Best Cast-Iron Cookware of 2018
Cast-iron cookware lasts forever and can be used with any heat source. Need a little guidance? We'll help you find the best cast-iron cookware for your kitchen.
The Best Cast-Iron Cookware to Heat Up Your Kitchen
When it comes to even cooking, heat retention is your best friend. Cookware that holds its heat is ideal for shallow frying, searing, and browning. Cast-iron cookware not only retains heat best, it's also nearly indestructible.
Plus, cast-iron cookware actually improves over time, even with heavy use. Every time you cook with it, the cast iron takes on more of a slick patina that releases food easily—eventually rivaling even the most expensive nonstick pans.
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If you're ready to purchase a set of cast-iron cookware, scroll up for BestReviews' top recommendations. For everything you need to know about selecting and using this robust cookware, you've come to the right place.
Why Cook with Cast Iron?
- Cast-iron cookware will last forever if you keep it clean and season it regularly.
- The long-term value of cast iron is astronomical. The money you lay out for your set might be the last you ever spend on cookware.
- As cast iron ages, its performance actually improves.
- Cast iron can be used with any heat source—gas, electric, or induction.
- If you like to cook over an open flame, cast-iron cookware is great for campfire cooking.
What to Consider When Buying a Cast-Iron Cookware Set
Not all cast-iron cookware is the same. There are additional features to consider before making your purchase and upgrades that you may or may not need.
What do you cook most often? Do you need a big skillet for those giant steaks or extra-large meals? Are you cooking for a large family or group of friends and worried about overcrowding the skillet? If so, you need a cast-iron cookware set with at least a 12-inch skillet. For smaller meals or side items, you may only need an 8- or 10-inch pan. Think about what you cook most often and how much room you need before buying a set.
Number of Pieces
Cast-iron cookware sets come in many different configurations. Almost all sets come with two skillets: one large and one small. Some come with a third skillet of medium size. This is great if you cook large meals all at once. Other cast-iron cookware sets include a Dutch oven, which is perfect if you braise a lot or like to make soups and stews.
Just because a cast-iron cookware set comes with a certain number of pieces doesn't mean that all are heavy-duty cooking vessels. Many of these extra pieces are lids or other accessories like scrub brushes or pot holders. It's important to check the description of a cookware set before buying to make sure you're getting what you want and need.
How Much Does Cast-Iron Cookware Cost?
Cast-iron cookware sets are surprisingly affordable, especially when you consider their nearly limitless lifespan. Prices will vary depending on the number of pieces in the set, the size of those pieces, and the brand.
- Budget-Friendly: For $10 to $25, you can find three-piece cast-iron cookware sets. These sets usually include one large skillet (typically 12 inches), one smaller skillet (about 8 inches), and either a griddle or a third skillet (10 to 10.5 inches).
- Mid-Range: For $25 to $50, you can expect cast-iron cookware sets with up to six pieces. But that doesn't mean you're getting six skillets. Most six-piece cast-iron cookware sets include just two pans with either a griddle or a Dutch oven. The other three pieces are typically one lid, a scrub brush, and a pot holder for hot handles.
- Expensive: For more than $50, you should get a cast-iron cookware set that includes at least three skillets, a Dutch oven, and a griddle. Many of the more expensive sets also include lids for the Dutch oven and the pans.
How to Season Cast-Iron Cookware
Seasoning your cast-iron skillets and pans is a fairly easy process. It takes some time, but if you take care of your cast-iron cookware, you won't have to reseason very often.
- Clean the pan or skillet with hot water and a scrub brush.
- Use paper towels to dry your cookware thoroughly.
- Spread a thin layer of vegetable oil all over the pan or skillet.
- Heat your oven to 375°F, and place your pan or skillet on the middle rack, upside down.
- Leave the cast-iron cookware in the oven at this temperature for one hour. Turn off the oven, and let the skillet or pan cool inside.
When this process is complete, your cast-iron cookware will regain both its sheen and its nonstick surface. Tip: Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips while the cookware is in the oven.
Keeping Cast Iron Clean
Cast-iron cookware isn't the easiest to maintain—you can't just stick it in the dishwasher. You have to clean it a certain way, and every now and then it will need to be reseasoned. But if you take the upkeep seriously in the beginning, it becomes easier and more routine over time.
The most important thing to avoid when cleaning your cast-iron cookware is negatively impacting the seasoning. A seasoned pan is a good pan, so make sure not to wash it off in one fell swoop!
Follow these steps to clean your cast-iron cookware without affecting the seasoning:
- Get a scrub brush. Some cast-iron cookware sets even come with one. Be prepared to use it.
- Never let your cast-iron cookware soak in water.
- Never use harsh or abrasive soap. In fact, it's best not to use any soap at all.
- Rinse the pan in hot water, and use your scrub brush to get rid of any stuck-on residue.
- Once clean, dry the pan off with paper towels.
- Put the pan on the stove over low heat to let whatever moisture is left evaporate.
- Pour a little vegetable oil into the pan, then rub it around using a paper towel. The layer of oil should be so thin that you can't even feel it.
This may seem like a lot of work to put in after every use—and it is—but with the proper upkeep, cast-iron cookware will last more than a lifetime.
Q. What are enameled cast-iron skillets?
A. Some newer cast-iron cookware comes with an enamel coating both on the inside and the outside of the skillet or pan. The glossy coating prevents the cast iron from reacting to acidic foods, which can negatively impact cast-iron cookware's seasoning.
Q. Can I marinate food in cast-iron cookware?
A. Since most marinades are acidic, don't use them with cast iron. Again, acidic foods can wear away the seasoning of a cast-iron skillet that has been built up over months or years.
Q. Are all cast-iron skillets essentially the same, or are there design differences?
A. There are traits that set cast-iron skillets apart from one another, such as secondary handles and pouring spouts. Some of the newer cast-iron skillets even claim to have smoother cooking surfaces. These features can drive up the cost considerably, however.