The Best Cast Iron Skillet

Calphalon Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Skillet

Our Top Pick for 2016: Calphalon Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Skillet
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $26.24*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

There is a reason that cast iron has been used for decades as a reliable material for cookware. It lasts, holds heat, and cooks evenly. While it does need some special care in the beginning, once you’ve gotten a good layer of seasoning on it, it is easy to clean and maintain. Finding the right cast iron skillet involves knowing what to look for as well as your personal preferences. There are good skillets available in different prices ranges. If you’re ready to try out cast iron, check out our picks for some of the best deals out there.

Table of contents

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Natural, Easy-release Finish
Ideal For Traditional And Slow Cooking
Extra-long Handle
Hand Wash, Dry, Rub With Cooking Oil
Designed To Heat Evenly And Steadily
Easy-to-grip Side Helper Handle
Sear, Sauté, Bake, Broil, Braise, Fry Or Grill
Pre-seasoned Cooking Surface
Signature Thumb Rest
Great For Induction Cooktops
Prevents Sticking
Heats Evenly And Consistently
Brutally Tough For Decades Of Cooking
Full Lifetime Warranty
Oven-safe Up To 600 Degrees F

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Calphalon Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Skillet

Calphalon Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Skillet Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $26.24*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThe Calphalon Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Skillet (Calphalon) is made of heavy duty cast iron. This 12-inch skillet gives you a good sized surface area in which to cook steaks, pancakes, and other traditional, and non-traditional, favorites.

Cast iron can rival the non-stick qualities of non-stick cookware when it is properly seasoned and maintained. Seasoning involves using cooking oils to create a protective layer on the skillet. The Calphalon comes pre-seasoned so that you won’t have to season the first time you use it. This works well for someone that may not have used cast iron before. However, this initial seasoning is not enough to give this skillet the non-stick qualities that you are going to want. Most cast iron needs to be used and seasoned properly a few times before it begins to take on the right patina and develops a good layer to prevent sticking.

To season your skillet, warm it on the stove or in the oven. Once it is warm, rub a thin layer of cooking oil, which can be a vegetable oil, shortening, or other kinds of oil. Put the cast iron back on the stove or in the oven and warm it until the oil is dried on. Do not over heat it as the oil can start to burn and smoke.

One of the joys of cooking in cast iron is its ability to hold heat. While it does take longer than other types of cookware to warm, once it is warmed, it holds the heat well. The Calphalon is thick and heavy which means all that cast iron warms nicely.

An even cooking surface is important when using a skillet. To get the results that you want, you need a surface that distributes the heat evenly. When you get the Calphalon to correct cooking temperature, the thick cast iron cooking surface distributes the heat throughout the skillet. This gives you a solid surface with even temperatures. Because it heats evenly, the handles of the skillet also become hot. When using cast iron, it is a good idea to use good, thick pot holders. You’ll need that extra protection to prevent burns.

The Calphalon is a versatile piece of cookware. It can be used on the stovetop or in the oven. You can brown meat and then put it directly into the oven to finish cooking. This skillet would also work well for cornbread. Cornbread out of a cast iron skillet has a down-home delicious flavor you can’t find anywhere else.

This skillet can also be used with different cooking techniques. It can be used to quickly fry an egg or you can slow cook meat in the oven. The cast iron can withstand and perform well at prolonged high temperatures.

The Calphalon can be used on a number of different stovetops such as gas, electric, and induction. Because of its heavy weight, you should always be careful not to drop the Calphalon on the stovetop or in the oven as it can cause dents. It should be used with caution on glass stovetops which are in particular danger of cracking, scratching, and heat damage.

Oversized handles make picking up this skillet easier. Cast iron is heavy, which means you need a thick handle to hold the weight and get a good grip. There is also a smaller handle on the opposite side that allows you get a two handed grip. Moving this skillet when it is full of food is going to require the use of both hands.

The Calphalon is simple to clean. Cast iron does not need to be washed with soap. In fact, soap removes the seasoning. This skillet can be cleaned with hot water and a scrubber meant for cast iron. Once it is well seasoned, it does not require heavy scrubbing to come clean. After you’ve washed it, it needs to be dried completely to prevent rust. You can do this by putting it on the stove or in the oven on low. You should occasionally season the pan while it is drying.

Calphalon provides a lifetime warranty on this skillet and it is reasonably priced for the quality of skillet that you receive.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet L10SK3ASHH41B

Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet L10SK3ASHH41B

View it on Amazon for $36.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThe Lodge Cast Iron Skillet L10SK3ASHH41B (Lodge) is high-quality cookware that has the hallmarks of good cast iron. It comes in four different sizes – 8 inch, 10.25 inch, 12 inch, and 13.25 inch. If you know the types of food you want to cook, you can find the size that is right for you. A smaller 8-inch skillet is convenient when camping or for cooking eggs at home. A 13.25-inch skillet would be a good choice for a larger family that wants to cook big cuts of meat or a skillet full of cornbread.

The Lodge is pre-seasoned so that you can use it out of the box. While this is convenient for the first use, it will need additional seasoning. Cast iron gets better with use as it builds its seasoned layer over time. It’s this seasoning layer that can give cast iron its non-stick qualities. Once it’s there, you will be able to cook most food without trouble cleaning it. Even eggs can come off easily once the skillet is seasoned appropriately.

This skillet can be used in slow cooking because it holds heat well. Cast iron is known for its ability to absorb and hold heat, giving you cookware that can hold a constant temperature for a long period of time. This ability to hold a constant temperature also creates an even cooking surface. As long as the heating element is centered under the cast iron, the Lodge can distribute the heat throughout its surface for consistent cooking. Meat can be evenly browned and eggs can cook at well with this skillet. This heat can also spread to the side walls of the skillet. This allows you to use it for baking food in the oven if you prefer.

An added benefit of using a cast iron, like the Lodge, is that it flakes off iron into your food providing you and your family with an excellent source of iron.

The Lodge has excellent durability. Cast iron skillets can be passed down from generation to generation. This skillet is made with the kind of quality that, if cared for appropriately, can be passed down to your children and beyond.

A thick, long handle on one side and a smaller handle on the opposite side provide what you need to get a good grip. When the skillet is full of food, it becomes heavy and will require the use of both hands. A silicone sleeve for the long handle is included. It can withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees. It should not be left on the skillet while in the stove. When using the silicone sleeve, be sure to have a firm grip on the handle as the sleeve can cause it to slip out of your hand.

There are two small pour spouts on either side of the skillet. This allows you to drain any juices or pour contents in a controlled manner so as to make as little mess as possible.

Lodge provides a limited lifetime warranty on any manufacturing defects.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): T-fal E83407 Pre-Seasoned Nonstick Durable Cast Iron Skillet

T-fal E83407 Pre-Seasoned Nonstick Durable Cast Iron Skillet

View it on Amazon for $28.75*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe T-Fal E83407 Pre-Seasoned Non-Stick Durable Cast Iron Skillet (T-Fal) is a good skillet that comes in a 10-inch and 12-inch option.

Like the other skillets reviewed here, the T-Fal is pre-seasoned so that it can be used as soon as you open it. While the seasoning on the skillet is good enough to use out of the box, to truly get the patina you want, you will need to use and season the skillet several times. As you cook in and season the skillet, it builds up a patina that sinks into the cast iron. This will give it the non-stick qualities that have made cast iron a kitchen favorite for decades.

The T-Fal is designed with an extra-long handle. The extra length gives you more leverage when holding and moving the skillet. A ridged thumb grip on the handle also provides some extra hold. The smaller handle on the opposite is what gives you the ability to hold on to and move the skillet when it is full or hot out of the oven.

The weight of cast iron can make it difficult to maneuver, especially once you have hot food in it. With the small handle on the opposite side of the T-Fal, you can pick up a full skillet with less risk of dropping it because of weight. This is also nice for those with less wrist strength. Be sure to use heavy pot holders when picking up the T-Fal as the entire skillet gets hot when cooking.

There are two small pour spouts on either side of the skillet. You can pour the contents into a serving dish or more easily pour sauces. This helps to prevent spills and leaks.

As with other cast iron cookware, the T-Fal heats evenly and holds that heat well. One of the joys of cooking with cast iron is the way it absorbs the heat and can then evenly transfer that heat to the food. The T-Fal is made to resist extreme cooking temperatures of up to 600 degrees. This gives you a wide range of uses and temperatures that other cookware may not be able to withstand.

When you use the T-Fal, you are getting a skillet that is cadmium and PFOA free. These are two chemicals often found in non-stick cookware. They can easily find their way into your food and cause harmful fumes. With the T-Fal the only thing extra that will find its way into your food is iron, which is actually a healthy benefit as most people are deficient in iron.

This skillet can be used on most cooktops including gas, electric, induction, grills, and barbecues. Special care must be taken if you have a glass stovetop as the weight of cast iron makes it easy to crack or damage the surface of the stove. Glass is also susceptible to discoloring from the heat of cast iron.

Be sure to take measures to care for this skillet and preserve the seasoning. You won’t need to wash the T-Fal with soap as this will remove the seasoning. It can be washed with warm or hot water and a scraper to remove anything that sticks. After it has been washed and towel dried, you will need to either put it in the oven or on the stove at a low temperature to dry it completely. If you don’t dry it completely, you risk developing rust. Another benefit of cast iron is that even if it does develop rust you can scrub off the rust with steel wool and begin the seasoning process again. However, it will be like starting over with an unseasoned skillet.

There is a one-year limited warranty on manufacturing defects provided with a proof of purchase.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Utopia Kitchen 10.25 inch Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Skillet

Utopia Kitchen 10.25 inch Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Skillet

View it on Amazon for $14.42*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickThe Utopia Kitchen 10.25-Inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet (Utopia) is a worthy budget pick. It can give you the qualities you need in a cast iron skillet at a low cost.

The Utopia has the versatility you would expect from cast iron. It can be used on most stovetop surfaces such as electric, gas, induction, and grills. You will still need to be cautious if you want to use it on a glass surface as you risk scratching or cracking the glass.

A convenience offered by cast iron is that you can start on the stovetop and then put it in the oven. The Utopia can be an all-in-one piece of cookware that makes it so you don’t have to transfer food to a cooled dish to be placed safely in the oven.

Browning meat, cooking hash browns, and eggs becomes simple and easy with a cast iron skillet, like the Utopia. As you build up the patina you create a natural non-stick surface. While the Utopia does come pre-seasoned, this seasoning is not going to be enough to keep all foods from sticking. Repeated use and seasoning will build up the protective layer.

The Utopia has a long handle on one side that is good to use when the skillet is empty. When full of food, a second handle across from the long handle allows you to get a good grip and carry the skillet. The weight of cast iron makes having two handles a necessity. Always be sure to use heavy pot holders when handling the warm skillet because it transfers heat to all cast iron parts including the handles.

Cast iron is a good heat conductor. As it absorbs the heat, it transfers it evenly throughout the skillet. This gives you a fairly even cooking temperature throughout the skillet and even up the walls. These heat conducting qualities make it ideal to use in the oven as well as on the stove. You can bake cornbread or biscuits as though you were using a baking pan.

As with all cast iron cookware, it must be cleaned and dried properly to maintain the patina. The Utopia can be washed with warm or hot water and scrubbed clean of any leftover food. You must dry it completely by placing it on the stovetop or oven on low. A layer of cooking oil can be added at this time if you are building up the patina. You may not need to do this if the skillet has built up the non-stick properties that you need.

The Utopia comes with a 30-day money back guarantee with proof of purchase.


Pre-purchase considerations

Weight

The weight and thickness of the cast iron skillet will make a difference. Heavy skillets will be slower to heat but will also hold that heat longer once they are at the correct temperature. Many people accustomed to the lightweight pans of modern design may be deterred by the weight of cast iron.

However, that very weight is what makes cast iron last for decades. It is durable and can withstand the heat and heavy use of high temperatures. If you are looking for a traditional cast iron taste and look, heavier skillets are going to provide the best results.

Handles

You need have some way to manage all the extra weight of cast iron. The kinds of handles the skillet has are essential. If there is a long handle, it should be long enough that it gives you a good way to move the skillet when empty. It should be thick enough to withstand the weight of the skillet when it is full of food. If it looks or feels flimsy to you, don’t buy it. Skillets with a second smaller handle across from the long handle are going to be the easiest to maneuver and use. Some cast iron skillets are designed with two small handles on either side, which can work just as well.

Because cast iron holds and transfers heat so well, the handles are going to be almost as hot as the bottom of the pan. You will need a hand on each side of the skillet when moving the hot skillet, especially if you are taking it out of the oven.

Cost

There are manufacturers who charge as much as an entire set of non-stick cookware. Don’t be fooled by price. There are quality cast iron skillets in all price ranges. The important factors are the weight and thickness of the cast iron.

Enameled cast iron works well for some people but it is usually very expensive. A bare bones cast iron skillet can give you excellent results at a fraction of the cost with no risk of chipping the enamel. However, the bare bones cast iron usually requires some extra work to get the non-stick surface that you want. It does require using and seasoning the pan many times before the surface has the qualities that make using cast iron a joy. If you aren’t willing to put in that time, you may want to consider the more pricey enameled pieces that don’t require as much seasoning.

Bare vs. Enamel

There are two basic types of cast iron cookware. The bare, like all of the reviewed skillets, and enameled or porcelain coated. Enameled pieces do not need to be seasoned; however, they do require special maintenance to keep the finish intact. If the enamel is not cared for properly, it can wear off rendering the cookware unusable.

Bare cast iron skillets require more seasoning and preparation in the beginning. However, once you’ve gotten the patina that you want and need, it is a very durable piece of cookware that can last for generations. Another benefit of the bare skillets is that if there is damage such as rust, it can be sanded down and seasoned again.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

These types of pans have been a staple in the kitchen for a long time because it lasts and produces incredible food. Before you purchase, know how you want to use the skillet and the time you are willing to spend to get the results that you want. You may have to put in a little extra time in the beginning but, in the end, you’ll have a piece of cookware that you can hand down as a family heirloom.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. Cast Iron Cookware, allcookwarefind.com, 2016
  2. Jason Fitzpatrick, Pick the Best Cast Iron Cookware for Your Kitchen, lifehacker.com, May 1, 2010
  3. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Equipment: How to Buy, Season, and Maintain Cast Iron Cookware, June 8, 2010
  4. Lynne Jaques, Cast Iron Cookware: What You Need To Know, foodal.com, January 12, 2016

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