The best cast iron pans are a shrewd investment for all discerning cooks. They are durable, hard-wearing and versatile and look great in any kitchen as well as on the dinner table. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your cooking preferences.
Because they are so robust, they can be used on any type of heat source, including induction. A cast iron pan will be suitable for oven use and grilling and so they are perfect for dishes that require a number of cooking methods. There are a few things you need to know about caring for a cast iron pan but provided you wash and store them appropriately and you season them with oil, you will have a long-lasting non-stick surface to cook on for decades. To give you a hand when you are looking for the best cast iron pan for your needs, here is our handy guide.
The Best Cast Iron Pan
A multi-use cast iron skillet that is so versatile you can use it on a stove or induction cooktop as well as under the grill, in the oven and even on the campfire. The small size makes it suitable for fried eggs, individual desserts and cookies. It heats evenly, has excellent heat retention and is durable yet the stylish black finish is attractive enough to serve at the table
Thanks to the natural vegetable oil seasoning on this Lodge cast iron pan, it has an easy-release finish that improves as you use the skillet. This makes it practically nonstick without resorting to any potentially harmful chemicals. Use it for frying and braising as well as searing, broiling and baking. To clean it, all you have to do is hand wash it in water with a small amount of dry soap before drying with a paper towel and rubbing with a light layer of vegetable oil while it is still warm. For storage, hang it in a dry place.
Perfect size for individual portions
Natural seasoning with vegetable oil
No toxic chemicals
- Weight11.5 ounces
This cast iron skillet has a 12-inch diameter so it is big enough to cook steak and fish as well as vegetables and will seal them with the authentic seared stripe. It’s perfect for browning, searing and sautéing. It has a long handle with complete with thumb rest on one side and a side helper handle on the other side. There’s also a pouring spout for the easy transfer of sauces and liquids. As the safe option for cooking, it has no PFOAs and is free from cadmium.
The skillet will heat evenly and can be used on all stove tops, grills and BBQs as well as the camp fire and is safe in the oven up to a temperature of 600 degrees F. It releases food quickly and without mess as it is supplied pre-seasoned and ready to use but this will improve even more with age.
Perfect for cooking steak and fish
Safe in the oven up to 600 degrees F
Releases food quickly
Improves with age
- Weight9 pounds
A set of three cast iron skillets which offers you the ultimate versatility in your cooking cast iron pan experience. You can use these for searing, frying, roasting and baking or a combination of several on any hot surface (induction, ceramic, electric and gas) or in an oven or under a grill.
They will both retain heat and distribute it evenly when cooking, giving you a rapid and versatile cooking tool. They will be delivered pre-seasoned which means that they have been baked at a high temperature with vegetable oil on their surface. This gives you a chemical-free, non-stick cooking surface. You will need to maintain the non-stick surface of the best cast iron cookware by applying fresh oil after washing with gentle soap and water.
Set of three skillets
Retains heat and distribute it evenly
Can be used on any heat surface
- Weight10.7 pounds
Manufactured using European cast iron machinery, this is commercial quality cast iron skillet that is perfect for all your cooking needs. This cast iron frying pan is durable, comes with a lifetime warranty and can be used on all cooking surfaces.
It is a large cooking vessel and has a long handle that is curved which gives makes it easier for you to handle. It also improves safety as it stays cooler at the end because it is a long way from the heat source and keeps your hands from the hot bits! There is a second, smaller helper handle for when lifting heavily laden skillets. It also has pour spouts which have an improved contour to prevent drips. It comes pre-seasoned at a high temperature using flaxseed oil so it is ready to use but it gets better with time as the non-stick qualities mature.
Commercial quality cast iron skillet
Long handle and helper handle
Improved contour pour spout
Pre-seasoned and ready to use
- Weight6.7 pounds
A cast iron skillet available in four sizes, it would be equally at home in a professional kitchen and on a camp site. It comes pre-seasoned with 100% vegetable oil so you will not be exposed to any synthetic chemicals or coatings. To help you safely move the skillet off a heat source or out of the oven, it comes with a full-grain leather handle holder. This will allow you to grip the skillet safely at temperatures up 600 degrees F.
This cast iron frying pan is extremely tough and durable and is excellent for heat retention and for the even distribution of heat. A Lodge skillet needs to be re-seasoned after washing by applying vegetable oil and air drying.
Suitable for commercial and personal use
No synthetic chemicals or coatings
Comes with leather handle holder
Supplied already seasoned with vegetable oil
- Weight5.78 pounds
This is an inexpensive skillet available in three sizes and comes with a 12-month warranty. It is made from heavy-duty cast iron and distributes across the base and up the sides evenly so you get optimal cooking results. It also retains heat well and comes with a long handle as well as a helper handle to make it easy to move around.
It is supplied pre-seasoned, which means it has been coated with vegetable oil and pre-baked. This means that you can use it as soon as it arrives. It also gives an attractive black appearance that is non-stick and becomes more so with use. You can use it on any heating surface and in the oven at temperatures up to 500 degrees F. It is suitable for all cooking applications from frying to baking. You can even take it camping and pop it on the fire.
Can be used on any heat surface and oven
Great at retaining and distributing heat
Provides a non-stick surface
- Weight4.65 pounds
This is a luxury iron skillet that has been cast in a sand mold and hand-inspected by French craftsmen to ensure quality and consistency. It is made from enameled cast iron which is robust, performs very well under modern cooking conditions and looks fantastic in your kitchen. It is available in a wide range of colors to suit all decors and tastes.
It can be used for stir-frying, searing or casseroling and works equally well at low or high temperatures. You can use it on any heat source, including induction and when it gets to the table it will help the food to retain its heat. It can also be used to keep foods cold if you place it first in the chiller or in the freezer. It has pour spouts on two sides, a long handle and a helper handle for your safety and comfort. The black enamel finish does not need seasoning and the colorful exterior enamel is resistant to chipping and cracking.
Made from enameled cast iron
Non-stick without seasoning
Colorful exterior enamel in a range of colors
- BrandLe Creuset
- Weight6.8 pounds
Available in three sizes, with or without a lid, this is an octagonal cast iron skillet that will work well on all heated surfaces. It will cope with gas and electric and even induction ranges. You can also use it under the grill and in the oven.
The handle is both attractive and functional. It stays cool for longer thanks to the coiled stainless-steel design making it ergonomic and safe for you to use. The cooking surface is ultra-polished and satin-smooth so it releases food readily. It provides a non-stick cooking surface without the need for artificial chemical coatings. It will be supplied pre-seasoned and ready to use. Thanks to the design, you can pour from any side without fear of spillages.
Octagonal cast iron skillet
Will suit all cooking surfaces and grill/oven
Ergonomic handle that dissipates heat
Can pour from any direction
- Weight7.14 pounds
Best Cast Iron Pan Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Look for When Buying a Cast Iron Pan
Here’s a simple guide to what you should look out for when buying a cast iron pan.
There are many sizes available so you may want to purchase more than one. The smaller sizes are ideal for serving individual portions but you’d need the larger sizes for greater quantities.
Many pans are supplied pre-seasoned so you can start using them right away as soon as you get them home. Others have to be seasoned by you before you use them and you can use vegetable oil to do this.
- Pouring spouts
Some pans have one or two pouring spouts which are handy for liquids.
- Helper handle
Look out for a model that has a small helper handle opposite the main handle because it makes the pan easier to lift.
- Long handle
Some people prefer pans with a long handle because it allows you to keep your hands further away from the heat source and takes a long time to heat up.
- Heat surface
It’s best to choose a pan that can be used on any heat surface as well as the oven and the grill.
These are very variable and obviously the longer the better. You will find warranties that vary from one year to lifetime.
Why You Should Buy a Cast Iron Pan
It’s easy to get carried away with kitchen gadgets. Many offer you the world but deliver very little when you actually come to use them. However, cast iron cookware or skillets are different. They have been around for many hundreds of years and have stood the test of time. Our great grandparents did not get it wrong. Yet, they are equally at home in the modern-day kitchen and have much to offer the modern cook.
Here are some of the main reasons why you should buy a cast iron pan and try a bit of cast iron cooking yourself.
- They are very durable
This is not a delicate object. You can drop cast iron cookware and have no fear of them breaking. However, they could cause a lot of damage to what they land on including your own feet! They are jet black and do not fade or discolor and they do not scratch or chip. They are easy to clean and even if they get rusty they can be restored.
- They can withstand very high temperatures
These days cookware comes with warnings from the manufacturer about the maximum heat that they can withstand. You’ll see that most stainless-steel cookware can’t be used at temperatures exceeding 500 degrees and ceramic dishes can withstand even less. However, cast iron can be put directly on the flames of a camp fire so that gives you an idea of how tough they are.
- They are non-stick
Provided you season your pan correctly, it will provide a healthy non-stick surface for you to cook on. They will even produce the perfect fried egg!
- They are an alternative to a grill
If you do not have a grill for chops and steaks, a cast iron skillet is the perfect alternative and seals in all the flavor. They can be transferred from one heat source to another with no problems.
- They are cost-effective
If you buy a cast iron skillet it is likely to last you for life. They are extremely durable and hardwearing and never go out of fashion. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good cast iron cookware item. You can even pick them up second hand.
- They are very versatile
You can make literally hundreds of different dishes in your cast iron skillet. It’s not just for savory dishes either. You can make biscuits and desserts in a cast iron pan as well. It’s great for French toast.
- They are easy to clean
You don’t need complicated or expensive cleaning routines. They need to be washed with just a little gentle detergent and water. Harsh soap and cleaning chemicals will harm them. The soap will break up the oil layer and affect the non-stick qualities. They do need to be stored in a dry place.
- They provide iron
They will deliver some much-needed iron into the diet which is important for people with anemia.
- They distribute and retain heat
This is why they have been used by professional chefs for many years. The heat is evenly distributed so you get superior cooking results. Also, when the dish is served, it keeps it nice and warm. If you place it in the freezer, it will even keep food cold!
- They are safe
There are no harmful chemicals in a cast iron pan that could be distributed into the food. This makes them the safe and natural choice for cooking. You get all the advantages of a modern non-stick surface without any of the risks.
- They look great
Cast iron pans look great in any kitchen and are attractive enough to serve food at even the most sophisticated dinner party.
BARE VS. ENAMEL
Skillets or cooking pans can be plain cast iron or they can be cast iron coated in enamel. There are advantages and disadvantages to each and in the end, it comes down to how you want to use the pan and personal preference. Here are some things to bear in mind when you are making your decision.
Bare Cast Iron Pans
Bare cast iron pans have to be seasoned before they can be used or they will rust. They also must be seasoned regularly as you use them. If you do not get the seasoning right, they are not non-stick and you will not find it easy to release food from them. As you repeatedly use the cast iron pan and re-apply the seasoning, the non-stick quality improves.
They also add iron to your food so if you are suffering from anemia, this could be an advantage. Cast iron pans are practically indestructible. There are pans that are almost 100 years old and still in use. If they do get rusty, it is possible to restore them and carry on using them. On the whole, they tend to be cheaper than the enameled pans.
Enameled Cast Iron Pans
You do not have to worry about enameled pans rusting and you do not have to regularly season them. However, their non-stick quality is not as good as that of bare cast iron pans. These pans are more suitable for cooking acidic foods such as chili and pasta sauces and any dish that contains tomatoes. These foods are highly acidic and would strip the seasoning of a bare cast iron pan.
They are less durable and the enamel paint will chip off if you don’t look after them carefully. You could take a bare cast iron pan camping with you but this would not be recommended for an enameled pan. They are the most expensive option.
How to Use a Cast-Iron Skillet
If you are new to cooking with cast iron skillets, there are a few things that you should know. They are not like modern, non-stick pans which are coated with chemicals and you will need to take care with how you use and care for them. Here are some top tips on how to use a cast iron skillet.
- Be careful what you cook. Avoid casseroles and sauces that are acidic. This includes anything with tomato in it. They will strip the pan of its seasoning and it could start to rust.
- Do your own seasoning. Many pans are supplied pre-seasoned but it is still advisable to apply your own seasoning before you start to use it. When it arrives, rinse and dry it then heat it on the stove. Add some oil and blot it gently around the pan. Let it cool down to room temperature and then repeat the process.
- Avoid the dishwasher. Never place the pan in a dishwasher and never apply bleach or harsh cleaning chemicals to it.
- Keep it oiled. Cast iron pans need to be regularly oiled (seasoned). If it does look dry, it is a good idea to use a teaspoon of flaxseed or vegetable oil to season a 10- or 12-inch skillet.
- Don’t over-oil it. A well-seasoned cast iron pan will be non-stick because a layer of oil will have built up which is waterproof. However, the layer can get too thick and will peel off onto the food so be careful not to over-oil the pan.
- Wash it properly. Clean the pan with a soft vegetable brush or you can use a palm scrubber if anything is stuck to it. Only use warm water and mild detergent though.
- For stubborn dirt. You can remove stubborn dirt by scrubbing the pan with coarse sea salt and then rinsing with water. Alternatively, you could place the pan over a really high heat with some water in it and let it boil dry. The debris can then be scraped off with a metal spatula.
- Careful storage. You cannot store a cast iron pan wet so, if you are not seasoning it, stack it in your cupboard with paper towels above and below it. If you are seasoning it, make sure that it has absorbed all the oil before you put it away.
- Cooking tip. Warm up the pan before you add any food. If you cook from cold, the food will stick to the pan.
- Gentle preheating. Cast iron can be uneven in terms of heat when you first put it on your range. Therefore, preheat the pan on a low heat before you add any food. Then, very gradually increase the heat. This allows you to control the heat more accurately because they can get very, very hot!
Our Top Pick
Our top pick of the best cast iron pans is a multi-use cast iron skillet. It can be used on any heating surface including induction cooktops as well as under the grill and in the oven. It is a perfect size for fried eggs and individual desserts. The skillet heats evenly, retains heat and is stylish. It comes with a natural vegetable oil seasoning which gives it a non-stick coating that improves with use. It can be used for frying, searing and baking. This best cast iron skillet needs to be hand washed in water with soap before drying with a paper towel. It will need seasoning throughout its life.
- Love Your Pan: What to Cook (and What Not to) in a Cast Iron - Bon Appetit
- Cook with Cast Iron Instead of Nonstick - HowStuffWorks