Cast iron cookware is one the toughest material ever created for cooking. Cookware made from this material is virtually indestructible and some manufacturers say that it boosts the nutritional value of food by enabling a slow breakdown of enzymes. Read on the unbiased review of the best-rated cast iron skillets on the market…
Cast iron has been with us for ages. It dates back two thousand years ago when the first kitchenware was made using iron. The choice of material was favored owing to its ability to stand high temperatures. When you think about it, cast iron is not sophisticated. It was just a means for the older generations in the 20th century to make cookware that would serve their needs.
The 1960s and 70s saw the fall of cast iron for sleeker fancier aluminum-coated cookware. After a few decades of dominance, the market has shifted again, this time back to good ole’ cast iron.
History of Cast Iron Cookware
Many believed that bare cast iron (which has not been seasoned) was used for cooking since 2000 years ago.
In the 19th Century, people use fireplace to cook their food and meals. That is when pots and pans were introduced. Pots and pans were designed to be flat bottomed and legless and over time they became popular and widely used.
Since then, cast iron pans were created with handles so they can be hung on a wall and cook over a fireplace. They have been heavily used for cooking, salt evaporation etc due to its excellent durability and ability in retaining heat.
There are many types of bare cast iron cookware such as Dutch ovens, griddles, woks, waffle irons, grills, frying pans etc. Of course that includes the cookware we will be discussing today, the cast iron skillet.
During the 20th century, homemakers and mums began to get savvy about cooking and kitchen stuffs. That is when cast iron cookware became hot and popular. The advancement in technology also created similar and improved pans such as the enamel-coated cast iron skillet.
If you have heard of the brands Grisworld and Wagner, they are the pioneers that manufactured cast iron skillets. Not only were they branded, the materials used are almost indestructible and many of those cookware are considered as antiques now.
Unfortunately, during 1950s the 2 companies cease and now the American Culinary Corporation (ACC) owns them.
These 2 cast iron brands are not easily available anywhere in the present day. Even if you try to purchase one, they are expensive due to the fact that dealers and collectors are actively searching for them.
The Present Day
Cast iron cookware has slowly fell out of favor after the 1980s when many household swamped towards the ‘easier choice of maintenance’ such as the Teflon. And especially when the quality of nonstick cookware gets better.
Teflon pots and pans are very popular in today’s society as their main selling point is the non-stick feature which everyone loves to have.
However as Teflon was discovered to contain cancer-causing chemicals such as PFOA and PTFE, users are now more careful in selecting the type of cookware.
Majority turned to stainless steel cookware though they are not the best in non-stick, while some chose induction cookware which would be more suitable for energy-efficient cooking.
What about using lesser oil with non-stick function? Good ceramic cookware can fulfill your needs as cooking eggs is a breeze.
Having said that, there are still a fraction of homemakers who chose the reliable cast iron as they don’t mind the time-consuming, cleaning and maintenance part.
In fact, sales for cast iron skillets have re-surged and increased for the past couple of years. They are forecasted to gain bigger share in the market in the coming years.
These skillets are the kind of cookware that never die, never really get replaced and reign supremacy not for no reasons. One of them is their indestructible properties.
Why Choose Cast Iron Pans?
Durability: Few things will last as long as cast iron. An online reviewer says that they received a cast iron pan as a gift during their wedding and 50 years later, it still looks as good as new. They are virtually indestructible.
Quality: They retain the non-stick property for as long as you have them.
Easy Care: You do not require special classes to learn how to take care of your cast iron skillet. A few pointers and you will be sorted for life.
Affordability: A good cast iron cookware doesn’t cost much and a basic Lodge skillet can do most of your cooking tasks.
How To Clean Cast Iron Skillet
- It will either be pre-seasoned or not. For the pre-seasoned, you should not use soap on them because that ruins the seasoning. Hot water and a scrub will do just fine.
- No Dishwasher: Cast iron will rust if you put it in the dishwasher. Besides, the detergents are too harsh on the material. Instead, just hand-wash it whenever you are done cooking.
- Wipe Immediately: Wipe the water off as soon as you are done washing it. This will prevent it from rust.
- Never Use Paper Towels: They leave lint all over the surface, which will cause your food to stick.
- Steam –clean it: if you feel like your plain water is not working as well as you wish on your pre-seasoned skillet, pour some water in it and place it on the stove to heat. The heat from the water will clean the grime off. The rest you will handle with a nylon brush.
What if your skillets turns rusty? So how do you clean a rusty cast iron cookware? One of the more effective ways is to use steel wool, non-scratching scrubbing pad or other abrasive cleaners. Remove rust by using some baking soda with hot water and scrub using the steel wool.
After the rust has been removed, make sure to apply a thin layer of oil to re-season the pan.
How To Season A Cast Iron Skillet
- Wash the pan or cookware with some soap and hot water.
- After washing, dry up the skillet immediately.
- Pre-heat your oven to about 400 degrees F.
- Use a kitchen towel and apply a thin layer of oil to both the inside and outside of the pan. The best oil to season cast iron skillet is either olive oil or flaxseed because they do not leave any weird smell on your skillet.
- Place your skillet face upside down on the top rack of your oven.
- Bake the cookware and leave it there for about an hour, turn off the heat.
- Wait for the skillet to cool down before taking it out from the oven.
This practice of seasoning will retain the non-stick, shiny effect for a long time. When the food starts to stick to the cooking surface or when the pan turns rusty and dull, it is prompting you to do a re-season again.
Can You Use Cast Iron Skillet On Glass Top Stove?
Well, not all of them. Some manufacturers issue disclaimers to customers, asking them to avoid this combination because cast iron is a bit rough and may cause damage on glass stoves. They, however, say that it is okay to use porcelain on glass top stoves.
Cast iron also retains too much heat which may cause the sensors on glass top stoves to go off automatically, fearing that the heat may be destructive.
Enameled Cast Iron vs Regular Bare Cast Iron
There are people who always got confused about these 2 types of cast iron skillet. They are actually somewhat similar in their features but do have some differences in how they work.
Let’s talk about enameled cast iron first.
- Enameled cast iron doesn’t leech onto the food that you cook. This means that you do not have to avoid acidic foods anymore such as tomato, chili etc. While with the bare cast iron, those acidic foods can leech iron onto the food you are cooking.
- Acidic foods will not damage the seasoning of the pans.
- A layer of porcelain coating is baked into the base of rust-prone cast iron for preventing rust.
- Comes in various colors
- Easier to clean and maintain as enameled does not need seasoning.
- May not be able to withstand very high-heat as well as bare cast iron.
- Example of enameled cast iron brand is Le Creuset.
Now on to bare cast iron (non-enameled).
- Produces a more even heat distribution and holds high-heat better.
- Its non-stick performs better than enameled. Great for cooking eggs etc.
- Can leech some iron into the food. This is only good if your body needs extra iron.
- Cheaper than enameled.
- They are really durable, can last you for generations to come.
- Example of bare cast iron brand is Lodge.
Reviewing 9 Top Rated Cast Iron Pans 2017
From the first look, you can tell that this skillet is durable. It is heavy duty with a beautiful exterior and convenient design on it. It has pour spouts on both sides, which is a favorite of any chef. No messes in the kitchen! In fact, this is our chosen best cast iron skillet of all-time!
The helper handle is a winner here. It is fixed conveniently on the opposite side of the main handle to make it easy to lift it off the stove. This skillet is quite heavy, and so lifting it off the stove with only one hand could be quite the task.
The shiny black interior can take a lot of beating. You may have seen pans with glossy, colored (mainly white) interiors, and you may be wondering what difference it makes. Well, this matte black enamel interior handles heat way better and does not leave stains after cooking.
The cast iron cookware also comes with 7 different vibrant colors (Cherry, Caribbean, Flame, Hibiscus, Marseille, Palm, Soleil).
The Best Qualities
This Le Creuset cast iron skillet is virtually indestructible. It is the kind of gift you receive at your wedding, and forty years later, it still looks as good as it did when you unwrapped it. It is non-stick and it stays so for the rest of its long useful life.
Thanks to its heavy-duty nature, heat distributes evenly. The shiny exterior comes in a variety of bright colors, which add aesthetic appeal to any kitchen. It does not need seasoning, although it would do no harm.
The cooking surface, 11 3/4-inch leaves enough space to prevent overcrowding. You can use it on a halogen, gas, ceramic, and electric oven. It also handles outdoor grill heat sources pretty well.
This fry pan is great for low fat cooking as it needs only very little oil to do that.
You may have to watch out for the handles because they retain a lot of heat during cooking, as does the pan. It would be ideal to handle it with gloves at all times to avoid injury and to keep it away from children while it is still hot. It is pricey but well worth the cost.
Lodge L8SK3 – Voted #1 Best Cast Iron Skillet
Black, heavy, and pre-seasoned is the ideal way to define this skillet. Surprisingly, it is affordable for a product of its quality. Made of cast iron, this pan is heavy and allows even distribution of heat. This was voted as the best cast iron fry pan in our consumers’ reviews.
As thousands of reviewers concur, the pan takes a while to pre-heat owing to the material and its size, but then it does not lose any of the heat for as long as it is in use. Because it comes pre-seasoned, it retains the original flavor of food, and your food will not stick for as long as you take good care of it.
It measures 10.25-inch, which fits your meats and vegetables well when you fry, bake, or even sauté them. The main handle is sturdy and has ample space for storage. Opposite the main handle is a helper handle for handling whenever you want to transfer it from the stove.
If you prefer slightly larger-sized, you can take a look at the 12-inch Lodge L10SK3.
The pour spouts on each side are simply genius for when you want to transfer something from the pan without lifting it too much.
The skillet weighs over 5lbs, so it will take some getting used to. It is ideal for foods that require very high temperatures.
The reviews from customers are overwhelmingly positive, although a few complain of the thin seasoning layer. That part keeps it non-stick for decades. The handle gets scalding depending on the time you had it on the source of heat, and so you should always use your gloves.
Even though this skillet is pre-seasoned, it helps to rub it with a little vegetable oil while it is still warm. After cooking, clean it first with hot water and a tough nylon brush, without soap or other harsh detergents that could ruin it. Dry it with cloth then rub your vegetable cooking oil, before storage. It will be in perfect condition for a long time.
This skillet is quite large, 12-inches. It is actually bigger than most of them, a quality that makes it a slow pre-heat, but an even distributor of heat. You can take advantage of this to slow-cook your vegetable and meats when you need to. When it heats up, it retains the temperature for long so that you can leave your food in there to serve latter. The only worry would be if it would continue to cook.
The large interior surface means that your food will not be all squeezed inside there. You can also cook a large quantity of food at once.
It is unbelievably affordable, which is one of the qualities that gives it its numerous positive online reviews.
The main handle is sturdy and made of the same cast iron as the skillet. It can get too hot especially when left on the heat source for a long time. Thankfully, the helper handle makes it easy to lift the 6.8lbs skillet off the stove, while the gap on the handle, albeit small, makes storage easy.
This skillet is pre-seasoned, which means that the manufacturer has rubbed it with oil and baked it in the oven for a while to retain its non-stick effect. The surface may feel a bit rough at first, but continued cleaning after use will change this.
The exterior does not need oiling, but the inside will. You can use it over an electric oven, gas, halogen, and even over an open fire when camping.
Although the handle may look oversized, in the real sense it is not. It is actually quite small especially considering the size of the skillet.
It is not dishwasher friendly, as the detergents could ruin the pre-season, but hot water and a nylon brush will do the trick.
This skillet measures a whole 17 inches. You can cook up a storm in this beautiful monster. The exterior is black and slightly rough-textured as is the interior. This skillet weighs 14 pounds, which is too heavy for anyone to handle when cooking, but the side handles make it all easier. Still, this skillet is not ideal for everyday cooking, but rather for large gatherings. It does not have pour spouts, which would have made for easier pouring.
Care and Maintenance
It comes pre-seasoned, and you can tell from the surface. For this reason, the dishwasher and harsh detergents are not recommended. If you want it to retain its virtual non-stick quality, wash it with plain hot water and a brush. The exterior does not rust and does not need special care. To maintain it in the same condition as you bought it, rub a little vegetable oil into it after cleaning and towel drying.
When this pan becomes hot, it retains the heat for long. It also distributes it evenly so that your food cooks as you would want it. Grated, it takes quite some time to heat up because 17 inches are quite a lot, therefore you can select your heat preference among low, medium, and high. It will never burn your food, thanks to the thickness of the material.
It is not exactly cheap, but it is a worthy investment. The online community seems to love it as much as we do if the numerous positive reviews are anything to go by. It works with all stoves and ovens.
While it has all this great qualities it does not have a lid, but you can purchase one separately.
The handles are quite small for this size of skillet. They also tend to become very hot especially if you cook over high heat.
This iron cast 3-piece set from Simple Chef is one of the most affordable set of high-quality cookware. It is simply ultra durable, thanks to the material. It comes pre-seasoned, which tells you your non-stick pans will serve you well for decades. Why should factory pre-seasoning matter when choosing your cookware? Because it is more effective than home seasoning. It lasts as long as the skillet does, adding flavor to your food, and making it easy to clean.
The exterior is tough enough to stand any heat source, from open grills to electric and gas ovens. This set is multifunctional, meaning you can use it in the oven as you can on the stovetop.
They vary in sizes: 10″, 8″, 6,” and so they heat up differently. The 6 and 8 inches are ideal for daily cooking because they are not too large to handle. They also take less time to pre-heat as compared to the 10-inch monster. The advantage on this one, though, is that you can sear 4 chicken breasts on it all at once.
They have pour-spouts for easy pouring. The sturdy handle makes storage easy.
Care and maintenance
Because they come pre-seasoned your job is drastically reduced. They need adequate air, and so it would be advisable to hang them in a way they are well aerated. If you need to cover them, add confetti or rice at the bottom to suck up the moisture, then leave a little opening on the lid.
As is the case with pre-seasoned skillets, soap and dishwasher detergent are detrimental. To preserve the non-stick quality, clean them gently with hot water and a scrub. You can even clean-steam them occasionally, and then dry them for storage.
They only have one handle each, which is okay for the smallest one because it is not too heavy, but the other two could use a helper handle.
While most skillets do not come with lids, this one does. It measures 3.25 inches deep and 12 inches in diameter. Clearly, it is not your everyday cookware owing to the size unless you have a large family, but it makes the excellent cooking companion when you bring it out. It is surprising to see how reasonably priced this versatile fryer is.
Care and Maintenance
This is heavy cast iron, so there is no chance of it breaking or chipping. The interior is just as tough as the exterior. However, care needs to be taken to ensure that the non-stick property stays. Do not wash with soap and any other detergent that would wash off the baked vegetable oil.
For storage, the hook on the handle makes that possible. It would be best to leave it open, but if you cover it for storage, rub a little vegetable or flaxseed oil in it to season it and keep it fresh until the next cook day. Leave a small opening to let in air especially if you live in humid areas.
Given its heavy material, this skillet does take a while to get heated, but the upside of it is that this heat distributes evenly on the pan and stays on it for as long as you wish. It goes well with baked and fried meals, and sauté vegetables open fires and all types of ovens. The skillet can take a lot of beating and still serve you for decades.
It has two handles: the main one with a hook for storage, and the helper handle to make it easier to carry this 15lb monster off the oven. Careful when handling these because they get pretty hot.
Utopia kitchen brings you a pre-seasoned skillet at a great price. The manufacturer says that cooking food in this type of pan could boost the iron content of your food by up to 20%.
This 12.5-inch cast iron pan has two pour-spouts and an extra helper handle for easy manipulation from the stove. It is multi-functional, in that you can use it on the stove as well as in the oven.
Care and Maintenance
Unlike most pre-seasoned skillets that are not to be washed with soap or dishwashing detergent, the manufacturer gives a go-ahead for this one. They say you can wash them in warm soapy water or usual dishwasher liquid, and then apply a layer of oil to season it before storage. However, go easy on the soap. Before taking it for its first ride on your stove, wash it with soapy water and a sponge, dry it immediately with a towel, and apply your oil. This should ensure a smooth first time.
For it to continue being non-stick, season it occasionally by applying a thin layer of vegetable oil and then bake it in the oven for about a hour at 350-400 degrees F. This process allows the oil to seep in and maintain the high quality of the skillet for years to come. It also prevents it from rusting (seeing that it is iron and prone to rust).
One other trick that will give your seasoning more life is washing off any acidic food as soon as you remove it from the skillet. Acidic particles remain in the pan and seep in to form part of the seasoning, which will make your skillet sticky. This is another one of the top-rated cast iron skillets by consumers.
This pan is quite heavy, at 8lbs, and so it will certainly be hard to handle with one hand. That is how the helper handle comes in handy.
If you like color and beauty to accompany a good non-stick skillet, then this round pan may be the product for you.
This Cuisinart CI22-24BG Chef’s Classic enameled cast iron fry pan is one that is quite eye-catching in the distinct Provencal blue. The exterior may look delicate, especially due to the colors, but it is as scratch-free as they come.
This frying pan is quite spacious, measuring 10 inches, enough space to prevent your food from crowding too much as it cooks. It also means you can make the family meal in one go, who doesn’t like the sound of that?
Caring For the Formidable Interior
The interior is typical cast iron; heavy, and not smooth, but not glossy. This skillet does not alter the flavor of your food. It is non-stick, a quality that you can keep by lightly seasoning this skillet occasionally with olive oil. Moreover this cookware is good for easy cleaning, thanks to the smooth material. Because it is not pre-seasoned, you can use dishwasher liquid and water to wash off the grime. We are a bit skeptical about using the dishwasher, though.
Thanks to the outer coating, this skillet will not threaten rust after a few washes. For the inside, wiping it dry and rubbing a little oil in it will do the trick.
Th Chef Classic has a large handle with a hook on it and a smaller helper handle to make it easy to take off the top stove. It is multifunctional, for both the oven and stove. The cookware also looks good enough to take to the dining table, so it is off the stove or oven, to the table. Thanks to heat retention, your food will stay warm for a good while.
Direct fire could ruin the porcelain exterior, and so this baby is not coming camping with you. You will find it to be the best cast iron frying pan on a glass top stove.
Some reviewers complain that food sticks on it, but the majority shower it with praise.
This heavy-duty nonstick frying pan heats up easily on any oven, including induction, and it handles open grills and outdoor fires expertly. It is also the top-rated cast iron skillet by a group of chefs.
Cast iron is not dishwasher friendly because it rusts quickly. To avoid dealing with that mess (although you can reverse it), show your skillet some love with plain water and a brush, and it will stay in perfect condition for long. To extend the non-stick quality, apply a little flaxseed oil on it and rub it all around and inside with a piece of cloth before storing it.
It is heavy, that is a fact (9lbs), which is why the two handles come in handy. The hook on the main handle takes care of storage. The reviews praise this product for its heat retention and its multi-functionality, but a few complaints target its lack of a lid. Good news is that for a few dollars, you can buy one separately. It is 12 inches, so large enough to cook for big meals.
The manufacturer has already pre-seasoned it, making it ready to use. You only need to be keen on how you care for it, without using soap, drying it with a cloth towel immediately after washing, and applying a little olive oil to keep the seasoning intact.
A few reviewers complain of cracks upon subjecting theirs to heat, which could be a sign of counterfeits on the market.
The truth about cookware made of cast iron is that it lasts the test of time. There is always a downside to everything, and in this case, we could lament the prices.
Most of the best cast iron skillets reviewed here are quite costly. However, you buy a few pieces and close that chapter for life, so they are worthy investments. The dishwasher unfriendliness is a thing to complain about too, but hey, it only takes a few minutes to clean these babies.
The pieces reviewed in this comprehensive review are the best cast iron cookware, and you could never go wrong with either or all of them. If you want to cement a friendship, give your soon-to-be-married friend one of these, and they will thank you for a lifetime.