For your kitchen, nothing is more versatile than a basic skillet and a nonstick pan is just the thing for this. 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. A 10- or 12 inch skillet will do the trick, but 15-inch pans are also on our list of seven shown here.
What is a Cast Iron Skillet?
Cast iron cookware is made of iron that is melted at very high temperatures and then poured into molds made of sand to form the classic cast iron product.
An interesting fact is that iron is the oldest cooking surface still being used.
Enameled cast iron and lightweight cast iron lines are available in this range.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron pans have an enamel glaze applied to the surfaces. This prevents the surface from rusting. The look is smooth cast iron skillet.
According to Wikipedia: “For those seeking to reduce iron in their diet, enameled cast iron limits the leaching of dietary iron into food. However, some of the benefits of bare cast iron, such as the ability to withstand searing heat and resist sticking, are lost through enameling. In addition, chipping of the enamel coating can occur if the pan is dropped, overheated, or cold water is added to a hot pot.”
Lightweight Cast Iron
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.
In this article, I’m sticking with the classic and the enameled type only.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Cooking with a Cast Iron Fry Pan?
What are the advantages of a classic cast iron skillet?
In a nutshell, these are the pros:
- Easy to clean.
- Built to last.
- Handles are cast in the mold.
- Non stick properties.
- Holds and distributes heat exceptionally well.
- Can be used on induction cooktops.
- Oven safe
And, in summing up the cons:
- Not as light as most other non stick cookware.
- Take longer to heat than the ceramic non stick pans or stainless steel types.
- Need seasoning to begin and then at infrequent times.
- An unseasoned cast iron will show signs of rust.
- Not for tomato-based sauces or soups.
Cast Iron Non Stick Properties
Seasoning of the pan provides the nonstick properties as well as protecting the pan from rust. A seasoned pan will appear black.
Some skillets are pre-seasoned when purchased. But…others will need seasoning to achieve their nonstick performance.
Seasoning the cast iron fry pan can be just a matter of coating the surface with cooking oil and baking it in an oven at 350° F for about an hour.
Why Does Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet Make it Non Stick?
The seasoning seals the surface. It basically adds a layer of carbon that makes the surface tough and impervious with heat.
Cast Iron Skillet Reviews
I’ve selected a few of the best cast iron cookware brands in this top pick list. This includes ones with lids, enameled surfaces, and variation in sizes to help you in choosing the best cast iron pan for your style of cooking.
The classic cast iron pans are suitable for all cooktops. That’s right, iron pans will work on an induction cooktop.
#1 Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
This is a 12 inch cast iron pan with lid. A version without the lid is also available, as well as a 10 inch.
#2 Victoria Cast Iron Skillet
This is a preseasoned cast iron skillet by Victoria. This 12-inch round frying pan comes with a helper handle. It is seasoned with 100% Non-GMO flaxseed oil Seasoned.
#3 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. The interior is enameled in black.
#4 AmazonBasics Cast Iron 10¼, 12, or 15 Inch Skillet
The one shown is the 15-inch The 10¼ and 12 inch pans are similar except for size.
#5 Tfal Cast Iron Pan
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.
#6 Bayou Cast Iron 16-Inch Skillet
This one might be large, but it has two handles, which help distribute the weight and allow ease of handling.
#7 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 US.
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.
The possible exception – some people are genetically 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.
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 element1, 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 this2. And, for most people, any excess of iron intake is not an issue as a human body will excrete it4.
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)3.
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 (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 tract4.
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.
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.
Who Uses Cast Iron Skillets and How Do You Clean Them?
Anyone from a camp chef to a home cook is likely to use a cast iron skillet.
How Do You Successfully Clean a Cast Iron Skillet?
The best way is to wash with hot water with a small amount of mild detergent and a dishcloth. For any baked on or crusty residue, I use a scourer designed for non stick surfaces after I’ve let it soak for a few minutes. In this case, after using the pan I always let it cool and then I add some water to cover any food residue and let sit for a few minutes. This I have found makes it easy to clean.
Try to dry the pan completely before storing to avoid rust. It is best to use frequently to keep it seasoned and avoid rust appearing. If surface rust does appear, don’t be alarmed. Simple, clean it away with a scourer or steel wool and then reseason.
How Should I Dry My Cast Iron Skillet?
Before storing, you make sure your cast iron skillet is dry to keep it in top performance for the next time you want to use it. This will avoid pulling it out later and finding rust on the surface.
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.
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).
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.
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 then hold the heat longer. So regulation the heat may take some getting use to if you have been conditioned to using other types of cookware.
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.
- 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