If you are looking for a non stick frypan or skillet that will last and last and last and is considered a healthy choice, then look no further than a cast iron skillet. For your kitchen, nothing is more versatile than a basic skillet, especially a nonstick type that will last you a lifetime. I wrote about nonstick ceramic frying pans in this other article. Here I cover cast iron pans that can also provide a nonstick way of cooking.
Cast Iron Skillet Buyers Guide
What’s the best cast iron skillet? Look for a 10-inch or 12-inch sized skillet with dual pour spouts, a long handle, as well as a helper handle. But 15-inch pans can also do the trick.
This guide aims to help you make an informed choice when looking to buy a cast iron pan by answering some of the frequently asked questions and covering reviews and other information.
Table of Contents
- Why use cast iron cookware?
- What are the different types of cast iron pans?
- Best cast iron skillet reviews
- Care and maintenance
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.
Why Use Cast Iron Cookware?
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.
Cast iron cookware is easy to clean and 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. See health note below.
It’s worth noting that 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 cookware for camping and the home kitchen alike.
Who Uses Cast Iron Skillets?
Anyone from a camp chef to a home cook is likely to use a cast iron skillet.
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.
In the classic design, types include the bare cast iron 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.
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.
The advantage of enameled cast iron pans is that you get less leaching of dietary iron into the food being cooked. This is beneficial for those needing to reduce iron in their 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
The lightweight range 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.
Cast Iron Skillet Reviews
Here, I review classic and the enameled type cast iron pans only. You’ll find included, one of the best cast iron cookware brands, the Lodge, made in the USA. The following aims to help you choose the best cast iron pan for your purpose.
Cuisinel Iron Skillet Review
The Cuisinel item here is a 10 inch cast iron pan with lid and silicon 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.)
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 silicon 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 handle cover. The long handle is shaped nicely and it’s length means balance with handling of the pan.
Weight: 7.85 lb.
Comes with silicone cover for the long handle to avoid burns when transfering the pan from the heat. The handle is a good length. Has 1 year money back guarantee.
The base is rough and may scratch a glass cooking surface when slid across the surface. So ensure to lift the pan when moving it.
Affordably priced from Amazon. See the latest price on the Cuisinel Cast Iron Skillet here.
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
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.
This 12-inch cast iron skillet comes with a silicon handle cover and is heat resistant to 450° F. Like others mentioned here, it has dual pour spouts, a long handle, and a helper handle. This design is also available in 8 inch and 10.25 inch skillets.
The pans come pre-seasoned. Lodge claims to use 100% vegetable oil for this seasoning and applies no artificial coatings.
What’s so good about this one? It’s made in the USA. It comes with a silicon handle cover.
Weight: 7.8 lb (12″)
USA made. Lighter than many others.
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 pot holders to avoid burns.
Economical and available from Amazon. See the latest price here.
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.
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.
Weight: 6.7 lb
Has a flat bottom surface with no rings or imprints that can damage glass cooktops. Lightweight compared to others listed.
No lid option from the manufacturer. The factory seasoning might need enhancing for the best performance.
An economical buy and available on Amazon. See the latest price here.
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.
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.
Weight: 5.4 lb
Appealing. Lighter then the classic types listed. 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.
AmazonBasics Cast Iron 10¼, 12, or 15 Inch Skillet
The one shown is the 15-inch. The 10¼ and 12 inch pans have similar features.
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.
The 12 inch skillet handle is 6.5″ long.
Safe for fast ovens, up to 500ºF. Is China made and has a 1-year limited warranty.
Weight: 11.33 lb (12″); 14.11 lb (15″)
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 from Amazon. See the latest price here.
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.
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.
Weight: 9 lb
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. See the latest price here.
Bayou Cast Iron 16-Inch Skillet
If you are looking for something larger for cook-ups on the grill, check out this skillet.
It might be large, but it has two handles, which help distribute the weight and allow ease of handling. Item is made in China
It comes preseasoned. Cooking surface is 14 inches.
Weight is 11.5 lb.
Size is great for large cook-ups especially as a field skillet. Double helper handles for ease of handling. Perfect for the outdoor grill.
Heavy weight may not suit everyone. Not suited to dishwasher.
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 easy of pouring. Comes seasoned and ready to use.
Bottom of pan is embellished with a cast logo, so probably best to not use on ceramic cooktops and may not sit stable on other electric stove plates.
Care and Maintenance
How do you care for a cast iron skillet? The following are answers to frequently asked questions regarding the care and maintenance of a cast iron fry pan.
How Do You Successfully Clean a Cast Iron Skillet?
How do I clean cast iron skillets? I recommend hand-washing your cast iron pan with a dishcloth, hot water, and a small amount of mild detergent. 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. In this case, 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.
It is not to place cast iron pans in the dishwasher. Enameled ones may be okay.
Tip: Try to dry the pan completely before storing to avoid surface rust. 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 Should I Dry My Cast Iron Skillet?
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.
There are a few ways…
You can place it in a warm oven for a while before storing (whether or not you want to turn on the oven purely for this is up to you of course). You can also heat it on the stove top.
What I do…
Simply dry it with a tea towel or other cloth and leave it to air before putting it away. I have had no problems with this approach.
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. However, some people are 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.
Why Does Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet Make it Non Stick?
The seasoning seals the surface. 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 to a cast iron pan that you have seasoned yourself. See the section on the “Non Stick Properties” above.
How to Heat a Cast Iron Pan
To heat your cast iron pan, heat it on the cooking element 5–10 minutes prior to cooking or adding oil. The time will depend on the performance of your cooktop. You need this time because iron is a poor conductor of heat. The upside is that the iron pan holds the heat really well. That said, remember it also takes a bit more time than the usual cookware to cook down.
How Much Iron is Added to Eggs Cooked in Cast Iron?
Cooking with cast iron fry pans adds iron to the food cooked. Iron is essential for our physical wellbeing as it is a critical component of the hemoglobin that carries oxygen around our bodies in our blood stream. With iron being an important dietary element2, cast iron cookware has advantages, therefore, especially for those with iron deficiencies. In the US, 5 million people suffer from iron deficiency and women are more likely to suffer from this.3 And, for most people, any excess of iron intake is not an issue as a human body will excrete it.5
Back to the egg. Frying an egg in a cast iron skillet can increase the egg’s iron content by about 2.0 mg (3.84 mg) of what is expected from a non-iron pan (2.84 mg)4.
As mentioned above, added iron is not an issue for a healthy person and can be beneficial in many cases.
As a guide, adults need about 8 mg of iron per day for maintaining good health; though women aged 19–50 years (premenopausal) need about 18 mg per day. A healthy adult will excrete any excess as the body can adjust the rate of iron absorption from the digestive tract5.
If you wish, keep your pans well seasoned to limit the amount of iron as this process creates a barrier to the movement of iron into your food.
What are the Best Ways to Cook Eggs in a Cast Iron Skillet?
You can cook eggs in cast iron frying pans anyway you wish. Fried eggs, scrambled, crepes…even poached. I always add a small amount of oil before I heat the pan. I find this is the best way to cook eggs.
How Can I Cook Pork Chops in a Cast Iron Skillet?
Simply heat the pan to medium-high and add the chop. Let it cook its own juices on the one side for a few minutes (maybe 3–4 min). And then flip to the other side. Tip: Best to let one side cook till brown and then the other rather than flipping back and forth between sides.
How Do I Cook Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet?
Much the same as that mentioned above for the pork chops except you may need to heat the pan with a little oil, depending on the amount of fat in the steak.
Why Does My Cast Iron Skillet Leave a Black Residue on Foods?
Cast iron cookware withstands high heat and can hold that heat for some time. One reason for black residue is charring of food residue. And, for high heat cooking, make sure to use cooking oils with a high smoke point. The pan may not have been cleaned properly and the remaining food residue has charred with the high heat and becomes loose and is stirred into the food when you next cook. See the care and maintenance section.
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 are pour spouts to help 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.
Can I Use a Cast Iron Skillet on an Electric Stove?
Yes. Most definitely. The thing to remember is that they take longer to heat and hold the heat longer. So regulating the heat may take some getting use to if you have been conditioned to using other types of cookware.
The other thing to watch is whether they have a cast logo on the bottom of the pan as it may scratch your cooktop.
What is the Best Way to Use a Cast Iron Skillet?
Make sure it’s seasoned and then cook with it any way your heart desires. On an open fire when camping. Use it on an induction cooktop. It is so versatile.
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.
What are the 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
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