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The Best Cast Iron Skillets and How To Clean Them

From Lodge to Le Creuset, these black and enamel cast iron pots will last pretty much forever, if you treat them right.

If you want a true investment piece for your kitchen, look no further than a cast iron skillet. When it comes to durability, longevity and just good taste, a cast iron pot is your  go-to tool. It cooks food evenly, and it lasts and lasts and lasts. Yes, you can choose from a smorgasbord of pricey, fancy, tricked-out pots and pans, which all claim to transform you into Thomas Keller. And yes, some of them really are worth the price. But when you spring for the best cast iron skillet, it’s hard to go wrong. The more you use it, the better it gets.

There are two varieties to choose from: black cast iron, and enamel cast iron. The one you pick depends on how much time you want to invest in your pan. Meaning, it’s best to pre-season a black cast iron pan, because it boosts the flavor output, while ceramic ones are wash and wear.

“The black cast iron with no enamel coating are usually sold pre-seasoned. That pan is ready to go and you can start cooking in it. It’s going to keep acquiring more seasoning and it will become more nonstick and less prone to rusting,” says Lisa McManus, executive editor of tastings and testing at America’s Test Kitchen. “The enamel cast iron has a glass-like glaze on it. It has a coating over the cast iron. It can’t rust. This pan is better if you don’t want to bother with seasoning a pan.”

Which brings us to the one downside of black cast iron: You’ve got to take care of it. This means scrubbing it with kosher salt and cooking oil, rubbing it down, rinsing it off, patting it dry and never, ever using soap. Ceramic cast irons skip this step. Just wash them gently by hand using warm soap and water, or throw them in the dishwasher if you’re feeling brave.

Behold the king of cast iron. You can use minimal amounts of oil when cooking with this 6.5 inch beauty, so you get mouthwatering food that's actually healthier. Plus, it looks like a work of art and for whatever reason, anything you make in it comes out tasting amazing.

This workhorse 1-quart enameled Dutch oven needs no seasoning after each use, and it’s suitable for both stovetops and ovens. These come in a slew of sizes, so upgrade to a 13-quart one if you're planning big dinners. You can use a Dutch oven like this one to make anything from stews to soups to roasts; and for cooking, roasting, searing, stir-frying or baking.

This 7-quart enameled cast iron pot needs no seasoning between uses. We like the wide-cast iron handles for a more secure grip. Like other cast iron, this has even heat retention and works both on the stove and in the oven, and in the broiler. You'll make the best ratatouille of your life, and pretty dope fried chicken.

This classic will last through generations, and you can pass it down to your kids — and their kids. It's just acquires more flavor over time, and still looks brand new. The more you use it, the more delicious the food will be. This 10.25 inch pre-seasoned hardy cast iron skillet pan features an assist handle, for easier cooking; just make sure you give it TLC after each use.

This very versatile 17 inch skillet has two handles, meaning you can easily transfer it from the stove to the oven to the campfire. It's perfect for frittatas and rice dishes.

Carnivores, rejoice: This is the pot you need to brown and braise meats. The handles are clutch for easy maneuverability. And the lid is domed for sizable chunks of lamb or beef. The interior is textured black matte enamel, which gives you perfectly seared and browned cuts.

If you want to dazzle folks with a flawlessly crisp roaster, get this 12 inch pan. Sure, you can use it to fry vegetables or salmon, but its true calling is to help you make a juicy bird for dinner. The interior is porcelain enamel, which means you can throw it in the dishwasher when done.

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