A Durable Cast-Iron Skillet Is the Only Pan You’ll Ever Need

Danielle St. Pierre
·8 min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Best Products

If there’s one elemental kitchen staple to keep in your arsenal, it’s a good cast-iron skillet. Considered the workhorse of all kitchen pans, a cast-iron skillet is durable and versatile, and most are quite affordable. Whether you're frying omelettes, searing seafood and steaks, or whipping up a sauce, this pan does the heavy lifting for most culinary tasks. It can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, or even on the campfire.

To make your search a bit easier, we did the research, review-scouring, and hand-testing to find the top-performing, no-nonsense cast-iron skillets that'll make your meal prep so much easier.

The Best Cast-Iron Skillets to Buy in 2021

How We Chose

To find the best cast-iron skillets, we did extensive research to find the top-rated picks, scouring reviews and tips from expert sources including Good Housekeeping, Food & Wine, and Wirecutter. We included only options with unanimously positive reviews and expert-vetted feedback on quality.

In our own testing of these skillets, we also kept in mind the following factors:

  1. Longevity: This is one of the most important factors, as we only wanted to include picks that hold up (and hold up well) over time. We considered which cast-iron skillets held up best when it came to food stains, rust, and chips, along with how well each skillet's seasoning or nonstick surface held up with use over time.

  2. Durability: Durability and versatility go hand-in-hand, as we spent months trying out various recipes with our skillets both on the stovetop and in the oven to see which models actually work seamlessly into our everyday cooking.

  3. Ergonomics: Cast-iron cookware is heavier than aluminum or other metal cookware due to its solid construction, but not all cast-iron skillets are made equally when it comes to ergonomics. We've found certain brands to be much more comfortable to hold in-hand and maneuver than others.

Once you make your purchase, here's a helpful guide to the do's and don'ts of using, cleaning, and caring for your cast-iron skillet to make sure it performs year after year, meal after meal.

Here are our picks for the five best cast-iron skillets to buy this year.

Best Overall

An essential in the world of cast-iron cookware, this best-selling 10.25-inch skillet from Lodge has more than 3,000 reviews on Amazon, the majority of which praise this pan's versatility, durability, easy-to-hold handle, and easy-to-clean, preseasoned surface. From cornbread to omelettes, this skillet will serve you well for virtually any occasion.

This skillet can be used to sautée, sear, fry, bake, braise, roast, and stir-fry a wide range of different dishes, from omelettes to fillets of fish. It's preseasoned with vegetable oil for a natural, easy-release finish that many reviewers agree only gets better with each use. This versatile skillet may be used on various heat sources, including gas, electric, induction, and ceramic-glass top stoves and ovens.

A clever silicone Hot Handle Holder gives this option from Lodge an edge over its competitors because this feature eliminates the need for an oven mitt when handling or transporting from stovetop to oven. Users especially love using this 10.25-inch skillet for baked dishes like cornbread or frittatas.

Best Nonstick

This 10-inch cast-iron skillet from Victoria is one of the best options straight out of the box due to its impressive preseasoned coating, which requires no additional oil to activate its nonstick properties.

The preseasoned flaxseed oil coating on this skillet is so effective that most reviewers claimed that food simply didn't stick, even during the pan’s very first use. Requiring no additional oil, some users were shocked at how effective this non-chemical oil coating was during cooking even the stickiest dishes, like scrambled eggs or risotto.

Another user-friendly feature that makes this skillet stand out from the pack is its long, thin handle that curves slightly upward for better leverage. This lightweight skillet weighs less than 7 pounds, which also helps with overall maneuverability.

Finally, the pour spouts on the sides of this pan are larger and more pronounced than most other models, which helps prevent messy spills of hot oils and meat drippings during cooking.

Note: Some reviewers took issue with this pan's slightly rough, uneven finish, which makes the pan sit just slightly unbalanced on flat surfaces, though this didn't seem to affect the overall performance.

Best Splurge

It's no surprise that the culinary masters at French cookware brand Le Creuset are behind one of the most highly reviewed cast-iron skillets in the industry. This enameled cast-iron skillet is sturdy and slightly heavier than other skillets, providing even heat retention and distribution, whether it's used on the stovetop or in the oven.

One of the most impressive and commonly praised features of this 10.25-inch skillet is its unique black-enameled interior, which is designed to resist staining and dulling over time. Unlike some other cast-iron pans, this interior requires no additional seasoning or extra oil, making it a great tool for low-fat cooking. This slick surface also makes cleanup quick and easy. The colorful exterior enamel is also designed to resist chipping and cracking, making this skillet super durable.

Users also love the smart helper handle for seamlessly transporting this skillet from one surface to another or from stovetop to oven. Weighing less than 7 pounds, this skillet is quite easy to maneuver, too.

This one is ideal for dishes cooked at medium heat — think braised meats, roasted veggies, and sauces — but it's also versatile enough to use for sticky breakfast dishes. Many reviewers raved that the Le Creuset cast-iron cookware they originally received as a wedding or housewarming gift has lasted for decades.

Lightweight Pick

This preseasoned, 12-inch cast-iron skillet from Calphalon offers a generous nonstick surface area that's perfect for evenly searing chicken breasts or steak, sautéing vegetables, or baking egg-based dishes and casseroles.

Slightly lighter than the other options on this list at less than 7 pounds, Calphalon's cast-iron skillet is easier to maneuver for cooking and cleaning. An oversized handle also helps with leverage. Another user-friendly feature is this pan’s interior design. With interior edges that are softer and more rounded than other models, food is less likely to stick in sharp corners, which makes cleanup much faster.

Because some reviewers found that the skillet's nonstick seasoned coating took time and repeated daily use to work effectively, we recommend using a small amount of cooking oil when first using this pan to gradually build up the nonstick coating over time.

New Kid on the Block

New direct-to-consumer cookware brand The Field Company launched in 2016 with a $1.6M Kickstarter campaign and a waitlist that quickly grew to 20,000 for their signature No. 8 skillet. Since their launch, the brand has also rolled out a 4-inch, 6-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch cast-iron skillet, in addition to their flagship 8-inch model. At a $125 price point, this skillet strikes a nice budget-friendly balance, considering its impeccable quality.

After testing this skillet out at home over the past few months, we were most impressed by how this easy-to-maneuver, lightweight skillet feels in-hand. This skillet has a naturally nonstick cooking surface that's perfect for evenly searing chicken breasts or salmon, sautéing vegetables, or baking egg-based dishes and casseroles.

The compact 8-inch size makes it incredibly easy to move from stovetop to oven, and it also makes for seamless storage. An angled pour spout and thoughtful notch at the tip of the handle also makes this skillet easy to hang from a cooking rack or hook if your kitchen is strapped for storage space.

Significantly smaller and less bulky than the other options on this list, Field's 8-inch cast-iron skillet is the perfect size for everyday cooking, as it holds up to 8.25 cups of liquid, two New York strip steaks, or up to four eggs at once.

Want to learn more about cast-iron skillets? We've answered three of the most commonly asked questions about cast-iron skillet use and care below!

FAQ

Q. How do I clean a cast-iron skillet?

A. Wash the skillet by hand using hot water and a sponge or a stiff nylon bristle scrub brush. Avoid using the dishwasher, soap, or steel wool, as these may strip the pan's seasoning. To scrub off sticky bits of food, scrub the pan with a paste of coarse kosher salt and warm water, or you can simmer a little water in the pan for 1 minute, then use a scrub brush or scraper after cooled.

Q. What exactly is seasoning, and what is its purpose?

A. Seasoning is simply oil baked into a cast-iron pan to give it a natural, easy-release finish. Most brands use vegetable oil or shortening to season their cast iron.

Q. How do I season a cast-iron skillet?

A. If your cast-iron skillet isn't already preseasoned, you can season it yourself by spreading a thin layer of melted shortening or vegetable oil over the interior surface of a clean pan. Place the pan upside down on a middle oven rack at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, bake for 1 hour, and let the pan cool in the oven.

Now that you've got your cast-iron skillet, let's get cooking. Frittatas for everyone!

Read More:

Our Editors Swear By These Top-Rated Kitchen Knives

We Drank So Much Caffeine to Test These Coffee Grinders

Nonstick Pans for Delicious Omelettes (Minus the Mess)

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