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 with cast iron, 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. And you have to let go of preconceived notions of doing dishes by using your dishwasher. 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.
These are our favorite cast iron skillets and cast iron Dutch ovens, based both on our own experience and user reviews, plus some tips from chefs.
You can use this pot to make the world's greatest, juiciest turkey breast. Or fragrant pasta sauce. Or stew. Or whatever your stomach desires.
Pros: This cast iron pot is ideal for cooking at really high temps, and like other cast iron, it comes pre-seasoned. You can even use it on the grill.
Cons: It weighs eight pounds. But on the flip side, you can skip the gym.
If you want your kids to eat veggies, whip up a stir fry in this incomparable Lodge cast iron wok.
Pros: This 14 inch preseasoned wok is your go-to for making stir fries. Its flattened bottom is ideal for all cooking surfaces, including induction.
Cons: Like other cast iron cookware, it’s heavy.
This classic will last through generations, and you can pass it down to your kids — and their kids. It's just acquired more flavor over time, and still looks brand new. The more you use it, the more delicious the food will be.
Pros: This pre-seasoned hardy cast iron skillet pan features an assist handle, for easier cooking, and will last you for generations. Plus, it’s a go-to for perfect steaks. You can’t go wrong, especially if this is your starter pan.
Cons: As mentioned above, they can rust, so make sure you only clean it with salt and never use soap. Also, these pans are heavy, so cooking can be something of a workout.
This very versatile 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.
Pros: This classic cast iron skillet is indestructible, and you can’t beat the price.
Cons: Again, the black cast iron skillet requires upkeep.
You can do anything in this sturdy skillet, and the price can't be beat. Use it for sautéing, searing, pan-frying, baking, broiling, and roasting. Here's a tip: Brown a chicken on the stove, and then finish it off in the oven. Your family will thank you.
Pros: Like its brethren, this cast iron pan is pre-seasoned and it’s oven-safe at up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning you can broil with abandon.
Cons: Not really any cons, because like its brethren, it’s meant to be your kitchen workhorse, and it delivers.
You can't beat the price on this cast iron Dutch oven, which comes in very nice colors, and is very nicely made.
Pros: This Dutch oven works on all cooking surfaces, is made of heavy-duty cast iron for even heating and optimal cooking performance, and is oven-safe up to 400 degrees.
Cons: For the price? This is a winner.
For whatever reason, anything you cook in a magical, miraculous Le Creuset seems to come out just spectacular. You can use minimal amounts of oil when cooking, so you get mouthwatering food that's actually healthier. Plus, it looks like a work of art.
Pros: Cast-iron pans tend to get insanely hot, so the double-handle situation is even more handy.
Cons: It’s not nonstick, per se; it’s just easier to clean. And never, ever use metal utensils on it, or you will ruin it. Oh, and Le Creuset pans are not for the budget-conscious.
The price is perfection, and this enameled solid cast-iron stays hot, and has a nicely-fitted lid which is sort of essential if you want your food to melt in your mouth. Plus, the colors are pretty great.
Pros: Make saucy stews and soups in this budget-friendly and truly practical take on Le Creuset. The enameled solid cast-iron has superior and even heat retention, and the colors are super-fun.
Cons: Customers say these pots tend to be fragile and enamel can chip off, so treat it with care and watch out for any cracks.
This is a solid choice for someone who loves to cook, plans on using it often, and will work it hard. It also is rust-proof and one chef said he's been using his set for a decade, and it still looked fresh out of the box.
Pros: You don’t need to pre-season this pan, which is ready to go and works on all types of cooktops. And it’s easy to clean.
Cons: The price.
It's easy to clean (just soak it) and browns your food like a pro. Plus, it segues seamlessly from stove to oven and back again and is a nice colorful addition to the kitchen.
Pros: This beautiful baby has two layers of enamel, comes in a very pretty color, and the lid seals in moisture, so you wind up with tasty, succulent dishes. No more chewy chicken!
Cons: Some customers report that the enamel can chip, so be on the lookout.
Analon cookware offers a whole lot of quality for a reasonable price. This pan doesn't require any pre-seasoning, and is built to last.
Pros: For those of us who love crispy foods, this pan delivers thanks to its even heat.
Cons: It’s not dishwasher-safe, so gently hand-wash it. Otherwise, it’s a lot of pan for the price.
The price is incredible, the spout is incredibly useful, and reviewers swear that this pan is nonstick at its finest. It's pre-seasoned using flaxseed oil so it's about as nonstick as you can get.
Pros: It’s pre-seasoned, but for even better results, pre-season it again before using it for the first time.
Cons: Watch out for rust, a common complaint from reviewers.
Get sexy steaks and perky pork chops every time using this top-tier ceramic grill pan. The grill lines make this pan a standout. Plus, its nice, wide handle is an added bonus when you're frying up prime cuts of meat.
Pros: This cast iron pan works like a top quality pan, but with ridges for better searing — and those lines.
Cons: Reviewers say the enamel can chip, so again, be on the lookout, and use only wooden, plastic or heat-resistant nylon kitchen tools when stirring or serving food.
You know that soap is a no-no with seasoned cast-iron. We've tried and love this chainmail scrubber, which gets all the gunk off, but leaves the flavor intact.
Pros: This chainmail scrubber gets your cast iron oh so clean. You can scrub by hand or place it on the end of your kitchen brush.
Cons: Using your hands can be annoying. And messy.
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