Best Cast Iron Skillets 2022: Lodge, Staub, Smithey (Tested & Reviewed)

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Cast iron skillets have a devoted following like no other cookware. And we’re not surprised: they’re durable, versatile, virtually non-stick and last so long that they can literally be passed down from generation to generation.

There’s only one million-dollar question: What’s the best cast iron skillet money can buy? To find out, I tested the most popular options, including skillets that cost less than $30 as well as high-quality, hand-forged skillets that cost hundreds. What did I learn? For starters my neighbors like, love free cornbread (although I’m not totally surprised because everyone loves cornbread). Also there are at at of great cast iron skillets, each with their own nuances to suit different cooking preferences.

Let’s take a look at the winners.

The best cast iron skillets

And now for all the details of our testing methodology, along with shopping and maintenance tips, click the links below.

Best Overall Cast Iron Skillet: Lodge Chef Collection Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

This classic Lodge skillet is a joy to use and cook in. It browns food beautifully and has an auxiliary handle for ease of use. It’s lighter than the other cast iron skillets I’ve tested (right at my ideal cut-off weight of 6.5 pounds!), making it easier to lift and maneuver on the stovetop. The frying pan has high, curved sides that help to keep ingredients inside, while still providing easy access for turning food. The frying pan has two pouring spouts, so you can use whatever is more convenient while cooking, and a long, sturdy handle that fits well in your hand. In short, this Lodge skillet has everything you need in a cast iron skillet and nothing you don’t.

Who is it best for: Anyone who wants a great, simple cast iron skillet that will last for years.
Good to know: It also comes in 10-inch and 8-inch sizes.

Best Splurge Cast Iron Skillet: Smithey Ironware Co. No. 12 cast iron skillet

If you want to splurge on a cast iron skillet, Smithey Ironware is the one to get. This handmade skillet arrived with a beautiful, almost caramel-colored surface, which released and browned food beautifully. After searing steak, the surface became blotchy, though the company says this is normal and over time it will “start to develop a mature (darker) layer of seasoning.” Like fine wine, cast iron gets better over time!

Best budget cast iron skillet: Lodge 12-inch cast iron skillet

For the price, you can’t go wrong with this skillet from Lodge. It browns food thoroughly and easily builds and maintains its flavor. It’s pre-seasoned and gets even better with time – nothing stuck at all by the end of testing!

Who is it best for: Anyone who wants to spend as little money as possible on a great cast iron casserole.
Good to know: It comes in many different sizes, from 3.5 to 15 inches.

Best Lightweight Cast Iron Skillet: Lodge Blacklock Triple Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

If you find cast iron skillets too heavy (and there are many), this lighter offering from Lodge is a good option. Weighing about two pounds less than other models, this skillet is much easier enough to pick up and move around, even when it’s full of food (you know, like cornbread).

Who is it best for: Anyone who finds traditional cast iron skillets too heavy.
Good to know: It comes in three larger sizes, up to 14.5 inches, with the 10.5-inch version being one of the Kitchn’s favorite cast iron skillets.

Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillet: Staub Enameled Cast Iron Casserole

Staub makes one of our favorite enameled cast iron Dutch ovens, so it’s no surprise their cast iron skillet is fantastic too. It browns food nicely; has two spouts; has a comfortable, ergonomic handle; and has high, slanted sides that both contain food and make it easily accessible.

Who is it best for: Anyone who is excited to try out cast iron cookware but is intimidated by the seasoning process. (Though I’ll argue that it’s not an either-or situation and most home cooks can benefit from both – more on that reasoning here.)
Good to know: The 12-inch skillet comes in 6 colors, as well as 10-inch and 11-inch sizes.

How we tested the best cast iron skillets

How we evaluated the best cast iron skillets

I rated all skillets on the following criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best):

What makes cast iron so great?

Before we get into the testing methodology, here it is Why I think you should have (and use!) a cast iron skillet

What to look for when buying a cast iron skillet

Cast iron is naturally heavy, but its weight is what makes it such a superstar for tanning. Thick, heavy cast iron skillets conduct and retain heat, which translates to an even, thorough browning. Conversely, lighter options tend to cook more unevenly because they just don’t have the same amount of material mass to retain heat as well. In my testing, skillets weighing 6.5 pounds and above performed best; they browned steak, skin-on salmon, and cornbread evenly and deeply.

Differences in surface structure

The high-quality, hand-forged skillets I tested (like this stunner from Smithey Ironware Co.) had smooth surfaces. Others, like Lodge’s, have softly textured, pebble-like surfaces. Both cook wonderfully and were virtually non-stick by the end of the test. A few of the skillets I tested had a super rough texture, which I can’t recommend because food stuck to them more and it was harder to retain their flavor.

How easy is the frying pan to use?

There are several factors that make a skillet easier to use (and some don’t): the height of the walls, the design of the handle, the number of pouring spouts, and whether or not it has an auxiliary handle.

Frying pans with sides about 2 inches high are ideal (shorter and they don’t hold food easily; too much bigger and it makes it harder to maneuver a spatula into the pan or flip a salmon fillet).

As for the handle design, sturdy handles feel more secure and are easier to pick up. Handles with intricate designs or with openings are more difficult and uncomfortable to hold.

And as for the pouring spouts, some skillets have none, some have one, some have two, and one brand I tested had eight (!!!). Having two spouts was most helpful when pouring sauces, oil, and ingredients from the skillet, whether you’re right or left-handed. I also prefer skillets that have some kind of auxiliary handle, which makes it more comfortable to maneuver around the stovetop or in and out of the oven.

What size skillet should you get?

For this test, I focused on 12-inch skillets. This is the ideal size if you often cook for four or make recipes for four people. A 10-inch skillet is great if you usually cook for two to three. If you hesitate between two sizes, go bigger. You can always make less food in a 12-inch skillet, but not more food in a 10-inch skillet.

Is cast iron or enameled cast iron better?

Personally, I think it’s worth having both. But here’s the caveat: If you want the heat-retaining properties of cast iron but don’t want to worry about preserving the seasoning, an enameled cast-iron skillet (like my best pick from Staub) is a great option. You can wash it with all the detergent you want and don’t have to worry about drying it on the stove or rubbing oil on the surface like you would with traditional cast iron. Acidic ingredients can also affect the flavor of traditional cast iron, but not enameled cast iron, making the latter a better choice for pan sauces or simmering meatballs in tomato sauce.

That said, enameled cast iron does not become non-stick with more use and is less durable than traditional cast iron, as the enamel coating can chip or crack over time.

Why you should trust us

I am a professional kitchen appliance tester and former tool editor here at Kitchn. I’ve worked at America’s Test Kitchen before, and my reviews on such topics as stand mixers, induction burners, toaster ovens, and multicookers have been published in Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, and on the America’s Test Kitchen website. My work has also been featured on America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country television programs. I also happen to love cast iron cookware.

Kitchn’s best list promise

We’ll do our homework and go wild with our tests. But we’ll condense the information into easy, light-hearted summaries so you can see what we chose and why, then move on with your life. Because we know you’re busy!

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