Everything you need to know about cast iron skillets

If you could only have one piece of cookware, a cast iron skillet should be it. This is because cast iron is arguably the best material for cooking. It heats up slowly and evenly so that your food cooks evenly. It also retains heat to keep your food warm longer, and, if properly taken care of, you can pass down a cast iron skillet from one generation to the next.

This summer, after harvesting vegetables from your garden, you’ll need a way to cook them. A cast iron skillet produces excellent results on the grill, in the oven, on a stove or over a campfire. 

If you’ve never used cast iron before, however, there are a few things you’ll want to learn before purchasing a skillet.

Why is cast iron good for cooking?

Cast iron is a very poor conductor of heat. Oddly enough, that is why it is such great material for cooking. It takes a long time for cast iron to heat up, which means there are no temperature spikes or drops. This allows you to cook at a very consistent temperature. It also means the heat will stay in the cast iron for longer. Because of this, you must be careful about burning your fingers. Even if the skillet has been away from a heat source for 15 minutes or more, it can still be hot enough to cause burns.

Why do you need to season cast iron?

One of cast iron’s few flaws is its imperfect surface. If you tried to cook on cast iron, you wouldn’t have much success. The uneven surface would make food stick to the skillet worse than that first pancake.

To smooth out the imperfections, you must season your cast iron cookware. This process involves coating the skillet in cast iron oil and heating it in an oven for about 30 minutes at 450 degrees. While seasoning takes time, it requires very little effort, so it is easy to do. Once you properly season your cast iron skillet, you won’t believe how “non-stick” it becomes.

The best part about seasoning your cast iron skillet is almost all models come pre-seasoned, so usually, you don’t even have to do it.

Do you ever need to reseason cast iron cookware?

Unfortunately, over time, cooking materials will build up on your cast iron skillet. When you notice rough or sticky patches on the cooking surface, you know it is time to reseason.

The only difference between seasoning and reseasoning is you first must clean the skillet. While there are many ways to remove buildup, one of the best is to use a half cup of salt and a paper towel or cloth. Scour every area of the pan until you are certain no buildup remains. Wash off the skillet, thoroughly dry it, then season it. Coat it with oil and bake it in the oven for approximately 30 minutes at 450 degrees.

How do you clean cast iron?

One of the most controversial topics regarding cast iron is cleaning. Many individuals don’t fully understand that during seasoning, polymerization occurs. This creates a smooth, resilient surface that protects the cast iron, which means your skillet is safe to clean in many ways.

The more aggressive your approach and the more abrasive your material is, the quicker you will wear away the seasoning. However, it is okay to clean with soap, water and a soft-bristled brush. Since today’s dish detergents are no longer caustic, they will not damage the seasoned surface of your skillet. You do have to make sure to dry your cast iron, as any water left on the skillet for even a short amount of time will invite rust.

How long will cast iron last?

Cast iron is very durable. If you take care of it, you can give your favorite cast iron skillet to your grandkids. But three things can shorten the lifespan of cast iron. The first is not properly seasoning it. The second is letting it stay wet or air dry. The third thing to be aware of is physical impact. Cast iron might be strong, but it is brittle. It doesn’t take much to crack it, so handle your skillet carefully.

Best cast iron skillets

Amazon Basics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet (15 Inches)

Amazon Basics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet (15 Inches)

If you are looking for a large skillet, this 15-inch model is oven safe up to 500 degrees. The pan has been pre-seasoned with vegetable oil to achieve a black patina and easier food release.

Sold by Amazon

Victoria Cast Iron Paella Frying Pan (13 Inches)

Victoria Cast Iron Paella Frying Pan (13 Inches)

This sizable 13-inch skillet is made with two handles for easier holding. It comes pre-seasoned with non-GMO flaxseed oil and the pan retains heat to keep your food hot for 15 minutes or longer.

Sold by Amazon and Macy’s

Cuisinel Cast Iron Skillet with Lid and Handle Cover (12 Inches)

Cuisinel Cast Iron Skillet with Lid and Handle Cover (12 Inches)

Cuisinel’s 12-inch offering comes with a tempered glass lid to see what you’re cooking. Purchase also includes a non-slip, heat-resistant silicone handle cover that helps protect your hand while cooking or serving.

Sold by Amazon and Kohl’s

Martha Stewart Enameled Cast Iron Fry Pan (12 Inches)

Martha Stewart Enameled Cast Iron Fry Pan (12 Inches)

Martha Stewart’s cast iron pan has a black enameled interior, so you do not have to season it. It is a rich red color, 12 inches in diameter, and has a helper handle for easier lifting.

Sold by Macy’s

Cuisinel Dual-Handle Cast Iron Skillet (12 Inches)

Cuisinel Dual-Handle Cast Iron Skillet (12 Inches)

This durable cast iron skillet has a dual-handle design to give the user a more confident grip. Purchase includes two silicone handle covers and a scraper to make cleaning much easier. This 12-inch option arrives pre-seasoned, so it is ready to use.

Sold by Amazon

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skillet (11.75 Inches)

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skillet (11.75 Inches)

This shallow cast iron skillet is enamel coated, so it is ready to use and requires no seasoning. The coating is resistant to chipping, cracking, staining and dulling. It is specifically manufactured to be lightweight, so it is easier to handle but is still oven-safe up to 500 degrees.

Sold by Amazon

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet (10.25 Inches)

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet (10.25 Inches)

Lodge is one of the most popular and reliable cast iron companies. This skillet is perfectly sized at 10.25 inches and comes pre-reasoned with 100% natural vegetable oil. It can be used on the stove, in the oven, on the grill or even over a campfire.

Sold by Amazon, Home Depot, Staples and Wayfair

MegaChef Cast Iron Skillet Set with Lids

MegaChef Cast Iron Skillet Set with Lids

This nine-piece cast iron set from MegaChef comes with three cast iron skillets: one 10-inch, one 8-inch and one 6-inch. Each skillet has a clear lid and a red silicone handle for added protection.

Sold by Home Depot and Wayfair

Lodge Cast Iron Three-Skillet Bundle

Lodge Cast Iron Three-Skillet Bundle

This versatile set of cast iron skillets from Lodge comes with a 12-inch skillet, a 10.25-inch skillet and an 8-inch skillet. Each skillet is pre-seasoned with 100% vegetable oil and contains no chemicals or synthetic coating.

Sold by Amazon

Food Network Cast-Iron Mini Skillet (5-Inches)

Food Network Cast-Iron Mini Skillet (5-Inches)

If you just require a tiny skillet, this 5-inch model should fit your needs. It is oven-safe up to 500 degrees, arrives pre-seasoned and has two pouring spouts for convenience.

Sold by Kohl’s

 

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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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