Cast iron cookware has been in western homes since the 14th century A.D. because they can make meals large enough for the entire family. Since then, they have been a staple in family cooking both indoors and outdoors.
Whether you’re in the market for your first cast iron skillet or looking to upgrade your current pan, learning more about cast iron cookware will convince you how much you need cast iron in your life -- and kitchen.
Cast Iron vs. Non-Stick
Polytetrafluoroethylene (also known as PTFE) is the substance which gives non-stick pans their slippery properties. When heated at temperatures upwards of 500 degrees, they release perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which can be harmful to your health. Thus, it is essential to keep an eye on your pan so that it does not overheat. Always run your overhead fan and replace any pans which are flaking or chipping.
According to research, cast iron cookware doesn't cause any health issues. They are incredibly durable so long as you keep them dry and season them often. You can use them on the stove top, in the oven, and even on the campfire. However, cast iron cookware takes longer to heat up than non-stick pans, and you cannot wash cast iron with soap and water.
How to Season Cast Iron Cookware
If you are not aware what seasoning is, we assure you that it has nothing to do with how your meal will taste! Seasoning is the act of melting a thin layer of fat onto the cast iron cookware. This fat bonds with the iron and creates a layer which emulates non-stick pans. This will keep your food from sticking, and it will keep your cookware rust-free. However, there is a lot of information on the web on which oil is best to season with and how hot your oven needs to be for your seasoning layer to stick.
There are particular fats and oils that chefs swear will keep your pan working beautifully for many, many years. While some suggest flaxseed oil is their go-to, others claim coconut oil or lard will do the trick just fine. In reality, any shortening or cooking oil will season your cast iron cookware, but there is a specific way to ensure the coating fuses with the cookware.
This process is best if you have brand new cast iron cookware and want to give it an initial layer of seasoning. First off, clean your pans thoroughly. Then spread a small amount of your preferred shortening into the pan over the entire pan (exterior, handle, etc.). Buff well and make sure the pan is no longer oily.
Then, place it face-down in a 450-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Ensure your oven has proper ventilation, as it may smoke slightly. After thirty minutes, take the pan out and re-oil it again using extra caution as the pot is now very hot. Place it back into the oven for another 30 minutes. Repeat two or three times and let the pan cool down before using it to cook.
How to Clean Cast Iron Properly
Cleaning your cast iron cookware is easy -- once you get the hang of it. You should not wash your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher, and you should avoid the use of soap and steel wool. Using these methods will remove the pan's hard-earned seasoning layer and may even cause the pan to rust.
Once you've finished cooking, take the pan off the heat and pour in some water. With a soft sponge and tongs, gently rub away the dirt while the pan is still hot. If the pan is too hot to touch, use gloves and tongs to make cleaning easier.
Should you find, pieces of food stuck to the bottom, dump the water and add sea salt to the bottom of the pan. Add a small amount of water and use a scrubbing pad (or wooden spoon) to remove the bits gently. Don't be afraid to use a scrubbing brush to get out tough food stains.
Rinse the salt and water, then place the pan over high heat to quickly evaporate any remaining water. It may be necessary to re-season your pan after a tough cleaning to keep it rust-free.
Choosing Your Cast Iron Cookware
If you’ve somehow inherited grandma’s antique cast iron cookware, treat it as though it were gold! Chances are it is well-seasoned from decades of use and will last you many, many more years. However, if you’re in the market to purchase a brand new one, here are some makes to consider.
How We Reviewed
We’ve looked far and wide on the vast plains of the world wide web to bring you four brands of cast iron cookware you should consider purchasing. We examined the specifications of each brand. Also, we looked closely at customer feedback, and we used the experiences of real users as a basis for our reviews.
- 17 INCH CAST IRON SKILLET. This seasoned cast iron skillet is ready to use and extremely versatile with a diameter of 17...
- SEASONED COOKWARE. A good seasoning makes all the difference. Lodge seasons its cookware with 100% vegetable oil; no...
- MADE IN THE USA. Lodge has been making cast iron cookware in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (pop. 3,300) since 1896. With...
Joseph Lodge founded the Lodge company in 1910. More than a century later, Lodge cast iron cookware is still going strong while run by the same family. Lodge has expanded their collection to also include stone wear, carbon steel, and enamel dutch ovens. But for this review, we’ll be taking a closer look at their cast iron cookware, particularly their cast iron skillets. Sizes range from the tiny 3.5-inch cast iron mini-skillet to the sizeable 17-inch iron skillet that is large enough to feed a growing family.
They season the 17-inch skillet with 100 percent vegetable oil with no synthetic coatings or chemicals. Manufacturing takes place in the United States, and you can use it to make practically anything from breakfast to dinner meals.
It is available on Amazon or the manufacturer's website and ranges in price from $69 to $112. Reviewers rave about having a skillet that can make large, four-people meals in one pan and also enjoy the fact that they can pick this heavy pan up using its sturdy twin handles.
The only downfall has been with small dents or scratches that probably occurred during the shipping process. Otherwise, seasoning is the single extra step you’ll have to be wary of when buying this Lodge skillet. It is rated a fantastic 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
- Square grill pan made of even-heating enameled cast iron
- The superior heat distribution and retention of le cresset enameled cast iron
- Ridges impart tasty grill marks on food and allow for lower-fat cooking
One of the most well-known and beautiful cast iron cookware brands is Le Creuset. This brand offers enameled cast iron pans which differ from traditional cast iron cookware in a few respects. Enamelled cast iron pans are available in a wide variety of colors and will not rust like cast iron cookware.
However, due to their coating, they can crack due to thermal shock -- meaning if you put a boiling hot pan into cold water, the exterior may chip. Cast iron cookware without enamel is practically bulletproof and can cook over direct heat (i.e., fire).
Le Creuset offers plenty of models, but we'll hone in on one in particular: the square skillet grill in blue. This pan's ridges are perfect for searing fatty foods as the fat will melt and drain away from the meat. Plus, the two spouts at each end makes pouring out the fats easy and mess-free.
There is also a short handle across from the long handle to move the pan from one place to another without straining. While there are not many reviews on Amazon (a mere 11), most speak very highly of Le Creuset's cookware, and it is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
This skillet costs $175 to $230 and is available from Le Creuset's website as well as online retailers such as Amazon. These pans are generally more expensive than everyday cast iron cookware but will last you just as long with the right care.
- Dress up grilled steak; fish and veggies with authentic restaurant stripes which is perfect for browning; searing;...
- Large; extra-long handle with Easy-to-grip side helper handles and signature thumb rest for easy handling
- Comes pre-seasoned for first use and includes step by step instructions for seasoning case
T-Fal (Tefal in Europe) is most famous for their non-stick cookware. However, they do have a few cast iron pieces sold in brick-and-mortar stores such as Walmart, Target, and Sears. They are also available for purchase online on Amazon. Depending on the size of the pan, T-Fal cast iron cookware ranges in price from $10 to $50.
T-Fal cast iron pans come pre-seasoned and come with instructions for seasoning after its initial use. Like most cast iron pans, it has a short handle directly across from the long one. It also has dual spouts to drain anything from fat to oil after cooking.
There are close to 6,000 reviews on Amazon about the product. However, it is important to note that these reviews are about all four pans: cast-iron nonstick in 10.25-inch and 12-inch as well as their non-stick pan in 8-inch sizes and 12.5 inches.
Overall, these pans have a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Buyers who reviewed the cast iron T-fal cast iron cookware, in particular, praise them on their durability and heat retention.
- Large cast iron skillet with curved dual handles for better leverage and easier handling. Helper handles are bigger than...
- Pre-seasoned 13 inch cast iron skillet is ready-to-use. Victoria cast iron cookware seasoned at high temperatures using...
- Cast iron pan with intricately designed pour spouts with drip-catchers for easy cleanup. Bottom and rim of the pan are...
Victoria is based in Colombia and has been a leader in cast iron cookware since 1939. They make cast iron skillets, griddles, dutch ovens, and even tortilla presses. Their cast iron pans are regarded as one of the best pots available in today's market according to several websites.
We've focused on one of their most popular pans: the 13-inch cast iron skillet (also known as the SKL-313). This high-quality cast iron pan does not have a long handle but instead has two short handles and two spouts. The spouts make it easy to remove any grease or water before serving right to the table.
The pan consists of recycled cast iron which is melted and cast to form the pan. Then, they season the pot using 100 percent non-GMO flax seed oil. This Victoria pan's handles are also wider and longer than average, plus they have a set of holes in the handles wide enough to hang on hooks.
Customers have compared Victoria to Lodge and have stated that Victoria cast iron cookware features a more ergonomic handle and weighs slightly less despite having the same diameter. However, Lodge cast iron pans can retain heat longer and manufacturing takes place in the United States.
Victoria cookware can be purchased in-store or using online retailers such as Amazon, where the product is rated a whopping 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Price & Rating
11.8 x 17 x 2 in
19.7 x 13 x 2.5 in
14 x 15 x 2.3 in
If durability is what you're after, any cast iron pot or pan will serve you loyally for years. Choosing between an enamel or plain cast iron depends on your budget as well as personal preference in regards to aesthetics. However, they both retain heat wonderfully and will cook family meals wonderfully.
If you have a personal story to tell about your decades-old cast iron cookware, share it with us the comments below!