The 5 Best Cast Iron Skillets to Last a Lifetime

After rigorous testing, Lodge's pre-seasoned classic cast iron skillet still reigns supreme.

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Best Cast Iron Skillets

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

A cast iron skillet is an affordable kitchen workhorse that lasts, and many cooks have owned their cast iron skillets for years. James Beard Award-winning Southern cookbook author and chef Virginia Willis inherited her grandmother's skillet, which she estimates is 100 years old. "When I moved from New York and drove the car down, I put the jewelry, the unreplaceable art, and the cast iron skillet in my car.”

Willis uses her skillet so often that she washes it and puts it right back on the stovetop after use. "Mine is so old and well-seasoned that it can cook anything," she said. "It's a great metal, it heats up fast, and it holds an even heat. It's fairly inexpensive, whether you get a brand new Lodge pre-seasoned pan or find one at a garage sale or a thrift store. It would be one of the first pans I would suggest to anyone building a kitchen.”

Chef Willis is certainly not alone in her love of cast iron cookware. We love cast iron so much that we wrote a complete guide to owning it and have a collection of recipes you may want to try. To find the best cast iron skillets, our lab of experts rigorously tested 18 pans to observe their heat conduction, retention, and distribution. The bottom line? Lodge’s Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet reigned supreme. Read on for our other top-rated picks, plus a few helpful insights on cast iron cleaning and care.

Best Overall

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron


Pros: Testers loved the large helper handle and how easy it was to control the skillet.

Cons: The pour spout on the skillet is relatively tiny, and there were small drips when pouring.

Lodge's 10.25-inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet performed as well as you'd expect, given the brand’s global recognition as a cast iron benchmark. Testers found that this skillet provided the most even browning, and they also found that cornbread was easy to turn out using the included silicone handle. The Lodge was easy-to-clean, and any debris left inside the pan was quickly wiped away with warm water. Neither pork nor cornbread got stuck in the Lodge, and testers were pleased with its performance with how it cooks evenly due to its consistent heat distribution. The price point makes this skillet affordable for most households and a great housewarming gift or present for anyone starting a new chapter.

Price at time of publish: $41

  • Diameter: 10.25 inches
  • Depth: 2 inches
  • Weight: 4.29 pounds
Lodge 10.25-Inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

Russell Kilgore

Best Value

Camp Chef 10” Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

Camp Chef 10” Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet


Pros: The skillet provided a consistently even sear on pork, and the color was an even golden brown.

Cons: The cast iron skillet struggled to heat evenly during heat conduction testing.

Testers found the regularly sized handle on Camp Chef’s 10-inch Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet to be comfortable to hold thanks to its curvature, though the helper handle was a bit too small. The handle also came in handy when flipping out cornbread and taking the pan out of the oven. Testers called it the easiest to use out of all the tested models. Given its performance, testers also loved the value, given that this was the most inexpensive cast iron skillet on our list. This skillet also provided even heating, with consistent temperatures throughout the center and edges of the pan. It's an overall sturdy cast iron skillet that cooks evenly.

Price at time of publish: $22

  • Diameter: 10 inches
  • Depth: 5 inches
  • Weight: 5 pounds
Camp Chef 10-Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

Russell Kilgore

Best Splurge

Butter Pat Industries Heather Cast Iron Skillet

cast iron pan bake test

David Kukin/The Spruce Eats

Pros: The handle performed well in our tests and was incredibly easy to clean with soapy water.

Cons: The flat handle makes it hard to hold one-handed since it doesn't conform to the hand very well.

Overall, the Butter Pat Heather 10-inch Skillet performed well with some exceptions. During our tests, the Butter Pat pan maintained consistent temperatures. The pork chop got crispy brown edges with a little less color in the center during the searing test. Our lab loved the large pour spout, which makes it easy to pour oil from the skillet. The skillet has a smart textured interior design that funnels oil or batter to the spout cleanly. Testers also loved how easy the pan was to handle, thanks to its comfortable grip.

Price at time of publish: $215 

  • Diameter: 10 inches
  • Depth: 1.875 inches
  • Weight: 4.8 pounds
Butter Pat Heather 10-Inch Skillet

Russell Kilgore

Most Versatile

Stargazer 10.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Stargazer 10.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet


Pros: The skillet maintained its nonstick coating, so there was minimal sticking during tests.

Cons: The temperature was consistent at first but became uneven during tests.

The Stargazer 10.5-inch Cast Iron Skillet was easy to use and control. The large helper handle with a wide opening makes the skillet sit nicely in hand, and the curvature makes it easy to use one-handed. The smooth, flat bottom of the pan allowed any stuck-on debris to release quickly with soap and a scrubber. Testers called this an incredibly versatile and top-performing cast iron skillet and recommend this for home cooks who want a fancy pan that gets the job done. In our tests, the cornbread was cooked evenly and released from the cast iron pan with one tap, though the searing on the pork loin was uneven in sections.

Price at time of publish: $115 

  • Diameter: 10.5 inches
  • Depth: 2 inches
  • Weight: 5.2 pounds
Stargazer 10.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Russell Kilgore

Best Lightweight

Lodge 10.25-Inch Lightweight Cast Iron Skillet

Lodge 10.25 Inch Lightweight Cast Iron Skillet

Pros: This skillet is lightweight, easy to clean, and easy to keep seasoned.

Cons: Testers found the slightly smaller helper handle and pour spouts to be a design drawback.

The Lodge Blacklock Triple-Seasoned Cast Iron Pan is the brand's higher-end cast iron skillet. The aesthetics match the traditional Lodge look with an homage to the brand's roots. Testers found this pan incredibly lightweight, and the width and sturdiness of the main handle made it easy to hold with one hand. Although a helper handle is included with this pan, it’s quite a bit smaller and thinner than other models tested and didn’t provide much support when inverting cornbread. Testers also found the pour spouts to be a bit too small to promote a smooth and consistent pour. This skillet is at the higher end of the Lodge cast iron price range, but testers still said it is a reliable, lightweight pan that performs well for most cooking tasks.

Price at time of publish: $60 

  • Diameter: 10.25 inches
  • Depth: 2.5 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
Lodge 10.25-Inch Blacklock Triple-Seasoned Cast Iron Pan

Russell Kilgore

Our Favorite

Our Best Overall winner was the Lodge 10.25-Inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, which is no surprise given the brand's reputation for inexpensive, quality cast iron skillets that stand the test of time. We also loved the versatility of the Stargazer 10.5-inch Cast Iron Skillet.

The Tests

In our tests, we sought to evaluate each of the 18 skillets based on their heat conduction, heat retention, and heat distribution. We assessed how quickly and evenly they heated on the stovetop, and then measured the temperature at the center and edge of the pan Our testers seared pork loin pieces to observe the cast iron's performance when searing at high heat to evaluate consistency in temperature and more. To test the cast iron skillet’s pour spout performance and the maneuverability of its design and handles, we made cornbread. Our testers also noted how easy each skillet was to clean, season, and handle since cast iron pans are notoriously heavier than other everyday skillets.

Stargazer 10.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Russell Kilgore

Factors to Consider


Cast iron skillets come in various finishes, such as bare, seasoned, and enameled cast iron. We saved the enameled cast iron pans for another roundup. Most of our recommendations are pre-seasoned, but you’ll want to check the listing to be sure. Also, ensure that your cast iron is safe for glass or induction stoves if you have one, as some are not.


Cast iron skillets come in various sizes, ranging from 5-inch miniature pans to 15-inch options. Chef Willis recommends a 10-inch cast iron skillet for most households, as it provides enough diameter for everyday tasks like making pancakes, frying chicken, and baking cakes. "I like something I can use to make tried and true buttermilk cornbread but can also use to roast a small chicken or sear two pork chops," she said.

Care and maintainence

Wash your cast iron with water and soap after each use and air dry. It's good to get into the habit of oiling your cast iron after it is washed and dried after use. Neutral oils rather than olive oil are preferred. A cast iron chainmail scrubber is another easily washable tool you can reuse and pop in the dishwasher to remove stubborn bits. If your cast iron rusts or you have other issues, we've got an article to help. Some may think cast iron is indestructible, but Willis reminds us it is not shatterproof. In her experience, she's had cast iron pans crack from stress fractures during use and suggests treating your pans very carefully. "It is a molten thing, and it's not stainless steel," she said. "If you look at its durability, it's just not as strong as stainless steel. A cast iron pan can crack and shatter."

Ease of use

Maneuverability is a consideration when choosing cast iron. You want to pay attention to features that help make cooking a cleanup easier, such as handles and pour spouts. The length of a handle and the addition of helper handles are all key considerations. If you have a smaller hand, for instance, shorter handles are a better choice. A helper handle you will be doing anything that requires you to pour ingredients out of the cast-iron skillet. And it is important to pay attention to how well the pour spout performs. We considered all of these factors during testing to ensure these cast iron skillets perform.

Stargazer 10.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Russell Kilgore

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Do I need to pre-season a cast iron skillet?

    It depends on the manufacturer, so check the specifications. Most skillets come pre-seasoned, but you need to keep it up after repeated use. Even when it is pre-seasoned, cast iron is not non-stick, despite some misconceptions. "Cast iron won’t provide the kind of nonstick like the infomercials you see, but it can be virtually nonstick if you use oil," Willis said.

  • Can I use soap when I wash my cast iron skillet?

    There is some debate about whether or not you should use soap on your cast iron. "I wash mine in hot soapy water and then thoroughly dry it with a cloth,” Willis said. "That's the way my grandmother did it, and I just think not washing the skillet is unsanitary." If the pan looks dry, she’ll apply a light coating of mineral oil and place it in a cooling oven to ensure any residual moisture is gone. If she finds caked-on bits, she uses salt as a natural scrub.

  • What foods should not be cooked in a cast iron skillet?

    Willis recommends avoiding slow-cooking acidic items in cast iron, though she sometimes uses a squeeze of fresh lemon to finish a dish of pork chops. Willis recommends using enameled cast iron if you want to make something super acidic, like a slow-cooked tomato sauce.

Lodge 10.25-Inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

Russell Kilgore

What Didn't Make the List

Strong Contenders

  • Marquette Castings Skillet ($250 at Marquette)
  • Cuisinel Cast Iron Skillet ($23 at Amazon)
  • Calphalon Cast Iron Skillet ($50 at Calphalon)
  • Utopia Kitchen Cast Iron Skillet ($17 at Amazon)

Results Still Simmering

  • Field Company Cast Iron Skillet ($67 at Field Company)
  • Lodge Chef Collection ($34 at Lodge)
  • Victoria Cast Iron Skillet ($25 at Amazon)
  • Lancaster Cast Iron Skillet ($175 at Amazon)
  • Lodge Pro-Logic Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet ($70 at Amazon)

Low Performers

  • Nest Homeware Cast Iron Skillet ($155 at Nest)  
  • Amazon Basics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet ($29 at Amazon
  • Smithey Traditional Cast Iron Skillet ($160 at Food52)
  • Finex Cast Iron Skillet ($250 at Amazon

Our Expertise

Jennifer Zyman is a Senior Commerce Writer for Food & Wine and a former restaurant critic with a culinary school degree and over 15 years of food writing experience. Her work has appeared in Atlanta Magazine, Bon Appetit, Eater Atlanta, The Kitchn, Local Palate, National Geographic, Simply Recipes, Southern Living, and Thrillist. To write this story, she used research and expert advice from James Beard Award Winning cookbook author and chef Virginia Willis. 

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