Welcome to the cult of the cast-iron skillet. From cowboys to great-grandmas, everyone thinks they know everything about cast iron. Wash it with soap! Don't wash it with soap. Season your cast-iron on the stove. On the stove? You have to season it in the oven! Things can get heated when it comes to the fickle cooking tool. But regardless of all the mystique that surrounds it, cast-iron skillets are some of the best cookware tools to own, and if you take care of it, it'll take care of you — and generations of your family.
The list of pros of cast-iron skillets is long: they get super hot and stay super hot, they're practically indestructible and you can cook almost anything in them. The pain in owning a cast-iron skillet is knowing when to be hands off, but also knowing when it needs to be babied. Here's what to know about your next favorite piece of cookware and the best skillets to buy at every budget.
- Best Overall Cast-Iron Skillet: Field Company
- Best Splurge Cast-Iron Skillet: Butter Pat Industries
- Best Budget Cast-Iron Skillet: Lodge
- Best Cast-Iron Skillet for Baking: Finex
- Best Cast-Iron Skillet With a Lifetime Warranty: Stargazer Cast Iron
- Best Cast-Iron Skillet for Outdoor Cooking: Smithey Ironware Company
- Best Eco-Friendly Cast-Iron Skillet: Borough Furnace
Cast Iron 101
Terms to Know
Cast-Iron: Iron made with around 1.7 percent carbon, giving it its classic heavy, brittle nature.
Seasoning: The layer of polymerized and carbonized fats between what you’re cooking and raw iron.
Pour Spouts: If present, small areas cast into both sides of the pan meant to easily discard (or save) sauces or excess grease.
Wall Slope: The gradient at which the walls of a cast-iron pan run into the cooking surface; the steeper the wall slope, the less tossing can be accomplished
Front Grip: A protruding area opposite the handle where you grab hold of the pan with your non-dominant hand; meant to make heavier dishes and pans less cumbersome.
As-Cast: The result of skipping the milling and polishing process on the cooking surface; when a skillet’s cooking area is rough and sandpapery, it is as-cast.
Rust: Also known as ferric oxide, a toxic result of the oxidation of bare cast-iron; avoided by a layer of seasoning, but easily fixable.
Smoke Point: The heat at which fats begins to break down and smoke; also the point you need to reach to properly season a pan.
How to Clean a Cast-Iron Skillet
Some cast-iron skillets have been around for centuries, so before you start panicking about your skillet, just know that you don't need to baby your cast iron. A little water is fine, as is a little bit of dish soap — just be sure to dry it completely as soon as you're done washing it. If you need to get any bits of food or debris off, a chainmail scrubber will be your best friend. All that matters is that after you clean your cast iron, you finish it with some oil. For a more detailed breakdown, check out our notes on cleaning cast-iron.
How to Season a Cast-Iron Skillet
You can season a cast-iron skillet in the oven or on the stove. Both methods require getting your cast iron greased up, then absolutely blasting it with heat. In an oven, give it about an hour at 500 degrees Fahrenheit. On the stove, hit it with high heat until it starts to smoke (and make sure to keep the window open). You can even season your cast iron by not seasoning it, though the assumption is you use it often enough that it seasons naturally.
What Is the Best Oil to Season Cast Iron?
Grapeseed oil is the overwhelming favorite among experts. It has a high smoke point and makes for a super-slick finish. The next best things to use are animal fats and flaxseed oil. Never use olive oil.
The Best Cast-Iron Skillets of 2022
After years of testing, these are the kitchen knives worth spending your money on.