Learn the basics of owning a cast iron pan and which brands will last a lifetime.

By Kristin Donnelly and Katie Macdonald
Updated November 24, 2019
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Credit: Johnny Miller

A cast iron pan is an essential piece of equipment for any cook. It not only transitions from grill to stovetop to oven with ease, but it’s versatile enough to sear steaks and seafood or bake fluffy frittatas and cakes. Plus, the skillets are practically indestructible (especially if you know how to clean and handle them).

But not all cast iron is created equal—you’ll want something that won’t only last, but improve with time. So to help you find the best cast iron skillet for your needs, we turned to reviews from real customers who have purchased and tried these products for themselves. What we found were eight skillets so beloved, customers couldn’t stop raving about them.

Whether you are looking for a budget-friendly buy or are to invest in the next family heirloom, these best-selling pans all have near-perfect ratings and enthusiastic reviews describing why they’re so great—so you can trust they belong in your kitchen.

Here are the eight best cast iron skillets, according to customer reviews:

Keep reading to learn more about what to look for when selecting a cast iron skillet, and shop the high-performance pans customers love the most.

How can you tell if a cast iron skillet is good?

Cast iron heats slowly, but thoroughly, staying hot far longer than stainless steel pans. They also can withstand the high temperatures of an oven or grill, making them great kitchen workhorses. Here are a couple of things to look for:

A Seasoned Surface

All regular cast-iron pans require periodic seasoning to develop a nonstick coating; to season, coat the inside of the pan with oil and heat it in the oven for an hour. The more a skillet is used and seasoned, the less food will stick, so cookware connoisseurs seek out vintage pans. Today, many new cast-iron skillets are pre-seasoned at the factory.

Straight Sides

Skillets with nearly straight sides hold oil better for deep-frying and have more surface area for searing.

Helper Handles

Because cast-iron skillets are heavy, their handles are usually short, so the pan is easier to pick up. Some styles have a second, U-shaped helper handle that allows the cook to lift the skillet with two hands.

Caring for Cast Iron

Soap removes a regular cast-iron pan’s seasoning, so it’s best to scrub solely with a brush or abrasive sponge and hot water, while the pan is still warm. To prevent rust, set the skillet over a burner on low heat so water can evaporate, then wipe the interior with a few drops of vegetable oil.

Now, here are our picks.

Best Overall: Lodge 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Lodge is a giant in the cast iron world, and for good reason. Founded in 1896 by Joseph Lodge in Tennessee, the company has gained a dedicated following over the decades because of its quality but affordable cast iron cookware. Today, it still produces American-made cast iron skillets in nearly every size you can imagine, from extra small for personal cookie skillets to large 15-inch pans for crowd-pleasing casseroles. For most cooks, the company’s standard 12-inch skillet is the everyday essential guaranteed to become a family heirloom.

Big enough to roast a whole chicken or sear multiple steaks at once, it features both an assist handle and a silicone holder that protects from heat up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It comes pre-seasoned for a natural, easy-release (although seasoning it wouldn’t hurt).

Over 3,000 customers have rated the skillet five stars, praising its heat distribution, versatility, and durability.

“The Lodge pan is solid, and heavy,” a user wrote. “I did my due diligence and read up on how to use and care for an iron pan, and to be honest, it is no worse than taking care of any other pan. It cleans up super easily, and after a few uses, it has proven to be just about as non-stick as any of my non-stick pans, but cooks better, more evenly, browns nicely, and cleanup is a breeze. I clean it like any other pan, with some mild dish soap and a plastic scrub, dry it, then apply a very light coat of oil before storing it. That's it. No magic. It just works, and it is such a joy to cook on. If you've been shying away from getting a good cast iron pan, I wholeheartedly recommend this one as a good starter. This will cover most of your daily cooking needs.”

To buy: $26; amazon.com

Best Enameled: Milo Ultimate Skillet

Credit: Courtesy of Milo

There are two main kinds of cast-iron skillets: regular and enameled. While traditional cast iron skillets build up a nonstick seasoning over time, the enameled kind is more stick-resistant out of the box; plus, it won’t react with acidic ingredients like tomatoes, which can make food taste metallic. However, metal utensils can chip the enamel.

With up-and-coming startup Milo, you get the quality of versatile enameled cookware at a fraction of the cost you see from traditional cookware brands. Its Ultimate Skillet is coated with glassy enamel, and can handle temperatures as high as 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Milo customers rave about both the enameled skillet and the company’s Dutch oven, with nearly 400 ratings it has a perfect five stars. They praise both the cookware’s quality as well as Milo’s lifetime guarantee.

“I bought this because I have only standard seasoned cast skillets and griddles and a couple cheap enameled Dutch ovens,” a shopper wrote. “I LOVE to cook. I cook everything from scratch-sourdough bread, soups, stews, casseroles, pies, even pie crusts. I grow my own vegetables and herbs. I try to stay as traditional and natural as possible. I have to say that I am glad that I can cook acidic foods (tomatoes & citrus heavy sauces) without worrying about losing or weakening any of my seasoning on my traditional cast. Nothing sticks, it heats evenly and retains heat. It's heavy and solid like you would expect from Staub or Le Creuset but it doesn't cost $250+. The enamel on the outside is smooth and even while the inside is a bit more sandy in texture. I was worried about the texture but it doesn't do anything to disappoint. You'll love this skillet!”

To buy: $65; cookwithmilo.com

Best High-End Pick: Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Few brands inspire loyalty and excitement quite like Le Creuset. The French company is celebrated for its ultra-high-quality cast iron, and its enameled cast iron pans are no exception. Cast individually in sand molds and hand-inspected by experts, the skillets feature a black enamel interior that needs no additional seasoning. What’s more, the enameled cast iron also provides superior heat retention compared to other nonstick skillets and is dishwasher-safe for simpler cleanup. Le Creuset’s skillets also feature a large loop helper handle for easy lifting (even with oven mitts!), as well as spouts on two sides for drip-free pouring. Choose from a wide variety of colors, including vibrant cherry or chic oyster.

Thousands of shoppers swear by the heirloom-quality of Le Creuset, including hundreds who rate the skillet five stars on Amazon. Reviewers talk about how durable and beautiful their Le Creuset skillets are, saying it’s worth the price.

“I was reading a review about this pan, and couldn't believe the price,” a user wrote. “Who pays this much for a cast iron pan? Well, add me to the converts. First of all, it's gorgeous to look at. Love the enamel outside, in 'flame' coloring. It is easy to handle with a nice grip, and a good weight balance. The cast-iron itself is just smooth and beautiful. Super easy to clean (I bought the nylon brush by Le Creuset). I use it for all sorts of jobs, from searing steak, cooking pork chops or frying dover sole. For example, when I make my pork chops, I cook them 4 minutes either side in the pan, and then transfer the whole thing into the oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. This thing is beast mode. You can do almost anything with it. The price tag? I get it. Honestly, I wish it was cheaper, but it's like buying the Rolls Royce of skillets. I expect I will be using this for the next 30 years, as long as I maintain the seasoning.”

To buy: $200 (originally $260); amazon.com

Best Vintage-Inspired Skillet: Smithey Ironware No. 10 Cast Iron Skillet

Credit: Courtesy of Smithey Ironware Co.

Cast iron cookware really can last for generations, and, consequently, there’s a reverence for vintage pieces. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Smithey Ironware began with founder Issac Morton’s passion for restoring rusty old cookware to its former 19th-century glory. After years of developing his expertise, he decided to create a new line of cast iron cookware that combined those classic techniques with modern technology. The result is a beautiful pan made with heavy-gauge iron and expertly polished, nonstick surface. Its three-finger handle is easy to grasp, and it features holes on both sides for hanging.

The skillets have an avid fan-base, with hundreds commenting on Instagram posts showing what goes on behind the scenes at the company. “Had the absolute pleasure of cooking in these gorgeous pieces of artwork this past week at a clients home and I can’t say enough positive things about your product!” one shopper wrote. “I used all 3 sizes and loved them! Can’t wait for you to add to your product line!”

To buy: $160; smithey.com

Best for Beginners: FINEX 10-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

For new cooks looking to get a handle on cast iron pans, the 10-inch Finex is a great start. Its unique octagonal shape makes for easier pouring or removing your masterpieces with a spatula, while its spiraled stainless-steel handle remains cool to the touch. Like other skillets, it’s pre-seasoned, but also has a machine-smoothed surface for easy release. And if you like baking, it has an extra-thick base for stellar heat distribution.

Amazon shoppers love their FINEX pans for looks and performance, calling them investment pieces. It’s no wonder they’ve earned a 4.6-star rating. “As advertised, this is a thing of beauty and perfect function,” a customer wrote. “Received it today, wiped it down with a damp cloth, dropped in some butter, fried 4 eggs. Slightly nudged them loose with a spatula after they set up and zero sticking after that. Followed it up with a salmon omelette, no sticking and no residue! Cleaned up with a couple swipes of a damp cloth. First meal was on electric burner, second on induction range. I’m blown away and am elated with my investment. Not only is this the best raw cast iron pan I have used by far, it significantly outperformed my Le Creuset enameled cast iron pan, which I will be donating to my neighbor as I can not foresee using again in light of my new workhorse.”

To buy: $180; amazon.com

Best for Camping: Field Cast Iron Skillet

Credit: Courtesy of Field Company

Every morning should start with eggs and bacon, even if you’re in the great outdoors. Thankfully, cast iron cookware is durable enough to handle the open flames of a campfire, making it an indispensable tool while camping. And for a skillet that won’t weigh you down, go for Field’s cast iron. Its 8-inch pan is big enough to fit four fried eggs or two New York strip steaks, but only weighs 4.5 pounds.

Over 1,000 reviewers have rated Field skillets five stars on the company’s website, saying it’s ultra-smooth and a modern heirloom. “This pan has the very smooth interior finish similar to the old, collector pans made by Griswold. The Field pan is lighter and a delight to hold. We are just starting to use it but I anticipate that it will only get better. This pan is the ONLY currently made pan I would say is in the league with the hard to find vintage pans of 60-80 years past. And again, these are lighter. More Field pans will become my presents to the younger generation in my family and those of my dear friends. A wedding is coming up so I think another purchase is in order!”

To buy: $125; fieldcompany.com

Best for Frying: Lodge Cast Iron Covered Deep Skillet

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

If you’re craving fried chicken or homemade potato chips, consider this option from Lodge your perfect skillet. It’s deep enough to safely hold bubbling oil and includes a lip to retain moisture. Plus cast iron gets and stays hotter than other materials, which translates into the crispiest, golden crust you’ve ever cooked.

Amazon shoppers call the skillet an incredibly durable multitasker, leaving it an impressive 4.7 rating. “If you can only have one piece of cast iron in your kitchen, this would be the one,” a user said. “It can do duty as a skillet, soup pot, dutch oven, baking pan and flipped over works as a griddle. I have made soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, roasts, bacon & eggs, [omelets], cherry & peach cobbler, hotcakes, pineapple upside down cake and of course fried chicken in this fryer. Brown your chicken in batches then pile it all in, slap on the lid and put it in the oven (or fire) to finish. The lid has just enough lip to hold coals when baking and seals tight enough to keep debris out of the pot. I have a small round wire rack that fits in the bottom of the pan and use it to steam large crustaceans (mostly dungeness crab) with corn and potatoes. It's just the right size for a New England crab feed for two. I have a lot of cast iron cookware, but this one is the most versatile and probably the most used.”

To buy: $45; amazon.com

Best for Grilling: Lodge 10.5-Inch Square Cast Iron Grill Pan

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

You don’t need to go outside to grill. Just grab this cast iron pan from Lodge and you’re on your way to a juicy charred burger or gorgeous steaks. You can use it on any cooktop, including induction, and its high sides will protect you (and your countertops) from splatters. What’s more, it is designed with high ridges to leave those beautiful grill marks on your food.

Over 2,800 Amazon customers have given the square pan a five-star rating, praising its heavy-duty design and heat distribution. “What's not to love? It's built to last,” a reviewer said. “It creates perfect grill marks on my food. The square-ish shape nicely accommodates two decent size steaks. Personally I prefer my steaks grilled over charcoal, but that violates my rental agreement because someone thinks it's a fire hazard. Well, at least I have this pan. As far as indoor grilling goes, it really does an impressive job. Time to retire the inferior electric grills. I will be happy to have one less kitchen appliance taking up valuable storage space.”

To buy: $19; amazon.com