Loved for its versatility, durability, ability to enhance the taste of your food, and beautiful aesthetics, cast iron skillets are a must-have in any kitchen. From searing steaks to perfection, baking a wholesome cornbread, making a seafood paella, or frying eggs and sausages, this cookware does it all in style. Many raw cast iron skillets are also suitable to use on all heat sources, offering chefs the convenience of cooking wherever they are; from stove tops to campfire pits, your cast iron skillet is up for the job.
The traditional cast iron skillet has been around for a long time and today has evolved to include a variety of features including enamel coatings, different surface smoothness, and other variations that cater to different preferences. With so many choices on the market today, selecting a suitable cast iron skillet for your kitchen may seem like a daunting task. In this article, you’ll find a simple guide on what to consider when finding your perfect skillet match and a list of our four favourite cast iron skillets we think you’ll love too!
What to Look for in a Cast Iron Skillet?
From the weight of your skillet to the way it looks, selecting the right cookware is crucial to elevate your dishes and make cooking a joy. Read on to get to know the various designs, surface smoothness, finishing, and weight of cast iron skillets to understand better what is right for you.
Does Weight Matter in Cast Iron Skillets?
Yes! The weight of your skillet affects the way you cook – a lighter, thinner skillet will heat up faster and make flipping pancakes, transferring food to plate, pouring liquids, and other manoeuvres easier. Cook up a storm without breaking a sweat, and transfer your skillet from stovetop to table with ease. However, a thinner skillet will also mean that your skillet will not retain heat as well as a thicker one.
A heavier and thicker cast iron skillet will retain heat better with less hot spots, thus creating better tasting dishes while retaining the nutrients of your food. The thicker skillet can also keep your food warm for longer until you’re ready to serve. On the other hand, it will take more time to heat up thicker skillets to the optimal cooking temperature.
Raw vs. Enamelled Cast Iron Skillets
While shopping for cast iron skillets, you may come across raw and enamelled cast iron versions. What do these terms mean? Both raw and enamelled cast iron skillets are essentially made from the same materials and function similarly, but each feature their own advantages and disadvantages.
Raw Cast Iron Skillets
Raw cast iron skillets come with a bare surface that needs to be seasoned to create a non-stick surface for easy food release. Seasoning your raw cast iron skillet is simple and many brands season their cast iron skillets in the manufacturing process to make it more convenient for their customers. The good news is the non-stick surface on your raw cast iron will only improve with regular use. These skillets are great for high heat cooking; sear steak and other meats to perfection and lock in the flavours of your vegetables effortlessly. With a little tender loving care, your raw cast iron skillet will last many years of use and beyond.
Enamelled Cast Iron Skillets
Enamelled cast iron cookware comes with a protective enamel coating that does not need to be seasoned. The enamel coating serves to protect your cast iron cookware from rust and makes maintaining and cleaning your skillet easier. Since there is no need to season these cookware, all you need to do is use more oil when cooking to ensure food does not stick. Better suited for low to medium heat cooking, nothing beats enamelled cast iron when it comes to slow cooking to perfection. Enamelled cast iron cookware also excels when it comes to cooking with acidic ingredients such as tomatoes, wine, or citrus fruits as it does not react to these ingredients like raw cast iron.
Rough or Smooth Skillet Surface?
Rougher skillets will take a longer time to smoothen out and develop that teflon-like non-stick surface that is really great to let eggs just slide right out. With smooth skillets, it’s possible to start frying eggs on them sooner. However, some users say that smooth skillets are tougher to season as there is less texture for the oil to adhere to. Essentially, it boils down to preferences and what you are searching for in a skillet.
Which Cast Iron Skillet Design is Right for Me?
There is lots to consider when selecting a cast iron skillet: the length of the handles and how it feels in your hand; is there a spout or none, and if there is a spout, how easy is it to pour liquids out? Ultimately, much of these features are up to personal preference and cooking style. For example, if you often deep fry foods for your meals, simply pick the skillet with deeper sides to allow for easier deep frying as opposed to shallower sides.
Our Top 4 Picks for the Best Cast Iron Skillets
Best Value for Money: Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
Constructed from highly durable cast iron, Lodge Cast Iron Skillets are much more hard wearing than enamelled French cast iron skillets. They are perfect for high heat cooking, even heat retention and distribution, and are ideal for sautéing, searing, braising, simmering, baking, roasting and frying. Made in the USA since 1896, Lodge boasts over a century of experience and is the longest-running cast iron manufacturer in the United States. Each raw cast iron skillet from the brand is pre-seasoned in the manufacturing process to be ready for use out of the box. Enjoy even heating, natural easy-release finish, and the durability to last generations when you choose Lodge.
Key Highlights of the Lodge Cast Iron Skillets:
- Exceptional high heat cooking performance and heat retention to ensure fantastic taste and presentation
- Pre-seasoned, these skillets are ready-to-use straight out of the box to offer optimal convenience
- Suitable for use on all heat sources, including induction, grills, and campfires
- Perfect for sautéing, frying, baking, and stir frying to your heart’s content
- Made in the USA
Best Lightweight Raw Cast Iron Skillet: Lodge Blacklock Cast Iron Skillets
The Lodge Blacklock Cast Iron Skillet range is named in honour of the brand’s first foundry in 1896, and is designed to answer some of the concerns faced by the brand’s customers, namely weight, hot handles and seasoning. The Blacklock range is 25% lighter than the standard Lodge skillet, but is still made with the same high quality and durable cast iron. These thinner skillets heat up quicker, and are easier to manoeuvre to make cooking a joy. The handles have also been reinvented with cutouts at the centre to allow better airflow and ensure the handles stay cooler for longer. Triple seasoned and ready to cook with their natural non-stick coating, Lodge eliminates the hassle of having to season the pans and makes them super easy to clean.
Key Highlights of the Lodge Blacklock Skillets:
- 25% lighter than standard Lodge cast iron cookware
- Heats up quicker and easier to manoeuvre
- Triple seasoned for a natural, non-stick finish
- Extended raised handle keeps handle cooler for longer
- Suitable for use on all heat sources, including induction
- Perfect for sautéing, frying, baking, stir frying up a storm
- Made in the USA
Best Enamelled Cast Iron Skillet: Le Creuset Signature Skillet
Made in France, the Le Creuset Signature Skillets feature triple enamelled construction, bright colours that can be matched with their other cookware and stoneware, and are easier to clean than raw cast iron thanks to the vitreous enamel. These gorgeous skillets are perfect for both stovetop frying and oven baking; conveniently sear your meat on the stovetop and finish with slow cooking in the oven. While the enamel coating doesn’t require seasoning, remember to only use this skillet on low to medium heat to keep the coating pristine. The skillets also feature an added helper handle and two integrated side pouring spouts to make serving and transferring food easier.
Key Highlights of the Le Creuset Signature Skillet:
- High quality cast iron construction with durable triple enamel coating that will not stain or absorb flavours and odours
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Energy efficient – cook on low to medium heat
- Suitable for use on all stovetops, including induction and oven safe
- Available in beautiful vibrant colours to match other cookware and stoneware
- Ideal for cooking eggs, steak, chicken, fish and much more
- Made in France
Best Affordable Enamelled Cast Iron Skillet: Chasseur Cast Iron Fry Pan
The Chasseur Cast Iron Fry Pan is cast from solid iron and features dual-layer enamelling for a durable and impervious cooking surface that is also rust-proof. The cookware of choice for professional chefs, this fry pan is prized for its versatility on the flame and in the oven, even heating properties, exceptional browning abilities, and the ease with which it can be used and cleaned. Similar to the Le Creuset, this enamelled fry pan is also made in France but at a more affordable price, making it the perfect choice for those looking for a high quality cast iron skillet without breaking the bank.
Key Highlights of the Chasseur Cast Iron Fry Pan:
- Durable cast iron construction with double enamel coating
- Even heat distribution, perfect for slow cooking and saving on energy
- Resistant to high temperatures for better searing performance
- Absorbs and retains heat to keep food hot
- Suitable for use on all stovetops, including induction
- Oven and dishwasher safe
- Made in France
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