With the rise in popularity of cast iron skillets and pans, it is no surprise that they are becoming more popular than ever. Cast iron cookware is durable and versatile, making them perfect for cooking a wide variety of dishes.
Cast iron is a type of cookware made from cast iron. It has been around since the 1800s and is still considered to be one of the best types of cookware in 2021.
Cast-iron skillets are long-lasting, inherently nonstick, and excellent at holding heat, and are favored by both professional chefs and home cooks. The sturdy workhorses, unlike most contemporary cookware, only grow better with age. Not fortunate enough to have inherited Great-antique Grandma’s Wagner or Griswold pan, which has been carefully seasoned to a flawless nonstick finish over the decades? Preseasoned, today’s new models claim to be ready to use straight out of the box.
We put ten highly rated cast-iron skillets through a battery of tests to discover which ones perform best, ultimately deciding on two that should satisfy budget-conscious chefs and those seeking for an heirloom pan:
Overall, the best cast-iron skillet
In almost every test we ran, the Chef Collection pan – the company’s lightest skillet — beat most of its far higher-priced rivals.
The best investment is a cast-iron skillet.
The Smithey’s ultra-smooth, polished inside and copper color make it stand out for those ready to spend more for a more aesthetic skillet, while still providing top-notch performance.
12-Inch Lodge Chef Collection Skillet
Lodge Cast Iron, located in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, has been producing cast-iron cookware since 1896, and has received great reviews along the way. The Lodge Chef Collection 12-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet, which is reasonably priced, lives up to the hype. In almost every test we ran, the Chef Collection pan – the company’s lightest skillet — beat most of its far higher-priced rivals.
The 12-Inch Lodge Chef Collection Skillet took the top spot in our rankings not just because of its excellent performance across all of our testing criteria, but also because of its low price. Lodge, America’s oldest and longest-running cast iron company, reinvented their iconic cast-iron skillet in 2019, introducing the Chef Collection, which is 15% lighter and has a slightly raised, lengthened, and curved handle for improved leverage and control. It features slightly slanted sides that, although shallower than the traditional form, enable moving your spatula across the pan much easier.
The Chef Collection comes preseasoned with 100 percent natural vegetable oil and features two slightly bigger pour spouts that enabled us to expertly extract oil from the pan without a drip in sight, weighing only 6.5 pounds compared to the original version’s 8 pounds. The pan was very smooth out of the box, with a little pebbling, and after a short clean, we set it to work making the cast iron staple of cornbread. The cornbread released wonderfully from the pan with just 1 tablespoon of butter heated in the pan before pouring in our batter, leaving only crumbs from our cutting behind.
Lodge Chef Collection 12-Inch Skillet
Fried eggs fared just as well: fried in 1 tablespoon of butter, they released and flipped easily, sliding around the pan with no sticking. The steak we seared in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil stuck a little, but with a little pull of our tongs, it came up. The sear, on the other hand, was excellent, with just the right amount of crust when cooked in a pan.
Our favorite handle was also on display at the Lodge. It was quite pleasant to handle because of the extended, curved shape, and there was plenty of space for our large oven mitt to fit around it. The assistance handle was also large enough to have a good hold on, which comes in in when lifting the full pan from the oven to the cooktop and back.
The Lodge Chef Collection came in second when it came to heating oil fast, but it fell short in our heat distribution test, where we found the center to be much hotter than the periphery using an infrared thermometer. To avoid this, we recommend turning the pan during cooking, particularly if you’re frying several slices of bacon at once. The 12-inch pan can cook six eggs at once, making it an excellent choice for serving a family. It also comes in 8-inch and 10-inch versions, weighing little over 3 pounds and 4.6 pounds, respectively, for individuals cooking for one or two people or preferring a lighter pan.
The skillet, like all of the other cookware we tested, was very simple to clean: Although cast iron is not dishwasher safe, the preseasoning ensures that little food clings to the pan, and any residue was simply removed with a simple scrub brush or dish towel. (Tip: Make sure the pan is fully dry before using it; soaking it in water may cause it to rust.) It was also simple to reseason the pan: Apply a small coating of oil and spread it evenly with a paper towel before baking it upside down for about an hour. That is all there is to it.
We believe the Chef Collection 12-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet will become the new focal point of your kitchen necessities, thanks to Lodge’s lengthy and well-regarded business history, lifetime guarantee, excellent performance, and roughly $50 price point.
No. 10 Cast-Iron Skillet by Smithey
Smithey, located in Charleston, South Carolina, has only been in business since 2015, but it produces heirloom-quality cast-iron pans in the United States with the goal of paying homage to iconic antique cast-iron items. We had great expectations for the No. 10 Cast-Iron Skillet by Smithey right out of the box, if only because of its attractive appearance. The workmanship is obvious with its ultra-smooth, polished inside, copper hue, distinctive three-hole pattern on the helper handle, and beautiful stamped California Valley quail bird emblem.
So we were ecstatic to find that the super-smooth 10-inch skillet we tested not only looked great on our counter, but also performed well, proving to be one of the most nonstick-friendly of all the pans we tested. It passed almost all of our tests after being seasoned with several coats of grapeseed oil. Cornbread? It came out of the pan without a hitch, wonderfully crisp on the outside. What about fried eggs? They just slipped over the frying pan. What about the steak? It took off without adhering to the pan at all, scorching wonderfully with a crisp exterior.
Smithey No. 10 Cast-Iron Skillet
The Smithey also heated oil the quickest, had the best heat distribution, and didn’t spill a drop of oil outside the jar we put it into thanks to its two large pour spouts. The three holes on the assist handle are a company hallmark, but they also serve a practical purpose, enabling you to hang the pan on a rack and improve grip. Although the 10-inch skillet was the heaviest of the pans we tried, the slightly curved handle provided a good balance and made it simple to manage.
Cleaning and seasoning the Smithey No. 10 was simple, as it was with all of the pans we tested. It’s worth noting that the pan’s surface became blotchy with each usage, but this was true of all of the higher-end pans we tried. With usage, the blotchiness fades, and the initial copper tone fades to a black patina over time.
We understand that $160 is a lot to spend on a pan, but it’s also available in 6-, 8-, and 12-inch variants (engraving is available on certain models if you want to customize your pan) and comes with a lifetime guarantee. However, given its excellent performance, we’re certain that this will become an heirloom item that you’ll be proud to pass down to your children.
Are you new to cast-iron cooking or have you avoided it because you’ve heard you can’t get it wet, that you have to wash it with detergent, or that you have to bake it for hours after each use? There are many misconceptions about cleaning and caring for cast iron, but the reality may assuage your concerns.
To begin with, you may definitely get cast iron wet; however, you don’t want to soak the pan for extended periods of time to prevent rusting. After the pan has cooled, rinse it with hot water by hand and scrape any remaining food, oil, or grease using a stiff bristles scrub brush or the abrasive side of a sponge. It’s absolutely acceptable to use a little quantity of mild dish soap on stubborn areas. The most essential thing is to dry the pan thoroughly as soon as possible. Rust may form if water is left on the pan, but such stains can be readily removed by cleaning the surface with steel wool. If desired, apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the pan with a paper towel once it has fully dried, rubbing it in well before storing.
Finally, since new cast-iron pans are preseasoned, they may be used right away. And the best part is that the pan automatically seasons itself while you cook with it. If your pan starts to stick or needs to be restored, all you have to do is coat it in a light layer of cooking oil, rub it in with a paper towel, and then heat it in the oven upside down for an hour at 500 degrees Fahrenheit or on the stovetop on medium-high heat until the oil dries, repeating as needed.
That’s all there is to it. While you can’t throw cast-iron pans in the dishwasher as you can with contemporary nonstick pans, they’ll function just as well and last much longer if properly cared for.
While many of the cast-iron skillets we examined seem to be quite similar at first sight, they vary in terms of performance, build quality, and simplicity of maintenance. Ten cast-iron skillets were tested, with prices ranging from $22 to $295. All were preseasoned, simple to clean, and had a diameter of 10 to 12 inches. We compared everything from weight, handle comfort, and ease of pouring oil from the pan into a Mason jar to how long each took to heat oil and the evenness of heat distribution across each pan, and, perhaps most importantly, how well they worked — and how nonstick they truly were — when searing a steak, frying an egg, and baking cornbread.
When evaluating each model, we focused on the following criteria:
- Heat distribution uniformity: Cast iron is renowned for maintaining its temperature, although it does not always heat uniformly. We utilized an infrared thermometer gun to measure heat in all regions of the pan to determine which pans performed a better job.
- Time to heat frying oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit: We measured how long it took a half cup of oil to achieve the temperature in each pan using a thermometer gun and a timer app.
- We seared a rib eye steak in 1 tablespoon of oil at the same temperature for the same amount of time, noting if it adhered to the pan, how thoroughly it seared, and how uniform the searing was.
- We cooked an egg in 1 tablespoon melted butter and noted if it clung to the pan and how simple it was to turn.
- Cornbread: We tested if the bread had a good uniform browning on top and how well it released from the pan when slicing using the same recipe poured into 1 tablespoon melted butter.
Construct and design
- How much does it weigh, and does it seem to be excessively heavy or light?
- What is the pan’s diameter? How many inches wide is it?
- Materials of high quality: Was the surface of the object smooth? Were there any scratches, voids, or casting marks?
- Handle: How comfortable and ergonomic was the handle? Was it a little too short or a little too long? Was it simple to get a hold of it while wearing a large oven mitt or a kitchen towel? Was there an assist handle, and if so, how simple was it to grip?
- Pour spout: How many, if any, pour spouts were included? Was there any dribbling or leaking down the edge of the pan or jar while pouring a half cup of oil from the pan into a Mason jar?
- Side depth: We measured the depth of each pan. (Shallower sides are easier to sauté, while deeper sides are excellent for deep-frying.)
- Cleaning time: All of the pans we tested were hand-wash only. Did it require a lot of elbow grease to get rid of any food splatters or to wipe out the butter or oil?
- Preseasoning: All of the pans were preseasoned as well. We took note of how they were seasoned as well as the oils that were utilized.
- Seasoning ease: We reseasoned each pan once, baking in a second layer of oil and noted how easy it was.
- Is there a warranty on this product? If so, how long will it take?
- Service to customers: Is it simple to get in touch with the business if you have any questions or concerns?
Butter Pat Joan 12-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet ($295; butterpatindustries.com) is a cast-iron skillet with a 12-inch diameter.
The Joan skillet from Butterpat is undeniably attractive. The 12-inch polished cast iron is as smooth as silk, with two pour spouts that enabled us to pour oil without spilling a drop, and it comes preseasoned with a hand-applied natural oil finish. We applaud the Maryland-based business for hand-casting its goods in restricted numbers (41 people contribute to each pan’s production) and providing a 100-year guarantee. When it came to releasing cornbread, what were your thoughts? There wasn’t a single crumb that got trapped. The steak was cooked well with just a little push to turn it over. The egg effortlessly flipped, leaving just a speck of yolk in the pan. On the negative side, the flat handle was perfectly comfortable, and the helpful handle tab was much too tiny to be of any use. Isn’t it a blast to cook with? Yes. Are the outcomes satisfactory? Check. Isn’t it lovely on the counter? Yes, absolutely. Is it really necessary to spend $300 on a cast-iron pan? Only if you’re flush with cash.
Cast-Iron Skillet by Field Company ($160; fieldcompany.com)
Right out of the box, we liked the appearance of Field’s cast-iron skillet. It also felt pleasant and comfortable in our hand, with its basic, minimalist design, light weight, and beautifully polished surface – easy to handle and move from oven to cooktop and back. Yes, the helping handle is more of a helper tab than a helpful handle, but we didn’t need much help lifting this skillet. It performed an excellent job with cornbread, leaving just a few crumbs from our slicing, and the eggs and steak left only the tiniest pieces on the pan, easily scraped off with our spatula. However, the Field’s heat distribution and time to heat oil were at the bottom of the group, and it was the only pan without any pour spouts. Let’s just say our oil pouring test failed miserably. It’s also pretty expensive at $160, but if you’re ready to spend extra for a pan manufactured in the United States with recycled iron obtained from American suppliers, and maybe have a glamping vacation planned where you’ll be cooking over a campfire without having to worry about spills or pouring? We can picture you bringing this skillet along with your stuff.
Finex Cast-Iron Skillet, 10-Inch ($159.95; amazon.com)
The Finex 10-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet stands out among the cast-iron skillets we examined in terms of appearance. It also stood out in several of the tests we ran due to its unusual octagonal shape, big coiled handle, and industrial feel. It was the only pan that measured almost the same temperature in the middle and around the edges when it came to equal heat distribution. It also came out on top when it came to searing steak, with no sticking and an even sear on both sides. It also easily released cornbread, as did many other pans. It arrived with a super-smooth shine and was handcrafted in the United States, however ours had a small pit that shouldn’t have been there. It earned marks for its lifetime guarantee and performed well when it came to pouring oil (its design allows for eight pour spouts), but it was the slowest to heat oil and felt very heavy despite its 6.3-pound weight. However, it was the Finex’s grip that prevented it from edging out our upgrade winner. Our palm couldn’t wrap around the company’s “speed cool” spring handle comfortably, and we felt it was hotter than the cast-iron grips. Meanwhile, the assist handle is a tiny tab that is tough to move.
United by Blue’s Kana Milo Ultimate Skillet ($95)
With its flat yet comfortable handle, big helper handle, and totally smooth porcelain enamel finish, we adore the Milo’s simple, traditional style. It has a lifetime guarantee and is fairly priced, and we like that it also comes in white and is constructed from 49 percent recycled cast iron. The 10-inch skillet was one of the lightest we tested at 6 pounds, had near-perfect uniform heat distribution, and performed well in the fried egg test, with no sticking – in fact, the egg simply glided nicely around the pan when we swirled it. The cornmeal was hardly discernible, and the steak, although just slightly stuck, didn’t brown as much as some of its rivals. Because the pour spouts were on the tiny side, some oil dripped down the side of our jar. In general, the Milo is a good pan that ranks in the top half of our rivals.
Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet, 12-Inch ($42.95; amazon.com)
This Lodge pan, like our overall winner, is robust, comes preseasoned with 100 percent vegetable oil, has a large helper handle, and is lovely and smooth with a little pebbled texture. When it came to removing the cornbread from the pan, it lifted right out with ease, and although our fried egg flipped well, it left a little adhered to the pan. Although the steak was a little stuck, the sear was beautiful and dark. The original Lodge has deeper edges than the Chef’s Collection, which may be attractive if you intend to use your skillet for a lot of deep-frying. However, heating the oil took a full minute longer. It’s an excellent deal at $42.95. However, for a few dollars extra, we suggest the Lodge Chef Collection skillet.
Valor 12-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet ($21.34; webstaurantstore.com) is a cast-iron skillet with a 12-inch diameter.
Valor’s 12-inch skillet, the cheapest of the cast-iron pans we tested, performed well. It’s comparable in size to the original Lodge pan we tried and almost identical to the Utopia, and it’s preseasoned with pure vegetable oil. It was somewhat rougher than any other pan, performed near the top in terms of heat distribution, and heated up third quickest. The cooked egg turned over easily and without sticking. However, although the cornbread looked wonderful, it left a bit behind when we sliced into it, and the steak stuck a little when flipping and didn’t brown as much as it might have. The Valor also lost points because of its tiny assist handle and pour spouts, which spilled a lot of our oil outside the jar. We’d pay more for a better model if there was no warranty mentioned.
Utopia Cast-Iron Skillet, 12.5-Inch ($24.99; amazon.com)
The Utopia has the biggest diameter of any pan we examined, and it’s virtually similar to the Valor. It’s a little rougher than others, with some pebbling, but no scratches or markings from the manufacturer. It was one of the heaviest pans we tested, weighing in at 8 pounds. It also made a flawless egg and was one of the top scorers for uniformly dispersed heat. The steaks, which had some sticking and inconsistent browning, and the cornbread (which didn’t release as well as the others), didn’t fare as well. When it came to heating up oil, it was in the center of the pack, and the tiny handle didn’t balance well with the weight of the pan. Meanwhile, the two pour spouts were on the tiny side, and a lot of oil ran down the edge of the pan instead of into our jar. If you’re simply searching for a cheap starting skillet, this one will suffice. However, if your money permits, we recommend upgrading to a higher-rated model.
Victoria Cast-Iron Skillet, 12-Inch ($39.99; amazon.com)
The Victoria is worth a deeper look if you’re searching for a low-cost pan that delivers excellent results. It has a longer, 7-inch curved handle than previous versions, as well as a broad helping handle, and is preseasoned with 100 percent non-GMO flaxseed oil. While the long handle was helpful for placing it in a hot oven (reducing the risk of burning ourselves), it made it difficult to distribute oil or butter over the pan. It was very smooth, with a little pebbled texture, and released cornbread nicely, produced a lovely fried egg, and stuck just a little when turning the steak. There are bigger pour holes than others, and no oil spilled when we put it into a jar. The business, which is headquartered in Medellin, Colombia, and was founded in 1939, offers a lifetime guarantee and has an established track record. The Lodge Chef Collection is well worth the extra money, but the Victoria, at $40, was our favorite of the four budget-friendly pans.
The best vintage cast iron skillet is a type of cookware that has been around for centuries. It’s made from iron and it has a smooth surface.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best brand of cast iron skillets to buy?
There are many brands of cast iron skillets, but the best brand to buy is Lodge.
Is lodge a good cast iron brand?
Lodge is a good brand of cast iron.
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