Few humble kitchen tools have managed to reach the same level of culinary idolatry as the cast-iron pan. Beloved by professional chefs and home cooks alike, this venerable piece of equipment—which has been used in kitchens for hundreds of years—is up for just about any challenge and any meal.
For French chef David Deshaies of Unconventional Diner, it’s the multi-functional aspect of cast iron that continues to hold his attention. “I leave my cast-iron [cookware] on my stovetop because it’s always my go-to whether I’m making a steak or a stew,” he says.
David Fritsche, who grew up using cast iron pans from his native Switzerland (and brings those flavors to the forefront as the executive chef of Stable), notes the importance of even heat and longevity. “Once properly seasoned, you can have a good cast iron pan all your life with the right care.”
And of course, there are health-forward reasons to use cast iron as well. “Cast-iron pans are what we use when we do cornmeal-fried catfish or when we want to fry something, but don't want it to taste like the deep frier,” says chef Jesse Miller of Pennyroyal Station in Maryland. Properly seasoned cast iron requires much less oil to get a quick fry, and still offers the same crisp texture and familiar taste.
We’ve rounded up a few of our (and our favorite chefs’) recommendations when it comes to cast-iron pans. Once you nab your pan, here are some cast-iron skillet recipes to try ASAP.
Keep reading for the best cast-iron pans and skillets, straight from chefs:
Best overall: Le Creuset Signature Cast-Iron Skillet, $180
At the top of many chef’s lists is Le Creuset, the French brand known best for its enameled cast-iron line. “It’s just super solid, and performs well,” says chef Tim Ma, who has brought his talents to the James Beard House and his latest restaurant, Lucky Danger. “I love to go camping with my kids and only need to take two Le Creusets to cook the entire time. They also have great colors and make for good banquet display pieces.”
Deshaies offers a similar rave review for Le Creuset’s “classy, beautiful, and colorful” design that adds a pop to any kitchen. And chef Ruben Mosquero of two-star Michelin restaurant minibar by José Andrés, says: “Le Creuset pots and pans are my all-around favorite and are the best for me because of their durability, quality and the cooking temperatures that you can reach with them.”
The best part: It can be washed (no seasoning or fussy upkeep required) thanks to the enamel coating. So you can hand-wash it after using or throw it in the dishwasher while still reaping all the benefits of traditional cast-iron cooking.
Shop now: Le Creuset Signature Cast-Iron Skillet, $150
Best affordable pan: Lodge Classic 12” Cast-Iron Skillet with handle holder, $46
For Karoum, it’s the Lodge cast-iron that keeps his restaurant (and household) running. As a true testament to the longevity of these pieces, Karoum says that he found one of his 12-inch Lodge pans while cleaning out his closet, rusted after decades of non-use. Karoum managed to restore the pan over the course of three days with steel wool and coarse salt, and today, is his go-to for cooking over open flames or hot embers.
Chef Andrew Markert of Fight Club is also a fan of Lodge, calling it a “great utility pan for all possible cooking.” Like Karoum, Markert is partial to the 12-inch model, given its many use cases. “Whether you’re searing a nice ribeye or doing shallow-fried chicken, or even baking a large cake or corn bread, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination or recipes.”
Stefano Secchi, chef and partner of Rezdôra in New York, notes, "I love working with Lodge skillets and have been using them for years. Growing up at my family's restaurants, we used them in the wood-burning ovens, and they are great for searing fish and oven-roasted meats." It's also the cheapest piece on this list—making it a great budget buy that will still stand the test of time.
Shop now: Lodge Classic 12” Cast-Iron Skillet, $46
Best for fancier foodies: Wagner Cast-Iron 8” Round Pan, $240
A true classic of American cookware, Wagner cast iron skillets are prized by collectors, chefs, and diners (though they may not know it). Eric Shin, the owner of Seoulspice, notes that his favorite cast irons are the Wagner trademarks from the early late 19th and early 20th centuries. “They have a slick, smooth finish that you can’t find on modern cast-iron cookware,” Shin says, adding that these pans allow for sliding eggs and a perfect sear. Luckily, you can still find Wagner pans on Amazon and eBay. You may also come across a Wagner in a thrift shop, which is how Miller finds many of his pieces. “We use cookware unearthed at thrift and antique stores during our travels,” he says. “There is something about buying a piece that comes with history that is really special.”
Shop now: Wagner Cast-Iron 8” Round Pan, $240
Best light-weight option: Field Company Cast-Iron Skillet No. 8, $125
For those of us seeking an affordable, lightweight cast-iron pan (yes, those exist), Wen-Jay Ying, the founder of Local Roots NYC, recommends Field Company. “I love Field Company cast-irons because they are light enough to be held in one hand, which means you can take a photo of your food with the other.” (The lighter weight also makes it easier to haul in and out of the oven, onto the stove, or back into storage.) Moreover, Ying points out, the pans are handmade in Vermont, and the company is locally owned.
Shop now: Field Company Cast-Iron Skillet No. 8, $125
Best multi-purpose set: Lodge Cook-It-All Cast Iron, $180
Chefs love Lodge’s high quality and affordable price point, so if you’re looking to expand your cast-iron cooking options, you should consider the brand’s Cook-It-All set. The bottom acts as a wok or a skillet, while the top is a reversible griddle and grill—all designed to work best on grills or campfires, but certainly a great heavy-hitting option for your stovetop.
Shop now: Lodge Cook-It-All Cast Iron, $180
Best cast-iron pot: Great Jones The Dutchess, $155
Surprise: One of the best cast-iron pans is actually a pot. Chef Jerome Grant— the inaugural executive chef of the historic National Museum of African American History and Culture and now the head chef at Jackie—is a huge fan of the Dutch oven from Great Jones, which is made enamel-coated cast iron. “The Dutchess from Great Jones is one of my favorite cast-iron pots,” he says. “It's extremely versatile—I can do almost any kind of cooking application from roasting, searing, braising to even baking with it. Most importantly, they come in dope colors.” And thanks to the enamel coating trademark of all Dutch ovens, it's non-stick and very easy to clean.
Shop now: Great Jones The Dutchess, $155
Best low-maintenance option: Butter Pat The Estee Cast-Iron Skillet, $145
Chef Gerald Sombright, chef de cuisine at Knife & Spoon at Grande Lakes resort, prefers American-made Butter Pat cast-iron products, which are made with layers of metal “which allows for them to be both incredibly durable and easy to clean,” Sombright says. Best of all, unlike traditional cast-iron pans, these offerings are relatively low maintenance—as Sombright points out, “You can use soap and water when cleaning it, yet they still tolerate high heat—no flaking!—and last forever."
Shop now: Butter Pat The Estee Cast-Iron Skillet, $145
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