5 Best Cast Iron Skillets, Tested and Reviewed

We put 11 cast iron skillets through their paces, baking, searing, and frying our way to determine which ones are the worthiest workhorses.

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March 08, 2024

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Photo by: Photo and testing by Jessica Harlan

Photo and testing by Jessica Harlan

Our Top Cast Iron Skillet Picks

Any good granny knows that a cast iron skillet is the ultimate multitasker in the kitchen. You can use it for everything from baking a cake to roasting a chicken. On the stove, you can sear, sauté, and simmer with it and its seasoned finish acts as a natural nonstick coating. You can even take a cast iron skillet outside for use on a grill, over a campfire, or in a pizza oven.

While previous generations of cooks needed to build up the seasoning — the natural nonstick patina that develops over many sessions of cooking —today’s cast iron skillets typically come pre-seasoned. Other innovations include improved handle designs, enamel finishes, lighter-weight construction, and better pour spouts.

We tested 11 cast iron skillets from some of the top brands on the market to determine which ones are worthy of a place on your stove or campfire.

Photo by: Photo and testing by Jessica Harlan

Photo and testing by Jessica Harlan

How We Tested

To find the best cast iron skillets, we researched the category, settling on 11 different skillets from a variety of brands. We chose the size closest to 10 inches, which is the most common size that most cooks use. We took note of whether the skillets came with detailed instructions on use and care, how they were packaged, and their measurements, including the diameter of the pan, the cooking surface and the length of the handle. We made special note of whether the skillets were ready to use out of the box, or if they required initial seasoning before their first use. We also weighed each skillet and assessed whether the handle was comfortable to grip even in bulky oven mitts.

Then we set to work cooking. We baked a batch of boxed cornbread mix in each skillet, preheating the skillet in the oven with a pat of butter before adding the batter. We made notes on whether the cornbread cooked evenly, and whether it released from the pan when inverted.

Next, we seared steaks in the skillets over high heat, preheating the pans with a tablespoon of canola oil before adding the steaks to the pan. We checked to see whether the steaks developed an even and nicely browned crust, and if the steaks released easily from the skillet.

Finally, we fried an egg in each pan, preheating it over medium heat with a little canola oil. We assessed whether the white of the egg cooked through before the edges burned and whether the egg released easily from the pan.

We also tested how easy it was to pour hot oil out of the pan using bulky oven mitts, and how easy it was to scrub the pans clean, especially if they had burnt oil or stubborn bits of food stuck to the surface.

Eleven packages of cornbread, two dozen eggs, seven pounds of steak, and one triggered fire alarm later, we chose these as the best cast iron skillets.

Williams Sonoma
What We Like
  1. Sloped sides
  2. Comfortable handles
  3. Effective seasoning
What We Don't Like
  1. Small pour spouts

We weren’t surprised when a Lodge cast iron skillet turned out to be the best-performing skillet in our tests. After all, the Lodge brand has been making cast iron in Tennessee for nearly 130 years. Our best overall pick is from the company’s Chef collection, which has some improvements over the company’s flagship Classic collection. We liked the shape of the pan, with its sloped sides that make it easier to slide a spatula or other tool under the food, and the design of the handle and helper handle, which were easy to grip confidently, even while wearing a bulky oven mitt.

In our tests, we found that the steak developed a good crust and released easily from the pan when it was time to flip to the other side. Our egg cooked completely and evenly, even the thickest part of the white, and was easy to remove from the pan without sticking. The cornbread didn’t flip out of the pan, but when we cut a wedge, it could be removed without sticking, especially since the flared sides allowed a spatula to slide under the cornbread.

These pans are pre-seasoned with vegetable oil, and we found the seasoning to have effective nonstick properties right out of the box. Cleanup was a breeze, too, it didn’t require much scrubbing to remove even burnt-on oil residue.

  1. Sizes Available 10”, 12”
  2. Weight 4 lbs, 9 oz
  3. Pre-seasoned Yes
  4. Special Features Helper handle, loop handle for hanging, two pour spouts
  5. Warranty Limited lifetime warranty
What We Like
  1. Deep pour spouts
  2. Detailed and comprehensive instructions
  3. Long handle and large helper handle
  4. Affordable
What We Don't Like
  1. Interior feels rough

Among the least expensive on our list, the Victoria cast iron skillet performed nearly as well as the Lodge skillets we tested. A good option for those new to cooking with cast iron, the skillet includes a detailed instruction manual with a wealth of information about what to do during the first few cooking sessions, tips for the best results, and how to maintain and restore the seasoning.

Our favorite features of this skillet were the long handle and generous-sized helper handle, which made it easy to grip the skillet with one or both hands, and the deep pour spouts that cleanly channeled oil out of the pan.

In our testing, it performed particularly well in searing steak, yielding an evenly browned exterior and uniformly cooked interior. Residue scrubbed off easily, and water beaded up on the pan’s surface, a sure sign of the seasoning’s nonstick properties, even though the texture of the pan feels a bit rough and pebbly.

  1. Sizes Available 4.8", 6.5”, 8”, 10”, 12”, 13"
  2. Weight 4 lbs, 15 oz
  3. Pre-seasoned Yes
  4. Special Features Helper handle, pour spouts, loop handle
  5. Warranty Limited lifetime warranty
What We Like
  1. Gorgeous bronzed finish
  2. Exceptional nonstick properties
  3. Flared edge for clean pouring
What We Don't Like
  1. Uncomfortable handle

In the realm of cast iron skillets with a price tag of $100 or more, we loved the Stargazer skillet for its slightly flared lip, its longer split handle design, and the option of ordering it either seasoned or unseasoned. We tried the seasoned skillet, which had a beautiful bronzed patina from two factory coatings of a blend of canola, grapeseed, and sunflower oil.

It’s lighter in weight than some of the other high-end cast iron options from Finex and Smithey, making it easier to handle. Even with the lighter weight, the handle is longer and the helper handle is larger, giving the cook a little more leverage and a more secure grip. What’s more, the split design of the handle keeps it from getting too hot (although we still had to use oven mitts when the pan had been on the stove). When using only one hand, though, the curved edges of the handle dug into the hand a little.

Cornbread browned beautifully and didn’t stick to the pan, and filets also developed a steakhouse-worthy seared crust, releasing perfectly from the pan. This pan lacks pour spouts, but the flared lip of the pan helps to channel oil and other liquids for a clean pour. The seasoning also seemed durable; like with the other high-end skillets we tested, some of the initial seasoning wore off after use but not as much, and not enough to affect the performance of the skillet. The company’s website has detailed instructions on how to maintain and restore the seasoning.

  1. Sizes Available 10.5", 12"
  2. Weight 5 lbs, 3 oz
  3. Pre-seasoned Yes
  4. Special Features Loop on handle, helper handle, flared edge
  5. Warranty Lifetime warranty
Williams Sonoma
What We Like
  1. Lightweight
  2. High sides
  3. Good seasoning
What We Don't Like
  1. Handle design is hard to grip

For camping, every pound of gear counts, which is why Lodge’s Blacklock line is our top pick for the best cast iron skillet for camping. Named after the foundry that Joseph Lodge opened to start producing cast iron, this skillet line is up to 25 percent lighter than other cast iron cookware. Each shape in the collection is named after a year in Lodge’s history, and that number is stamped onto the handle of the pieces. The 10-inch skillet, for instance, is called 96, after the year 1896 the Blacklock Foundry opened.

While the egg stuck to the skillet, steak seared nicely and the cornbread released better than other skillets we tested. Our only complaint was that the curve of the handle made it difficult to grip with one hand, especially with an oven mitt, but luckily the helper handle is generously sized. Cleanup was easy with just hot water, an asset in primitive campsite conditions.

  1. Sizes Available 7”, 10 ¼”, 12”
  2. Weight 4 lbs, 5 oz
  3. Pre-seasoned Yes
  4. Special Features Triple seasoned, open handle design, sloped sides, pour spouts
  5. Warranty Limited lifetime warranty
Our Place
What We Like
  1. Comes with lots of extras
  2. Large cooking surface
  3. Very detailed use and care instructions
What We Don't Like
  1. Very heavy

A porcelain enamel coating over cast iron protects it from rusting and prevents the iron from reacting with acidic ingredients like citrus or tomatoes. While they don’t have the seasoned patina of traditional cast iron, they also don’t require the same maintenance, and if used properly, will still have some natural nonstick properties.

Our Place’s Cast Iron Always Pan beat out more venerable enamel cast iron brands thanks to its thoughtful design, extra goodies, and excellent performance. The instructions suggest rubbing a tablespoon of vegetable oil into the pan and heating it on the stove for several minutes before first use. After doing so, we found that cornbread fell easily from the pan when inverted and a fried egg didn’t stick at all — the only enamel cast iron pan in our tests to do so. Steak also passed our tests with flying colors, browning evenly over the entire surface.

This pan is a little larger than the others we tested, 10 3/4 inches in diameter, and has the largest cooking surface, at 9.5 inches in diameter. The straight, tall sides make it ideal for wet cooking methods like braising or frying. We were also charmed by the add-ons that come in the fun-to-unbox package: a set of matching silicone grips that fit over the handle and the helper handle to protect hands from heat, a beechwood spatula that can be used as a cooking tool or a cleaning scraper (with a hole that fits neatly onto a peg in the handle), a domed glass lid, and even a little natural sponge scrubber. The company also sells accessories that go with this and its other Always Pans, including a fry deck, a tagine, and a steamer basket, making this enamel cast iron pan a versatile addition to any kitchen.

  1. Sizes Available 10.5"
  2. Weight 7 lbs, 2 oz
  3. Pre-seasoned No
  4. Special Features Available in six colors, comes with glass lid, silicone grips, spatula and natural sponge scrubber. Designed with peg in handle to hold included spatula
  5. Warranty Limited lifetime warranty

Photo by: Photo and testing by Jessica Harlan

Photo and testing by Jessica Harlan

What to Consider When Buying a Cast Iron Skillet

Size: Depending on the brand, you can find cast iron skillets in sizes as small as just six inches or as large as 12. Consider how many people you typically cook for, what sort of foods you’re cooking, and how large your stove burners are (the burner grates and flame radius should be just a little smaller than the base of the skillet). The larger the skillet, the heavier and harder to lift it will be. A skillet in the 10-inch range is a great all-purpose size for a family of two to four people. It perfectly holds a batch of cornbread or biscuits and could accommodate several steaks or chicken breasts.

Weight: If you don’t have a lot of upper body strength, using one of the heavier or larger cast iron skillets will be difficult. All the skillets we tested have helper handles, so they can be lifted with two hands, but for certain tasks, you may need to lift the entire skillet with one hand. Aim for a skillet that is under 5.5 pounds if you find it difficult to lift heavy objects.

Seasoning: Most cast iron skillets come pre-seasoned; that is, the factory does the work of baking on a coating of oil so that you can use your skillet right out of the box. In our tests, we found that some seasonings had better nonstick properties than others. Over repeated use, the seasoning patina will build up over time, or you can help it along by seasoning the skillet yourself. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to best maintain the seasoning for your specific product.


Are cast iron skillets nonstick?

While cast iron skillets don’t have the chemical nonstick coating on traditional nonstick cookware, the cooked-on oil seasoning does allow for food to release. Preheating the skillet thoroughly with a few teaspoons of high-smoke-point oil before adding the food will help prevent sticking.

Can I use a cast iron skillet over a campfire?

Yes! Most cast iron can be used directly over a campfire, because they are heat compatible up to 500˚F or more. You’ll get the best results if the skillet is set on a rack over the flames, so you can control the temperature.

How do I wash a cast iron skillet?

Most manufacturers suggest washing a cast iron skillet while it is still warm, but not hot, and using very warm water. You can use a chainmail scrubber, a plastic scrubbing sponge, or a stiff sponge to work off burnt-on particles. It is okay to use mild dish soap, but avoid detergent with acidic ingredients such as lemon. If there are stubborn burnt-on bits, add a little water to the skillet and simmer it on the stove for a few minutes until it releases. Don’t use steel wool and don’t put your cast iron in the dishwasher.

How do I season a cast iron skillet?

Every manufacturer has specific instructions, but they all follow the same basic method for how to season cast iron: apply a thin layer of natural food-grade oil to the skillet, and bake it in the oven for about an hour. Seasoning will also naturally build up when cooking fatty foods or using oil in your skillet.

Do I have to season a cast iron skillet every time I use it?

No. The seasoning will naturally build up over time, particularly when you cook with fatty foods such as bacon or steak. Many manufacturers recommend rubbing a little oil into the skillet after washing and drying it, especially when the skillet is still new, which helps protect and improve the seasoning.

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