Wanting a non stick frying pan or skillet that will last an awfully long time and not cost you the earth? Then consider a basic cast iron skillet. For one that won’t mark your cooktop, think again. Here I cover different types of cast iron pans and the best cast iron skillet for glass cooktop use.
What’s the best cast iron skillet for the kitchen?
My suggestion is to look for a 10-inch to 12-inch sized cast iron skillet that has dual pour spouts and a helper handle as well as a long handle for ease of use. The 15-inch pans will do the trick, but they are weightier and for this reason, better suited to an open campfire. With a glass cooktop, you don’t want this heftiness and an enameled type might be best.
– Top basic skillet.
– Top cast iron skillet for glass cooktop by Staub.
– Top cast iron skillet for glass cooktop by Le Creuset.
For your kitchen, nothing is more versatile than a skillet.
Comparison table – Cast iron skillet buyers guide
Here’s a quick overview of some popular cast iron skillets including the different types.
This guide aims to help you make an informed choice regarding what cast iron skillet to buy. It answers some of the frequently asked questions and covers reviews of some popular brands.
Some call these pans, others call them skillets. In any case, most agree that cast iron cookware is durable and sturdy and made to last.
Who uses cast iron skillets?
Anyone from a camp chef to a home cook is likely to use a cast iron skillet. Someone who wants a healthy option in cooking with a pan that will last and last might also use a cast iron skillet. With the right treatment, a cast iron skillet will offer nonstick cooking. But if you are interested in a more lightweight design, you might want to check out my article about ceramic nonstick frying pans.
Why use cast iron cookware in the kitchen?
My cast iron skillet is my favorite and probably most-used piece of cookware in my kitchen. Here’s why…
- They are versatile
- Easy to clean
- A safe option
- Time tested
Cast iron skillets can be used for searing, frying, fry baking, grilling, and sautéing – basically cooking a variety of foods from omelets to chops to pizzas to anything indoors or outdoors on grills, stovetops, or open fires.
And, it’s not fragile.
Cast iron will take the knocks. It won’t chip or crack with tough everyday use. And, you can use metal utensils without the worry of harming the product.
Cast iron cookware is easy to clean and maintain once it is seasoned. Learn more about this in my care section below.
This cookware is considered a safe option since it is made of iron, which is an essential element required in our diet. Among other functions, iron aids the transport of oxygen around our bodies.
Iron is the oldest cooking surface still being used today. If you are one for test kitchen results, the continued use of cast iron in cooking by various cultures over many centuries demonstrates its worth — it is a tried and tested cookware material!
In the US, cast iron cookware has been around since the time of the early pioneers. Cast iron is popular as cookware for camping and the home kitchen alike.
Different types of cast iron pans
Apart from the classic or traditional look, enameled cast iron and lightweight cast iron lines are other types available in this cookware range.
Basic cast iron pans
The basic (or classic) design includes the bare cast iron type or those with factory seasoning. (I cover how they are made below.) They often have a long handle with a hole for hanging. This style of handle is especially useful in a camp kitchen or at an outdoor cooking site.
The classic cast iron pans are suitable for all cooktops. That’s right, iron pans will work on an induction cooktop. But if the base of the pan is less than smooth, you should avoid using these on glass (AKA ceramic) cooktops.
Enameled cast iron pans
The enameled types have an enamel glaze applied to the surfaces. This prevents the surface from rusting. The look is smooth cast iron skillet which is beneficial if you have a glass cooktop.
If it is enameled inside as well as out, the advantage is that you get less leaching of dietary iron into the food being cooked. This is great if you need to reduce iron in your diet because of medical reasons.
The downside of enamel is that it can chip and overheating or adding cold water to a hot enamel pan can damage the cookware. You lose the benefits of bare cast iron cookware in this respect. Enameling lessens the ability to withstand searing heat and resist sticking.
Lightweight cast iron pans
Lightweight cast iron cookware is cast in metal molds rather than sand and this allows them to be cast thinner than the classic castings. This makes the frying pan easier to handle but they do have drawbacks, that is, they are more fragile and cook less evenly.
From this perspective, here on in, I only look at the basic and the enameled types.
Cooking with cast iron pans
Iron surfaces are the oldest form of cookware still in use today and cast iron is still considered a safe cookware option in terms of health and the environment by many, including the EWG.
Iron is an essential element in our diet.
The exception for some…
Some people from a medical perspective might want to avoid cast iron cookware. They may be predisposed to iron overload (e.g. hemochromatosis) and may need to limit their iron intake. In such a case, they might have to avoid the use of cast-iron cookware, especially if they intend cooking with acidic foods (which increase the iron leaching effect). It’s best to talk to your medical advisor, as the effect of hemochromatosis can vary between people and over time, and a pan that is properly sealed will limit the leaching of iron into your food.
Care and maintenance
How do you successfully clean a cast iron skillet?
How do you care for a cast iron skillet? The main way to care for that best cast iron skillet is to keep it seasoned. This is easily maintained by hand cleaning and proper drying and storing.
It’s probably a good idea to give the bottom a proper cleaning to ensure no residue burns on and cause issues with your glass cooktop also.
The following are answers to frequently asked questions on the care and maintenance of a cast iron fry pan.
How to keep a cast iron pan from rusting
Before storing, you should make sure your cast iron skillet is completely dry to keep it in top performance for the next time you want to use it. This will avoid finding rust on the surface when you go to use it later. Tip: Using the pan frequently will keep it seasoned and reduce the risk of rust. If surface rust does appear, don’t be alarmed. Simply, clean it away with a scourer or steel wool and then re-season the pan.
How do I clean cast iron skillets?
After using the pan always let it cool and then add some water to cover any food residue and let sit for a few minutes. This I have found makes it easy to clean. For any baked-on or crusty residue, use a scourer designed for non stick surfaces after you’ve let it soak for a few minutes.
Are cast iron skillets
non stick ?
Seasoning a cast iron skillet will seal the surface to make it non stick.
It basically adds a polymer layer from the oxidized fats that makes the surface impervious to water. It is the water-soluble proteins that cause the foods to stick to the pan.¹ A well seasoned pan will appear black.
Some skillets are pre-seasoned when purchased. But…others will need seasoning to achieve their nonstick performance.
Seasoning the pan gives it its nonstick surface and protects it from rust. This is not the seasoning in cooking that you do with spices, by the way. It involves oiling and heating the pan.
How to season a cast iron pan?
Seasoning the cast iron fry pan can be just a matter of coating the surface with fat or oil and baking it in an oven at 350° F for about an hour. Unsaturated fats are said to work best because they polymerize well, but a lot of people use vegetable oil, which also works.
And…the more you use your cast iron skillet the better the seasoning will get.
How can I keep the seasoning on my cast iron skillet?
Simply avoid cleaning it with harsh detergents or scourers.
Add a dab of oil and wipe the pan over after washing every now and then if the pan is showing some dry areas.
When you cook, if you heat a bit of oil each time you reinforce the seasoning and this will maintain the nonstick properties.
When should you season a pre seasoned cast iron skillet?
When needed, which is no different from a cast iron pan that you have seasoned yourself. See the section on the “Non Stick Properties” above.
How are cast iron pans made?
Cast iron cookware is made from iron that is melted at very high temperatures and then poured into molds made of sand to form the classic cast iron product. The handle is usually part of the mold giving you have an iron handle skillet.
What is the best cast iron skillet size?
For most this is either a 10 or a 12 inch. It really depends on your cooking style and the size of the meals you wish to prepare. (And how comfortable you are in handling the weight of the pan, as the weight will increase with size).
As a general rule, a 10-inch skillet will have roughly nine inches of cooking surface and a 12-inch will have about 10 inches.
Why do cast iron skillets have spouts?
These pour spouts help to transfer the pan’s contents to plates and bowls. They are a traditional feature of the classic style cast iron pan. They originated back in times when rendering of fat was a thing and the spout helped with pouring off the liquid.
What is the best way to use a cast iron skillet?
Make sure it’s seasoned and then cook with it in any way your heart desires. On an open fire when camping. Use it on an induction cooktop. It is so versatile.
Cast iron skillet reviews
Here, I look at some top cast iron skillet options in the classic and enameled type range. I’ve included Lodge cast iron skillets.
I’ve included the pros and cons as well as any special features.
Cuisinel iron skillet review
The Cuisinel item here is a 10 inch cast iron pan with lid and silicone handle cover. The long handle has a hole for hanging in the cooking area. (This design is also available in 8 and 12 inch skillets.)
Weight: 7.85 lb.
You’ll notice a helper handle on the opposite side to the long handle. This feature is great for when you need to move the pan from the cooktop or fire.
The silicone handle cover is rated up to 450° F. The great thing about this feature is that you do not have to keep looking for an oven mitt to move the skillet around.
Also, the Cuisinel pan has pour spouts on both sides, so suits both left and right handed cooks. The 12 inch pan has a 10.25 inch cooking surface and 2.5 inch depth. And, the 10 inch pan has a 8.25 inch cooking surface with a depth of 2.25 inches.
The Cuisinel cast iron products are made in China.
What’s so good about this one? It’s got a lid and a silicon cover for the long handle. The silicone cover is great for avoiding burns when moving the pan. The handle is also a good length. It is shaped nicely and its length means a well balanced handling of the pan.
It comes with a 1 year money back guarantee.
The base is rough and may scratch a glass cooking surface when slid across the surface. So make sure to lift the pan when moving it.
Affordably priced at Amazon — See details.
Lodge cast iron skillet review
Only Lodge cast iron pans are made in the USA, being manufactured in South Pittsburg, Tennessee by the same family since 1896, and sell for a competitive price.
Weight: 7.8 lb (12″)
Lodge state you shouldn’t have a problem with using this cast iron skillet on glass cooktops as long as you keep the cooktop surface clean and free of fine grains, such as salt and sugar granules.
The pans come pre-seasoned. Lodge claims to use 100% vegetable oil for this seasoning and applies no artificial coatings.
USA made. Lighter than many others. It comes with a silicone handle cover.
Some people may not like the silicone handle cover, which can work loose. You can use the pan without this. Just take care to use potholders to avoid burns.
Economical and available at Amazon. See details.
Victoria cast iron skillet review
This is a preseasoned cast iron skillet by Victoria.
This 12-inch round frying pan comes with a longer handle (~7.5″) than others. The handle has a hole for hanging and there is also a helper handle. The large pour spouts that work a treat when pouring off the fat without the drips. This pan also has sloped sides, which helps extend the 10.25-inch cooking surface.
Weight: 6.7 lb
According to the manufacture, the preseasoning involves 100% Non-GMO flaxseed oil. Recommendations are that you will need to enhance this seasoning to get the best performance.
This one is made in Colombia (using European machinery). Also available in smaller and larger sizes.
What’s so good about this one? It’s relatively lightweight. That is, it is lightweight compared to others listed.
Has a flat bottom surface with no rings or imprints that can damage glass cooktops.
No lid option from the manufacturer. The factory seasoning might need enhancing for the best performance.
An economical buy and available at Amazon. See details.
Le Creuset signature iron handle pan
This is a beautifully designed 10¼ inch enameled cast iron pan with a signature iron handle.
It is an attractive skillet with the enameled exterior adding a fresh cool color. There is a choice of colors from Caribbean through to White to suit your decor. The interior is also enameled, in black.
Weight: 5.4 lb
Like the others, this pan has pouring spouts on both sides, a helper handle, and a long handle with a looped end for hanging.
The interior does not require seasoning, being enamel (though it has the look of the traditional cast iron surface).
What’s so good about this one? The design is appealing if you are looking for one for the home kitchen. It is also relatively lightweight.
Because the interior is enamel, it requires no additional seasoning. Can be placed in a dishwasher (though I recommend handwash to avoid any damage from dishwasher arms etc).
May not take the rough and tough of outdoor cooking. Not exactly non stick.
Check out the latest price at Amazon — See details.
AmazonBasics Cast Iron 10¼, 12, or 15 Inch Skillet
The one shown is the 15 inch
Once again, a long handle with a hole for hanging, a helper handle, and two pour spouts are features of this classic style cast iron skillet. And, it comes pre-seasoned with oil.
Weight: 11.33 lb (12″); 14.11 lb (15″)
The 12 inch skillet handle is 6.5″ long.
Safe for fast ovens, up to 500ºF. Is made in China.
Affordable price. Has a limited 1 year warranty.
A heavy frypan. Might need extra seasoning. The long handle design might feel a tad small or awkward for the size and weight of the pan, especially in the 15″ pan.
Similar price to the Lodge skillet at Amazon — See details.
T-fal cast iron pan review
Similar to the others listed, this Tfal cast iron skillet one has two pour spouts and a helper handle.
The long handle has a hole for hanging and the design includes a signature thumb rest. This product is oven-safe up to 600º F and is PFOA and cadmium free.
Weight: 9 lb
This T-fal skillet is pre-seasoned for nonstick properties. It is a durable cast iron fry pan 12-inch in size in cast iron black.
This is a 12 inch with 2.5 inch sides. There is also a 10.25 inch version.
Comparable price. Comes pre-seasoned and includes step-by-step instructions for upkeep of seasoning.
It is weightier than others. Has emblem on base, slightly rough texture – watch glass cooktops. May need extra seasoning before first use. Overheating may cause brown or blue stains.
Similar to others in price. Check out the latest price at Amazon — See details.
Camp chef cast iron 12 inch skillet
This Camp Chef classic style skillet is pre-seasoned. Camp Chef is one of the well-established brands in the USA, though the product is manufactured in China.
This 12-inch pan boasts features of left and right pour spouts and two handles, one a long handle with hole and the other a helper handle to aid handling and pouring – especially great in a field skillet.
Weight is 7 lb.
An ideal field cast iron skillet. Fairly lightweight. Dual pour spouts and helper handle for ease of pouring. It comes seasoned and ready to use.
Bottom of pan is embellished with a cast logo, so probably best to not use on glass (aka ceramic) cooktops and may not sit stable on other electric stove plates.
Check out the latest price at Amazon — See details.
What are the pros and cons of a classic cast iron skillet?
Cast iron pans are popular with the home cook and campers or anyone who wants outdoor cooking gear because they are durable and sturdy, meaning — they’ll take the knocks. Also, they are superb for use on outdoor grills.
Some people worry about the black specks that can appear in the food after cooking with cast iron. I cover this in my article on the black residue from cast iron pans…is it harmful?
What are the main pros and cons of cooking with a cast iron fry pan? In a nutshell, the following lists the advantages and disadvantages of the classic cast iron frypans.
- Easy to clean
- Okay to use metal utensils without harming surface
- Durable and built to last — a cookware item that will serve you a lifetime
- Handles are cast in the mold — there are no screws or rivets to worry about
- Non stick, which means easy cooking and cleaning and less fat in your diet
- Holds and distributes heat exceptionally well
- Can be used on induction cooktops
- Oven safe at high temperatures
- Okay for high heat — great for searing, frying, browning of meats
- Not as lightweight as other cookware
- Metal handles will be hot to touch
- Takes longer to heat than the ceramic non stick cookware or stainless steel types
- Needs seasoning to begin and then at infrequent times
- An unseasoned cast iron will show signs of rust
- Can taint the flavor of tomato-based sauces or soups
- Can mark your glass cooktop
One way to keep your skillet from marking your glass cooktop is to make sure the surface of both the cooktop and the skillet is free from granules or burned on residue that make cause a problem.
Some people place baking paper or aluminum foil between the stove top and the skillet to avoid marking the glass cooktop.
References for cast iron skillet guide
- Arnold, Dave. 2010. Heavy Metal: the Science of Cast Iron Cooking. Cooking Issues
- Beard JL, Dawson HD. Iron. In: O’Dell BL, Sunde RA, editors. 1997. Handbook of Nutritionally Essential Mineral Elements. New York: CRC Press; pp. 275–334.
- Clark, S. F. 2008. Iron Deficiency Anemia Nutr Clin Pract. 23(2):128-41. doi: 10.1177/0884533608314536.
- Brittin HC, Nossaman CE. 1986. Iron Content of Food Cooked in Iron Utensils. J Am Diet Assoc. 1986 Jul;86(7):897-901.
- Steinbicker AU, Muckenthaler MU. 2013. Out of balance–systemic iron homeostasis in iron-related disorders Nutrients. 5(8):3034-61. doi: 10.3390/nu5083034
Image credits: ID 74277358 © Fedoruk; ID 38246664 © Jaimie Duplass.