Reviews You Can Rely On

The 6 Best Cast Iron Skillets of 2022

We put cast iron skillets to the test from Lodge, Le Creuset, Bruntmor, Victoria, and more to find the best for your kitchen
Best Cast Iron Skillet of 2022
Credit: Aaron Rice
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 28, 2022
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In the market for your future heirloom cast iron skillet? We researched dozens of options before buying 14 of the best available today to test side-by-side. Our experts then spent weeks closely examining these pans, cooking every meal, and baking every dessert in cast iron. Beyond sautéing onions, frying eggs, baking bread, and slow-cooking roasts, our team developed numerically-based tests so that we can provide impartial conclusions on the performance of each pan. After hours of objective research and hands-on testing, we offer up the most in-depth review available of the best cast iron skillets on the market.

There are many different types of cookware out there, and each style has its advantages and disadvantages. Luckily, we have researched and experimented for you, so no more guesswork needed. From baking bread and searing meats in the best dutch ovens to perfecting our toss using the best wok pans, we have put these products to the test to help you make the best choice for your culinary endeavors. If you're looking for a new set of pots and pans but aren't interested in cast iron, our cookware set review might be of interest as well.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on October 28, 2022, to add in two new options from Staub and Smithey, as well as provide more information on our testing methods.

Top 14 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 14
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award 
Price $220 List
$219.95 at Amazon
$20.00 List
$9.99 at Amazon
$185 List
$184.95 at Amazon
$24 List
$19.90 at Amazon
$60 List
$49.90 at Amazon
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Pros Satin enamel finish requires no seasoning, lightweight and well-balanced, heirloom qualityImpressively non-stick after seasoning, long articulated handle, quickly adjusts to heatEnamel finish requires no seasoning, attractiveEasily accepts seasoning, well-balanced grip, versatile for all types of cooking3-for-1 set of pans, shallow skillet doubles as a top, durable
Cons Not able to cook on low heat, design lacks versatility, very expensiveToo small for most meals, not very versatileNot designed for baking, tough for low-and-slow cooking, expensiveWould benefit from a longer handle, relatively shallow sidewallsLack of pour spouts, the whole package is heavy
Bottom Line For everyday stovetop cooking, this is a beautiful enameled cast iron skillet that defines heirloom-quality craftsmanshipSmall and mighty, this lesser-known cast iron brand impressed in every testing categoryA beautiful cast enamel skillet that will likely live on your stovetop for cooking daily mealsThis classic skillet is everything we want out of a cast iron in terms of versatility and durabilityGet the most versatility with this 3-in-1 set, which might possibly be the only cast iron you ever need to own
Rating Categories Le Creuset Signatur... Victoria Mini 6.5"... Staub Enameled 10"... Lodge 10.25" Lodge Combo Cooker
Cooking Performance (40%)
9.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Ease of Use (20%)
7.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
Seasoning (20%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Maintenance & Clean Up (10%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Craftsmanship (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Specs Le Creuset Signatur... Victoria Mini 6.5"... Staub Enameled 10"... Lodge 10.25" Lodge Combo Cooker
Volume 1.8 Quarts 1.2 Quarts 1.8 Quarts 3.1 Quarts 6.8 Quarts (deep side); 2.9 Quarts (shallow side)
Dimensions (Diameter x Depth) 10.5 x 1.8" 7.5 x 1.5" 10.8 x 1.8" 10.6 x 2" 10.4 x 4.6" (deep side); 10.4 x 2" (shallow side)
Weight 4 lb 4 oz 2 lb 4 lb 15 oz 5 lb 1 oz 6 lb 5 oz (deep side); 6 lb 11 oz (shallow side); 13 lb (as Dutch oven)
Pre-Seasoned? Enamel finish, requires no seasoning Yes, with Kosher certified non-GMO flax oil Enamel finish, requires no seasoning Yes, with Kosher certified, allergen-free, soy-based vegetable oil Yes, with Kosher certified, allergen-free, soy-based vegetable oil


Best Overall Cast Iron Skillet


Lodge 10.25"


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 8.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
  • Seasoning 7.0
  • Maintenance & Clean Up 8.0
  • Craftsmanship 7.0
Size: 10.25 inches | Weight: 5 lb 1 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Easily seasons
Well-balanced
Go-to utility
REASONS TO AVOID
Would benefit from a longer handle
Shallower walls don't catch sauce splashes

If we had to suggest only one cast iron skillet to own, it'd be the Lodge 10.25". This classic utilitarian skillet has the potential to be the last skillet that you ever purchase. It's backed by the USA-built quality and durability that has made Lodge a household name for over 120 years. From searing steaks to sautéing onions, you can expect a very consistent cooking surface. Compared to other models, this finely forged pan boasts outstanding temperature control, quickly preheating and maintaining a consistent temperature at both low and high heats. While the "pebble" finish may feel rough at first, this skillet is quick to begin building a quality seasoning and starts feeling like an heirloom pan within the first few uses.

Although it would certainly benefit from a longer handle, this skillet is still quite balanced — its 5-pound frame is very easy to wield compared to similarly-sized skillets. But if you are aiming to make large, single-pot meals, we suggest looking at some of the deeper options in this review. This pan is fine for dry frying bacon, but it will quickly fill up with oil if you try shallow fry chicken, and don't expect the sidewalls to block much of the splash-back. That said, nicely rounded sidewalls at the base make it a great option for baking pies and crisps, and it even includes a silicone "Hot Handle" so that you can easily remove your deserts from the oven without burning your hands.

best overall cast iron skillet
Based on its outstanding performance and lifelong durability, this valuable and versatile skillet is our go-to for everyday cooking.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillet


Le Creuset Signature Skillet


85
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 9.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
  • Seasoning 9.0
  • Maintenance & Clean Up 8.0
  • Craftsmanship 9.0
Size: 10.5 inches | Weight: 4 lb 4 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Black satin interior finish
Heirloom quality craftsmanship
Lightweight and well-balanced
REASONS TO AVOID
Does not cook well on low heat
Lacks versatility
Very expensive

Le Creuset has built a name around creating top-quality, enameled cookware, and nearly 100 years of craftsmanship shine through with the Signature Skillet. From sautéing to searing, this relatively shallow skillet is more than capable of tackling everyday stovetop duties with ease. Nearly a whole pound lighter than other comparably sized skillets we tested, this pan is well-balanced and offers dual handles — just in case you completely top out its 1.75-quart capacity. But what really leads this skillet to stand out from the competition is the enamel finish. The exterior sports a beautiful porcelain enamel (available in a rainbow of colors), and the interior surface is finished with a "black satin" enamel that requires less care and seasoning than raw cast iron, translating to quicker clean-up times. The enamel finish also provides an exceptionally even cooking surface.

While the standard deviation of temperature across the cooking surface is remarkably low, the relatively thin Le Creuset Signature Skillet is not great for low-temperature cooking. During our temperature control test, this model measured 37°F above the ideal temperature on a low heat setting of 250°F. This results from special conduction ability of enameled cast iron combined with the particularly shallow design. If you plan on sweating mushrooms rather than searing steaks, we recommend keeping a watchful eye. While this may be an issue for those who need a versatile and easy-to-use pan, the price point suggests that it is by no means an entry-level cast iron. The beautiful Le Creuset Signature Skillet is ideal for experienced chefs and those well accustomed to heirloom-quality cast iron.

best enameled cast iron skillet
It's been proven that blue is the least appetizing color... but it's easy to argue against that when this beautiful pan is capable of producing a wide variety of delicious meals.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Best Value for a 3-in-1 Set


Lodge Combo Cooker


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 7.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Seasoning 7.0
  • Maintenance & Clean Up 8.0
  • Craftsmanship 9.0
Size: 10.25 inches | Weight: 6 lb 5 oz (deep skillet); 6 lb 11 oz (shallow skillet)
REASONS TO BUY
A deep pan, shallow skillet, and Dutch oven all-in-one
Shallow skillet doubles as a top
Durable
REASONS TO AVOID
No pour spouts
Heavy package

If you are going to buy one new cast iron to start your collection, then the Lodge Combo Cooker should be it. It's really pretty unfair to rank this against the others in terms of versatility — this 3-in-1 set actually includes both a deep 4.6" deep skillet and a 2" shallow skillet. The shallow skillet has a specially designed lip so that it nests on top of the deep skillet, and voila! — you have a Dutch oven. This was the first cast iron our lead tester purchased for himself, and it has seen daily use for the past five years. The deeper side is perfect for sauces or chili, the shallow side is a go-to for pan-frying and sautéing, and the Dutch oven works great for baking bread or slow-cooking roasts in the oven.

Lodge is a well-renowned brand in the cast iron world, and the high-quality craft of these pans reflects why. That said, we noted both sides of the skillet fall short in terms of cooking evenness compared to many other models. These pans come pre-seasoned with a "pebble" finish that will take some time and effort to properly season. With thoughtful care and maintenance, their cooking performance will likely improve over time. The price point is good when you consider that this is technically a set rather than a single skillet. Considering you gain the flexibility of owning a deep skillet, a shallow fry pan, and a bonus Dutch oven, why not splurge?

cast iron skillet - best value for a 3-in-1 set
The shallow skillet has a purposefully designed lip, allowing it to sit easily on top of the deep skillet. Helpful as a lid for covering sauces... even better used for baking as a Dutch oven!
Credit: Aaron Rice

Best Miniature Skillet


Victoria Mini 6.5" Skillet


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 7.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Seasoning 9.0
  • Maintenance & Clean Up 9.0
  • Craftsmanship 8.0
Size: 6 inches | Weight: 2 lb
REASONS TO BUY
Impressively non-stick after seasoning
Long, articulated handle
Easily adjusts to temperature changes
REASONS TO AVOID
Too small for full meals
Not super versatile

Even if it is somewhat limited by its compressed size, the Victoria Mini 6.5" Skillet is one of the most impressive cast iron skillets we tested. As soon as we pulled this skillet out of the package, we could tell just by the craftsmanship that it was going to cook well. It's very thoughtfully designed: a longer, arched handle provides more agility when flipping eggs; the deep concavity of the pour spouts allows you to spoon brown butter with accuracy, and its lightweight build makes it easy to wield for even the youngest chef. The most remarkable characteristic of this pan, though, is how well it seasoned. After sautéing a few small dishes, we were able to bake cornbread without a flake sticking to the pan. Even in our fried egg test, this was the only pan to truly claim a non-stick surface without oil.

We have very few negative comments for this incredible little skillet. Placed side-by-side with other pans, it is quite small — we had a tough time even browning a single sausage. It also does not seem to perform as well at high temperatures: searing steak was the only time we really had food stick to this pan. While they may not be a household name, this smaller-scale Colombian forge produces a large line of cast iron products, including high-quality cast iron skillets up to 12" in diameter.

cast iron skillet - best miniature skillet
Really, the size of this skillet - as exhibited by the confines put on browning a few sausages - is really the only downfall of a truly great cast iron.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Best Burnished Skillet


Greater Goods 10"


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 6.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Seasoning 6.0
  • Maintenance & Clean Up 7.0
  • Craftsmanship 8.0
Size: 10 inches | Weight: 5 lb 6 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Well-balanced and ergonomic
Burnished finish
Even heat distribution
REASONS TO AVOID
Steep sidewalls
Doesn't accept seasoning as easily as non-burnished pans

We have loads of praise to pile on the Greater Goods 10". For starters, it's the only product we tested with a machine-milled, burnished cook surface. This old-time craft finish is often reserved for cast iron pans that cost three times the price. Though it's still necessary to season the skillet properly by cooking with butter or oil, its smooth finish is remarkably non-stick compared to the competition. The Greater Goods 10" was clearly designed with balance and ergonomics in mind: it has a long, extruded handle that offers a comfortable grip and doubles as a utensil holder.

There are many attributes to enjoy, but like most things, this pan is not without flaws. The steeper sidewalls mean it cooks more like a classic sauté pan rather than a skillet (skillets generally have rounder sidewalls). The milling process produces a bottom that is quite thin compared to other similarly-sized pans. The result is an interesting dichotomy as related to cooking evenness: this skillet exhibits nearly uniform temperatures across its cook surface, but the lightweight construction equates to poor heat retention. This type of fine temperature control will appeal to those who are on top of managing burners (read: professional chefs) but will likely prove annoying to some of us with less cooking experience.

cast iron skillet - best burnished skillet
The burnished finish of this pan makes it impressively non-stick after some proper seasoning. Check out how cleanly this quiche lifted off the bottom!
Credit: Aaron Rice

Best for Large Meals and Baking


Lodge Dual Handle 12"


65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 5.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Seasoning 7.0
  • Maintenance & Clean Up 8.0
  • Craftsmanship 7.0
Size: 12 inches | Weight: 7 lb 6 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Versatile
Surprisingly light for its size
Non-stick capability for baking
REASONS TO AVOID
Thin cast of base
Large variation of temperature across cook surface

The Lodge Dual Handle 12" is a larger surface skillet that offers unsurpassed versatility in both cooking and baking. We love this skillet for cooking up generous, "one-pot" dishes like stir-fry and warm couscous salads. Compared to other Lodge pans, this skillet is cast with a thinner base, so it feels significantly lighter than its size might suggest. From pizza to apple pie, cinnamon rolls to tarts, this skillet will become a go-to for baking. The dual handles make it much easier to lift in and out of the oven, and a quality finish means that the pan quickly begins to accept excess oil and butter as seasoning.

This skillet performed poorly in our cooking evenness and temperature control tests, likely due to its relatively thin bottom and large surface area.

However, the only time we really noticed any remarkable difference was when simmering sauces — the pan's center is significantly hotter than the sides. While this pan does not specifically include a lid (which would come in very handy with some baked goods), it is universally compatible with any Lodge 12" top. For large family meals that you want to transfer directly from the stovetop to the table, this is our choice to double as a skillet and serving dish (paella, perhaps?)

cast iron skillet - a perfect lemon tart, lifted just moments before with ease out of...
A perfect lemon tart, lifted just moments before with ease out of this un-greased cast iron. Amazing!
Credit: Aaron Rice

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
85
Le Creuset Signature Skillet
le creuset signature skillet cast iron skillet
$220
Editors' Choice Award
79
Victoria Mini 6.5" Skillet
victoria mini 6.5" skillet
$20
Top Pick Award
78
Staub Enameled 10" Fry Pan
staub enameled 10" fry pan cast iron skillet
$185
75
Lodge 10.25"
lodge 10.25" cast iron skillet
$24
Editors' Choice Award
75
Lodge Combo Cooker
lodge combo cooker cast iron skillet
$60
Best Buy Award
67
Greater Goods 10"
greater goods 10" cast iron skillet
$48
Top Pick Award
66
Bruntmor Enameled Cast Iron with Lid
bruntmor enameled cast iron with lid cast iron skillet
$90
65
Lodge Dual Handle 12"
lodge dual handle 12" cast iron skillet
$30
Top Pick Award
65
Lodge 5-Quart Deep Skillet
lodge 5-quart deep skillet cast iron skillet
$70
62
Backcountry 12"
backcountry 12" cast iron skillet
$50
62
Smithey No. 10
smithey no. 10 cast iron skillet
$160
59
Lodge 10.5" Square Grill Pan
lodge 10.5" square grill pan cast iron skillet
$27
49
Utopia Kitchen Pre-Seasoned
utopia kitchen pre-seasoned cast iron skillet
$32
28
Lodge Miniature 3.5" Skillet
lodge miniature 3.5" skillet cast iron skillet
$9

cast iron skillet - cast iron skillets are available in many different sizes. from the...
Cast iron skillets are available in many different sizes. From the smallest on the left: 3.5", 6.5", 10", and 12" diameters.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Why You Should Trust Us


To kick off our testing process, we first performed our due diligence of online research and scoured the internet for the best and most popular cast iron skillets on the market. We purchased over a dozen pans at retail cost to write an objectively honest, comparative review. We lugged these cast irons into the kitchen for quality examinations, temperature measurements, and of course, lots of cooking. Over the course of weeks and then months, we cooked every single meal — and baked good — in these skillets. We baked cornbread and quiche, fried eggs and bacon, sautéed onions and mushrooms, grilled chicken, and slow-cooked pork shoulder. We compare these skillets side-by-side, working from a carefully constructed testing plan. To create this comprehensive review, we put these pans through 252 individual tests.

The overall score was determined via five key metrics:
  • Cooking Performance (40% of overall score weighting)
  • Ease of Use (20% weighting)
  • Seasoning (20% weighting)
  • Maintenance & Clean Up (10% weighting)
  • Craftsmanship (10% weighting)

Our expert in home cooking with heavy pans is Aaron Rice. When he's not out in the mountains — either testing for GearLab or working as a ski patroller and avalanche educator — it's likely you'll find him at home and in the kitchen. Aaron learned to cook from family at a young age and has worked in and around professional kitchens for the better portion of a decade. From baking bread to slow-cooking carnitas to pan-searing fresh veggies, Aaron cooks with his own personal collection of cast iron daily — including a few heirloom pans that are nearly 70 years old. Whether you are searching for your very first cast iron or just looking to add to the collection passed down from your grandparents, our in-depth analysis includes 14 of the best cast iron skillets to suit the needs of any home chef.

The Lodge 5-Quart Deep Skillet, quickly earning its keep on our...
The Lodge 5-Quart Deep Skillet, quickly earning its keep on our stove top through regular use and its ability to continuously produce great quality sauces.
Cast irons of every shape and size, and a kitchen prepped and ready...
Cast irons of every shape and size, and a kitchen prepped and ready for hands-on testing!
Side-by-side comparison is our secret sauce, bread-and-butter, or...
Side-by-side comparison is our secret sauce, bread-and-butter, or any other food-related idiom you can think of to describe our testing process.

Analysis and Test Results


Cast iron skillets are trusted throughout the culinary world as both workhorses of the kitchen and heirlooms that deserve the utmost respect. If properly cared for, these pans can easily last generations and become more refined with every meal. We took into account five key qualities that define a great cast iron skillet: cooking performance, ease of use, seasoning, maintenance & clean-up, and craftsmanship. We then tested these skillets side-by-side, analyzing and ranking them according to each metric. We have seasoned pans, cooked meals, measured surface temperatures, and scrutinized craft, all to bring you an in-depth comparison to help aid your search for the perfect cast iron skillet.


Value


Often, value is not simply a matter of price point. A valuable product balances performance and price — offering plenty of utility without breaking the bank. Not all expensive products have outstanding performance, and vice versa, not all low-priced products are valuable. For cast iron pans, it works out nicely that the award-winning Lodge 10.25" Skillet is a workhorse pan available at a price any kitchen can afford. For those looking for a cast-iron starter set, the Lodge Combo Cooker is our top choice for overall value. This 3-in-1 includes all of the pans you need for cooking — a deep fryer, a skillet, and a Dutch oven — all for a price comparable to many individual cast irons. Although the Victoria Mini Skillet is inexpensive, its price is comparable to its small 6.5" diameter. Alternatively, the Lodge Dual Handle pan offers a huge, 12" cook surface for those regularly cooking up family-size meals.

cast iron skillet - large cast iron skillets in the 12-inch range, like the lodge dual...
Large cast iron skillets in the 12-inch range, like the Lodge Dual Handle 12", are the right size for "single-pot" meals.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Cooking Performance


While testing cooking performance through cooking may seem an obvious approach, anecdotal evidence is by far the most helpful way to judge the ability of these pans to turn out delicious food. To supplement all of our cooking and baking, we identified and specifically tested a few sub-attributes that contribute to an overall great cast skillet: evenness, stickiness, searing ability, and temperature control.


Not surprisingly, our award winners generally scored highest in terms of overall cooking performance — specifically, the two enameled pans, the Le Creuset Signature Skillet and the Staub Enameled 10" Fry Pan, as well as well-made cast irons like the Lodge 10.25" Skillet and Victoria Mini 6.5" Skillet. But there are some other remarkable standouts regarding specific aspects of cooking performance.

cast iron skillet - the lodge 10.25&quot; skillet is certainly a workhorse of our lead...
The Lodge 10.25" Skillet is certainly a workhorse of our lead tester's home kitchen, serving daily duties like sauteing onions.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Cooking Evenness


While cast iron is not generally known for cooking evenness, especially when compared directly to copper or stainless steel pans, there are certainly ones in this review that performed better than others. Taking a scientific approach, we set the skillets to warm up over a low burner setting and then used an infrared thermometer to precisely measure the surface temperature in each quadrant and the center. By using a standard deviation approach, we then ranked these skillets based on a difference from their average temperature. While cooking and baking, we noted any exceptions to our lab tests — like if a pan burned sauce on the sidewalls, or if it produced an outstanding pie crust — and adjusted our rankings according to our more subjective experiences.

cast iron skillet - to put exact numbers to cooking evenness, we used an infrared...
To put exact numbers to cooking evenness, we used an infrared thermometer to precisely measure temperatures across the surface of each pan.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Throughout our test period, we noticed a direct relationship between quality of cast and cooking evenness: the more uniform the forging of the cast iron, the more even surface temperatures tend to be across the cooking surface and sidewalls. Excellently manufactured cast irons tended to score highest in this category, with the Smithey No. 10 Skillet offering an incredibly even cook surface with only (+/- 9.6℉) of temperature change across the pan.

cast iron skillet - although expensive relative to directly comparable pans, the...
Although expensive relative to directly comparable pans, the beautifully cast Smithey No. 10 offers an even heat distribution unlike any other cast iron pan we've tested.
Credit: Aaron Rice

The similarly burnished Greater Goods 10" pan and the enameled Bruntmor Enameled Cast Iron (+/- 13.6℉) are evenly tied just behind the frontrunner Smithey pan. This is followed closely by the Lodge Miniature 3.5" Skillet (+/- 14.4℉), and Victoria Mini 6.5" (+/- 14.8℉). You may also notice that, with the exception of the Smithey, the Greater Goods, and the Bruntmor skillets, the others are all of the smallest pans in our review — clearly, as pans get larger, it is both more difficult to achieve consistent casting and the consequent even cooking surface temperatures.

cast iron skillet - baking pie crusts is an easy &amp;#40;and delicious&amp;#41; way to tell if...
Baking pie crusts is an easy (and delicious) way to tell if there are hot spots on a pan. Here we have personal pies in the Victoria 6.5" (front) and Lodge 3.5" (back left), as well as a tart shell out of the Lodge 12" Dual Handle.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Stickiness


Pan stickiness can be a real issue with cast irons, particularly if they are not seasoned properly out-of-the-box. However, if continuously seasoned throughout the pan's lifetime — through both cooking and maintenance — these can ultimately become the most non-stick skillets in your kitchen arsenal. Again, cast and craft can play a major role in how sticky a pan will be, but it is not the end-all characteristic since these superficial qualities will change with each use. Seasoning is so important to cast irons that it has its own metric, and we will cover it in more detail below.

cast iron skillet - the ugly result of our initial fried-egg test... and a great...
The ugly result of our initial fried-egg test... and a great reminder of why it is important to properly season your cast iron skillet before cooking!
Credit: Aaron Rice

Before cooking, we took note of the finish of these pans. While nearly all of these cast irons arrive with a rough-feeling finish, the exceptions are the machine-milled and burnished Greater Goods 10" and Smithey No. 10 — these skillets sport an inside that is smooth to the touch.

cast iron skillet - the greater goods 10&quot; is the only skillet in this review that is...
The Greater Goods 10" is the only skillet in this review that is burnished. The patina is a natural result of the smooth finish that will develop and change over time.
Credit: Aaron Rice

The other exceptions are the enameled Le Creuset Signature Skillet, Staub Enameled Fry Pan, and the Bruntmor Enameled Cast Iron. These high-end pans offer another level of non-stick by coating the interior with a "satin enamel" finish, which does not require regular seasoning beyond heating the pan with oil or butter just before cooking. Despite having one of the rougher finishes of the group, the Backcountry 12" skillet really impressed us with how easy it was to lift food from the pan.

cast iron skillet - the backcountry 12&quot; skillet has the capacity to produce delicious...
The Backcountry 12" skillet has the capacity to produce delicious pots of chili in good quantity.
Credit: Aaron Rice

While the Greater Goods skillet is impressively non-stick — particularly in the realm of baking — it did not always score top marks when cooking, particularly when it came to cooking meats. By reinforcing our testing experience with perhaps some unfair anecdotal evidence (our lead tester has owned this set for many years), we found that both skillets of the Lodge Combo Cooker earn high marks for non-stick pans, both in cooking and cleaning. But it is Victoria Mini Skillet that was actually the most impressive in this category — both eggs and cornbread easily lifted from this pan without any residue.

cast iron skillet - the victoria mini 6.5&quot; can truly claim non-stick capability after...
The Victoria Mini 6.5" can truly claim non-stick capability after proper seasoning. This is the result of the 2nd round of our fried-egg test: without oil, this egg lifted easily out of the pan. Amazing!
Credit: Aaron Rice

Searing Ability


This may have been our favorite test of the whole process! With a small amount of high-heat oil (we used canola), we preheated each pan to an ideal searing temperature of 400℉ — again, we utilized an infrared thermometer to achieve a steady surface temperature. We then seared roughly equal ¼-pound cuts of red meat on each side for two minutes, monitoring the temperature and aiming for a perfectly rare steak.

cast iron skillet - cast iron is capable of withstanding much higher temperatures than...
Cast iron is capable of withstanding much higher temperatures than other types of pans without warping over time, which makes them a great option for browning meats.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Again, the Victoria Mini Skillet excelled in this metric. But there were some surprising contenders, namely the Lodge 5-Quart Deep Skillet — a thick cast iron that takes a long time to adjust to temperatures — that seared a steak to near perfection. A more obvious runner-up is the Lodge 10.5" Square Grill Pan, which eventually won us over thanks to its even surface temperature and consistent ability to sear meat to perfection.

cast iron skillet - a fan of perfect grill marks on nicely browned meat? look no further...
A fan of perfect grill marks on nicely browned meat? Look no further than the Lodge 10.5" Square Grill Pan, a specialty skillet that impressed us with its ability to retain even temperatures.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Temperature Control


Testing this metric was similar to testing Cooking Evenness, so again, we broke out our trusty infrared thermometer, this time assisted by a stopwatch. First, we set each skillet over a gas burner to medium and marked the time it took to come up to 250℉.

cast iron skillet - the diameter -- and thus, the overall surface area of a pan -- is a...
The diameter -- and thus, the overall surface area of a pan -- is a factor that directly correlated with temperature control. Here, you can see just how big different-sized pans are over a normal gas burner. Clockwise from top left: 3.5", 6.5", 12", and 10".
Credit: Aaron Rice

For this first portion of our testing, the Lodge Miniature 3.5" Skillet (0:50 seconds), Victoria Mini Skillet (1:02 minutes), and Lodge Dual Handle 12" (1:17 minutes) achieved the fastest preheat times. You will undoubtedly notice that the smallest pans in the review heated up the fastest — not a huge surprise. The exception is the Dual Handle 12"; we eventually concluded that this pan has a particularly thin bottom. This grants it the ability to maintain lower surface temperatures even in a hotter oven, a particular advantage for baking.

cast iron skillet - consistent temperatures across a pan&#039;s surface -- and not just its...
Consistent temperatures across a pan's surface -- and not just its bottom -- is essential for evenly baked goods, like cornbread.
Credit: Aaron Rice

These first results are mainly a product of pan size and thickness, which are helpful observations but don't exactly speak to absolute temperature control. Once the pan reached 250℉, we then turned the burner to low and waited for surface temperatures to stabilize. This simulates a very real-world situation, where you want ingredients to stay warm but not necessarily continue cooking. We deemed the pans that stabilized closest to 250℉ to have the best temperature control.

cast iron skillet - is the lodge miniature skillet cute? absolutely. it is perfect for...
Is the Lodge Miniature Skillet cute? Absolutely. It is perfect for single-serving dishes like cornbread. This skillet is lined up next to the Victoria Mini 6.5" to better illustrate just how small 3.5" is in real life.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Based on the second half of this test, the Lodge 10.5" Square Grill Pan is the winner when it comes to temperature control, stabilizing only 1℉ away from the mark — definitely an asset in terms of aiming for that ideal internal meat temperature. The Le Creuset Signature Skillet is a notable exception when it comes to temperature control, continuing to heat up even on low, finally stabilizing around 287℉. Even though it is certainly a top-quality pan, the conductive nature of enameled cast iron means that it is incredibly sensitive to temperature input. While this may be a positive for professional chefs looking to change temperatures quickly, your average at-home cook may find that they accidentally overcook items before they even recognize what's happening.

cast iron skillet - consistent surface temperatures are a necessity when aiming for a...
Consistent surface temperatures are a necessity when aiming for a particular internal temperature of a steak. Here, we are keeping time and measuring surface temperatures to ensure that each pan is being tested evenly.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Ease of Use


Ease of use can mean very different things to different people, but in our assessment, we tried to consider some key components that can really change the cooking experience. Does the skillet have any additional features that make it remarkable? Is the handle ergonomic or thoughtfully designed? Does its weight and balance prohibit you from lifting the pan with one hand? Is the pan versatile enough for use in the oven, particularly when it comes to baking? We worked hard to use each pan in every way imaginable so that we could paint an honest picture of what it looks like to use these cast iron skillets in the kitchen.


If we were to suggest only one cast iron skillet to own based on utility and ease of use, it would be the Lodge 10.25" Skillet. This pan has double-sided pour spouts that make it easy to pan-off sautéed veggies, dual handles that make it easy to pull out of the oven, and is both lighter-weight and deeper than other skillets of a similar size.

cast iron skillet - what size cast iron is going to suit your particularly cooking needs?
What size cast iron is going to suit your particularly cooking needs?
Credit: Aaron Rice

We considered features to be anything that goes above and beyond the basics. The glowing features of the Lodge 5-Quart Deep Skillet include the lid, which makes it ideal for low-simmering chili or slow-cooking brisket. Meanwhile, the particularly deep pour spouts of the Victoria Mini Skillet are helpful for accurately pouring off browned butter and other sauces.

cast iron skillet - the 10-inch skillet is the workhorse of any kitchen, thanks to a...
The 10-inch skillet is the workhorse of any kitchen, thanks to a size that can accommodate many tasks and a weight that is not too heavy to hold up with one hand. Here, we're pouring sauteed veggies out of the Lodge 10.25" into a quiche shell held by the Greater Goods 10".
Credit: Aaron Rice

Cast iron skillets can be heavy, so thoughtfully designed ergonomics — particularly in the handle — can go a long way to increase the balance of a pan and its ease of use. The Victoria Mini 6.5" and Lodge 10.5" Square Grill have arched handles, making them much easier to wield. The notched handle on the Greater Goods 10" is longer than most, making the handle both more comfortable to hold and doubling as a utensil holder. With the exception of the 10.5" Square Grill, expect that most Lodge pans will leave you longing for a slightly longer handle.

cast iron skillet - a heavy-duty design and short handle affect the balance of the...
A heavy-duty design and short handle affect the balance of the Backcountry 12"... Best to use two hands when handling this sizable cast iron.
Credit: Aaron Rice

On the poorly designed side of ergonomics, the Backcountry 12" has a peculiarly short handle, especially considering the size of the pan. The Utopia Kitchen 12.5" skillet, with a similar diameter, is only a slight improvement on the Backcountry 12" pan thanks to the fact that it weighs one pound less and has a slightly longer handle.

cast iron skillet - if you really value ergonomics, look specifically for a pan that...
If you really value ergonomics, look specifically for a pan that includes an articulated handle to help you lift these heavy skillets.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Directly related to ergonomics, the weight of a cast iron skillet can either positively influence or directly detract from ease of use. This factor was easy to judge with a digital scale — backed up, of course, by our personal experience and notes on the balance of a pan while cooking.

cast iron skillet - based on size, weight, and the fact that it has a lid, we prefer...
Based on size, weight, and the fact that it has a lid, we prefer using the Bruntmor Enameled deep skillet for braising and slow cooking single-pot meals like pot roast.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Due to its tiny size, the Lodge Miniature 3.5" (11 ounces) is clearly the lightest pan in our review, but also too small to really even cook with. Taking into account its size, weight, and balance, the Le Creuset Signature Skillet takes the cake as an 11" skillet that weighs a mere 4 pounds. We were also impressed with the balance of the Lodge Dual Handle 12" — while it may not be that much lighter than other similarly sized pans, it felt much easier to handle, particularly when pulling it out of the oven. If you struggle with the weight of cast iron, steer clear of the Bruntmor Enameled Cast Iron — this beast weighs in at just over 14 pounds with the lid, and that's not including food weight!

cast iron skillet - the lodge 3.5&quot; is too small to accommodate any regularly sized...
The Lodge 3.5" is too small to accommodate any regularly sized spatula, and we tried three different ones.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Thanks to its thoughtful dual-handle design and size, the Dual Handle 12" also earned our respect as one of the most versatile skillets in this review. Equally suited for shallow frying chicken as it is for baking cinnamon buns, we were surprised by how often we found ourselves reaching for this pan. But without a doubt, the 3-in-1 capability of the Lodge Combo Cooker is the most versatile purchase option. This set covers all major bases: you get a deep pan for sauces and frying, a shallow skillet for sautéing, and then stack the two to get the equivalent of a Dutch oven.

cast iron skillet - thanks to the included lid, the lodge 5 quart deep skillet also...
Thanks to the included lid, the Lodge 5 Quart Deep Skillet also excels at slow cooking, like the carnitas pork pictured here.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Many home bakers — including this author — use cast irons in the oven and find them particularly useful in creating the steamy microclimate that suits the notably chewy crust of a San Francisco-style sourdough bread. Deep pans that include a lid, like the 5-Quart Deep Skillet or Combo Cooker options from Lodge, or the Bruntmor Enameled Cast Iron are all great choices if baking bread is one of your goals.

cast iron skillet - testing out bread baking with the lodge 5-quart deep skillet...
Testing out bread baking with the Lodge 5-Quart Deep Skillet (back right), as compared directly with our lead tester's trusty Lodge Dutch oven.
Credit: Aaron Rice

For baking things like pies, quiche, tarts — anything that has a bottom crust — we found that pans with rounded sidewalls give these crusts the right shape and make it much easier to lift from the skillet. The Lodge Dual Handle 12" sports the most curve at the point where the sidewalls come in contact with the base of the pan, whereas the Backcountry 12" has a notably angled transition at this point.

Cast irons stay hot for a long time compared to other material pans, so be careful of the "carry over" effect of heat — it will likely continue to cook your baked goods even after removing it from the oven! So we suggest reserving your cast iron baking for items that can be easily removed — like bread — or something that is OK to keep baking a little while longer — like a crisp or cobbler.

cast iron skillet - it&#039;s possible to bake delicious, artisan-grade loaves of bread at...
It's possible to bake delicious, artisan-grade loaves of bread at home with a covered cast iron. In fact, many home bakers insist on them!
Credit: Aaron Rice

Seasoning


This is perhaps the most important factor when separating a truly remarkable cast iron from a sticky menace. Proper seasoning of a cast iron skillet cannot be understated — but certainly is over-discussed, and can quickly become an overwhelming conversation for those not yet well-versed in the world of cast iron.

Seasoning is just oil baked onto cast iron…
-Lodge Cast Iron


You may also hear some experts refer to this seasoning as carbonized, or polymerized, oil. All that means is that by heating oil and cast iron together — which occurs gradually during the cooking process — the two combine to form a polymer, what we know and love as the naturally oily surface of a cast iron pan. Every single skillet in this review claims to have a pre-seasoning. Yet, food will stick to every single skillet in this review until the cast iron has been properly seasoned. Trust us; we tested by removing the packaging, wiping them off, and immediately attempting to fry an egg without oil. Pre-seasoning is a nice place to start, but expect to put some work into the process of seasoning — it's this process that begins to form a bond between you and your new cast iron.

Really pushing the capacity of our head tester&#039;s home oven, by...
Really pushing the capacity of our head tester's home oven, by packing it full of cast iron for seasoning!
Unlike any of the other pans, the Utopia Kitchen 12.5&quot; developed a...
Unlike any of the other pans, the Utopia Kitchen 12.5" developed a thick, sticky residue that managed to catch lint from the supposedly 'lint free' cloth we used to wipe oil on all of the pans.

Over years of cooking with cast iron skillets, our lead tester has decided that the best way to season one of these pans is by routinely using them for cooking oily, greasy, and fatty foods. However, an oven-based seasoning routine right out of the box is never a bad idea to start off on the right path to a well-seasoned cast iron.

cast iron skillet - one of our favorite ways to season a pan is to shallow fry, which...
One of our favorite ways to season a pan is to shallow fry, which allows the oil to soak into the cast iron under consistent heat. Here, we directly compare two of our award-winners, the Lodge 10.25" Skillet (front) and Le Creuset Signature Skillet (back.)
Credit: Aaron Rice

After oven-seasoning all of these pans and then giving each the benefit of cooking a few fatty meals, we conducted the same fried egg test once again — with very different results in many cases. The skillets were ranked relative to one another based on how much food was left behind in the pan and then assigned a score to assess seasoning potential. The most impressive pan, by far, is the Victoria Mini 6.5", which succeeded in entirely releasing an egg with no residue and no oil — that may not sound like much, but it is an extraordinary feat for a cast iron skillet. The Lodge Dual Handle 12" was a close contender.

cast iron skillet - the utopia kitchen 12.5 may not have sidewalls as proportionally...
The Utopia Kitchen 12.5 may not have sidewalls as proportionally deep as its large diameter might suggest, but it still works great for shallow frying. Which, coincidentally, is another great way to season a cast iron pan.
Credit: Aaron Rice

By cooking with these skillets continuously over a number of weeks, we also furnished some pretty solid subjective evidence of how these pans adopt seasoning — and ultimately cook better quality food. As a generalization, Lodge pans — in particular the award-winning 10.25" Skillet and Combo Cooker — seem to do a much better job of accepting oil, as they quickly start to feel like an heirloom cast iron in terms of quality of seasoning. While the Greater Goods 10" is our favorite burnished pan, we noticed that the machine-smoothed surface doesn't accept oil as readily as other models. The same is true of the Smithey No. 10, but we couldn't keep a seasoning on this pan no matter how we cooked or cleaned, even though we only cook with a wooden spoon and only scrub our pans with a regular sponge. The rough finish of many cast irons fill in with polymerized oil over time, while burnished dimples of the Greater Goods and Smithey skillets are significantly smaller and likely don't fill up as easily — although they don't necessarily need to achieve a similarly seasoned state.

cast iron skillet - a well-seasoned cast iron pan should be hydro-phobic &amp;#40;literally...
A well-seasoned cast iron pan should be hydro-phobic (literally, scared of water.)
Credit: Aaron Rice

Maintenance & Clean Up


Cast iron maintenance may be as heavily debated as seasoning, but it doesn't need to be complicated! Our cast iron experts feel strongly that by following a few cardinal rules, cast irons are almost easier to clean up and maintain than many other material options.


Our lead tester follows the same routine after every meal cooked in their personal cast irons:
  • After cooking, immediately fill the pan with room-temperature water; let the pan soak while you enjoy your meal — this helps loosen up food debris. Just don't let it sit in water overnight!
  • Wash with warm water, but never soap. Contrary to popular belief, the cast iron will not "absorb the flavor" of the soap, but the grease-cutting power of soap will begin to strip away well-earned seasoning.
  • Similarly, try to avoid harsh scrubbers — like steel wool — that will quickly start to abrade your pan. If you have soaked the pan after cooking, the scouring side of a sponge will be more than adequate for scrubbing power. If not, then let the pan soak for a half-hour or so.
  • After washing, place the pan over a medium-low heat to efficiently and completely dry the pan. Residual water will likely result in some rusting over time.

cast iron skillet - even the interior satin-enamel finish of the le creuset signature...
Even the interior satin-enamel finish of the Le Creuset Signature Skillet benefits from regular wipe-downs of oil. Note, however, how the oil doesn't absorb like it would normally into raw cast iron.
Credit: Aaron Rice

One of the downfalls of cast iron skillets is that they are not meant for a dishwasher — it's not that they are not "dishwasher-safe" but simply that dishwashers subject the pans to excessive water and heat that will ruin the seasoning. It is also important that you try to avoid dry, high-heat cooking with these pans — the seasoning, which is just baked on oil, will smoke at excessive heat. This is unavoidable for activities like baking, so we suggest devoting a cast iron pan to that exclusive use.

cast iron skillet - doing things like browning butter will definitely lead to a...
Doing things like browning butter will definitely lead to a well-seasoned skillet, and may have had a hand in significantly increasing the non-stick ability of the Victoria Mini 6.5" over a short period of time.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Following the generally prescribed rules above, it was a pan's seasoning that often dictated how easy it was or was not to clean. The Lodge 10.5" Square Grill Pan was also particularly annoying to scrub clean due to the depth of its grooves. Although this goes against everything we have learned about cast iron maintenance, both manufacturers guarantee that the porcelain enamel coating of the Le Creuset Signature Skillet and the Staub Enameled 10" Fry Pan is even dishwasher-safe.

cast iron skillet - the grilling ribs on the lodge 10.5&quot; square pan makes it just as...
The grilling ribs on the Lodge 10.5" Square Pan makes it just as great for evenly cooking asparagus as it does for steaks.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Craftsmanship


In many ways, cast iron is the durable, long-lasting alternative to more modern, lightweight, non-stick skillets. Many cast iron skillets become family heirlooms, passed down for many generations from kitchen to kitchen. So it is important to note the quality of a pan rather than judging its durability — and not all pans are crafted equally. Certain qualities of craft, cast, balance, and finish will make you want to use a particular cast iron skillet time and again.


The manufacturer Lodge cannot be underestimated in terms of dependable quality — this is why you have likely noticed that these pans hold a solid majority in our review. As a testament to that quality, our lead tester has some Lodge pans that have been in daily use for years and others that are more than two generations old. However, they are not the only manufacturer forging quality pans.

cast iron skillet - a great cast-iron skillet is an heirloom kitchen item, that will...
A great cast-iron skillet is an heirloom kitchen item, that will ideally last for generations. This is the shallow skillet-half of our head tester's personal Lodge Combo Cooker: notice the beautiful sheen that has developed after years of nearly daily use.
Credit: Aaron Rice

The Victoria Mini 6.5" has one of the finest cast and craft of all of the skillets tested, displaying near-perfect balance and softly finished features. Similarly, Le Creuset is known for their impeccable craftsmanship — particularly when it comes to enameled cast iron — and their dedication to that craft shines through beautifully in their Signature Skillet.

cast iron skillet - the top-quality craftsmanship of le creuset signature skillet is too...
The top-quality craftsmanship of Le Creuset Signature Skillet is too beautiful not to display!
Credit: Aaron Rice

Another beautiful enameled option that is very similar to the Le Creuset Signature Skillet is the Staub Enameled 10" Pan. But to point out another lesser-known brand, we were impressed by the overall quality of the Greater Goods 10". Unlike many modern cast irons, this one sports a burnished finish that is more in line with cast iron skillets of old. This skillet is also noticeably lightweight for its size, with a long, ergonomically designed handle.

cast iron skillet - it&#039;s tough to beat the vibrant color of an enameled cast iron. here...
It's tough to beat the vibrant color of an enameled cast iron. Here, we're browning meatballs in the Staub Enameled 10" pan, next to the stew simmering in our own Le Creuset Signature Round Oven.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Cast iron is the exception where imperfections like a rough finish, sharp, un-filled edges, and casting blemishes do not lead to a less durable pan. But they certainly do detract from the user experience. A cast iron that you do not want to use will eventually find its way to the junkyard — that undermines the point of having a pan with long-lasting durability.

For some reason, the normal quality that Lodge is known for did not...
For some reason, the normal quality that Lodge is known for did not translate to the extremely rough finish on this particular Miniature 3.5" Skillet.
Though a minor crack in the enamel finish, this is a sign of...
Though a minor crack in the enamel finish, this is a sign of potential future issues with the Bruntmor Enameled Cast Iron skillet.

Despite Lodge's usual reputation, the Miniature 3.5 is of a noticeably poorer quality cast, with particularly shoddy finishing. If you are going to invest in a pan for the ages, it is worthwhile to spend that extra 20 bucks to buy a cast iron skillet that is likely to stay with you for the long haul.

cast iron skillet - is there anything better to suit a nice bbq meal than a cast-iron...
Is there anything better to suit a nice BBQ meal than a cast-iron filled with freshly baked cornbread?
Credit: Aaron Rice

Conclusion


Cast iron skillets are a quintessential part of any home kitchen. Some folks come across truly great cast irons in antique shops or at yard sales; other lucky ones have them passed down as family heirlooms. Others must go out and create that experience for themselves, buying a brand new cast iron skillet that will eventually become a well-loved pan. With this review, we hope to offer some solid recommendations that will make your search for that soon-to-be-great cast iron skillet a little more manageable.

Aaron Rice


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