Choosing the best cast iron skillet

Cast iron skillets are the workhorses of the kitchen. The utility tool can fry eggs and sausage for breakfast, revitalize leftovers for lunch, and perfectly sear a waistband for dinner.

So what’s all the hype about cast iron anyway?

Cast iron conducts heat evenly, and once you get it screaming hot, it stays that way and doesn’t fluctuate. It’s hard to beat the conductive nature of cast iron when foods need that kind of intense, immediate heat, like searing drumsticks before braising or putting the final sear on a goose breast.

Jump to: Cast irons we use

It is also extremely durable. Many people pass cast iron from generation to generation within their families. Not many cookware is as well equipped to stand the test of time.

If you don’t have your great-grandmother’s skillet covered in a few generations of bacon grease, fear not. The Cast Iron Cooking Club is open to all. First of all, you need to choose which one is right for you.

Things to Consider When Buying a Cast Iron

A cast iron is a cast iron, right? Not quite. When choosing the right one for your kitchen, it’s important to consider how you primarily plan to use it.

For example, classic cast iron griddles are great for outdoor cooking and you can cook anything from chili to cobbler on them. But if you’re looking for something for your home kitchen, enameled cast iron can be easier to clean and maintain when making things like spaghetti sauce or braised meats. The criteria that you should take into account when choosing a cast iron skillet are:

  1. Versatility
  2. shape and size
  3. To finalize
  4. Price

Jump to: What makes a good cast iron

Cast irons we use

What makes a good cast iron

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the criteria we use to choose the best cast iron skillets.

1. Versatility

Cast irons are inherently versatile. However, the range of uses for a deep frying pan is much greater than a pan that comes with built-in grill marks. While those edges might make a great grilled cheese sandwich, they’re not doing you any favors when you’re trying to brown a piece of meat.

2. Shape and size

A large 14-inch pan may be too much if you only feed regularly. Conversely, if you’re cooking for a family of four, you might want to consider something larger than an 8-inch skillet. It is also important to think about the depth of the pan. A flat pan will fry eggs very well, but it will fall short if you want to make something like hash or frittata.

3. Finish

Most cast iron these days comes pre-seasoned. It’s up to you to maintain those nonstick trends that are already established. However, enameled cast irons offer another alternative that may not be as strong as classic cast iron (they are prone to chipping and breaking), but have other notable qualities.

When food odors and flavors such as fish and sour sauces tend to stick to the cast iron after cooking, enamel provides an easy-to-wash protective barrier that prevents unwanted lingering aromas. Enamel is also easier to clean and maintain than standard cast iron.

4. Price

You can buy a good cast iron for $20 or $200. Most of the higher priced cast irons are associated with aesthetics and extra features that are nice but unnecessary for some people. Maybe you plan on keeping this cast iron on your stove and want it to look nice, so it might be worth spending a little more.

MeatEater Crew Field Notes

These may not be the only cast irons in our kitchens, but they are the ones we turn the heat to most often. Read on for more details and comments from the crew.