The Best Cast Iron Skillets in 2021

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Best Cast Iron Skillets

Chloe Jeong / Simply Recipes

The Rundown
It is reminiscent of years gone by with its coveted smooth surface, thin walls, and flared rim.
That it's durable enough to last for decades is one reason Smithey's cast iron pans make our list.
Known for even heat retention and lighter weight, this 10.25-inch skillet is a must-have in any kitchen.
This will be in someone's life for decades, if not long enough to be passed down as an heirloom.
Its smart design includes an elegantly curved handle and large pour spouts.

A cast iron skillet is one of the most reliable and versatile tools you can have in your kitchen. You can create a great sear on steaks, fry fritters, sauté tofu, and braise a chicken. You can seamlessly transfer your skillet from the stovetop straight into the oven or use it to create meals over a campfire. And, with just a little bit of maintenance, you can stretch the life of your cast iron over decades or even generations! 

Choosing the best cast iron skillet depends on what you're looking for. To help, we put our favorites and a few other top picks through a battery of tests, including just how good of a sear you'll get on your ribeyes or how golden your cornbread will turn out. After testing, we collated the data to figure out which pans are true winners.

Here, the best cast iron skillets, tried and tested, so you can choose one that best suits your cooking preferences and lifestyle.

Best Overall: Stargazer 10.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

stargazer-cast-iron-skillet

What We Love: Lightweight, flared rim minimizes dripping, made from recycled materials

What We Don't Love: Pricey, only two sizes

It took six months and 21 designs for co-founder Peter Huntley to create the Stargazer cast iron 10.5-inch skillet, reminiscent of years gone by with its coveted smooth surface, thin walls, and flared rim. This polished finish is a throwback to vintage cast iron. 

That flared rim proved to be an excellent design feature during our tests. When Commerce Editor Siobhan Wallace tested pouring ability, the Stargazer outperformed nearly every other skillet, with a clean steady stream that left no little drips down the side of the pan, even without a spout. It also beautifully seared steak and the seasoned surface cleaned up easily.

With its one-of-a-kind craftsmanship, this skillet can be ordered seasoned or bare. There is a lot of attention to detail in its design—even a dainty star on the helper handle! At about 5 pounds, it is lighter than other skillet options of a similar size. For environmentally conscious buyers, the skillet is made from recycled iron, and its casting molds are made with recycled sand. 

The high sloping wall of this skillet makes it ideal for making a weeknight stir fry, among other dishes. And with a gorgeous copper hue from the seasoning, it’s a beauty to display in your kitchen.

"I love, love, love my Stargazer skillet. The surface feels like smooth butter, and it has maintained that seasoning in the five-ish years I've owned it. I use it for everything from quick skillet recipes to frittatas to summer cobblers. I also like that the skillets are made entirely in the USA." Emma Christensen, Editor in Chief

Sizes Available: 10.5, 12 inches | Pre-Seasoned: Yes | Lids Included: No

Best Overall, Runner-Up: Smithey Ironware Company No. 10 Cast Iron Skillet

Smithey Ironware Company No. 10 Cast Iron Skillet

What We Love: Handcrafted, engravable, high sides minimize oil splatter

What We Don't Love: Helper handle was hard to grasp when pouring

Smithey is another newcomer in the cast iron skillet offerings. Founded by Isaac Morton in 2017, Smithey's raw cookware is produced in Indiana before being handcrafted into your specific piece at its Charleston, South Carolina, factory. Being touched by human hands translates to cookware being engravable pieces, something rarely available with cast iron and perfect for an heirloom.

That it's durable enough to last for decades is one reason Smithey's cast iron pans make our list. But we were also blown away by how well it performed during our tests. Since Morton was influenced by vintage cast iron, the interior of each piece is sanded smooth, allowing for excellent browning on our steak test. Plus, the high sides meant oil didn't spit out of the pan when we fried an egg. On all versions of this pan, the sides are slightly sloped so the bottom cooking surface is a tad smaller in diameter than the rim. This didn't affect any of our tests, though.

Another vintage influence can be seen with the three hanging holes in the helper handle, but Smithey went modern with the pan's ergonomic long handle and its compatibility with all types of cooktops. These skillets are heavy enough to require two hands to pour anything out of one of the side spouts.

Though the 10-inch and 12-inch skillets don't come with a lid, Smithey does offer flat-top griddle pans in those sizes that can double as lids for the pans. It also has cast irons in the more traditional skillet shape (i.e., sides that curve up from the bottom) in both 8-inch and 10-inch sizes.

"I really liked the Smithey. It cooked the steak perfectly and had a good diameter to make it maneuverable." Collier Sutter, Food and Drink Review Editor

Sizes Available: 6, 10, 12 inches | Pre-Seasoned: Yes | Lids Included: No

Best Budget: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Silicone Handle Holder

lodge-preseasoned-skillet-silicone-handle-holder

What We Love: Very affordable, lighter than most cast irons, silicone sleeve helps with comfort and safety

What We Don't Love: Hot spots

Handcrafted in the U.S., Lodge makes heirloom-quality skillets at an affordable price point. Known for even heat retention, its 10.25-inch skillet is a must-have in any kitchen. 

At a little under 5 pounds, it was lighter than other 10-inch cast irons we tested, making this a desirable choice for those who find these skillets too heavy to use on a daily basis. While it arrives pre-seasoned, you should re-season it regularly to keep it in top condition. Lodge also offers this skillet with a specialized silicone handle holder (which is oven-safe to 500 degrees) and a customized glass lid.

During our tests, the Lodge baked up a buttery cornbread with very little sticking to the pan, though it did take a minute or two longer in our oven. It had an intense sizzle while searing a steak for two on the cooktop. Throughout all our tests, the pan did have hot spots we would have to watch out for, but none were intense enough to completely ruin a dish. The 2-inch-high sides make it a candidate for shallow-frying those spicy corn fritters you've been meaning to make.

"The versatility of this pan can't be overstated. I use mine to sear steaks, bake cornbread and apple crisp, and fry eggs and bacon over campfires. Though I was initially nervous about maintenance, it turned out to be a cinch to master, and I'm now confident it won't ever need to be replaced—a score for both my budget and the planet." Taysha Murtaugh, Commerce Editorial Director

Sizes Available: 3.5, 6.5, 8, 9, 10, 10.25, 12, 13.25, and 15 inches | Pre-Seasoned: Yes | Lids Included: No

Related: The Best Cookware Sets

Best High-End: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Skillet


What We Love:
Easy to clean, perfect to pour out of, beautiful colors, large helper handle

What We Don't Love: Expensive, might be too wide for some uses

Le Creuset's enameled cookware is iconic. Its cast iron Dutch ovens are often the centerpiece in a kitchen scene, seen over the shoulder of a character in a film or the only cookware present in a Zillow listing. Buying a Le Creuset is most likely a gift purchase or a splurge, but it may well be the final piece of equipment that will be in someone's life for decades, if not long enough to be passed down as an heirloom.

We went into our test kitchen with two notable high-end cast iron skillets, one of which was a flame orange Le Creuset. Commerce Editor Siobhan Wallace, who's longed for a Le Creuset skillet since she was a preteen but has always been skeptical of the price, left her test day absolutely in love and ready to pick out a color. Though this skillet is heavier and wider than most, its large helper handle made pouring oil out of the wide spout extra easy, with no drips to catch fire on your stove. After frying an egg, the pan cleaned up extremely fast—enough to make you think cleaning it in a home kitchen would mostly be a quick wipedown. Finally, it passed our steak-searing test with flying colors, leaving a gorgeous crust and even heating.

Truly, the only downside to the Le Creuset is its wideness and shallow design. If you're a big fan of baking in your cast irons, you might need another enameled cast iron, like the lidded oval casserole dish, for those projects. Whether you need cookware or bakeware, it's all backed by a lifetime warranty and oven-safe up to 500 degrees. Le Creuset stands by all its enameled cast iron being safe to clean in the dishwasher, but we recommend hand washing to protect the color.

Sizes Available: 6.3, 9, 10.25, 11.75 inches | Pre-Seasoned: Yes | Lids Included: No

Related: The Best Skillets

Best Large Capacity: Victoria 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Victoria 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

What We Love: Large diameter, long handle to balance weight, large helper handle

What We Don't Love: Heavy

The Victoria 12-inch cast-iron skillet is a winner in our tests because of its functional specifications and details. Its smart design includes an elegantly curved handle and large pour spouts, which allow you to discard excess oil or pour chunky sauces without any drips! 

At first glance, the long 7-inch handle may seem like it throws off the weight distribution, but it helps to balance the skillet's 7.25 pounds. A few testers felt it was a little too clunky, but almost any 12-inch cast iron will have that issue. Plus, the large helper handle made it easier to grip and lift. Overall, it performed well in tests with great nonstick abilities and fantastic heat retention. We did notice a few hot spots, but it was never bad enough to have food stick to the surface.

The long handle also doesn’t heat up as fast as other cast iron skillet handles (though, you should still be careful; I always use a tea towel). Victoria offers this with a limited lifetime warranty.

Sizes Available: 6.5, 8, 10, and 12 inches | Pre-Seasoned: Yes | Lid Included: No

Related: The Best Frying Pans

Final Verdict

With its affordable price, curved handles, and large, functional pour spouts, the Victoria 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet (view at Amazon) should be in everyone's kitchen collection. If you're in the market to upgrade, look no further than the Stargazer 10-Inch Cast Iron Skillet (view at Stargazer).

best-cast-iron-skillets-cornbread-test

Simply Recipes / David Kukin

What We Made

Steak Test: Naturally, we had to put all our cast iron skillets through their paces. To assess heating ability, we cooked equally sized steaks in a small amount of oil and, on a scale of 1 to 5, measured how well it seared on both sides.

Egg Test: To measure a pan's nonstick capabilities, we heated up a small amount of oil and fried a single large egg. When the whites had set, we removed the egg and measured, on a scale of 1 to 5, whether any whites were left behind and how difficult it was to clean.

Cornbread Test: To measure heat distribution and retention, we baked cornbread in each skillet and allowed it to cool slightly before removing it. We noted if it baked evenly and if any bread stuck to the skillet.

Pour Test: One of the most important attributes of a cast-iron skillet is how well you can pour out hot oil or fat. To test this, we poured 0.5 cups of oil out of each one and noted whether the oil poured only out of the spout and whether any drips went down the sides.

best-cast-iron-skillets-egg-test

Simply Recipes / David Kukin

What Are the Other Options?

Staub Cast Iron Frying Pan (view at Amazon): Our former high-end splurge pick looks beautiful and heats up evenly, but too much food stuck to the cooking surface during our tests, and it was more difficult to clean than the Le Creuset.

Lodge Blacklock Triple-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet (view at Williams Sonoma): A higher price tag, a too-small helper handle, and lots of spillage out of the pour spout made us prefer Lodge's other affordable option.

Finex 10-Inch Cast Iron Skillet (view at Amazon): While Finex's modern design may look nice, it was awkward to pour out of and the different material in the handle caused a bit of a safety concern. If that wasn't enough, at one point, the Finex skillet actually caught on fire in the test kitchen.

best-cast-iron-skillets-steak-test

Simply Recipes / David Kukin

Utopia Kitchen Cast Iron Skillet (View at Amazon): This was also previously on our list, but we found the pan would get too hot too quickly, oil went wider than the pour spout, and the helper handle could have been more, well, helpful.

Field Company Cast Iron Skillet (view at Field Company): Another skillet that was previously on our list and heated up nice and evenly in the kitchen. But oil splattered out of the pan when frying an egg, and the oil overshot the spout during our pour test.

Butter Pat Heather 10-Inch Skillet (view at Butter Pat Industries): While its heating distribution was fantastic, the Butter Pat's cooking surface quickly started to show wear, making us question its durability. Its material also heated up high enough to cause extreme oil splatter while frying.

Camp Chef 12-Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet (view at Amazon): While the price is right and it can easily be confused with a Lodge, this pan heats up too fast, causing smokey conditions; it was also a bit too clunky for our testers.

What to Look for in a Cast Iron Skillet

Size

If you’re wondering what size skillet to buy, consider choosing from these three options: 8, 10, or 12 inches in diameter. The 8-inch is great for two small steaks or three fried eggs, which makes it perfect for one or two people. Then we have the 10-inch, which is reasonably easy to store due to its size and weight; it's also a classic size to roast a chicken, make a frittata, or bake cornbread. The 12-inch is a crowd-pleaser: You can pull off a meal for four in it, whether you are preparing some tofu or searing a ribeye. Of the three sizes, the 10-inch is the most versatile.

Maintenance

Once you have created those initial layers of seasoning, you will want to maintain that beautiful coating to give your cast iron a much-desired nonstick surface. Don't be scared of going ahead and washing that cast iron skillet with some soap and water! Or, you could make a mixture of salt and oil and scrub, scrub, scrub all the grime off of it. If you’ve made something like pancakes, you can just wipe it clean with a paper towel. Make sure you don’t forget to thoroughly dry your skillet because that’s when it can start to rust. And then, apply a thin layer of oil (any vegetable oil will do), and place the skillet on high heat. Once it cools, it's ready to be stored. 

Storage

Cast iron skillets can last a lifetime, but you need to take that extra step to store them properly, especially because they have a tendency to rust. If you are nesting your pans inside one another, cushion it with a paper towel to prevent friction and damage, and it will absorb any moisture. Air needs to circulate around any of the pans when stashed away. If you’re storing it in a kitchen cabinet, make sure it is in an area that is dry (e.g., not near your dishwasher). For those of you who want to display your beautiful collection of skillets on the wall, you can secure your hooks to mounted studs. 

Why Trust Simply Recipes?

Shayma Owaise Saadat loves using a cast iron skillet from her varied collection. Whether it’s a Dutch baby or a soft scramble with lots of butter, she is pulling out that cast iron skillet every weekend morning. She is a recipe developer who teaches Pakistani and Persian cookery classes and makes everything from a Persian khoresht to a Pakistani-style shrimp biryani in her cast iron skillet.

This piece contains additional reporting and text by Siobhan Wallace, who assisted with testing in our kitchen lab. Until she figures out which Le Creuset color is best, all of her cast iron cooking will continue to happen in her Lodges (8-inch, 10.25-inch, and 12-inch).

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