If you enjoy searing delicious meals, you'll need one of the best cast iron skillets to do the job. Unlike other types of cookware, the cast iron retains heat better and can also be used in the oven, making them a versatile kitchen tool.
But with so many different types of best cast iron skillets around, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. There are some things to consider before buying this essential cookware. First, what size do your need? Most start from around 3.5 inches up to 15 inches, depending on the foods you want to cook. In addition, how heavy is it? Cast iron is known to be weighty, so you'll want it to be easy to handle comfortably without fuss.
Lastly, what's your budget? Cast iron skillets can be pretty expensive depending on the type you buy. Prices can start from as little as $26 for basic requirements, right up to $300, so you'll need to consider value for money. In addition, these are known to last long, providing you know how to clean a cast iron skillet the right way.
To help you decide, we've chosen the best cast iron skillets to suit every lifestyle, cooking need and budget.
The best cast iron skillets you can buy today
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We believe the Le Creuset Enameled Signature Cast Iron Skillet is the best cast iron skillet — especially if you’re a fan of the company’s Dutch ovens. Since the skillet’s interior is made of black satin enamel, it doesn’t require seasoning, making it very low maintenance. And while this skillet is heavy compared to others we tested, it maneuvers easily and the handle is comfortable to hold. Also, it comes with spouts which make it easy to pour the oil out once you’re finished searing.
We found this skillet performed well across every test. It heated up quickly and provided an even heat distribution. The eggs came out perfectly scrambled, with nothing sticking to the surface. We also prepared a batch of peppers that were nicely seared and tasty, retaining moisture and crunch. When we tossed a steak on this skillet, it was perfectly seared and browned in just a few minutes. We also cooked a pizza in this skillet in the oven, which had a perfectly golden brown crust, and gooey melted cheese. The skillet is oven safe up to 500 degrees F.
The Le Creuset Enameled Signature Cast Iron Skillet is dishwasher-safe, but hand-washing is recommended — and it is very easy to clean. The skillet also comes in an 11.75” model, and in a variety of colors, including Marseille, teal blue, cerise, indigo, and meringue, so you can match it to your kitchen. Le Creuset also sells sleeves, trivets, and nylon brushes.
This skillet is also one of the best gifts for home cooks this holiday season. Check out our guide for more inspiration.
There’s so much to love about the Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet. For starters, it’s one of the most inexpensive options on our list, but is made with the same high level of quality that you’d expect from a company that specializes in this cookware.
The skillet arrives already seasoned with 100% natural vegetable oil and there’s the option for it to come with a useful red silicone handle. While it’s one of the heavier skillets that we tested, it was quite easy to maneuver.
When searing a steak, we were surprised — actually caught off guard — by how quickly the skillet heated up. This led to splattered grease on the cooktop and forced us to turn on the fan to remove some of the smoke. However, the steak still turned out well. The speed with which the skillet heats up is useful if you’re in a hurry, but you need to keep an eye on it.
The skillet did a pretty good job of roasting peppers as well and bringing out the sweet flavors. When baking pizza in the oven, it was evenly cooked — and delicious. Plus, when scrambling eggs, they turned out perfectly, and did not stick in the primary section where we cooked them. However, they did indeed stick on the other side of the skillet, and required a little elbow grease to remove.
If needed, Lodge does approve the use of a small amount of dish soap when cleaning, and a pan scraper for dislodging stuck-on food. We washed and dried this cast iron skillet after each use, and then applied a light layer of Lodge Seasoning spray, which was then wiped off as part of the seasoning process. The skillet was easy to clean.
The Lodge Cast Iron Skillet is available in 9 sizes, ranging from 3.5 inches to 15 inches. There are also several accessories you can purchase, including pan scrapers, scrubbing pads, handle holders, and seasoning spray. Considering its price point and performance, it’s definitely one of the best cast iron skillets out there.
We thought the Smithey No 10 Cast Iron Skillet was the most beautiful one of those we tested. It has a satin-smooth, coppery-polished finish that looks so good, we almost didn’t want to “ruin” it by cooking in it. This skillet also features pour spouts and a lightweight feel that makes it easy to handle.
In terms of performance, the skillet surprised us on two occasions. First, the scrambled eggs cooked well; however, there was leftover residue on several parts of the skillet, which we thought would be hard to clean. But, thankfully we were able to wipe it away with just a towel or two. Similarly, when roasting peppers, we were concerned that we hadn’t used enough oil and thought, again, that we would have to use some elbow grease to get the skillet clean. But, we were happy to have underestimated the Smithey No 10 Cast Iron Skillet once again. Also, when we prepared a steak, it was seared to perfection, and the pizza was baked to a golden-brown crust and the cheese and toppings had a rich flavor. Overall, the skillet heated quickly and heat distribution was even.
The skillet was easy to clean, as mentioned above, although the finish was slightly discolored at the end of the testing process. However, that’s to be expected, as the skillet will eventually develop a deep black patina. All in all, this is a beautiful skillet which offers a brilliant performance, but bear in mind it won’t always look as good as new. While this pan arrives pre-seasoned, you will need to continue seasoning it over time.
There’s also an 8-inch skillet and a 12-inch skillet, and Smithey also sells leather skillet sleeves, seasoning oils, and chainmail scrubbers. In addition, you can have the skillet personally engraved (up to 30 characters) for $40.
The Stargazer is a beautiful cast iron skillet that looks modern from the front view, yet rustic when you flip it over. The skillet comes in a choice of two finishes — you can purchase it bare or pre-seasoned (we tested the seasoned finish). The seasoned skillet features two coats of the company’s proprietary blend, which includes canola, grapeseed, and sunflower oil, and the seasoning did appear to make a difference.
This skillet doesn’t have pour spouts, but the flared rim is drip-free, so it’s easy to pour without making a mess — although we held our breath the first time because we weren't sure if it would pour as designed. The skillet also has a stay-cool handle, but we would recommend using silicone handle covers with all cast iron skillets as a safety precaution. It’s lightweight and easy to handle.
During our tests, the steak seared unevenly; however, that may have been due to the uneven cut of the steak. (And since our tester personally liked her steaks well done sometimes and medium on other occasions, it was actually nice to get both at one time). Otherwise, the skillet heated quickly and the heat was evenly distributed. The oven-cooked pizza turned out so well we stopped testing to take a few photos to send to friends. Plus, the roasted peppers were flavorful and had a crunchy texture, and the scrambled eggs were tasty and did not stick to the pan.
The Stargazer was also very easy to clean (dishwashing is not recommended); however, we were disappointed that it was slightly discolored by the time we finished the tests — although I’ve learned that this is normal with cast iron skillets.
The skillet is also available in a 12-inch model.
The Field Company No.8 Cast Iron Skillet 10 ¼ inches is yet another beautiful cast iron skillet which comes in a deep, brown finish (And you can also purchase a separate care kit for $50 that includes seasoning oil, a chain mail scrubber and a natural fiber brush.) The skillet is lightweight and easy to maneuver. It doesn’t have spouts, but thankfully we didn’t make too much of a mess when pouring out liquid contents.
During the testing process, the skillet scrambled eggs well, without much residue sticking, and it was quite easy to wipe the pan clean. The steak also seared well and evenly, achieving a mouthwatering brown finish in almost no time. Baking a pizza in the oven was also a delicious adventure, and the pizza had a crunchy crust and perfectly gooey toppings. Overall, the skillet heated quickly and distributed heat evenly.
This cast iron skillet was easy to clean. It should only be hand washed, and then the company recommends that it be either towel dried or heated to dry on the stovetop. However, it should not be drip-dried or stored away while wet, as this can lead to rust.
Field Company also sells a No.8 Cast Iron Skillet Lid, and a leather handle cover separately, should you want to convert it to a Dutch oven. We also like that this pan is made in the USA using recycled iron sourced from American vendors. If you want to be sustainable in your choice, this is the best cast iron skillet you can buy.
The Staub 11-inch Cast Iron Traditional Skillet has a magnificent dark blue finish, and is also available in cherry, graphite gray, grenadine, and jet black. This skillet features an enamel coating that looks like a glossy ceramic, similar to our winning Le Creuset cast iron skillet. It resists chips, cracks, and rusts, and never needs to be seasoned. The side spouts are convenient for draining liquids.
It scrambled eggs well, but did produce some residue that we needed to spend extra effort removing by hand. Roasting peppers was easy too, and they were crunchy and seared after a few minutes. The steak also seared well in the skillet and browned nicely while retaining its flavor. The only downfall in performance was the oven-cooked pizza, which while baked nicely, was cooked unevenly around some of the edges.
Like the Le Creuset skillet, it felt lightweight and was comfortable in hand. It was much easier to maneuver than many of the heavy cast iron skillets on the list. This skillet is dishwasher safe, and it can be soaked in soapy water to remove stubborn residue, which is thanks to the enamel coating.
The skillet is available in a variety of colors and the company also sells trivets.
The Lodge Blacklock 49 4-Quart Deep Skillet with Lid is both impressive and imposing. What sets the Blacklock line apart from the regular Lodge cast iron skillets? Blacklock was the name of the company’s original Cast Iron Foundry, and this line combines that heritage with a lightweight design and a triple-seasoned finish. The Lodge Blacklock 49 4-Quart Deep Skillet weighs 10.76 pounds (lid included) and it’s 4 inches deep, so it’s not exactly 25% lighter than traditional cast iron cookware, as claimed by the company. We were curious to see how it would fare in the tests.
As we expected, the scrambled eggs turned out well — but even though this skillet was seasoned, it took some elbow grease to clean up afterwards. When roasting peppers, it was much easier to both cook these ingredients and clean the pot — and the peppers were the right balance between being juicy and crunchy. Searing steak went well, and we were able to achieve the perfect sear without overcooking the meat. The skillet baked a pizza nicely too, and the results were evenly cooked. Overall, the skilled retained heat well throughout our tests.
Aside from the eggs, cleaning the skillet was relatively easy — although it was heavy enough that we chose to remove grease with paper towels instead of trying to lift and pour it out. Because of this, we wouldn’t recommend this skillet if you struggle with lifting; although it may be lighter than a Dutch oven, it’s heavy compared to the average cast iron skillet.
Having said that, if you’re looking for more versatility in a cast iron skillet, the lid has basting rings which can help the moisture recirculate, resulting in more tender results, and the size of this cookware makes it ideal if you’re preparing enough for a large family.
The Utopia Kitchen 12.5 inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet is an inexpensive choice if you want a cast iron skillet that gets the job done. In testing, the skillet heated up pretty quickly. When we scrambled eggs, they turned out well — although we did have some residue to clean afterwards. When cooking peppers, they were roasted to perfection, and the sweet flavor inside was released in the final product. However, the steak seared unevenly as the heat distribution is not quite as good as some of the other cast iron skillets on this list. The pizza turned out great though, and the crust was a nice golden brown, while the cheese and other toppings tasted flavorful.
We found the skillet to be heavy (as traditional cast iron skillets tend to be). This skillet has spouts — and that’s definitely helpful. However, we still found ourselves having to clean up a few spills that dribbled out as we poured — perhaps because the spouts aren’t very deep. We also needed to use a scraper on the skillet while cleaning. However, for the price, we are impressed with the skillet’s overall performance, which is why it’s one of the best cast iron skillets.
Utopia Kitchen also sells a 10.25 inch model.
How We Tested the Best Cast Iron Skillets
To determine the best cast iron skillets, we conducted a variety of recipe tests across some of the most popular brands. In each cast iron skillet, we scrambled eggs to see how evenly and consistently they cooked. We also judged how easy the eggs were to transfer from the skillet to a plate and how much residue was left behind.
We also seared steaks in each skillet, noting how long it took to get the perfect sear, and whether the skillet achieved an even heat distribution. For roasting peppers, we looked for the perfect balance of seared, yet crunchy. The final recipe test was baking pizzas in the oven. For this, we judged how evenly and uniformly the crust baked, how the cheese melted and the sauce and other toppings combined during the baking process.
In addition to cooking tests, we also gauged ease of use. We judged how heavy the cast iron skillets were to maneuver, how easy it was to pour liquids out, and how easy or hard it was to clean the skillets.
Cleaning a skillet can prove difficult if you cook the wrong sort of ingredients. Here are 6 foods you should never cook in a cast iron skillet.
What to Look for in a Cast Iron Skillet
We spoke to three chefs to get their opinion on what you should consider when it comes to cast iron skillets. Chef Joshua Weitzer, a top chef instructor at ChefPassport, tells us that his father was a cast iron skillet producer, and this is a topic close to his heart. Ben Rayl is a chef and food blogger at Comfortable Food, and Sam Lippman is a chef at Hooray Foods.
“Cast iron skillets come in two forms: traditional and enameled, and choosing between the two largely depends on how you plan to use your skillet,” says Rayl.
“If you’re going to use it sparingly — less than three times a week — then enameled might be better for you because the coated surface of these pans is easier to clean and maintain,” he says. “However, if you’re constantly using your skillet on a daily or almost-daily basis, then the traditional one is a great choice.” (Note: enameled cast iron skillets don’t need to be seasoned — but they’re not as durable.)
For more info on the differences, check out cast iron vs enameled cast iron skillet — which is better?
Also, some cast iron skillets are pre-seasoned before they leave the factory, while others need to be seasoned before first use. However, Rayl says the need to season the cast iron skillet lessens the more you use it. Seasoning means that oil has been baked onto the pan, and helps ensure that food doesn’t stick to it. Seasoning also prevents rusting. The more you cook, the more layers of oil and fat you’re adding to the cast iron skillet. Here's how to season a cast iron skillet for guidance.
In addition, Lippman says you need to make sure to choose a pan that is 100% cast iron throughout. “No plastic parts, coatings, gimmicky handles, etc.; however, using a silicone handle cover is fine if your pan transfers a lot of heat to the handle.”
Size and Thickness
“Personally, I prefer to use a 12-inch skillet because it gives me bigger room to cook on,” Rayl says. “It’s also the largest size you can have without having the issue of uneven heat conduction.”
In addition, Lippmans says having 2-3 different sizes helps, depending on what you're cooking. “Surface area for searing being the most important consideration for cast iron cooking, start with a 10-12" pan,” he says. “There are also great cast iron options for stovetop griddles, woks, crepe pans, pots, etc.” He says it’s important to find a cast iron skillet that fits your burner well for even heat conduction.
“The thickness of cast iron skillets gives them their ability to maintain a constant cooking temperature, and makes them perfect for specific techniques like sauté or slow cooking,” Weitzer says.
We tested on a glass top stove, so size and thickness were both very important to us as we were testing. With the heavier cast-iron skillets, we took extra precautions when setting them down on the cooktop, and refrained from shuffling or sliding them around to ensure we weren't scratching the glass surface.
“It seems trivial, but the pour spout can make your life easier when you need to remove liquid from the pan,” says Weitzer. “In a professional kitchen, when you need to move fast minimizing the dirt at the same time, this can be a huge time saver, while cooking and while cleaning.”
“Lastly, I choose beautifully designed pans, both from a functional (e.g. the affordance of the handle) and from an aesthetic perspective,” Weitzer says. Keep in mind that he’s making a distinction between a skillet that looks pretty and one that is beautiful not only in looks, but also in performance.
“I highly recommend grabbing a glass lid that fits your pan for steaming, boiling, creating a Dutch oven, and brazing,” Lippman says.
“You may not expect them to, but cast iron pans are conductive with induction burners, and can be a nice alternative to only metal-finished pans,” he adds. “Serving out of cast iron skillets makes for a nice ‘rustic’ presentation and gives your dishes a straight-from-the-stove feeling.”
In addition, Lippman says cast iron pans make for a great shallow frying environment because they hold temperature so evenly and won't stain. “They are my preferred vessel for frying potato latkes, for example.”
He also recommends preheating and pre-greasing cast iron before adding food. “This helps create a barrier between the food and the pan for a nice ‘non-stick’ surface, without chemical coatings that can chip, or leech into your food.”
Cast iron skillets require more maintenance than traditional pans and Weitzer says he avoids dishwashers and the use of any type of soap. “It could absorb your detergent and alter the taste of the food you cook.” Instead, he scrubs the pans with metal brushes and water only and then seasons them with butter rather than with oil. “This is my personal tip, as I believe that when you use the pan the following time, butter is easier to remove from the bottom, while oil tends to stick,” Weitzer explains.
“Some people also believe that sanding cast iron skillet pans could improve the un-sticking capabilities.” However, he doesn’t follow that theory. “I believe that it is easier for the oil to layer when the bottom of the pan is rough,” Weitzer says.
Although we’ve provided a variety of tips on how to clean a cast iron skillet, we recommend following the instructions of the manufacturer. For example, some manufacturers may warn against washing in the dishwasher or even using soap on certain cast iron skillets.
Notice: We used the Lodge Cast Iron Care Kit for seasoning, cleaning, and scraping (when needed) all of the cast iron skillets. We also used silicone handle holders and trivet mats during the testing process.
For more guidance on picking out the right cast iron skillet, here's 7 things you should check when buying a cast iron skillet.
Want to take better care of your cast iron skillet? Here are 5 mistakes you’re making with your cast iron skillet right now. Plus, here are 5 signs it’s time to replace your cast iron skillet. Also, here are 7 things I've learned after cooking on cast iron over the years.