Cast iron. It’s like the superhero metal of cookware. It can do just about anything and cast iron pans can be some of the most long-lasting, reliable pieces of kitchen equipment you’ll ever own.
Made from a highly durable alloy of steel and carbon, cast iron pans can heat up to very high heat without any damage at all. They allow you to cook evenly and stand up superbly to any dents, scratches, or nicks that come their way. Compared to other pans such as stainless steel or copper versions, cast iron tends to be one of the best options.
However, everything has a lifespan. If your cast iron pans are looking a little sorry after years of hard work, it may be time to replace them with some brand new, ultra-durable models. The best cast iron pans can sear a steak to precision, hold a constant temperature for deep-frying food, and they can be used for baking your favorite cake recipes. Talk about versatility!
If you’re on the lookout for some top-quality cast iron pans, you’re in the right place. We have researched hundreds on the market and come up with the top 5 to make your job easier. Once you buy one of these pans, expect it to be a part of your life for a very long time.
OUR TOP PICK
Our number one choice is this cast iron skillet from Lodge. This has become an extremely popular pan throughout the country due to its user-friendly size. Weighing just 5 pounds, it weighs a pound less than most of its competitors resulting in a comfortable, easy-to-use piece of kitchenware.
It’s important for cast iron pans to be seasoned. This prevents the surface from rusting over time. While you may have to do this as the pan gets older, most come pre-seasoned for better rust resistance. This Iron Skillet is no exception. As well as being durable, the pan is very easy to clean after you have cooked, baked, or grilled on it.
Robust and reliable, Lodge’s Iron Skillet heats slowly, but once it is heated, it retains its heat very easily and effectively. This makes it ideal for searing steaks or browning any food items. With a simple yet rustic design, this skillet will suit any home.
- Easy to clean - Food remnants tend to slide right off the surface of this skillet and with just a little hot water and soap, the pan is clean in no time
- Lightweight - For a cast iron pan, this is one of the lightest we came across resulting in an easy to handle item
- Versatile - Can be used for a variety of cooking purposes such as baking or grilling
- Only a moderately non-stick surface - Although food slides off whilst cooking, food tends to stick a little more than we expected
You can choose from two types of cast iron pans: regular or enameled. Traditional or regular cast iron skillets tend to build up some nonstick seasoning over a period of use but enameled versions are generally more stick-resistant. This is why we have Staub’s cast iron Enameled Frying Pan at number two on our list. Pans such as this don’t react with any acidic ingredients such as tomatoes so your food will always taste as it should with no metallic hints.
Staub’s pans do not require any extra seasoning and are renowned for keeping a stable heat for hours on end. Their distinct matte black interior construction makes these pans perfect for searing and browning all kinds of food. Even when used, these skillets couldn’t be easier to clean. The stick-resistance on offer means food simply slides off the pan so you can easily rinse down and wash gently afterward.
These skillets also feature curved sides that are low enough for you to easily flip food. There are also two spouts for drip-free pouring. Add all of this up with an oven-safe temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit and you have yourself a highly durable and robust cast iron pan.
- Will not rust or chip - The stylish enamel coating will protect the pan from rusting or chipping even after years of use and it prevents any discoloration from occurring
- No need to season - The enamel coating also keeps you from having to season the pan regularly
- Ideal for searing and browning - One of the best pans on the market for adding those finishing touches to certain foods
- Can stick at first - When first used, these pans may not be as non-stick as promised but after a few uses, the stick resistance kicks in
Here, we have another impressive skillet from Lodge. Whether you use this on your kitchen stovetop or take it away for a camping trip, you will not be disappointed. Its design is fantastic with one smooth side for making pancakes and a ribbed side for grilling perfectly seared steaks.
Its size may be its biggest selling point. At 20 x 10.5 inches, this Lodge Pre-Seasoned Grill pan is ideal for family use. It may be a bit overkill for a couple but for a family of four or five, you will be able to cook for every hungry mouth in this pan. Although large, it’s less than an inch thick so storing is made much easier.
Due to its sheer size (it can cover two burners on your stovetop), it is quite heavy. But this is what you should expect from a family-sized cast iron pan. It takes a little time to heat up but once done, the pan maintains heat wonderfully. Pre-seasoned with an affordable price tag, this easy-to-clean cast iron pan could just make your life that little bit easier.
- Easy to store - This has a unique combination of being large enough for a family but small enough for easy storage due to its slim design
- Versatile - Offers both grill and griddle sides so you can spice things up in the kitchen
- Suitable for outdoor grilling - The grill side is perfect for cooking outdoors on campfires thanks to grilling grates that keep the food securely on top while cooking
ConsPretty heavy - Compared to some of its competitors, this pan is a little on the heavy side so may not suit everyone
There are not many more renowned brands than Le Creuset when it comes to top-quality cookware. Celebrated for their durable cast iron pans, their enameled cast iron models are just as exciting.
Each skillet is individually sand molded and inspected by experts. You won’t have to apply any more seasoning to these pan for a while as the black enamel interior comes pre-seasoned. The enamel of these skillets also provides incredible heat retention, especially when you compare them to competitive nonstick pans. And unlike many cast iron pans, this is dishwasher safe for a simpler cleaning process.
Using Le Creuset’s skillets is easy thanks to a generously sized loop helper handle. Lifting is an absolute breeze even with oven gloves on. Also featured are two spouts for drip-free pouring. No more mess! With a wide variety of colors to choose from such as chic oyster and vibrant cherry, you should be able to find a skillet that suits your kitchen and yourself easily.
- Versatile - Can cook a range of dishes in these skillets from steaks to eggs to pancakes
- Requires very little oil - Its nonstick design requires little oil resulting in low-fat, healthier cooking
- Provides superior heat retention - Its stylish enameled cast iron construction maintains heat at a precise level for long periods of time
- A little hard to use - Some customers have reported that the skillet is a little uncomfortable to use due to its heavyweight nature
- Loses its non-stickiness after some time - There are reports that food tends to stick to the pan after some time
If you want to create distinctive grill marks on your food with a durable and versatile cast iron pan, then you should consider the Cuisinart 9.25-inch Square Grill Pan. This offers one of the most affordable ways of getting the best char marks when grilling outdoors as well as indoors.
As expected, this grill pan has all of the qualities that make cast iron pans so special such as durability and weight. You also won’t have to worry about seasoning this skillet as it comes pre-seasoned for long-lasting use. The interior is coated with porcelain enamel so no odors or flavors are absorbed into the pan after cooking. Eating a pancake with the aftertaste of fish is never a good thing!
This grill pan is not nonstick but it is dishwasher safe. At least this makes it easier to clean after an intense cooking session. Yes, it will require a little more upkeep than nonstick skillets but the results you get from this pan are worth it. With its robustness and durability, expect this to last a lifetime.
- Excellent at retaining heat - Boasts an even heat distribution so you won’t have to worry about any hot spots while cooking
- Dishwasher safe - Allows you to save time on cleaning afterward
- Produces distinctive grill marks - Your food will have the best grill marks you have ever experienced with a beautifully crisp texture
- Not nonstick - Will require extra maintenance compared to nonstick pans
- The handle can get hot - The handle is made from the same enamel-coated material as the rest of the pan’s body which can heat up significantly and become a little slippery
Best Cast Iron Pan Buying Guide
Now you have seen our top 5 cast iron pans, you may want to go straight ahead and purchase one. But wait! There are a variety of factors that you should look out for when shopping for cast-iron skillets.
Below is a list of the top features and aspects to consider to make sure you invest in the best cast iron pan for your needs.
There’s no getting away from it. Cast iron is much heavier than other types of cookware. Even those of a similar size tend to be easier and lighter to handle. Yes, bigger is usually better because it generally gives you the opportunity to cook more food. However, you should still consider the overall size and weight of a pan. You don’t want to choose a pan that is too heavy to pick up.
Extra weight can also affect your storage options. You need to ensure that your shelves are capable and strong enough to store your cast iron pans. Remember, other items will need to be stored as well as these.
Enameled or uncoated
You can choose between enameled and uncoated with cast iron pans. Enameled versions will never require seasoning and some are dishwasher friendly for quicker, easier maintenance. The enamel coating stops the food from making contact with the metal. Therefore, you can safely use enameled cookware with all types of food. This includes acidic foods like tomatoes or lemons.
There are some negatives to using enameled pans though. The coating can be prone to cracking or chipping until the pan is unfit for cooking anymore. Additionally, while cast iron pans can be used on all kinds of cooktops and ovens, the knobs on the lids may not be able to withstand the high heat and could begin to melt.
Then there are uncoated cast iron pans. These can come pre-seasoned for immediate use but they tend to become more nonstick as they get older and get seasoned more. A lot of uncoated cast iron cookware will not come pre-seasoned. However, they will arrive with an oil coating to protect the skillet from rusting. Before you use these pans, you must wash, dry, and season them.
The good news is that cast iron is, on the whole, indestructible. Even if the pan’s seasoning gets damaged, you can re-season it easily again. You can also use many of these pans on outdoor grills as well as indoor for versatile cooking.
Unfortunately, uncoated cast iron metal is reactive and the seasoning can become easily damaged from cooking acidic foods over long periods. This can result in your food acquiring some sort of metallic taste as you continue cooking with the pan. Well-seasoned pans will not have this problem when cooking acidic foods over a short period of time. However, if you want to braise tomatoes for a long time, other pans may be better options.
It’s important to note that cast iron pans need extra care when compared to stainless steel or aluminum models. But you will soon get the hang of this maintenance with a few uses.
Cast iron pans have always been known to have thick structures that help retain heat properties. That was until recently. Because the thickness of the pans added extra weight, manufacturers started to produce cast iron skillets from thinner materials.
This has resulted in lighter cookware that is easier to handle. However, it doesn’t heat quite as evenly as thicker pans and will struggle to retain heat for the same amount of time. While there is a difference, it’s minimal. So, if weight is a concern, consider opting for a lighter pan.
The handle’s configuration of cast iron pans is vital. This is because they tend to be quite heavy and retain heat well so you want something that’s easy to hold and won’t burn you.
The handle of a cast-iron skillet should be sturdy and large enough to hold easily while wearing oven mitts. The majority of frying pans tend to have one long handle with a helper handle attached to the opposite side. This makes it easier to move and empty the pan. Smaller types, or less expensive models, sometimes do not include this handle so a two-handed grip on the long handle is needed instead.
Consider what is right for you before opting for a new pan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it easy to restore rusty cast iron pans?
It’s quite simple to restore your rusty pan to its former glory. All you need to do is:
- Using a metal scouring pad, scour the pan’s surface with warm, soapy water
- Next, apply a thin, even layer of cooking oil (vegetable, olive) to the pan
- On the top rack of the oven, place the cookware in upside down
- Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack to catch any draining oil
- Bake at 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour
This will season your skillet so it’s ready to go for many more years.
Can I wash my cast iron pan with soap?
It is possible to wash your cast iron pan with a small amount of soap. However, never use large amounts as this can strip off the seasoning of the skillet and potentially damage the surface. But you can easily re-season (as shown above) if this happens.