You probably know someone who swears by their cast iron skillet. It's one kitchen staple that seems to inspire passion—perhaps more so than any other type of pot or pan. So what is it about cast iron skillets that that is so newsworthy? And if you're thinking of getting one of your own, which one should you buy?
Cast iron cookware is excellent for foods that need to get hot and stay hot. Because its bare cast iron construction is solid and durable, it can withstand high temperatures either on the stovetop or in the oven, and it has excellent heat retention, so it works well for dishes that need to cook for extended periods of time. Well-seasoned cast iron cookware also has a natural non-stick surface.
These features make cast iron skillets and griddles excellent for fried or braised dishes as well as egg dishes. It's also perfect for any dish that starts on the stovetop and then goes into the oven for more cooking. Cast iron pans can even be used for deep dish pizza or baking pies!
Cast iron is also excellent for soups, stews, and even breads. While this article focuses on cast iron pans, you may also be interested in cast iron pots to round out your cast iron possibilities. Check out our article on 6 Best Dutch Ovens of 2017 for help completing your cast iron cookware set.
It's a common misconception that cast iron cookware can't be cleaned with regular dish soap. The best way to keep your cast iron clean and food-safe is to rinse with soapy water, just like any other pan. The difference is simply that you need to take extra care after rinsing to make sure the pan neither rusts nor loses its non-stick seasoning.
After cleaning with dish soap and water, it's important to make sure that no water remains on or in the pan, as this can cause the iron to rust. You may choose to dry the pan by heating gently on the stovetop or in the oven. In order to help preserve the pan's coating, it also helps to add a very thin layer of oil (such as olive oil) to the inside of the pan once any water has evaporated.
If you need to re-season the pan for any reason, you can coat the inside of the pan in a thin layer of oil, drain off any excess, then bake upside-down in an oven set to 350°F for about 30 minutes to an hour. We recommend placing a sheet pan covered in foil on the rack below the pan to catch any oil drips.
So now that you know why cast iron is great, let's go over which cast iron is great. Here are our recommendations for cast iron pans, griddles, and accessories for 2017.
There's more than a few cast iron skillets to choose from out there, but this T-Fal pan is our top pick. It's oven safe up to 600°F and we find it to have a better nonstick pre-seasoning out of the box than either Lodge or Utopia Kitchen—the other top affordable picks on the market right now.
Though T-Fal gets our pick for best skillet, Lodge is certainly the biggest kid on the cast iron playground, and the breadth of options they offer is hard to beat. We particularly like this shallow round griddle pan for classic breakfast options like pancakes, crepes, eggs, and bacon. It's also nice for thin-crust skillet pizzas.
Another option from Lodge, this reversible oblong grill and griddle pan deserves a spot on our list because it's perfect for foodies who want that outdoor grill feel without the outdoor grill cost and hastle. This grill pan comes with ridges on one side so you can get those gorgeous grill lines while searing meats to perfection.
The one major downside to cooking with cast iron is that, because it retains heat so well, it can quickly get too hot to handle. That's why we recommend getting one of these silicone handles specifically designed for cast iron skillets. These handles are not suitable for leaving on the cast iron as your food cooks, but they are perfect for quick stovetop adjustments or for transferring a skillet in and out of the oven.
Lodge's entire claim to fame is cast iron, so it's no wonder they also make some of the best cast iron accessories. These simple scrapers are durable and easy to use—perfect for getting stuck-on foods out of your precious cast iron cookware. They also make ridged pan scrapers for griddle pans with grill ridges.
What's your favorite thing to make in the cast iron? Any tips for new cast iron owners? Share it with us in the comments!