While it can be a bit intimidating to novice cooks, cast iron is often the go-to material for many professional chefs—and for a good reason. Not only is cast iron one of the best cookware materials for heat retention and distribution, but it’s also unbelievably durable, lasting for generations if cared for properly.
Whether you’re searing meat or baking cake, a good cast iron skillet will be your best friend in the kitchen. These pans deliver consistent and reliable results, and as you cook with your skillet, the metal will develop a natural patina often referred to as “seasoning.” This is essentially just numerous layers of oil that have been baked onto the metal, and it will protect the skillet from rust and create a naturally nonstick surface that makes cooking eggs or sticky sauces a breeze. (Just be sure to go gentle on your cast iron skillet when cleaning—you want to keep the seasoning intact, so steer clear of harsh soaps and abrasive brushes.)
There are a number of standard sizes of cast iron skillet to pick from. Eight or 10-inch skillets are often best for everyday use, as they can easily fit two pieces of protein or a serving of vegetables. Those with larger households may need to size up to a 12- or 14-inch skillet—just make sure your stovetop can accommodate the larger cookware. You’ll also want to consider the depth of your pan, as a skillet with shallow walls isn’t ideal for cooking sauces.
As you shop, you’ll likely encounter the term “enameled cast iron,” which means the metal has been coated with a durable non-porous glaze. Unlike traditional cast iron, enameled cast iron is nonstick right out of the box—no need to build up seasoning—and you can clean it more vigorously without worrying about damage. For these reasons, it’s often a better choice for beginners or anyone who likes lower maintenance pots and pans.
Whether you’re new to cast iron or are looking to grow your collection, here are some of the best cast iron skillets across the board. From the best budget pick to the perfect pan for beginners, any one of them deserves a spot in your kitchen.
Best Cast Iron Skillet For Everyday Use
Lodge 8” Skillet
One of the all-around best cast iron skillets you can buy today is the Lodge Skillet, which excels both in value and performance. Lodge is an American company known for its affordable cast iron cookware, and many experts agree its budget-friendly skillets work just as well as those from high-end brands. Lodge Skillets come in a range of sizes, starting as small as 3.5 inches in diameter and reaching up to 15 inches, but the 8-inch option is a good choice for everyday use.
Best Premium Cast Iron Skillet
Field Company #8
One common complaint about cast iron skillets is that they’re extremely heavy, and if you’re willing to spend a little more money to avoid this issue, you should consider the skillets from Field Company. This direct-to-consumer brand crafts cookware that’s significantly lighter than traditional cast iron pans, and the finish is also smoother, allowing you to build up a beautiful nonstick finish over time. Field Company offers several skillet sizes between 6-¾ and 13-⅜ inches, but its #8 pan, which is 10-¼ inches in diameter, is ideal for daily use.
Best Budget Cast Iron Skillet
Artisanal Kitchen 10-inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
There’s no denying that cast iron cookware is expensive, but it’s still possible to find budget-friendly cast iron skillets that can hold their own against higher-end products. For instance, the Artisanal Kitchen Supply Cast Iron Skillet is the perfect option for beginners or anyone on a budget, as it’s incredibly affordable and comes with a twice-seasoned interior cooking surface, giving you a jump start on building up a solid seasoning. Many reviewers are impressed with the quality of these cast iron pans—especially for the price—noting that they cook evenly and are ready to use right out of the box.
Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillet
Staub Cast Iron Skillet
Traditional cast iron requires meticulous care and cleaning to prevent rust, but if you’re looking for a skillet that doesn’t require quite as much attention — or one that comes with the option of bright colors on the outside — you’ll be happy with an enameled cast iron skillet like this one from Staub. This pan has a durable nonstick, chip-resistant black enamel finish on the interior (which means you don’t have to build up a seasoning) as well as an enameled exterior in five color options. This 10-inch skillet delivers the same heat retention and superior searing abilities as regular cast iron, but it’s easier to care for, making it ideal for beginners or those who struggle with traditional cast iron.
Best Deep Cast Iron Skillet
Lodge 3-Quart Cast Iron Deep Skillet with Lid
The sides on regular cast iron skillets are typically between 2 and 3 inches tall, but if you’re planning on frying or making sauce in your pan, you’ll want a product that’s a bit deeper. For instance, the highly rated Lodge Covered Deep Skillet is a 10-¼ inch pan with 5-½ inch sides, giving it a spacious 3-quart capacity. This American-made product includes a matching lid, as well, allowing you to use it similarly to a Dutch oven—you could easily braise meat or bake bread in it, thanks to its oven-safe design.
Best Cast Iron Skillet Set
Lodge 7-Piece Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Set
As its name suggests, this set from Lodge includes all the cast iron essentials you’ll need in your kitchen. It consists of the brand’s most popular items, including a 10-¼ inch cast iron skillet, a 10-¼ inch grill pan, a 10-½ inch round griddle, as well as a care set, which comes with a pan scraper, brush, handle cover, and canola-oil spray.
All of the pans in this set are made in the USA, and they’re pre-seasoned to give you a jumpstart on building up a durable nonstick finish. The grill pan is ideal for searing meat and even vegetables, and the griddle will come in handy when you’re cooking pancakes or eggs on the weekends.
“If you really want to get into cast iron, start here,” writes one reviewer. “Next, add a 5-quart Lodge Dutch Oven (which also gives you a lid that works with this set, albeit a heavy cast iron one), there won’t be much you can’t do.”
Best Double Handle Cast Iron Skillet
Staub Double-Handle Skillet
If you frequently serve food right out of the pan, the Staub Double-Handle Skillet makes it easier to transport the hot cookware from oven to table. This 13-inch skillet, which comes in five colors, would be the perfect pan for deep-dish pizza or party dip, and it has an enameled interior surface that doesn’t require seasoning. Its two loop side handles give you a better grip when moving the skillet, and as an added bonus, it’s also easier to store.
Best Smooth Surface Cast Iron Skillet
FINEX Cast Iron Skillet with Lid
Some cheaper cast iron pans have a rough surface, which can impede their nonstick abilities, but the FINEX Cast Iron Skillet is finished with an ultra-polished cooking surface that’s incredibly smooth, allowing you to build up a nonstick seasoning in no time. This 12-inch skillet has a unique octagonal design that allows you to pour out liquid from any angle, and it includes a matching cast iron lid with integrated self-basting rings for better flavor when you’re oven-braising or making sauce.
Best Cast Iron Grill Pan
Lodge Cast Iron Grill Pan
With the help of a cast iron grill pan, you can give meat and other ingredients delicious char marks without using a traditional grill — it’s a great alternative for those in apartments or homes without an outdoor space. This 10-½ inch grill pan from Lodge has ribs along its interior that elevate your food and collect cooking drippings, and its square shape lets you comfortably fit two steaks in the pan at once. Plus, this grill pan gets top marks from reviewers, who say it delivers great flavor and is surprisingly simple to clean.
Best Enameled Cast Iron Color Options
Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron Fry Pan
Most cast iron skillets are matte black, but if you like your cookware to be a bit brighter, you’ll love the Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron Fry Pan. This high-end brand is known for its top-tier construction and brightly colored finishes, and while its 10-inch skillet isn’t cheap, it will last for decades if taken care of properly. The fry pan is available in a rainbow of colors, and it features a black enamel interior that requires no additional seasoning and minimal oil while cooking.
Best Lightweight Cast Iron Skillet
Stargazer 10.5-inch Skillet
One of the downsides of cast iron is that it’s extremely heavy, making cast iron cookware hard for some people to handle. While many skillets weigh 10 pounds or more, the Stargazer Skillet is just 5 pounds, making it an unbeatable lightweight choice for your home.
This cast iron skillet is 10-½ inches in diameter with 2-inch sides, and it offers a convenient helper handle on the front of the pan that makes it easier to remove from the stove. It has a unique flared rim that allows you to pour off liquid from any angle, and you can even choose whether you want the cookware pre-seasoned or bare.
“This cast iron skillet design is the best out there!” explains one buyer, who gives the skillet 5 stars. “Its unique handle design remains cool to the touch for very long cook times. The angle of the rounded edges make it very easy to cook and move food around without sticking.”
Best Polished Cast Iron Skillet
Smithey No. 10 Cast Iron Skillet
Some cast iron skillets have a rough, pebbly surface, but if you prefer a smooth cooking surface, the Smithey No. 10 Cast Iron Skillet has a satin-smooth polished finish that’s a dream to cook on. This pan has a 10-inch diameter and 2-inch walls, as well as an ergonomic handle, helper handle at the front of the pan, and pour spouts on both sides. There are even convenient holes in both handles in case you want to hang up the pan.
This polished cast iron skillet is surprisingly lightweight at just over 5 pounds, and its smooth surface is easy to clean and maintain. “Takes a while to heat up, but once you get it hot it performs great,” one reviewer notes. “[The] polished interior is great for eggs or any other delicate cooking ventures.”
Best Cast Iron Skillet For Beginners
Ayesha Curry Enameled Cast Iron Skillet
Because it cooks differently than other materials and has very specific care instructions, cast iron can be intimidating to beginners. If you’re buying your very first cast iron skillet, you may want to start out with a product like the Ayesha Curry Enameled Cast Iron Skillet, which offers an easy-to-clean enamel finish at a novice-friendly price point.
This skillet comes in 10- and 12-inch sizes and four exterior colors, and because it has an enamel coating, there’s no need to build up a seasoning—it should be nonstick and easy to use right out of the box. The pan is oven-safe up to 500 degrees, so you can bake and broil in it, and one reviewer even went so far as to say it has changed the way she cooks: “I love this pan! The thick base provides even heat. The dual pouring spouts are handy. The little handle is vital! It’s a heavy pan and I wouldn’t try to move it without that little handle. And of course, the ease of searing and then baking, all in one dish.”
How can you tell if a cast iron skillet is good?
Some companies try to pass off their skillets as cast iron when they’re really not. In general, you’ll want to look at the inside of the pan. A real cast iron pan will have a dark and dull surface. It may even have a layer of black seasoning. If the surface is shiny or has a non-stick covering, it’s not cast iron. Also, a cast iron pan should be heavy—it’s iron, after all.
Are cast iron skillets worth it?
Plenty of people, including chefs, swear by these pans. A cast iron skillet is a workhorse and can do just about anything. These pans maintain heat and cook food evenly, whether you’re making steak or pancakes. They’re also really durable—they can last for years—and versatile, working on both the stovetop and in the oven.
Why is cast iron so expensive?
It takes a lot more material and effort to create a cast iron skillet compared to say, non-stick cookware. Making a cast iron pan is also time consuming: It requires a lot of grinding to get the right finish. Finally, cast iron pans last a long time—and quality doesn’t come cheap.