- Cooking with a cast-iron skillet isn’t for everyone, but those who love this type of pan swear by it.
- If you’re ready to try cast-iron cooking for the first time, or if you want a high-quality cast-iron skillet, the Victoria Cast Iron 12-Inch Skillet Fry Pan is a versatile option that’s perfect for all kinds of cooking tasks.
The idea of living simply has become popular again. Search Google for home improvement, and you may see results about living in tiny houses, reducing your carbon footprint, running a family game night, or having electronics-free time.
Another option for simplifying things is to reduce clutter. If you’re like most people, you’ve collected quite a lot of stuff over the years. Reduce the number of things you have, and you’re sure to feel freer. (Plus, you’ll actually be able to find things.)
If you want to start in the kitchen, we have an idea for you. Rather than having specific pans for many different types of cooking techniques, go back to a cooking surface and design that’s been extremely popular for more than a century – cast-iron skillets. This material works great for cooking any kind of food using any kind of heat source.
Advantages of cast-iron pans
Cast iron seems old-fashioned and strange in an era filled with shiny nonstick cookware, but it’s much more durable and long-lasting than Teflon. Cast-iron pans also add a tiny amount of iron into the food as you cook, which can increase your daily iron intake.
The cast-iron material will absorb all of the materials cooked in the pan over time, which adds flavor and seasoning to your pan. Although some may find that off-putting, for true cast-iron fans, this feature is what makes the skillet a great cooking tool. It’s also what makes the cast-iron skillet completely nonstick. Here are some other great features of cast-iron pans.
- Even heating: One reason why cooks and chefs love cast iron is that it heats far more evenly than pans made from thinner materials. It maintains its hot temperature, even when you add a cold steak to the pan, according to Serious Eats, which allows it to cook faster than a thin skillet. Foods will also cook more evenly.
- Indestructible: Cast-iron pans will last for decades and still continue to work perfectly, as long as you take care of them properly and season them before use.
- Naturally nonstick: As long as you care for the skillet properly and have it seasoned, food will not stick to the cast-iron pan. According to Lodge, the renown maker of cast-iron cookware, you can use metal utensils to cook on these pans without having to worry about scratching the surface.
- Take it anywhere: You can use the cast-iron skillet in your kitchen, over a campfire in the middle of nowhere, and anywhere in between. Of course, the heaviness of a cast-iron pan needs to be considered.
- Versatility: You can cook almost any kind of food in a cast-iron pan, oftentimes multiple foods simultaneously. It will work on a surface burner of an oven, it’ll cook over heat from an outdoor grill, it works with a campfire, or it can be placed inside the oven for baking.
Some people don’t like how heavy a cast-iron pan is. Admittedly, you will have to use your muscles to move this pan around. But think of it this way: You’ll be able to work off some calories before you eat by carrying around a cast-iron skillet.
Additionally, because this pan is one piece, the handles will become hot over time. You’ll want to have gloves or oven mitts available to handle the cast iron pan. Some companies also sell silicone handle covers to protect your hands, so it’s worth buying some.
Here are the best cast-iron pans for your kitchen you can buy:
- Best cast-iron pan overall: Victoria Cast Iron 10-Inch Skillet Fry Pan
- Best miniature cast-iron pan: Lodge Miniature Skillet
- Best professional cast-iron pan: Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet
- Best cast-iron pan set: Simple Chef Cast Iron Skillet 3-Piece Set
- Best cast-iron wok: Lodge 14-Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Wok
Updated on 08/13/2019 by Les Shu: Updated prices, links, and formatting.
The best cast-iron pan overall
The Victoria Cast Iron 10-Inch Skillet Fry Pan has a smart design with its long handle and pour-spouts, making it a great cast-iron pan for cooking any dish.
The Victoria Cast Iron 10-Inch Skillet Fry Pan is the perfect skillet for cooking just about anything. It’s well-designed, affordable, and long-lasting just like cast-iron cookware should be.
It has a long primary handle and a shorter secondary handle for steadying the pan as you carry it. The skillet is deep and has a fairly wide surface, so you can sear steaks, fry eggs, and make all kinds of delicious food. The pour spouts on either side of the pan make it easy to remove grease without causing a mess.
The long handle makes it easier to gain leverage on the pan when moving it around, which is good because it is a bit heavy. Epicurious reviewed the skillet and liked the handle length because it doesn’t heat up as quickly as a shorter handle would.
Victoria offers this pan in 12-inch, 10-inch, and 8-inch sizes to suit your needs. If you plan to cook two steaks in your pan, get the 12-inch.
Pros: Smart design with a curved handle for easier carrying, two pour spouts, long handle doesn’t heat up fast, detailed instructions included for beginners
Cons: Preseasoning isn’t as thorough as it should be, some breads may stick to the pan
The best miniature cast-iron pan
When you need a small cast-iron pan to take with you camping or hiking, the Lodge Miniature Skillet is just right.
Bigger isn’t always better with a lot of things, and the same is true for cast-iron pans. Although a large pan definitely has its advantages, the Lodge Miniature Skillet, with a 3.5-inch diameter, offers plenty of reasons to like it, too.
If you want to take a small cast-iron pan camping or hiking, this tiny skillet will be easier to carry. Or, if you want to perfectly cook one fried egg, this is the pan to use.
You can purchase this particular cast-iron skillet design from Lodge with diameters ranging from 3.5 to 15 inches, so if you want a bigger size, there are options for you, too.
The Spruce says the miniature skillet is made with materials identical to the larger Lodge cast-iron pans. The skillets that are larger than 9 inches in diameter contain a secondary handle that helps in steadying the pan.
The Lodge brand name is one of the most trusted among those who use cast iron pans, according to The Induction Site. Many vintage Lodge pans remain in use, even decades after they were initially purchased. Both of Wirecutter’s only picks are from Lodge.
Insider Picks’ Senior Editor Malarie Gokey and Guides Editor Les Shu can verify that Lodge pans are excellent. Malarie owns this same mini skillet and two more large ones and no longer cooks with anything else. Les uses his Lodge pan to sear his steaks after sous vide.
Even with a small size, the Lodge Miniature Skillet evenly distributes heat, according to Top Best Brands, yielding successful cooking results.
However, one Amazon reviewer said the small skillet size causes the heat to reach handle more quickly than with a large pan, so you will want a silicone handle for protection. Lodge sells great ones for $5 to $8.
Pros: Perfect size to carry in a backpack, easy to cook a small batch, trusted Lodge quality, evenly distributes heat when cooking, very low price point
Cons: Small size causes handle to heat up faster than a large pan, difficult to clean at times
The best enameled cast-iron pan
- Le Creuset
The Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet is really expensive, but this cast iron pan with enameling does a great job with cooking food evenly in style.
The Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet is incredibly expensive. You’ll pay several times more for the Le Creuset cast iron pan than for all the others in our guide. But there’s a reason for it: Made in France, Le Creuset is the Rolls-Royce of cast-iron cookware.
Many cooks who use Le Creuset products swear by it, thanks to its great design and toughness. This particular skillet is available in 10 different enamel colors. It also has main and secondary handles, as well as pour spouts on both sides of the pan.
If you’re looking for an especially durable and tough cast iron pan with enameling, Think Cook says the Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet is the perfect option. It even works with induction cooktops.
The multiple enamel colors make this skillet a fun, colorful addition to your cookware collection.
However, a few Amazon buyers say they’ve struggled to keep this pan clean, which is a significant disappointment, considering the high price tag. We recommend following Le Creuset’s cleaning instructions and how to properly care for it.
Another premium brand to consider is Staub. Also from France, Staub’s cast-iron cookware are equally well-made and adored by many cooks.
Pros: Cooks all types of food evenly, large cast-iron skillet will work for large meals, enamel coating on the pan provides a bit of color and looks great, works with induction cooktops, durable
Cons: Far higher price point than other cast -ron pans of the same size, can be difficult to clean
The best cast-iron pan set
- Simple Chef
Cast iron skillets are versatile, but buying three different pans at once with the Simple Chef Cast Iron Skillet 3-Piece Set ensures that you have a skillet for any quantity of food.
As you become more experienced cooking with cast-iron pans, you’re going to realize the benefits of having different sized skillets. When you’re looking to grab multiple skillets at a great price, the Simple Chef Cast Iron Skillet 3-Piece Set is a smart choice.
One of the best reasons to have multiple sizes of cast-iron pans is because each unit in the set heats up at a different rate, according to Think Cook. When you need to finish cooking something quickly, you can grab one of the smaller pans, for example. But if you have more time and a lot of food to cook, having a large size is nice.
The Cookware Diary liked having three different sizes in the set from Simple Chef because you can use the smaller ones while camping and save the larger one for at-home use.
One Amazon buyer was disappointed with the preseasoning of these pans, saying food stuck badly to all of them. To avoid that issue, simply season your pans a few times before use.
Pros: Great price point for three cast iron skillets, having a small size works well for camping, pans work with many heating sources
Cons: No extra-large pan included, preseasoning may not be uniform
The best cast-iron wok
The Lodge 14-Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Wok is perfect for making a stir-fry because it heats up evenly and gives you lots of room to mix ingredients.
If you’ve ever watched an experienced cook stir-fry food, a cast-iron wok is a popular tool of choice. Cast iron heats food evenly and retains its heat well, which is perfect for stir-fry, where you want to cook the food quickly and thoroughly. This is important for home cooking as few of us have stove-tops that can generate the amount of heat as those in professional kitchens.
The Lodge 14-Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Wok may not make you a professional cook, but you’ll be amazed how much success you can have with this style of cooking with a great wok, according to Foodal. This wok also carries the highly regarded Lodge brand name.
This is a heavy wok, so having two handles on either side is extremely helpful. At 14 inches in diameter, this wok is more than large enough for cooking all kinds of food.
The Sacred Rice said this style of wok is reminiscent of vintage cast-iron woks from Asia. The Lodge wok will work with many heating sources and cooking surfaces because of its flat base, according to Cast Iron Addiction.
However, a few Amazon reviewers said this wok shows signs of rust quickly, which requires additional maintenance.
Pros: Great material for stir-frying, large size allows for creating big meals, flat base heats on any surface and provide steadiness, having handles on both sides allows you to carry the wok more easily
Cons: Price is a little high, surface may rust after a few uses (you may need to perform additional maintenance)
How to clean and season a cast-iron skillet
Seasoning cast-iron skillets
To gain the proper cooking results from a cast-iron pan, you need to season it. Most pans will be advertised as “preseasoned,” so you may not need to follow these steps, but it won’t hurt anything if you do choose to season the pan on your own.
Seasoning a cast-iron skillet requires that you cover the entire interior surface of the pan in cooking oil. Then, place the skillet in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and let it bake for about an hour. To be safe, you can do this a few times and get a perfect coat.
According to Apartment Therapy, the oil serves as the nonstick surface for the pan going forward. As you continue to cook with the pan, the continuous build-up of oils in the pan will result in the cooking surface that is completely nonstick.
Cleaning cast-iron skillets
Cleaning the pan after cooking is a simple process. You don’t want to do a thorough scrubbing on the pan with harsh chemicals, because of the way the cast iron absorbs materials. Instead, lightly scrub out any stuck-on food with water and a sponge. If that doesn’t work, try loosening stuck food from the pan with coarse salt and rinse with water.
Don’t use soap, oven cleaner, metal scrub brushes, or scouring pads on the cast-iron surface. Should the pan become rusty, Extra Crispy says you can use steel wool to remove the rust, but you’ll then have to season the cast iron pan again.
To avoid rust, don’t abandon your skillet in a sinkful of water, never pop it in the dishwasher, and always dry it off thoroughly before storing. You should also let the pan cool off before you clean it and don’t use cold water to clean it if it’s still hot – cast iron can break under extreme temperature changes.