The 10 Best Cast-Iron Skillets, From Lodge to Victoria to Stargazer
What’s the pan for you? Here’s our guide to stalwarts and newcomers alike.
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Cast-iron cookware has been on a comeback tour in American kitchens since the turn of the century. As home cooks reconsider where their food comes from, so too are they considering the origins of their cooking equipment. Consequently, the cast-iron skillet has become a paragon of longevity, intentionality and, much of the time, American manufacturing. But the most mystifying thing about the hefty pans is how often people misunderstand them.
There are endless reasons to buy yourself a cast-iron skillet: they can last generations, unlike nonstick pans which get trashed every few years; they can handle all types of cooking situations from stovetops to campfires, unlike often more expensive stainless steel; and they’re the vessel by which some of the most satisfying recipes are made, from perfectly seared meat to crispy pizzas to spicy shakshuka. Recently, however, it seems many people are latching onto the negatives: the idea that they’re heavy, hard to clean, a pain to maintain and not easy to cook with.
The thing about those drawbacks is that they’re not actually true — at least they don’t need to be. Cast iron is not a monolith. While cookware companies back in the 19th century stuck to a similar formula, the benefit of the material’s resurgence in the 21st century is that companies are innovating, designing skillets and other cast-iron pots and pans for specific use cases. Yes, cast iron is just like every other type of cookware — you can pick which brand suits your specific needs.
Forget what you know, or think you know, about cast iron. We’ve hand selected the best and most popular companies still making the pans to this day to help you decide which skillet is right for you. (We’re specifically focusing on the frying pan that’s closest to 12 inches in diameter, which we find is the best size for most people.) Whether you want to try the latest and greatest on the market, a super lightweight skillet that needs a lot of attention, or something ready to cook out of the box, you’ll find it below.
Heritage: Family business started in 1896, made in the U.S.
The Skillet: This is the most common skillet you’re likely to run into today. The classic model from Lodge features all the hallmarks of the style — heavy build (7.89 pounds for the 12-inch), flat handle, helpful pour spouts on the sides — and the brand can be found in many big box stores like Target. It consistently scores high marks in professional reviews because it offers so much bang for your buck, and after testing it we wholeheartedly agree. It’s well pre-seasoned with vegetable oil, so you don’t need to spend time building up layers for it to offer nonstick cooking (it’s not as slick as Teflon coating, but it’s infinitely more durable), though the surface isn’t as smooth as other options due to the mass production. If you want the simplest possible cooking experience and don’t mind getting a forearm workout in the process, this is for you.
What Else They Make: If you can imagine a piece of cast-iron cookware, Lodge probably makes it (that includes bakeware and enameled pieces, like our favorite Dutch oven, though that’s not made Stateside). In the skillet department, they offer a premium line called Blacklock which offers extra seasoning, sloped sidewalls, a much lighter design and ergonomic handles, as well as the Chef Collection which acts as a sort of middleground between the two.
Heritage: Started in 2016 on Kickstarter, made in the U.S.
The Skillet: After testing out Field Company’s skillet, it feels like the polar opposite of Lodge, more than any other brand on this list. On the plus side, it’s the lightest model here at just six pounds and the cooking surface is remarkably smooth — this thing looks like a coveted piece of vintage cast iron. It’s also thinner and reacts more quickly to heat, which may be a plus or minus for your needs. On the other hand, it’s pricier (though not nearly as expensive as some other brands), doesn’t feature pour spouts and will take a long time to break in. But while that break-in period may be a downside to some, it’ll be what others are looking for: a chance to build up a well-seasoned pan that can be passed down through generations, layer by layer. If you want a pan that needs some attention, this is a fun project.
What Else They Make: Field Company released a Dutch oven in December 2020, a big expansion for them. But they also offer plenty of extras to help your cast iron along (like scrubbers and seasoning oils, which they explain in their detailed maintenance guides) as well as kitchen accoutrement like spices and tableware.
Heritage: Started in 2015, made in South Carolina
The Skillet: We like to think of Smithey as wedding gift cast iron. The South Carolina upstart makes some of the most striking pieces available today, from the signature three-hole helper handle on the end to the polished cooking surface to the quail logo; and that extends to the actual cooking, as the skillet features two pour spouts and the main handle is shaped for a better grip. According to reviews, it doesn’t heat as evenly as other brands, but it does have a reputation for providing an industry leading sear on meat, if that’s most important to you.
What Else They Make: They offer a Chef line of skillets, which is designed for easier stovetop use thanks to longer handles and curved sides. And if you think these skillets are gorgeous, check out the Dutch ovens and handmade carbon steel pieces designed with Robert Thomas, a blacksmith in their home base of Charleston.
Heritage: A private label brand from Walmart, made in China
The Skillet: By far the cheapest cast-iron skillet on this list, and it’s no secret why. Ozark Trail pans are manufactured in China, have no design frills (flat handle, miniscule pour spouts) and are the heaviest model here (this skillet weighs 10 pounds, which leads us to believe they are mass produced with little to no refining after the fact). The price is the only reason to buy these over Lodge.
What Else They Make: In terms of cast-iron cookware, you can find Ozark Trail griddles, campfire pie pans and Dutch ovens at Walmart, but the name extends to other outdoor gear ranging from sleeping bags to binoculars.
Heritage: Family business started in 1939, made in Colombia
The Skillet: Besides the country of origin being Colombia instead of the U.S., these are remarkably similar to Lodge. Both companies are still family-run affairs their wares are consistently well-reviewed, while still offering an accessible price point. Victoria’s skillet features a longer curved handle, which some home cooks may prefer for the grip and distance from the hot pan, while others may find it makes the skillet, which is otherwise relatively light at 6.7 pounds, feel heavier. These are also relatively low maintenance compared to the newer brands.
What Else They Make: Victoria started with a cast-iron grain grinder in the ‘30s, and that’s still made today, but most people will be more interested in their tortilla presses, Dutch ovens, grill pans and griddles.
Heritage: Started in 2013, made in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland
The Skillet: The second most expensive on this list, bronze-colored out of the box and shallow compared to other models. What’s going on here? In short, not only did the people behind Butter Pat want to create vintage-styled cast iron (the raison dêtre for many new players in this space), but to achieve the desired performance they created their own proprietary technique. In short, these are hand-cast close to perfection and then simply polished; they’re not finished by grinding or milling, which is commonplace. Does that lead to a pan worth the price tag? Well, Consumer Reports currently ranks it as their best performing cast-iron skillet with a score of 83 out of 100. If you’re a cast iron fan looking for companies innovating in this centuries-old technique, then you need to try Butter Pat’s creation — though you’ll likely need to get on a pre-order list.
What Else They Make: A big-ol’ cast-iron pot they call the Homer, which can fit their 10-inch Heather skillet or glass lids as a top (both of which are sold separately).
Heritage: Started in 2015, made in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania
The Skillet: If you like the idea of giving your money to a new U.S.-based company that is attempting to change the conversation around cast iron, but you aren’t keen on the higher prices and extra work, Stargazer is a great option. Their pans are more affordable than the other newfangled brands and come in on the lower end in terms of weight (this one is just 6.5 pounds). Plus, while some newcomers promise nonstick cooking, we’ve found that isn’t usually the case, especially at the beginning, though the Stargazer comes closer than most.
What Else They Make: Stargazer offers a 10.5-inch skillet and this 12-inch one. That’s it.
Heritage: Started in 2012 on Kickstarter, made in Oregon
The Skillet: Kickstarter success story? Check. Design that completely upends the status quo? Check. Legitimization that comes from being acquired by Lodge? Also check. Yes, despite its humble beginnings, Finex was bought by the king of cast iron in 2019, but it’s still staying true to its Portland roots and unique vision. Not all of the design flourishes will necessarily revolutionize your cooking experience — there are eight pour spots at the corners, but the standard two will do; and the coiled handle is meant to stay cooler, but reviews say you often still need extra protection — but for many home cooks the medium is the message. That is, most cast-iron pans can go from stovetop to oven, but a Finex can also go straight to the table.
What Else They Make: Dutch ovens, griddles and grill pans (as well as lids), featuring the signature angular design and coiled stainless-steel handles.
Heritage: Started in 2020, made in China
The Skillet: In 2020, iconoclast chef Matty Matheson teamed up with product design firm Castor to start an eponymous cookware line. The debut piece is this sleek 10-inch cast-iron pan and lid. It’s got an extra-long handle, an extended lip for basting (a design element you won’t find elsewhere) and a minimalist look that belies the man behind it. It’s a buzzy piece of cookware that is currently sold out, but expect them to start taking more orders soon. Be aware that while it’s designed in Canada and the signature pan of a Canadian chef, these are manufactured in China and we don’t have full specs on them yet (like the weight).
What Else They Make: This pan is it for now.
Heritage: Started in 2011, made in upstate New York
The Skillet: If your kitchen knowledge is mostly populated with wisdom from Anthony Bourdain, you may recognize Borough Furnace from a video when they received a visit from the late icon. Yes, we called the Matheson pan minimalist, but this is the real star if you’re looking for a skillet that’s impossibly clean and simple. It’s also on the lighter side, coming in at six pounds, though 10.5 inches is the largest classic skillet they offer.
What Else They Make: Bakeware, grill pans, cazuelas and Dutch ovens, including what they say is the only enameled cast-iron Dutch oven made in the U.S.
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