The best cast-iron skillet will be with you for a lifetime, so selecting the right one is an important task. These pans are a necessity for every home cook who wants to bake perfect rounds of cornbread, fry veggies and meats on the stovetop with ease (when recipes call for a "heavy skillet," cast-iron is one of your best bets), or roast whole chickens—but also for anyone interested in owning a virtually indestructible kitchen tool that will last for generations. Cast-iron skillets are the workhorses in any cookware set, with a natural nonstick coating that builds up when properly maintained. Sure, this means they’re slightly more difficult clean than your average stainless-steel or nonstick pans, but your reward for diligent drying and seasoning is a skillet that can easily become a family heirloom—and produce tons of perfect meals along the way.
We thoroughly tested 18 of the leading cast-iron skillets at various price points, looking for the very best models on the market. Pans from legacy cast-iron cookware companies and new highly rated DTC brands went head to head as we determined which offered the best cooking experience right out of the box. Below you’ll find our top choices, as well as the specifics of how we tested, what we looked for specifically in the best cast-iron pan, and the other models we reviewed.
The best cast-iron skillet: Lancaster Cast Iron No. 8
The best budget cast-iron skillet: Victoria
Conventional versus vintage-style cast iron
How we tested
What we looked for
Other cast-iron skillets we tested
How to clean a cast-iron skillet
For a long time we were in the camp that favored inexpensive cast-iron pans like Lodge and Victoria over the upmarket vintage-style cast iron that can cost hundreds of dollars. Those low-cost brands make excellent cast-iron pans, and we still recommend them for anybody new to cast iron who wants something affordable. However, this cast-iron skillet from Lancaster Cast Iron, a small company producing beautiful cast-iron pans entirely out of southeastern Pennsylvania, proved to us that even something great has plenty room for improvement.
If you are accustomed to thick and heavy cast-iron pans like your run-of-the-mill Lodge, the Lancaster might take you by surprise. At 4 pounds it was the lightest cast-iron pan we tested (For reference: A standard Lodge this size runs 5.2 pounds), and was easy to maneuver with one hand. The pan's thin cast walls and base make for, not only a lighter weight pan, but one that heats up much faster and more consistently than a conventional cast-iron pan. Thicker cast iron can require up to 10 minutes of preheating on the stovetop before it gets hot enough, the Lancaster reached an ideal temperature a little more than a minute, faster than its competition. This also means that the pan cools down faster, which made us wonder if the pan would still be able to achieve crispy edges on things like corn bread or spoon cakes. Thankfully it did. The pan has two ample pour spouts, but there's no helper handle on the front of the pan. The lack of a helper handle wasn't a huge deal since the No. 8 pan is so lightweight. (The same can't be said for Lancaster's 12-inch No. 10 pan, which is also without a helper handle, but weighs a heftier 6 pounds.)