Best Cast Iron Pans Reviewed & Rated for Quality
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Pre-seasoning and enameling, doing either of these makes your pan better than the average rigamarole of cast iron pans out there. Your run of the mill cast iron pan won’t even bother with either of these, even though it makes the pan so much easier to work with. Regardless of which one you choose, it makes the pan less sticky, which means you can cook dishes like omelets without having to pry the thing from the pan’s surface like you’re scraping gum off the underside of a school desk.
Ease of Use
You might have noticed this if you’ve ever picked up a cast iron pan, but these things are very heavy. Cast iron is not a material you play around with, it is dense, it is heavy, and add a few hundred degrees from a stovetop to the mix, and it’s also really, really hot. Not a great combination if you have to carry the thing around. Which is why any cast iron pan worth your money will have a helper handle. Barring the possibility of the pan being small enough to carry with ease (as is the case with our #1 pick) a helper handle is essential to being able to move your pan around, especially when it’s several hundred degrees hotter and full of steaming hot food.
However, on top of that, it needs to be built a certain way, along with the handle. Your hand needs leverage if it’s going to carry something so big, after all. The way most high-quality iron cast pans get around this problem is by making the helper handle thicker and larger so you have better grip, and by giving the handle a curve at the end, with a thumb rest for good measure. Both of these measures give you more leverage and thus make it easier to carry the pan around without having to deal with all the weight with no support.
Some lesser cast iron pans are built for only one type of kitchen and one type of stove; either electric, gas, or induction. We made sure that only pans that could do all three would get onto this list, because frankly, that should be the norm by now. There’s no way of knowing what kind of stove your customer is going to be using, so it only makes sense to make sure that your product can withstand all three. But also, you need to make sure that the pan you’re using can handle cooking a wide variety of dishes. As you can tell by now, these pans are expensive, so your options are either making sure the pan you buy can cook all your regular dishes or get multiple sizes of pans so that you can do that anyway. Most folks don’t have enough room or enough money for the latter, so the former is your best bet.
Like we said before, these are simple tools, so anything a manufacturer can do to set itself apart should be considered a good thing. Sometimes you get Lodge; utilitarian, doing what is expected, but doing it better than anyone else. And then you get Staub and Le Creuset, who add a level of artistry to their work that sets them apart, such as with Le Creuset making and breaking new molds for every pan they make, ensuring that no two are alike and everyone who buys a Le Creuset can know that they have the only Le Creuset pan that looks and feels like theirs does.
Little design flourishes like that, no matter how small, go a long way to set you apart from the crowd. And went a long way to putting most of these entries where they landed on the list.
If le Creuset is so great, why aren’t they number 1? Simple, on average a Le Creuset pan costs somewhere over $150. And that’s if we want to be very generous with the low-balling. Even the more “affordable” staub costs in the triple digits. Obviously more than most are willing to pay for a cast iron skillet, if they aren’t professional chefs who need high-quality gear like that to do their jobs properly. The cost was a huge factor in how high up these pans made it on the list, as you could tell from the fact that the #1 pick is easily the cheapest option this list has. Everyone needs to cook, so the best cast iron pans, at least in our eyes, is one that everyone can afford.
BEST CAST IRON PANS REVIEWED & RATED FOR QUALITY
1. Lodge Miniature Skillet
We kick off our list with what many may consider an unorthodox choice: The Lodge Miniature Cast Iron Skillet. Not because of the brand, of course, when discussing the best of any cookware, you’d best believe Lodge will show up eventually. However, one may not expect something so small to end up at the top billing. But rest assured, there are some very good reasons.
This pan’s small size makes it the perfect breakfast skillet for one. Lots of people live on their own in apartments these days anyway, so they don’t really need a bigger pan. On top of that, the small size makes it perfect for those who may be too weak to lift a larger cast iron pan comfortably, which is why, unlike other models, this one has no helper handle, it doesn’t need one.
Like all the best models, this pan is pre-seasoned, in this case with vegetable oil. This gives the pan a nice, easy-release finish that actually improves with use, rather than degrades as time goes on.
Cost and value
The best part about this pan is its price. Being a much smaller pan, it doesn’t cost all that much in most retailers. So, if you love cooking, but like most people, are living on a very tight budget and living alone, this is the perfect pan for you.
2. Lodge 10.25 Inch Skillet
In our 2nd place spot, we stay with Lodge for their much larger 10.25 Inch Cast Iron Skillet. This skillet doesn’t have a lot in terms of differences from its smaller cousin, but its larger size definitely comes in handy in a few ways that a smaller pan just can’t handle.
Perfect for larger dishes
Making some tater tots? Deep frying some chicken? Making burgers for the whole family? Then you need a big pan like this. Its massive size makes it ideal for cooking larger dishes that its smaller cousin just wouldn’t be able to handle. And although many versions lack pouring spouts (though the one in the photo does), that means you can fry greasier foods without having to worry about any getting out.
The seasoning with which this skillet is pre-seasoned helps dishes taste better while also making it less sticky. However, if you add more seasoning to your dishes on top of that, then you can add to the non-stick effects of the pan. Making it more effective, and thus have a longer lifespan
Cost and value
Being a much larger pan, the price is, of course, much higher because of this. However, the price is not unreasonable, especially for a pan of such high quality, so it should be no problem for you.
3. Utopia Kitchen
Finishing up our top 3 section is the Cast Iron Skillet with Silicone Handle from Utopia Kitchen. Now, this cast iron skillet has quite a few clever tricks up its sleeve, especially since cast iron skillets don’t have much in the way of room to be clever. What are these tricks? Well, the first one is right in the name.
Handles on cast iron pans need to do one thing: give you the ability to lift comfortably, without fear of the heat carrying over into the handle and thus burning your hand off. Most handles do this well enough, but this skillet goes a step further by constructing the handle of the pan out of silicone. Silicone is incredibly hard to heat up and is sturdy enough that lifting it is a breeze.
More breathing room
Unlike other pans, this one is 12.5 inches instead of the standard 10.25. This gives you more breathing room when cooking, without being so big as to be unreasonable and cumbersome.
Cost and value
Despite being a whole 2 inches bigger than most other pans, this one is actually much cheaper than the previous entry across most retailers. This makes it a very attractive deal, as you get the same kind of hardware for less money.
4. Victoria Cookware
Kicking off our #4 spot is the Victoria Cookware Cast Iron Skillet. This pre-seasoned, 12-inch cast iron pan is ready to use the minute you take it out of the box when you get home from the store. But why should you choose this over the leading Lodge brand? Well, these pans have quite the little secret up their sleeves.
Longer, curved handle
The stiffness and straightness of your average cast iron pan handle can actually make it harder to keep the pan steady. There isn’t a lot of leverage there. But thankfully, Victoria Cookware understood this, and so for their model, made the handle longer and gave it a little curve at the end. This little change gives your hand so much more leverage than it has with the leading brands.
Drip cutting pour spouts
Drip is a big problem with the pour spouts on a pan. This is especially true if you’re cooking something that leaves a lot of hot, boiling grease in its wake like a hamburger. Which is why these pour spouts are made in a way that cuts off drip before it can leave the spout. Resulting in a safer, not to mention a cleaner cooking environment.
Cost and value
You’ll find this pan priced very reasonably across most retailers. Not too expensive, but a little too high to be considered cheap.
In the middle of our list, we have our #5 pick, the Calphalon Cast Iron Skillet. As is befitting of a placeholder at the dead center of a list, this is a great all-rounder of a cast iron pan. It does exactly what it needs to do to get by, but little else.
For those who love that classic rustic American aesthetic, this is the perfect pan for you. Made not only to be functional but also to have that rustic appeal, this is the perfect bow to put on top of a classic kitchen.
A lot of other cast iron pans are built for one type of stove, and only that one type. A pan made for a gas stove, for instance, may not heat up as evenly when exposed to an electric stove. However, this cast iron pan is built to handle any heat from any source. Whether it’s gas, electric, or even induction stovetops, this pan will serve you well.
Cost and value
This pan is actually one of the most affordable entries on this list. While not the cheapest this list has to offer (the #1 pick has that on lockdown) this is still a very affordable option when you need a pan on a budget.
6. T-Fal Pre-Seasoned
Coming in at #6, it’s the T-Fal Pre-Seasoned Nonstick Cast Iron Skillet. Like the previous entry, this is also a good all-rounder pan, but one that comes with a few extra tricks up its sleeve. What kind of tricks are they, and how do they affect the performance of this pan? Let’s find out.
While not curved to the extent of the #4 pick, this is still a longer and more curved handle than your usual cast iron pan. And this handle comes with a carved out thumb rest, making for a firmer, more comfortable grip
Step by step seasoning instructions
Lots of models need help being seasoned in order to get the most out of the effects of the pre-seasoning. However, most people who buy this pan won’t know how to do that. So rather than having to go online and hope for the best, this pan allows you to learn naturally via step by step instructions on how to properly season a cast iron pan. These instructions are very thorough and user-friendly, teaching you in no time at all how to season your pan.
Cost and value
This is also a very affordable pan, likely the cheapest cast iron pan of average size on the list. In general, you’ll find this pan for about half of what you would normally pay for one of the other pans on this list at the same retailer.
7. Le Creuset Signature
In our #7 spot is the Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet. Le Creuset are one of cookware’s biggest names, hailing from France, this brand has made some of the best in cooking utensils and kitchenware. So, what makes this pan so special? Let’s find out.
Handcrafted and mold-broken
Yes, you read that right. Not only is every single Le Creuset pan hand casted by dedicated craftsman, but those casts are also then broken after the pans are made. This means that there are no two Le Creuset pans that are exactly alike in all the world. Ensuring that the pan you buy is one you can truly call your own.
You’re probably looking at all the talk of having to season your skillet before you can even use it, even when it’s pre-seasoned, and letting out a beleaguered sigh, wishing there was a better way. Well, These pans have just the solution. These pans are made with an enameled finish that removes the need for seasoning entirely.
Cost and value
The biggest drawback to this pan, and what cements it so near the bottom of the list despite everything it has going for it, is the price. It stands to reason that you can’t do all that we just described for cheap, and sure enough, these are incredibly expensive pans, ranking up in the triple digit range regardless of what retailer you consult.
8. VonShef Pre-Seasoned
Starting up our final 3 entries, we have the VonShef Pre-Seasoned 3 - Piece Skillet Set. This is easily one of the better deals on this list, because, for the price of a normal cast iron pan, you get three high quality cast iron pans. But is that all it has going for it? No, but it’s definitely its biggest selling point.
Why spend all that money on three different size pans when you can just buy all three at once with this? This set of pans comes in three different sizes, each equipped to handle different culinary concoctions that would be beyond the power of the other two.
You’d think you’d have to give something up for such a good deal as this, but not true. In fact, these three pans can be used on any kind of stovetop, from induction to electric to gas. Meaning that not only do you get three pre-seasoned pans for the price of one, but you also get them for any kind of kitchen you could have.
Cost and value
When we say this set costs the same as an average pan, we don’t mean the ones on this list. We mean the kind you’d find at the grocery store for under $20 that usually don’t last a week. When compared to this list, this set is less than half of that cost.
In our second to last entry, we have the Staub Cast Iron 12” Fry Pan. Like with Le Creuset, this is one of the biggest names in kitchenware, with its items considered top of the line material and a must for any self-respecting kitchen. Quite the presumptuous pedigree, now let’s see them earn it.
Matte Enamel Coating
It seems pedigree isn’t all that Staub and Le Creuset have in common. As this pan also coats itself in a coat of matte enamel. This allows the pan to go without seasoning or even a non-stick coating of any kind.
You could hang a Staub cast iron pan in a cooking art show right after it left the factory, and it would look like it belonged. These pans are absolutely beautiful to behold in terms of pure aesthetic value. They look like the kinds of pans you would get when you order a stir-fried dessert in a fancy rustic French restaurant.
Cost and value
Staub are considered just as high pedigree as Le Creuset, so while they’re nowhere near as pricey an option, they’re definitely still more expensive than anything this list has to offer.
10. The Pioneer Woman
In our final entry, we have the Pioneer Woman Timeless Cast Iron 12” Skillet. Even though it’s at the bottom of this list, there are still people who put these skillets at the top of their top 10 lists, which goes to show the quality of this and every other entry on this list. So, what does this pan have going for it that impresses others so much?
Large, tough helper handle
Like other cast iron skillets, this thing is heavy with a capital H, so you need some help whenever you go to lift it. But with a lot of other helper handles, they tend not to be big enough or sturdy enough for you to get a good enough grip. However, this helper handles doesn’t have either of those problems.
Great entry level pan
For a pan to be good for beginners, it has to do a few things. For one, it needs to be rather inexpensive so as not to scare the beginner away. It needs to be pretty good as a pan in its own right, and it needs to be user-friendly. All of this adds up to making this the best possible pan for you to start out with.
Cost and value
This isn’t the most affordable entry on this list, but it’s certainly up there. This pan gives you amazing service, for a fraction of the price asked by the leading brands that do the same thing.