Best Overall: T-fal Pre-Seasoned Nonstick Durable Cast Iron Skillet
This cast iron pan is a favorite because of its even heating and nonstick surface. It’s oven safe to 600 degrees and can be used on any cooktop, including induction. Our tester reported, “This cast iron is pre-seasoned so well that after a few uses, a sunny-side egg slid right off onto a plate.” This also makes for easy cleaning.
This pan is available in 10.25- and 12-inch versions. The extra-long handle, thumb rest, helper handle, and pour spouts are designed to make it easier to transport, but our reviewer said the 12-inch pan was still too heavy (9 pounds) and quite cumbersome. “If you plan to sear several beautiful steaks in a large pan on the stovetop, T-fal’s 12-inch cast iron will serve you well,” she explained, “but for baking and stove-to-oven recipes, the risk of a heavy filled skillet tipping off balance is just too high.”
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Lodge 10.25-inch Cast Iron Skillet
The main selling point of this 10.25-inch, 5-pound skillet is its user-friendly size. “Weighing a pound less than competitors puts this Lodge skillet in a class of its own, and we’re more likely to reach for this pan time and again,” our reviewer declared. It comes pre-seasoned, but our tester was underwhelmed by its performance in this area. She said, “Even after seasoning the pan, a very thin layer of egg stuck to the surface but was very easy to clean.” It also comes with a Nokona leather heat-resistant handle holder, but our tester felt this “extra” isn’t worth the additional price and thought it should be sold separately.
Most Versatile: Lodge Pro-Grid Reversible Grill/Griddle
This pan is just as at home on the stovetop as it is on the grill or the campfire. With one smooth side for flipping flapjacks and one ribbed side for grilling steaks with perfect sear marks. At 20 x 10.5 inches, it’s large enough to serve a family (it’ll cover two burners on the stovetop), but it’s less than an inch thick, so it’s a cinch to store. The space it does require is well worth it considering it’s essentially two pans in one. However, our reviewer did note that it’s pretty heavy.
Like all Lodge cast irons, this grill/griddle combo takes a little while to heat up but boasts terrific heat retention. It’s wonderfully affordable and comes preseasoned for an easy cooking and cleanup process.
Best High-End: Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet
Le Creuset is known for its high-end enameled cast iron Dutch ovens, and this 11.75-inch skillet is made with the same quality and attention to detail. The black enameled interior is resistant to staining and dulling, and while it looks much like uncoated cast iron, it never requires seasoning and you can cook any food in it, even highly acidic foods. Reviewers love the color options and most agree that the high price is worth it for such a quality, durable design. Although it’s heavy—like other cast iron pans—a large loop helper handle makes it easy to move, and customers say the weight is evenly distributed. It’s also dishwasher safe.
Best Grill Pan: Cuisinart CI30-23CR Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron
A grill pan is an affordable way to get the char marks of outdoor grilling, and this 9.25-inch square option is a top choice for its versatility and quality. While it has all the heat-retention properties (as well as the durability and weight) of cast iron, this one is enameled so you don’t have to worry about seasoning. Our tester said, “The interior is also coated with porcelain enamel, which ensures the pan doesn’t absorb odors or flavors.”
While it’s not nonstick, it is dishwasher safe. “Sure, it requires a little more upkeep than, say, nonstick pans, but the beautiful, even results are worth it, and the grill pan will likely last forever,” our reviewer reported.
Best Skillet: FINEX Cast Iron Skillet
Designed to last a lifetime, the versatile FINEX Cast Iron Skillet is perfect for searing meats, making hamburgers, roasting vegetables, baking bread, and so much more. It works on all cooktops—including gas, electric, and induction—but it’s also oven safe and can be used on the grill. At 3.57 pounds, the 8-inch pan weighs considerably less than most cast iron pans of the same size.
Reviewers are fans of the unique octagonal, “multi-pour” design and speed cool handle, which stays cool longer and releases heat quickly. Customers rave about the attractive design and ease of use, which most say justify the high price tag.
Best Deep Skillet: Lodge Cast Iron Covered Deep Skillet
This deep skillet makes it easy to fry chicken and uses far less oil than a typical deep fryer. The tall sides make it ideal for simmering soups, reducing sauces, or cooking casseroles on the stove or in the oven. It can also be used as a standard skillet to sear meats, fry burgers, or cook bacon while its sides contain some of the spatter. It also includes a cover that makes it even more versatile for all your favorite recipes.
Reviewers say it’s an incredible value for a pan that will last forever. It comes pre-seasoned, but additional seasoning and proper maintenance (hand-wash only) are important.
Best Compact: Lodge Miniature Cast Iron Skillet
While you won’t be cooking a chicken in this 3.5-inch skillet, it’s the right size for an egg dish for one or for heating dips and sauces, melting butter, or serving small snacks. “If you do like your sweets petite, a major advantage of this miniature skillet is that you can easily slide it into a toaster oven to bake a little brownie or cookie,” our tester said. It’s pre-seasoned but our tester found that even with additional seasoning food stuck and made cleaning difficult. Our tester called it “admittedly adorable and affordable,” but also said it’s highly impractical. “The skillet’s handle is short, gets hot quickly, and is a mere 1 inch above any cooking surface,”
How do you clean a cast iron pan?
While enameled cast iron doesn’t usually need special care, uncoated cast iron should be treated with special attention. Scrape out any bits of cooked-on food (you can boil water in the pan to loosen it), and then, use a stiff-bristled brush or scrubber to scrub the pan with mild soap and hot water. Some people say not to use soap, but mild soap will ensure you remove the grease from the pan (and not the seasoning). Be sure to dry thoroughly and then wipe on a thin layer of oil to prevent rust during storage.
How do you season a cast iron pan?
Cast iron cookware should be cured—or seasoned—inside and out including lids if the pan is new and has not been pre-seasoned by the manufacturer, or if your pan is old and the finish has worn off. An easy method is to apply a small amount of oil to the pan, wipe it onto the sides, and then heat it on the stove until it’s very hot. Wipe the exterior with oil and place the pan upside down (to allow excess grease to drip) in the oven at 450 degrees for an hour. Let the pan cool for at least an hour and then scrub it with hot water and kosher salt to remove any oil residue.
What should you not cook in a cast iron pan?
Uncoated cast iron cookware can cause food to taste like metal if the coating gets worn down, which will happen if you cook acidic foods for long periods of time. Therefore, it’s best to avoid simmering acidic foods, like tomatoes for a sauce. Cast iron also gets extremely hot and retains heat well so it’s best to avoid cooking delicate fish that will easily break apart. Finally, before your cast iron pan is seasoned properly it’s best to avoid sticky foods, like eggs.