In this roundup, we look around and pick the best cast iron skillet for 2018 that will let you produce authentic culinary masterpieces from your favorite recipes.
Best Cast Iron Skillet for Home Use
Le Creuset Signature: This is an ideal low-fat cooking skillet thanks to its heavy cast iron design and its steady, even high-temperature heating, which reduces the need for oil. It’s a high-end skillet and our top pick thanks to its classic look and feel, which will make the delights of even the most demanding kitchen enthusiast.
Lodge L8SK3: This is a classic straight from legendary US manufacturer Lodge at a bargain basement price. It’s the frying pan to buy if you’re looking to buy a quality unit and don’t want to spend a lot of cash in the process and is excellent pick for straight-out frying, stir-frying and even baking, ships pre-seasoned and ready to use, and has both the main handle and a convenient auxiliary or helper handle.
- Cast Iron Skillet Comparison Chart
- Best Cast Iron Skillet 2018
- Budget Cast Iron Skillet
- Cast Iron Skillet Buying Guide
Cast iron frying pans and skillets have a reputation for being heavy and difficult to care for, but also for being versatile and for producing the best slow-cooking, open-fire and baked dishes. They are often family heirlooms and many of us remember one of these skillets always hanging in our grandmother’s kitchen. If you love a delicious seared steak, the best way to guarantee one is by using a cast-iron skillet.
So, read ahead to find the top-rated cast iron skillet as well as the one we recommend if you’re on a tight budget. These items are durable and well-made, and with the slow-cook movement in full swing, these old-school skillets are making a definite comeback.
Best Cast Iron Skillet for 2018
In-Depth Cast Iron Skillet Reviews
A heavy cast iron design on this skillet and steady, even high-temperature heating, makes it ideal for low-fat cooking since it requires a small amount of oil. If its warranty claims are any indication, this top-end Le Creuset cast-iron skillet is so well made it should last you a lifetime. It’s our top pick and its classic look and feel will make the delights of even the most demanding kitchen enthusiast. It won’t feel out of place if you take the skillet along to the table when serving at a fancy dinner.
Le Creuset is a respected and very well known manufacturer of top-quality cookware. The Signature Series frying pan is made from robust satin black enameled cast iron that meets demanding performance requirements for modern cooking.
The satin black interior gives it a smooth finish that is not as glossy as you’d find in common enamel finishes and together with the heavy cast iron guarantees an ideal surface for high-temperature cooking. Its lifetime warranty is also a good indicator of Le Creuset’s French-manufactured quality.
It’s easy to grip, lift and maneuver using a large loop helper handle, even when wearing mitts. The enameled cast-iron construction gives the skillet heat retention properties and evenly distributes the heat throughout, while the black enameled interior surface requires no seasoning, and over time develops a natural patina, that’s unmatched for frying and searing.
This patina should never be cleaned off and will eventually build up as the natural result of fats and oils getting deposited when cooking foods on the hot inner surface. The effect of high surface temperatures also results in enzymes and sugars caramelizing on the skillet’s surface, so you wind up needing less oiling and moisture, and the flavor is naturally retained.
The oyster-colored exterior enamel on this unit is also long-lasting and won’t get easily cracked or chipped. You can use this versatile skillet for both stove-top and oven cooking, whether you’re frying, searing or baking. It also has convenient spouts on either side for easy drip-free pouring.
Cleaning the skillet is easy and straightforward but should be done with care. You should let the hot pan sit and let it cool for some time before washing it. Never plunge it directly into the water as thermal shock could crack or chip the enamel. You can pour in warm water after letting the skillet sit and cool for a few minutes if you have food residue, let soak for a while and then use a light brush for removing food deposits.
You can use nylon, silicone or soft abrasives, but never use a metal spatula, harsh abrasive cleaners or scourers on the enamel. You should always store your skillet dry and never drop it or knock it on a hard surface as this will void your warranty (as will damage from thermal shock, so beware).
When you think of quality cast-iron skillets, Lodge and its Tennessee foundries come to mind as one of the best known and most trusted brands. This model has an ergonomic 2-handle design, is foundry-seasoned and is ready to use when you get it delivered. It’s oven safe and can be used on practically any cooking surface including campfires and grills. It’s one of the biggest and heaviest skillets in our roundup at 17 inches, with a 2-inch depth.
This is an excellent pick at a mid-range price point. It’s trademark seasoned factory-primed black patina inner surface is made from baking vegetable oil (no synthetic coatings are used) at high temperatures into the sand-molded skillet.
The heavy cast iron skillet design is centuries old and proven and is ideal for frying, roasting, baking, braising, simmering and searing. It’s compatible with modern induction stovetops, offers great heat retention and overall even heating.
This skillet does not have an enameled inner surface so it’s really tough and you can use a metal spatula or abrasives to clean the surface as long as you take care to reseason it, which can be easily done with some vegetable oil and an oven.
It’s good to go on any surface and with any heat source, including the grill, stove, oven, induction, electric, gas and even camp cooking on coals. You should be careful and not slide the skillet around when using it on ceramic-glass stove tops as you may scratch the stove surface.
Lodge is a family-owned business and makes all its cookware in rural Tennessee, so you can be sure you’re getting a quality piece of equipment. Make sure you have a large, dry place to store this skillet as it takes up a lot of room.
#3 Pick: Lodge L8SK3 10-1/4-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet (Value for Money Pick)
This is a cast iron skillet from legendary US manufacturer Lodge at a bargain basement price. It’s our budget pick and should be the frying pan to buy if you’re looking to buy a quality unit and don’t want to spend a lot of money while doing so. It’s good to go for frying, stir-frying and even baking, ships ready to use and pre-seasoned and has both the main handle and an auxiliary handle.
It’s very similar to the other Lodge skillet in our roundup, the 17-inch model, but quite a bit smaller (although still quite big), and costs about one-tenth as much. And like its big cousin, it’s factory seasoned and arrives at your home with a factory-primed black patina inner surface with no synthetic coatings.
It’s baked in at high temperatures into the sand-molded skillet. This is a centuries-old and proven design which is great for frying, roasting, baking, braising, simmering and searing. It offers great heat retention and overall even heating and can be used with induction stovetops.
This skillet is tough and doesn’t have an enameled inner surface. You can use a metal spatula or abrasives to clean the surface as long as you take care to reseason it with some vegetable oil and an oven.
You should take care to follow maintenance care and cleaning instructions and the skillet should last you a long time. Don’t use detergent or soap to clean it or you’ll get rid of the seasoning. If it sticks, just add hot water and soak for some time, and don’t ever store the skillet wet as it will rust.
It’ll perform well on just about any surface and with any heat source, including the grill, stove, oven, induction, electric, gas, and camp cooking on coals. Don’t slide the skillet around when using it on ceramic-glass stove-tops, it may scratch the stove surface.
Lodge’s reputation as a top-notch family-owned business precedes it, and skillets are made at its foundries in Tennessee, so you’d be getting a quality unit. This is a definite bargain and by far the top value for money item in this roundup.
The Cuisinart CI45-30CR is an excellent Dutch-oven type skillet with cast-iron construction and porcelain enameled interior. It’s stylish with a bright red enameled exterior and has a durable cooking surface that can be used in a broiler or stove as well as on a variety of surfaces. It’s a mid-range skillet that competes in functionality and features with our roundup’s top-rated and much more expensive Le Creuset model, at a lower price.
This skillet provides excellent heat distribution due to the capacity of its cast-iron for heat retention and even heat distribution. The porcelain enameled interior surface is preferred by many because it’s a no-stick surface that doesn’t rely on artificial additives like Teflon or synthetic coatings that could leave residue or unwanted flavors or odors on your food.
Its top is unusual among cast iron skillets and provides you with more versatility and cooking options, ideal for frying chicken and other food that can splatter hot oil all over your range top.
The exterior enamel finish is available in Cardinal Red, and also in Cream, Light Blue, and Provencal Blue. The colors can match a variety of kitchen decors, and you can take the skillet directly to the table when serving a fancy dinner. It’s easy to clean and dishwasher safe, with practically no maintenance involved.
It’s safe for the oven, up to 500-degrees F, even with the lid on and the knob. The lid has a tight fit and will not splatter. It’s a good idea to perform a seasoning run by coating the interior with some oil and putting it in an oven at 350-degrees F for about an hour. You should also take care to not use heavy abrasive materials or metal spatulas so as not to damage the interior enamel.
#5 Pick: Lodge 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
This heirloom-type large cast iron skillet from Lodge comes seasoned with baked-in vegetable oil and ready to use right off the bat. It’s from America’s top cast iron pan manufacturer and very similar to two other picks in this roundup, this one is a mid-range model, with regard to both price and size.
The 13 ¼ -inch form factor skillet is tough and versatile. It’s excellent for frying and stir frying as well as for sauteing and searing, and is oven ready, withstanding grills and hot coals easily. Like the two other skillets we’ve covered, it provides for even cooking thanks to the superior heat retention properties of foundry-grade cast-iron and it comes with a silicone hot handle holder.
If you’re a slow-cook enthusiast or are into preparing traditional recipes, this is the skillet for you. You can cook real slow without worries about scorching, and sear meats and other foods for long periods at high temperatures, leaving them on the skillet afterward for a long time so they’ll keep warm thanks to its heat retention properties. It has a convenient auxiliary handle besides the red silicone-covered main one for heavy lifting as well as two small side spouts for pouring.
The Lodge L10SK3ASHH41B (catchy name, right?) is classy and stylish in a retro, pre-industrial kind of way, bringing back memories of your grandma’s kitchen, and heavy cast-iron is still up there as one of the best cooking utensils, giving a practically non-stick surface when seasoned correctly.
It’s longer lasting than ceramic-coated skillets that can chip or wear and is easier to clean up. Since you don’t have Teflon or other chemical non-stick additives on the surface, you’re not going to get residue, fumes or odors infusing your food when you cook. Just be careful and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance.
Lodge has been making cast-iron skillets in their Tennessee foundries for more than a century and this skillet continues the tradition. It’s a good pick if you want a rugged cast-iron multi-purpose frying pan that’s also a great cooking pot.
This Utopia Kitchen cast-iron skillet comes pre-seasoned and ready to use when you get it delivered. The Chinese-manufactured skillet is factory-treated on the cooking surface without any chemical additives or coatings, using soy-based oil. It’s a heavy traditional cast iron unit of a manageable size and weight with a convenient auxiliary handle and handy pour spouts.
You can cook with it practically anywhere and with any type of heat source: ovens, top stoves, ceramic-glass/induction, electric, gas, and even on grills and hot coals. It has a relatively low price compared to most of the skillets in the roundup and is a great value for money choice.
Like any quality cast-iron cookware, the skillet retains heat well and you can sear meats and other foods for long periods at high temperatures and if you leave food on the skillet after cooking it’ll keep warm for a long time.
The manufacturer is quite insistent in that you perform maintenance on the skillet at regular intervals, and says that if you do so it should last a lifetime and a few generations down the line. You should hand wash it before the first time you use it and immediately dry it and use a light coat of oil to coat every time you wash it.
As with any cast-iron skillet, it’s not dishwasher safe and after cooking you should let it cool completely prior to washing with a scouring sponge using dishwashing soap and water, then rinse and dry it completely. You may want to coat the cooking surface with a thin layer of cooking oil and then let it sit in a heat source for a few minutes to dry to reinforce the seasoning prior to storing it in a dry place. Cast-iron will rust if you don’t thoroughly dry it and store it dry.
Utopia Kitchen also reminds us that since their cast-iron skillets are less smooth than other types of cookware you should take care not to slide the bottom of the skillet along with the glass or ceramic cooking surfaces as you can scratch them. They also remind us that using a cast-iron skillet will increase the nutritional iron content of food cooked in it by up to 20%.
This Tramontina 12-inch enameled cast iron skillet comes with a convenient cover, is rugged and heavy with a stylish classic, yet contemporary design. It has all the excellent qualities you’d expect in a top-notch enameled cast-iron skillet at a medium to low price point, like balanced heat retention, a porcelain-enameled cooking surface, a gradated porcelain-enameled exterior, and high-temperature oven safe operation. The manufacturer stands behind this quality skillet with a limited lifetime warranty.
The 12-inch unit is a Dutch-oven-type skillet that’s very similar in design concept to the Le Creuset skillet that’s our top pick in this roundup, but it’s not French-built and costs a lot less (it’s made in China).
It’s part of a beautifully designed family of similarly apportioned cookware that includes pots, casseroles, grills and grill pans… Its porcelain-enameled interior means foods won’t get in contact with Teflon and other potentially harmful or taste-inducing chemicals like Teflon (PTFE) or PFOA. It’s easy to clean and practically non-stick.
You can take the skillet from your kitchen straight to the table thanks to its elegant red gradated porcelain gradated exterior finish, which is also available in gradated cobalt. It has an additional auxiliary handle and a stainless-steel lid knob for easy handling and transport. The oven-safe lid has self-basting condensation ridges that collect vapor and direct it into the food to concentrate moist flavor on dishes.
The skillet also has a convenient pouring lip so you can easily get rid of leftover liquids and oils. As with any cast-iron cooking pot, you should carefully read the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions, especially regarding seasoning and cleaning. It’s not a complicated chore and doesn’t take much time, but it will guarantee that you’ll have a long-lived utensil that will always produce excellent meals.
Cast Iron Skillets Buying Guide
Cast Iron skillets are as popular as they ever were thanks in part to the fact that they have a natural non-stick quality. Many modern skillets are coated with Teflon and other chemicals that give them their non-stick properties, but at the cost of introducing unwanted harmful particles, odors or flavors into your dishes. Cast iron skillets are seasoned with baked-in natural vegetable oil and will at-most get small quantities of iron into your food, which is actually good for you.
These skillets have been passed from mother to daughter (or father to son) for generations and if you haven’t been that lucky, maybe it’s time to start your own family tradition. If you take good care of them, the skillets in our roundup will outlast you and many generations down the line.
There a number of factors you should watch out for when choosing a quality skillet. There are two main groupings of cast iron skillet types, the straight from foundry variety, which is typically heavy and uncomplicated and doesn’t have any coatings applied, and the ones that have enamel-coated cooking surfaces, which are usually lighter and have colorfully enameled exteriors. Both types have a lot in common, especially their even heat distribution, which results in great heat retention.
This allows for very high surface temperatures to be achieved, so less heat needs to be applied to the skillet. They’re great for searing steaks, slow-cooking meat, and vegetable dishes, grilling, baking. And since the heat is retained for a long time after you remove the skillet from the heat source, you can keep your food warm for long periods.
The biggest difference between these two types is the way you season each one and in how you clean them and store them. The non-enameled skillets often come pre-seasoned with a factory seasoning process involving baking vegetable oil into the cooking surface of each skillet.
Both types need to be continually seasoned and even the pre-seasoned models need you to keep doing the seasoning process at home. To get the ultimate seasoned finish you need to build up a coat of hardened fat on the cooking surface that gets polymerized, resists moisture, and gets a natural non-stick finish. You should carefully read your chosen manufacturer’s instructions on how to season, clean and care for the skillets, and always remember to store your skillet dry to avoid rusting.
A number of design factors can also be important regarding the choice of skillet. Enameled units will typically have much smoother outer surfaces and so will be easier to use on glass and ceramic stovetops without risk for scratching. On the other hand, you may not want to use these skillets on a grill or on hot coals, which could chip or damage the enamel, but non-coated skillets are right at home in extreme conditions like these.
Lids and Handles
Other factors can also be important, like whether the skillet has a second helper or auxiliary handle on the other side of the pan, which makes it easier to move it around, pouring spouts for getting rid of excess oil or moisture easily, and lids for concentrating moisture and helping baking.