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Finding durable cookware isn’t easy, you may have to experiment with different types to find something that works for you. However, if you’re looking for something durable and versatile, a cast iron skillet is an excellent choice.
Cast iron pans have been around for years. You’ll be glad to know that more than ten percent of cookware sales are cast iron items, this is according to the Cookware Manufacturer’s Association.
Home cooking enthusiasts and international chefs are now shifting to cast iron skillets. Here’s everything you need to know about how to choose the best cast iron skillet and some top picks based on user reviews.
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The History of Cast Iron
The use of casting metal goes way back to the fourth century B.C. in China. Engineers would use the casting metal to make weapons, a practice that lasted for centuries.
However, as the ancient people discovered efficient manufacturing methods, there was a creation of all kinds of cast items. By 1800, cast iron was readily available. Cast iron products came to the US in 1619, although no one used the material to make cookware.
Today, manufacturers use silicon, carbon, and iron to create durable cookware. The materials go through high heat to become molten. Once the elements become liquid, it’s poured into a mold of a pan or pot, and allowed to cook. The result is reliable products.
Cast iron products feature a single block of metal, unlike other cookware that uses adhesive, rivets, or bolt. You won’t find any seams with this cookware.
What are the Benefits of Cooking with a Cast Iron Skillet?
What are the Benefits of Cooking with a Cast Iron Skillet?
Cast iron cookware has several benefits like:
They are Naturally Non-Stick
Although it’s easy to find “non-stick” labeled cookware everywhere, most of them are of poor quality and have Teflon which isn’t good for your health. These pans when heated to high temperatures release perfluorinated compounds.
Also, the compounds get into your food if you cook with scratched non-stick pans. These compounds have a link to poor brain health, liver dysfunction, and hormonal-related problems, not to mention the polluted environment.
Fortunately, cast iron skillets are naturally non-stick, which means you can enjoy your cooking without worrying about the chemicals getting into your food.
Cast Iron is Easy to Clean
Cooking with a stainless steel pan can be exciting, but you won’t love the elbow grease that you’ll have to deal with when cleaning. When cooking with cast iron skillet, you don’t have to worry about anything sticking on it, something that makes cleaning easier.
Cast Iron Cookware Has Even Cooking Temperature
You’ll notice that cast iron cookware is heavy, and this is for a reason. The weight allows the pans to hold heat longer and spread it evenly. You can enjoy cooking a variety of foods with a cast iron pan.
Whether you’re looking to simmer your stew on low or sear a piece of steak at a high temperature. No one wants to deal with burnt dinner, and cast iron cookware prevents this from ever happening.
Cast Iron Cookware is Affordable
The market now boasts of ceramic and marble cookware options. However, these options are expensive. For example, a heavy stainless steel pan will be at the premium price. Cast iron cookware is affordable, with a small skillet can be bought at a low price, and in an even cheaper one at a thrift store.
Also, cast iron is durable, which means you may use it for years without the need for a replacement.
Cast Iron Fortifies Your Food
Back in the day, there was a myth about cast iron increasing the iron content of food, something that people thought was an old wives ‘tale. However, research took place in 1965, where it found that foods cooked for an extended period accumulated iron.
Foods like fried potatoes and eggs saw an increase in iron content when cooked in a cast skillet. This kind of cookware makes it a perfect choice if you need iron in your body.
Cast Iron Cookware is Almost Indestructible
Some specific cookware is fragile and unable to handle harsh conditions. Also, you cannot use metallic spatulas with some pans. Nonetheless, with cast iron pans, you don’t have to worry about destruction.
Cast iron improves with age, which means that every time you use it, the surface becomes smooth continually improving the patina. The patina releases foods effortlessly.
Enjoy a Longer Life Span
Cast iron cookware is durable and can last in your family for years. A reason why most people still use cast iron skillets inherited from their parents. A longer life span also means saving costs as you don’t have to replace your pan frequently.
Cast Iron Cookware is Versatile
Some skillets can only work on stovetop heat, while others use the oven. However, with cast iron, you can explore the best of both worlds. You can prepare your dish on the stovetop and transfer it into an oven, for a sumptuous meal.
What’s more, these pans can adapt to various types of cooking like broiling, grilling, roasting, sautéing and shallow frying.
Are There Disadvantages of Using Cast Iron Cookware?
Although cast iron pans have multiple advantages, they have some disadvantages that any cooking enthusiast will notice. These drawbacks include:
Cast Iron Skillets are Heavy
Cast iron is heavy when compared to stainless steel and aluminum cookware. For example, if you have to cook with a camp pot, you’d have to carry up to twenty pounds. However, the weight contributes to its longevity and durability.
A Limitation to What you can Cook
Unfortunately, you can’t experiment with all the foods you like with cast iron cookware. Acidic foods like tomato sauce or chutney react to cast iron, which can turn alter the taste or change the food color.
Cast Iron Requires Seasoning
Although you can purchase a well-seasoned cast iron pan, it’s critical to understand that it won’t stay seasoned forever. You need to season it, a process that can take time. Moreover, you need the skills to season the skillet properly.
Susceptible to Rust
Cast iron cookware can quickly rust if you use it to boil water. Also, pouring cold water on a hot skillet can cause it to warp or crack.
How We Chose Our Ratings
We chose our ratings based on thorough research. Our list of the best skillets considered other factors like ease of use, durability, versatility, and the price. Furthermore, we asked for feedback from cast iron skillet users to list the pros and cons of our highly-rated cookware.
The Best Cast Iron Skillets
We have chosen a few of the top-rated cast iron skillets. The list includes ones with enameled surfaces, lids, and those that come in different sizes to help you decide on the best cooking pan that matches your cooking style.
Some of the best skillets include:
The lodge cast iron skillet
The Lodge is a renowned brand when it comes to cookware. With its inception in 1896, the company creates various cast iron items, and their skillet doesn’t disappoint. The 12-inch cast iron pan comes with a lid, and its handle is long enough to hang when cooking outdoors.
Also, the opposite end has a helper handle which makes it easier to move the skillet from the fire or the stovetop. You’ll find the pour spouts on both ends convenient whether you’re a left or right-handed cook.
Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about feeding your family as the skillet has a 10-inch cooking surface that enables you to cook enough food. Do not forget that the pans come pre-seasoned and do not use an artificial coating.
The eight-pound skillet is lighter than most cast iron skillets. It’s also reasonably priced and easy to clean. On the downside, you may find the silicone handle cover a disappointment as it can come loose.
lODGE 17-INCH SEASONED CAST IRON SKILLET
The Tramontina Aluminum skillet comes in 8-inch, 10-inch, 12 inch, and 14-inch diameters and features an NSF certified 3004 aluminum base that is heavy gauge and commercial grade. The handle is secured with three rivets and coated with a silicone sleeve that can be removed for cleaning.
The nonstick coating is reinforced with multiple layers and is PFOA, lead and cadmium free. This pan can be put in a dishwasher and will work with gas, ceramic, and electric ranges. You can place this pan in the oven up to 400 degrees, and it’s made in the USA with some components imported.
The exterior of this pan has a satin finish and tapered edge for a more high-end look. This skillet retails for an average price and comes with a lifetime warranty. You can also purchase this skillet as part of a two-piece set.
le creuset signature iron handle pan
The Le Creuset Signature cast iron pan boasts of a unique handle and an enameled exterior with an attractive color. You can choose from a wide range of colors to suit your kitchen décor. The black interior has an enamel coating, which makes the pan durable.
It also features pouring spouts on both sides a long handle for hanging, and a helper handle. You don’t have to worry about lifting the pan, as it only weighs five pounds. Also, the skillet won’t need any seasoning as the interior is enamel.
Unfortunately, the signature cast iron pan is not precisely nonstick and may not handle outdoor cooking.
Cuisinel pre-seasoned cast iron skillet
The 12-inch Cuisinel pre-seasoned skillet weighs seven pounds and boasts of a smooth finish for even heating. The pan has a heat resistant handle cover that prevents any risk of burning yourself when moving it around.
You can use the skillet in the oven as well as the outdoors when you need to entertain your guests. The one-year money back guarantee assures you of a quality, durable pan that you can use every day.
Sadly, it’s a bit heavier, and the company is still new with very few cookware products.
t-fal pre-seasoned cast iron skillet
If you’re looking for something functional, yet durable, you may want to consider the T-Fal pre-seasoned cast iron skillet. The 12-inch skillet is large enough to accommodate a big family without overcrowding the pan.
Also, you’ll notice that it has a firm grip and the handle is extra-long to help you hang it when not in use. The small spouts provide controlled pouring. Although the skillet comes pre-seasoned, it has instructions on how you can season it at home.
The best part is that you can use the pan on a fire pit, grill, or on the stovetop. Also, the skillet is oven-safe and is free of cadmium and PFOA. With the pan’s ability to retain heat, you can serve your meal right out of the pan.
However, the pre-seasoned skillet does have some drawbacks. The pan has a bottom convex, which means the middle of the pot is higher than the other sides. This may be a problem when cooking in oil or making foods like pancakes.
The slope causes the oil to run to the edges, thereby leaving a hole in the middle. A few users had complaints of the seasoning which wasn’t as durable as other skillets.
universal houseware skillet set
The Universal Houseware skillet set provides value for money as it comes with three cast iron skillets. The skillets range from 6, 7, and 10-inches in size, something that allows you to cook different dishes at once.
The set comes pre-seasoned with vegetable oil, and they are baked at high heat. You’ll love the protective layer on the seals, which enhance durability and provide a smooth cooking surface. Also, they are easy to clean while still hot.
You can prepare small meals like pancakes with smaller skillets and use the 10-inch skillet for large meals. The set is affordable and a perfect choice if you’re looking for a cast iron pan that you won’t regularly use.
Sadly, the set isn’t as durable as other cast iron skillets. Some users have issues with the seasoning as it came off quickly. A few users noticed that the large skillet cracked after prolonged use.
bruntmor 2-in-1 cast iron skillet
If you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen gear with a quality skillet set, the Bruntmor pre-seasoned skillet is a must-have. The set comes with two, one Dutch oven and another skillet pan. With an enameled surface, you can enjoy more free time and less scrubbing.
Also, you can use the cast iron cookware set on any heating source. With an even distribution of heat, you’re sure of incredible results when serving your meal. The Bruntmor set is a combination of versatility and durability, not to forget it’s available at an affordable price.
You’ll fall in love with the excellent quality handles that come with the Dutch oven cookware set. Both the lid and the skillet have holes to help save kitchen space. If you’re looking for an inexpensive set that provides value for money, you should get the Bruntmor 2-in-1 cast iron set.
victoria cast iron skillet
The Victoria cast iron skillet comes Pre Seasoned with organic flaxseed oil. The skillet has a 12-inch round surface, which gives you adequate space to cook your food without worrying about overcrowding.
The sloped side extends the cooking surface, which is an excellent addition. If you’re worried about handling the pan, you can relax as the Victoria cast iron skillet has a helper handle and comes with large pour spouts to make things simpler.
Furthermore, it’s lightweight and an excellent option if you’re on a budget. However, the cookware doesn’t have a lid, and the flat bottom surface can damage glass cooktops.
simple chef cast iron skillet
The Simple Chef cast iron skillet set is heat resistant, naturally non-stick, and heat resistant. Also, it’s affordable and easy to clean when compared to other skillet sets in the market. These multifunctional pans are convenient if you plan on cooking different meals at the same time.
Another notable feature is that the set is scratch-resistant which makes it durable and practically indestructible. You can also cook with the pans right out of the box as they are pre-seasoned. The set provides a unique heat retention design that ensures food doesn’t burn.
With this set, you don’t have to continually rotate the pan or worry about some parts being left raw because of uneven distribution of heat. You can fry, sauté, and even bake using the Simple Chef cast iron skillet set.
One outstanding aspect about this set is that it comes with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. This means that you can ask for a refund if you’re not satisfied with the product.
utopia kitchen cast iron skillet
The Utopia kitchen skillet shares some similarities with the Lodge cast iron skillet. It’s ideal for slow or fast cooking and features a durable construction. The pan can work well on any cooktop, and its nonstick surface makes it easy to clean.
Also, the skillet is pre-seasoned and gives you enough space to prepare a meal for a big family. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars as the Utopia Kitchen cast iron skillet is reasonably priced. If you’re looking for something that is easy to use and durable, you should consider the pan by Utopia.
Another outstanding feature is that if you’re not satisfied, you can get a money back guarantee within 30 days of purchase.
bayou cast iron skillet
The Bayou Cast Iron skillet is a perfection pan if you’re looking for something that can cook for a large gathering. It has two handles, which makes moving it more manageable. The skillet provides ample cooking space without overcrowding thanks to the 14 inches cooking surface.
You can use the pan for the indoor and outdoor grill. Also, it’s pre-seasoned, which allows you to fry, bake, and sauté on a smoother surface. On the downside, it’s not dishwasher safe, and some users find it cumbersome.
4.7 out of 5 Stars
camp chef pre-seasoned iron skillet
The Camp Chef cast iron skillet has a 12-inches natural surface that is easy to clean and maintain. It also features a comfortable grip handles for control and easy lifting when cooking.
Moreover, it comes with dual pour spouts for convenience. Although it’s a product from China, it has excellent online reviews due to its performance and the inclusion of a lid.
4.7 out of 5 Stars
amazonbasics pre-seasoned iron cast skillet
The AmazonBasics pre-seasoned skillet is a fantastic addition to any kitchen. The pan allows you to roast, pan-fry, broil, sear, and more without worrying about congesting the pan as it has a 15-inch cooking surface.
You’ll love the flat base and flared side edges of the pan which work well with new recipes, and everyday favorites. It’s easy to clean and you can use it on the stovetop or an oven depending on the results you want to achieve.
Also, it’s made of heavy-duty cast iron which ensures that it retains heat and distributes it evenly for optimal cooking results. You can use the pan immediately you unpack it as it comes pre-seasoned.
Unfortunately, the AmazonBasics skillet has a rough finish, and it’s not dishwasher safe. Moreover, it’s heavy, and it may need extra seasoning.
4.7 out of 5 Stars
zelancio cast iron skillet
The Zelancio cast iron skillet features durable construction and a tough three layers of porcelain enamel that is crack and chip resistant. The long loop handle allows you to store the pan easily, while the smooth cooking surface ensures your food cooks thoroughly and evenly.
The interior has black porcelain which eliminates the needs to re-season. It can withstand high temperatures in the oven up to 500 degrees. Moreover, the dual pour spouts and ergonomic handle design adds to its versatility
You will love the fact that the Zelancio skillet is available in different colors, which allows you to get a skillet that matches your other cookware and kitchen décor.
The market is flooded with cast iron skillets, which can make it difficult to settle on any one brand. Fortunately, we’ve made your work easier by listing the essential considerations to look out for when shopping for the best cast iron skillet.
Below are the must-know tips when buying a cast iron pan.
Check the Weight of the Pan
Cast iron cookware comes in all sizes and shapes. You can also buy a used or a new cast iron pan. It’s essential to check the weight of the cookware as heavier pans hold heat and give you an authentic cooking style.
Nevertheless, manufacturers now provide lighter options with a similar experience like the heavy ones. If you’re used to heavy pans, it may take time to adjust to lighter pots.
Find Out if the Pan has User-Friendly Handles and Knobs
Although the quality of a pan is essential, you also need to use the cookware to cook the food. You need to check if the knobs and handles burn easily and if they are user-friendly. Find out if the brand incorporates a heat-resistant cover to prevent you from burning.
Some pans have handles on both sides, while others have pieces that are easy to hold. With double handles, you can comfortably balance the pot on the stovetop. Also, you don’t have to worry about the pot being heavy as the handles support the pan.
Although most skillets have a metallic handle, some products have silicone-covered handles which allow you to lift or move the skillet. Also, some models have indentations that work as spoon rests.
Understand that Cast Iron Cookware Comes in Different Styles
Cast iron cookware can be either enamel-coated or bare. Bare pots do not have any covering to make them nonstick. However, bare pans are reactive when heated, and you need to season them regularly for them to be nonstick. Bare pans are inexpensive and could last for years.
Enamel-coated cookware is non-reactive and does not need regular maintenance like bare pans. However, they require routine maintenance to keep their finish in place. Nonetheless, these pans are expensive, and the enamel coating may wear off, making them unusable after some time.
Also, you need to check the coating of enamel pots before purchasing, unlike bare pans that develop the nonstick quality over time.
Look For Something Pre-Seasoned
A pre-seasoned skillet allows you to use it immediately. However, if your skillet is not pre-seasoned, you may need to season it before use, something that requires skill and knowledge.
Evaluate the Size and Check for Good Construction
Cast iron skillets are available in six, eight, ten, and twelve inches. Most home cooks prefer the ten or twelve inches pan. If you need a pan that you won’t have to use regularly, a ten-inch skillet will work best. Remember that the size of your skillet will dictate its weight.
Don’t forget to check for good construction when buying a skillet. The right cast iron pan offers uniform and consistent heat to cook your food evenly. Ensure the skillet has a thick bottom as this works to spread the flame and maintain release.
When looking at skillet construction, check if the handles have screws or bolts. Bolts and screws make your skillet vulnerable to breaking as they act as a weak point.
Specific models have lids, find out if the top is also made with cast iron as it can work in oven cooking and open flame. You may prefer a glass lid as it allows you to check how your food is cooking.
Determine How Easy it is to Clean
Most people have this misconception that cast iron pans are difficult to clean, while others assume that you can’t wash cast iron. While cleaning this kind of pan involves a lot of do’s and don’ts, these pans are not hard to maintain.
All you need is to clean the skillet after use. Remember that you can always season the skillet even if you strip it off while cleaning.
Opt For Something within Your Budget
Cast iron cookware varies in price. You can find something modern, but expensive or a cheaper product that does the same work. It’s critical to understand that cheap products are not always of poor quality or less effective.
The price mainly depends on the brand. Lodge, a brand that has been in operation for years makes affordable skillet and boast of a vast following. Also, these skillets can handle most cooking tasks.
Le Creuset, a brand known for enamel cast dishes have a wide range of skillets that are durable, but expensive. Although you don’t have to spend a lot on a cast iron piece, you may be doing yourself a disservice by buying without doing your research.
It’s essential to understand what your cooking needs are and use this to find a cast iron pan that meets your expectations. You don’t want to spend too much or too little on a pan that you won’t use for the long-term.
Maintaining Your Cast Iron Skillet
While cast iron is a sturdy material that is indestructible and is resistant to scratches, you still need to maintain it by following a few steps. These include:
Use the Cast Iron Skillet Often
Cast iron pans get better with time, that’s why they are passed down from one generation to the next. Using the pan often create a layer of polymers which provides an excellent nonstick surface.
Tasks like searing and frying seasons the pan and allows you to cook any food without worrying about food sticking to the surface.
Clean it After Use
With ordinary cookware, you can clean it whenever you feel like. However, with cast iron pans, you need to clean them immediately after use. The longer it stays with grease on it, the tougher it will be to clean. Wash it while it’s a bit hot to get rid of any oil, and maintain its seasoning.
Avoid Harsh Abrasives
If you’re of the school of thought that you need scrubby washing pads and harsh detergents to clean your cookware, you might want to rethink that when cleaning cast iron pans. The harsh abrasives only remove the seasoning and could leave your pan with scratches.
A little soap and water should work. If you must thoroughly clean the pan, use a mixture of water and kosher salt to scrub. Ensure that you dry the pan with a dish towel or a clean paper towel.
Season the Pan
It’s essential to season your pan to help maintain its performance. Seasoning refers to oil or fat baking the iron to create a natural nonstick coating.
To begin, you need to preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a layer of foil on the bottom rack and a pan on the top rack. Allow the pan to heat for ten minutes and remove it, with a kitchen glove.
Cost the pan with a tablespoon of bacon grease, vegetable shortening, or lard using a paper towel or a cloth. Avoid using vegetable oil as it leaves the pan feeling sticky. Put back the pan in the oven for ten minutes.
Remove it and pour out the excess fat. Change the pan to an upside down position and place it on the top rack of your oven. Ensure that the foil is below the pan to catch any drips. Bake your pan for an hour and turn it off.
Allow the pan to cool. You can repeat this process regularly to build up the pan’s seasoning. While some cast iron skillets come pre-seasoned, it’s best to season yours at home to create that smooth, non-stick surface.
Dry it Every Time
Failure to completely dry off the pan can cause it to rust. After cleaning, place the pan on low heat on a stovetop. Ensure that it’s dry after a few minutes and use a paper towel or cloth to run it with bacon grease or lard.
Heat the pan for ten minutes and allow it to cool. Use a paper towel to wipe off any excess grease and store your pan.
Storing Cast Iron Skillets
You should keep your cast iron skillets in a dry place without the lids to prevent rusting. If you plan on stacking up your pans, place a paper towel in between to avoid moisture buildup.
Cast Iron FAQs
Here are the most common questions about cast iron pans.
What is a Cast Iron Pan?
A cast iron pan is cookware made from melted iron. Once the iron melts at high temperatures, it’s poured into molds to form a cast iron product. The pan has an iron handle, which is part of the mold.
Are Cast Iron Skillets Non Stick?
Cast iron is technically nonstick like Teflon coated cookware. However, after seasoning, the material becomes non stick which means food won’t stick to the surface when cooking.
What Features Should You Look For in a Cast Iron Skillet?
The best skillet should provide excellent cooking performance, an evenly flat bottom, ample cooking surface, and a durable exterior. You should also check its weight, the design of the handles, and if it comes with a lid.
What is the Recommended Cast Iron Skillet Size?
Most home chefs and professional cooks prefer a 10-inch or a 12-inch skillet for their meals. The size will depend on the kind of foods you want to prepare and your cooking style. Also, the weight of the pan will dictate how easy it is to lift and move the pan around.
Can You Cook Acidic Foods in a Cast Iron Pan?
Although acidic foods wear your seasoning out over time, you can still cook them after amping up your seasoning routine. You can wait until you’ve built a layer of seasoning before cooking acidic foods. Having enough seasoning helps to avoid metallic-tasting food and discoloration.
Can you use Metallic Spatulas with a Cast Iron Pan?
Yes, you can use metallic spatulas without worrying about scratching off the cookware’s surface. While some argue that they may remove the seasoning, any scraps are likely to be oils from the meals you’ve prepared over time.
Can Cast Iron Pans Go in the Oven?
Cast iron pans are versatile, and this allows you to use them in different places from stove tops to ovens. The material can withstand high temperatures, making it unbreakable in the oven. Nonetheless, there’s an exception,
If your pan has an enamel coating, you may want to keep the temperatures below 400 Fahrenheit. Also, you can wrap any plastic knobs or handles with a foil when preparing your meals in the oven.
What are the Benefits of a Classic Cast Iron Skillet?
Cast iron skillets are durable, easy to clean and have a nonstick surface that makes cooking and cleaning a breeze. These pans hold and distribute heat evenly without burning your food. Moreover, some are oven safe and can be used on induction cooktops.
How Can You Keep the Seasoning on a Cast Iron Skillet?
You need to avoid cleaning the pan with scourers and harsh detergents. Also, you need to put some oil on a cloth and wipe the skillet after every wash. Heating some oil when you cook reinforces the seasoning and maintains the nonstick surface.
What is the Function of Spouts on Cast Iron Pans?
Cast iron pans have pour spouts that help transfer the contents to a bowl or a plate. Spouts were used back in the day when ancient people needed to render fat and pour off the liquid.
Can You Use a Cast Iron Skillet on an Electric Stove?
Yes, you can use a cast iron pan on an electric stove. However, you need to understand that it may take longer to heat, but the best thing is that the pan holds the heat. You may take some time to learn how to regulate the heat, but with time, this should be a breeze.
Although there are, various brands that claim to have the best cast iron skillets, only a few can offer you value for your money. You need to find a trusted product from a reputable brand and one that has a solid warranty.
Certain brands have a money back guarantee which shows the durability and quality of the skillet. Quality cast iron cookware heats evenly and locks in moisture, to keep your food juicy, while making your cleaning easier.
You can find the best cast iron skillet for both indoor and outdoor cooking. This allows you to entertain guests for an outdoor barbeque or prepare a meal while on a camping trip. Read our buyer’s guide to know about what to look for in a cast iron skillet.