Yahoo Life Shopping
Why you can trust us

We independently evaluate the products we review. When you buy via links on our site, we may receive compensation. Read more about how we vet products and deals.

Ina Garten's fave $20 Lodge cast iron skillet is a must-have for home cooks (says me, a professional baker)

The Lodge cast iron pan is a true culinary workhorse and will last forever.

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Few things bring me as much comfort as watching Ina Garten cook on TV; not only am I a fan of the Barefoot Contessa's approachable, homey recipes, I also love checking out her gorgeous kitchen and cookware. Some of her go-tos are admittedly out of my price range — Le Creuset, anyone? — but I was pleasantly surprised to discover she's a fan of the super-affordable Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, a longtime favorite of mine. This durable, pre-seasoned pan can last decades with the proper care (more on that later) and I've used it for everything from breakfast to dessert. Its $20 price tag doesn't hurt, either. Wondering if it belongs in your cooking arsenal? Keep reading for my review.

Trust me, cast iron pans aren't as high-maintenance as you'd think — and they're ideal for a wide array of cooking tasks, from frying and searing to baking and roasting. 

Pros
  • Excellent heat retention
  • Comes pre-seasoned
  • Can be used on any cooktop and in the oven
Cons
  • Should be cleaned by hand, not in the dishwasher
  • Fairly heavy
$20 at Amazon
Explore More Buying Options
$20 at Walmart

Lodge has been in the cast iron business since 1896, so they know a thing or two about crafting sturdy pieces designed to withstand practically any cooking environment. This skillet is no exception; it can be used on all cooktops, is oven-safe and can even be placed over a grill or open flame. Lodge pans are so durable, people often pass them down to younger generations. I've only had mine for about 10 years, but it works just as well as the day I got it, if not better. Not bad for just 20 bucks!

Another thing I love about my Lodge skillet? It's made of iron and oil — no PFOAs or PTFEs, which gives me peace of mind about cooking without "forever chemicals." No wonder Ina chose it as one of 12 pieces of cookware to link to on her website.

As mentioned, I use this pan for just about everything: As a former professional baker, I often go the sweet route, from the literal best chocolate chip pancakes I've ever made to cinnamon rolls and cornbread. Want to make your own gooey skillet cookie or brownie? Look no further. It's also what my husband reaches for every time he makes a frittata or hash browns, and we both love using it for baked pastas. (See below for some of my cast iron creations!)

Because iron is excellent at retaining and distributing heat, nothing will give you a better sear on your steak or crispy exterior on your potatoes, though you might notice you have to wait longer for the skillet to heat up than, say, a thinner nonstick pan. It's worth it! Since it retains heat so well, Lodge recommends cooking on around medium heat or less to help prevent sticking. I try to adhere to this and rarely have issues, unless I haven't sufficiently oiled the pan.

author photos of baked pasta and cinnamon rolls made in the cast iron skillet
Sweet or savory? With this cast iron skillet, you don't have to choose. (Britt Ross/Yahoo Life)

While we're on the subject, keeping your cast iron skillet seasoned is the key to avoiding sticky situations. And before you roll your eyes, just know that taking care of these pans is much less complicated than you might think!

Since the Lodge cast iron pan comes pre-seasoned, you can start cooking with it right away. Every time you cook with oil, you're seasoning it a bit more; however, the seasoning will wear off a bit when cooking acidic foods or using high heat, so Lodge recommends restoring it every so often. To do so, you'll scrub the skillet with mild dish soap and warm water (using soap is okay when you're prepping it for seasoning). Then, apply a thin coat of vegetable oil on the inside and outside of the pan. Place it on the top rack of a 450-500° F oven, upside down, with a baking sheet on the bottom rack to collect any oil drippings. Keep it in for an hour, let it cool and you're good to go!

When it comes to cleaning, this is a job you'll want to do by hand (sorry, dishwashers remove the seasoning and can cause rust). But it's really simple: Just use water and a tiny bit of dish soap if needed (I usually don't). Lightly scrub with a non-abrasive sponge or cloth, then dry really well. Apply a light coating of oil, then wipe off with a paper towel. If there's any caked-on mess, Lodge's instructions say to simmer some water in it for a few minutes to help loosen the residue.

While I don't mind having to season my pan a few times a year, I will say that it gives me an arm workout whenever I use it. I have the 10.25-inch version, and ... it's hefty. You also need to remember that when the pan is hot, the handle is hot. To keep myself from burning, I use one of these holders — a smart accessory to have.

ina garten wearing a black top in a kitchen
Ina would never lead us astray, and if the Lodge cast iron skillet is good enough for her, it's good enough for me! (Fairchild Archive/Penske Media via Getty Images)

There's a reason (well, multiple reasons) over 95,000 Amazon shoppers have given the Lodge Cast Iron Skillet a perfect rating — here's what some of them had to say.

"It’s already seasoned and I love that!" gushed one satisfied shopper. "It is my favorite pan now. It’s pretty, so I leave it sitting on my stove all the time. Nothing is sticking to it and it’s super easy to clean, has great heat distribution and is excellent quality. This will be passed down for generations."

"Been cooking for decades, several years as a professional," shared another. "Always loved the dishwasher convenience of heavy steel pots. Hate hand-washing things at home. Finally broke down and bought one of these. Yep. It's the way to go to easily brown things."

"Got this for camping," wrote a third. "Love cooking on cast iron, especially when camping — it adds flavor to the food, I swear. This is real high-quality stuff ..."

Of course, its durability means it's not the most lightweight pan on the market. "For people with weaker or injured wrists like me, this cast iron is the real deal and so it’s extremely heavy compared to other types of pans," explained an otherwise happy buyer. "I had to be careful carrying it to make sure I do not injure my wrist again." That said, they called it: "A solid product and very forgiving cast iron pan for a beginner user like me."

"My only complaint is the short handle," wrote a final fan. "I know it's traditional, and I was aware that that would be a problem when I bought it, but I have fairly large hands and it would help to have a longer handle to hold onto. My wife rarely uses it because it's too unwieldy given its weight and short handle."

This medium skillet is like the Goldilocks of pans — not too big, not too small, just right. That said, it comes in seven other sizes too. 

$20 at Amazon
Explore More Buying Options
$20 at Walmart

In the event that you notice some stubborn residue, here's a simple solution.

This is what Jennifer Garner — and thousands of Amazon shoppers — use to clean caked-on cast iron messes. It's made up of small stainless steel rings that won't get rusty, and can be used on stainless steel and aluminum cookware as well. 

"I’m a chef and take good care of my cast iron pans," shared a user. "When I first saw this product, I was intrigued. I purchased one, and it is a staple in my home. I’ve bragged about how well it works to many people. The rounded chainmail removes all the debris without gouging the seasoning on the pan or scratching the surface. If it gets gunked up with debris, I just run it through the dishwasher."

$15 at Amazon

If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping, of course. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.