Top 7 Most Recommended Cast Iron Skillets

Kitchen Expert Jacob Cummings lists his most recommended cast iron skillets, along with why these picks should be in your top choices as well.

Iron skillet full of food on a tree stump

Photo by Jacob Cummings

The Criteria: What I Look for in a Great Cast Iron Cookware

A traditional cast iron skillet is made of one piece and will almost certainly be heavy with a thick base. There is no such thing as “lightweight” with cast iron. When looking at used cast iron skillets that you might find at the thrift store or garage sales, it’s important to look at the texture of the bottom cooking surface to see if there is heavy pitting or rust. A perfect cast iron skillet will be smooth and polished—although it’s common for many new, lower-cost skillets to have an unpolished surface. Committed chefs opt for the smoothest surface they can find.

When looking at used enamel cast-iron skillets, it is important to observe the texture and scratches on the bottom of the pan. Look for chips in the enamel coating and to see if there is bare and exposed metal. Next look to see if the used skillet has been overheated by inspecting if the cooking base is still flat or if it is warped. If the skillet is warped, you will have difficulty keeping vegetable oils and grease in the middle of the cooking area where tasty ingredients will then likely become stuck to the surface.

Does the Brand of Cast Iron Skillet Matter?

There are some differences between brands of cast-iron skillets. Brands like Wagner, Lodge, Le Creuset, Finex, and Staub are some of the top brands that will provide consistent, high-quality cast iron.

Are There Different Qualities of Cast Iron Pans?

When shopping for used cast iron skillets at the thrift store, it is common to find a ton of low-quality options. These days, most cast iron sold by reputable brands is high-quality and affordable. The more expensive options will have machine-polished cooking surfaces, helper handles for good grip, pour spouts, and often they will come with lids.

Does Price Matter for Cast Iron?

Everyone generally agrees that more expensive cast iron is also of higher quality in both the materials and finish. But it’s also common to find very low-cost options that are still amazing and arguably a better value. You do not need to spend $200 or more on a nice cast iron. However, you will never regret spending that money—as those pieces of cookware, when properly cared for, will last for generations.

Overall Best Cast Iron Skillet: Lodge 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Product image of Lodge 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

The Lodge 12-inch traditional cast-iron skillet is a value that cannot be matched. This skillet is robust—with a helper handle and pour spouts. The design of the pan is a wide bottom with steep edges that are tall and great for up to six eggs, heating sauces, and browning just about anything. Since it is made in the USA, there is a bit of pride in owning the skillet. It’s available with either a glass or cast-iron lid for an additional price. The pan alone weighs almost eight pounds, which is definitely something to consider.

The pan may need to be re-seasoned with use, which if you have never done before is a very simple process. It’s essentially bonding a thin layer of oil to the metal. With the value being under $30, you really can’t go wrong with this skillet.

Great For:

  • If you can’t find one of these laying around the thrift store, don’t worry because they’re really cheap to begin with, and will last forever
  • The 12-inch cooking surface is great for cooking for 3–5 people and fits well on most medium cooktops
  • Perfect for anyone who’s just getting into cast iron and needs a forgiving piece of cookware that has a large helper handle and takes only a minute to clean

Best Enameled Dishes

Enameled cast iron skillets are great for anyone who loves cast iron and never wants to deal with rust or seasoning ever again. The trade-offs exist, but for the most part it’s a great way to live life in the kitchen, either way. Enameled cookware needs special care so the coating doesn’t scratch or chip. For this reason, it’s recommended that you don’t use metal utensils.

Staub 10-Inch Frying Pan

Product image of Staub 10-Inch Frying Pan

The Staub 10-inch frying pan is enameled cast iron and the coating is completely around the exterior and into the cooking surface. The matte finish texture on the inside does not need to be seasoned. Made in France, these pans are incredibly durable on all kinds of stove tops, including gas ceramic, glass electric induction, and halogen.

It’s oven safe up to 900°F and dishwasher safe. But it’s also recommended to hand-wash all enameled cast iron cookware with soap and a sponge. The pour spouts are easy for draining liquid; the enamel handle with tabs for both hands makes it a simple pick up from the stove to table. It comes in a wide variety of colors; my favorite is basil green.

Great For:

  • Beautiful colors and a lifetime warranty means you can enjoy this vibrant cookware without worry of rust and chipping
  • A helper tab and a comfortable handle lets you transport from the open flame to the table without worry of spilling your meal
  • The 10-inch skillet is perfect for 1–3 people and it’s a great size for smaller cooktops

Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle

Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle on the stove

Photo by Jacob Cummings

What’s so great about these skillets is the entire size run has a helper handle. On top of incredible enameled durability, beautiful colors, and a distinct, smooth shape, the skillets are overbuilt to last a lifetime. They’re easy to clean, require no seasoning, and are safe in the dishwasher and with metal utensils—although it’s best to use wooden or silicone utensils to avoid scratching. The skillets will bring contrast to your dinner table and are a joy to cook with. They are oven safe up to 500°F and compatible with all stove tops including induction burners.

Great For:

  • Enthusiasts who want the original and the very best will never be disappointed with this cookware
  • Lifetime warranty and incredible durability on the enamel coating lets you rest assured that this cookware is ready to perform and look great on the cooktop and the table
  • A wide variety of colors lets you choose exactly which palette matches your kitchen style perfectly

Most Practical: Lodge Combo Cooker

Lodge Combo Cookers on a tree stump

The Lodge Combo Cooker is a 10.25-inch cast-iron skillet and a saucepan that can be combined to work like a Dutch oven. So the two pieces work together to make a third. Often this set can be found for under $50 and it is beloved in the kitchen, around the campfire, or on top of any open flame.

Great For:

  • Having the magic of using two pieces of great cookware to make a dutch oven is both space-saving and low-cost
  • Big enough to feed 3–5 people without a fuss
  • Generous helper handles on both pans line up during dutch-oven duty for superior comfort (bring your oven mitts with this one, it’s heavy!)

Best Design: Finex

Product image of Finex cast-iron skillet

Manufactured in Portland, Oregon, the Finex cast-iron skillet is one of the most unique and advanced skillets ever made. The octagon shape and spring handle might be the first things you notice. The octagon allows for a number of pour spouts, while the flat sides in between allow for easy spatula access into cornbread and other tricky foods.

The spring handle stays cool longer and cools off faster than conventional cast-iron handles— plus it looks amazing. The CNC polished cooking surface makes it very easy to replicate a nearly non-stick cooking surface. This skillet will last you so long and be such an amazing piece of your kitchen, you might not want to cook with anything else.

Great For:

  • Helper tab and the spring handles encourage you to move the cookware confidently with both hands
  • Pre-seasoned cast iron is a small gesture, but the forever lifetime warranty is a peace of mind that makes splurging totally worth it
  • Several pour spouts let you separate the liquids easier and form more angles

Best for Frying: Lodge Cast Iron Covered Deep Skillet

Product image of Lodge Cast Iron Covered Deep Skillet

Frying in cast iron is amazing: once the pan is at high heat, even heat distribution abounds. The deep surface of this specific pan allows for frying larger objects with less splatter, and the helper handle with the lid makes sure hot oils don’t spill. There is an additional 10.5-inch fry basket and two optional lids for enthusiasts.

Great For:

  • The low cost of this pan lets you get frying sooner without the fears of replacement costs because Lodge has an unspoken lifetime warranty
  • Add the cast iron lid to turn this into a dutch oven with a great handle
  • Perfect size for 1–4 people: roast meats and veggies and then put it on fryer duty

Best for Grilling: Lodge 10.5-Inch Square Cast Iron Grill Pan

Product image of Lodge 10.5-Inch Square Cast Iron Grill Pan

Sometimes food needs to be cooked in a single layer, and a square pan offers a little bit more surface area. The large square grilling pan is cheap and easily produces the sear and texture that everyone wants. The ridged bottom allows for fats to drop away and for hotspots to form on the food to make browning lines. Available with a glass lid, there are very few grilling options that would be comparable to this pan.

Great For:

  • The low cost of this pan is unbeatable and the durability will hold for a long time
  • Searing a crust onto your food adds a wonderful texture that makes meals memorable
  • Chicken and vegetables altogether, it’s big enough to feed up to three hungry people

How Do You Know if Your Cast Iron Is Messed Up?

If your cast iron has endured lots of rusting, then it’s possible the surface is pitted and rough. If it’s just surface rust, try scrubbing it away, and then take a paper towel with a little bit of canola oil to cover the entire surface. This is not a complete deal breaker, but in some cases, the rust and pitting can become so bad that cooking food is not as convenient as if you had a less damaged pan. It might still be a great pan with amazing heat retention, but it won’t be living its best life.

The other main thing would be if the cast iron is cracked, which is rare but can happen if the pan has been dropped. If the cooking surface is warped, then you might want to consider replacing the pan. You can tell if the pan is warped if it isn’t flat in any way.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading! Hopefully some part of this article helped you further along with finding your perfect skillet. There’s so many options out there and many of them you can’t go wrong with! So please feel free to reach out to one of our Kitchen Experts with any questions that you might still have. We’re here to help!

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