The best cast iron skillet

Cookware

You can make all kinds of food in cast iron skillets, from stir-fried vegetables to pizza and giant cookies.

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Which cast iron skillet is best?

Many cooks like to have a cast iron skillet as part of their kitchen arsenal, but how do you choose which one will cook food the best and last for years to come? It’s important to pick a quality cast iron skillet you’ll enjoy cooking on.

If you’re looking to kit your kitchen out from scratch with new cookware, this Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron 3 Skillet Bundle is an excellent choice, containing three skillets of different sizes.

What to know before you buy a cast iron skillet

Diameter

The diameter of your skillet is important because it should be large enough to fit what you want to cook in it, but not unnecessarily huge. Although cast iron retains heat well, it doesn’t transfer heat as effectively as more lightweight metals, so a skillet that’s too large for the burner can end up with cool spots near the edges, not to mention that bigger cast iron skillets weigh more and cost more. When checking out the diameter of any skillets you’re considering, bear in mind that the listed diameter is often the diameter of the rim, not the cooking area. Since most skillets taper out from the base to the rim, the cooking area usually is slightly smaller.

Depth

Most cast iron skillets have a standard depth of approximately 2 to 2.5 inches. This is deep enough for average cooking methods such as searing and sauteing. There are some extra-deep skillets with a depth of roughly 3 to 4 inches. These are better suited for simmering larger volumes of food that wouldn’t fit in a shallower skillet, deep frying in a couple of inches of oil or baking deep-dish pies.

Seasoning

Seasoning on a cast iron skillet is an accumulation of layers of oils on the inside of the pan that makes up a nonstick coating. The majority of cast iron skillets sold today come pre-seasoned and ready to cook with, but if you want to do the seasoning process yourself, you can find a handful of unseasoned cast iron pans.

What to look for in a quality cast iron skillet

Pouring spouts

The pouring spouts in the side of a cast iron pan help you more easily pour out liquid food or used cooking oil without making a mess. You also can use them as spoon rests. 

Removable silicone grips

The handles of cast iron skillets can get hot, so those that come with silicone grips are easier to handle. Ideally, these grips should be removable so the pans are oven safe at higher temperatures.

Lid

Most cast iron skillets don’t come with lids, but there are some that do, if having a lid is non-negotiable for you. You also should be able to buy lids separately that will fit your skillet.

How much you can expect to spend on a cast iron skillet

Depending on factors such as size, seasoning and overall quality, cast iron skillets can cost between $15-$100 apiece.

Cast iron skillet FAQ

Is cooking on cast iron bad for you?

A. No, cooking with cast iron isn’t bad for you. When you cook food in a cast iron pan, iron from the pan leaches into your food, increasing your dietary iron intake, which is great for anyone who’s deficient in iron.

What are the benefits of cast iron skillets? 

A. Aside from adding extra iron to your food, cast iron skillets have a range of benefits. They’re very durable, so a decent cast iron skillet that’s well cared for could outlive you. Their excellent heat retention properties help them char and brown food. When well-seasoned, cast iron skillets are nonstick but without any of the controversial chemicals that go into pans with nonstick coatings. Cast iron pans are oven safe with no maximum temperature limits, so it’s easy to cook dishes that go from the stove to the oven. Check out the full guide to cast iron skillets at BestReviews for more information on the benefits of cast iron.

What’s the best cast iron skillet to buy?

Top cast iron skillet

Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron 3 Skillet Bundle

Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron 3 Skillet Bundle

What you need to know: This set of three skillets is a great choice for anyone stocking their kitchen from scratch.

What you’ll love: This set contains three skillet sizes: 8, 10 and 12 inches. Each is pre-seasoned, features pouring spouts and has one long handle and one loop handle. Lodge has been making cast iron skillets since 1896, so you can be sure of the quality.

What you should consider: Not every buyer needs a full set of three skillets.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon.

Top cast iron skillet for the money

Amazon Basics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

Amazon Basics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

What you need to know: This is a simple, affordable cast iron skillet available in a range of sizes. 

What you’ll love: Each skillet comes pre-seasoned so it should have a reasonably nonstick coating, which will improve with use. The flared edges and pouring spouts make cooking convenient. The largest size measures more than 16 inches across.

What you should consider: The cooking surface of the skillet could have a smoother texture.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon.

Worth checking out

Victoria Cast Iron Paella Frying Pan

Victoria Cast Iron Paella Frying Pan

What you need to know: Although listed as a paella pan, you can use this loop-handled piece of cookware as a skillet.

What you’ll love: You can choose between five sizes from 6.5 to 13 inches. It comes seasoned with flaxseed oil, which provides a beautiful hard finish. The double loop handles make it easy to pick up and less awkward to put in an oven.

What you should consider: Some buyers report the cooking surface isn’t completely flat and the oil pools to one side.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon.

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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