-Up: Legend Cast Iron Skillet with Glass Lid

Similar in diameter but with the added bonus of a clear glass lid, this 12-inch pre-seasoned cast iron pan from Legend cast iron skillet can be used for steaming and braising recipes. The extra-long, 6.5-inch handle is easy to grip, even when wearing oven mitts, but a silicone handle cover is also included to protect hands. Like the Lodge, it has a leverage handle and two pour spouts, but it is quite a bit heavier, weighing-in at over 10 pounds compared to the Lodge, which weighs just shy of 8 pounds. Some might argue that the added weight contributes to better heat-retention and even cooking, but you should decide for yourself how much weight you’re comfortable with, keeping in mind that it will be heavier with food in it.

According to one reviewer: "These are great cast iron skillets. The weight is just right. The addition of a hanging loop/handle opposite the long handle is a very nice feature. Follow the directions and season the skillet well before fist use and you will have a lifetime of good use from it. The lids are easy to clean and oven-proof. I highly recommend Legend cast iron skillets."


3.The Best Cast Iron Grill Pan: Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Set

A square cast iron grill pan like this one is a great alternative to an outdoor grill if you want to create flavor from grill marks, toast paninis, or grill small items that might otherwise fall through grill grates. Measuring a generous 10.5 inches across, the Lodge can fit multiple portions and will accommodate straight-sided items like bread. A durable handle makes the just-under-10-pound grill pan easy to transport, and a glass lid allows you to check in on your meal's progress.

According to one reviewer: "We love cooking with cast iron and this pan is a perfect size for the two of us. It arrived well-packed in perfect condition. The interior is not polished but very smooth for cast iron. The bottom is smoother than I expected and we are using it on our glass stovetop with no scratching or other issues. The pan was seasoned very well but I put it through my own seasoning regimen anyway. Performing beautifully with very little sticking."


The Best Value: Lodge Essential 7-Piece Cast Iron Pan Set

If you’re looking to start a cast iron pan collection, or just can’t decide where to start, this seven-piece set from Lodge is a great deal for under $60. It includes a standard 10.25-inch smooth cast iron pan for everyday use, as well as a 10.25-inch circular grill pan, and a 10.5-inch griddle. The low-profile design of the griddle makes it easy to get under delicate foods to flip with a spatula, such as fish or pancakes. The set also includes a silicone mitt, silicone handle cover, and two cleaning tools. The 6-inch handle cover fits over each of the skillets, and while the individual weight is not listed, this three-piece set clocks in just under 18 pounds. If you’d rather a smaller cast iron skillet instead of the grill pan, a similar set with an 8-inch skillet is only $55.

According to one reviewer: "I am in love with my cast iron! I can't believe I waited as long as I did to take the plunge. I have not fried food in 14 years and I finally did with this set. It kept the temp nice and even better in my opinion than the deep fryer I had purchased years ago and stopped using. This has made as my daughter says toasty cheeses better than anything I've ever used and I've been cooking for my family for 20 plus years... If you're on the fence take my advice and take the plunge it's so worth it!"