Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.
Whether you are cooking shakshuka, steak, cornbread, or a deep dish pizza, a good cast iron skillet can make all the difference. Not only are they a joy to cook with, but the more you use them, the better they get. The heavy iron seasons and patinas over decades (and sometimes centuries) for a unique cooking device that will give your dishes their own special touch.
Some people prefer vintage, made in the USA cast iron still skillets from companies like Griswold or Wagner, but if you don’t want to go through the hassle of restoration, you can get an equally great cooking experience from any number of modern brands that don’t need to (but still can) break the bank.
1) Camp Chef: 12″ Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Ribs
Camp Chef is known for their wide array of outdoor cookware, but their 12″ Cast Iron Skillet will work just as well on a stove as it will over an open camp fire. It comes in two basic varieties: one with ribs on the cooking surface and one without, but the overall design is the same between the two. Both have two pouring spouts, a primary handle, and a secondary “helper” handle for additional support.
Available for $23 from Camp Chef.
2) Smithey Ironwear: No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet
Cast iron practically lasts forever, which is why antique skillets have such a thriving collector’s market. You could buy an entry level cast iron skillet and leave the option open to upgrade later, but for something that is essentially buy-it-for-life at any price point, buying the best-of-the-best right off the bat is definitely understandable. And that is exactly what Smithey Ironwear offers. Their skillets feature an extremely smooth finish, similar to those on vintage cast iron cookware, and are made entirely in the USA.
Available for $200 from Southern Kitchen.
3) Staub: 12″ Fry Pan in Grenadine
There are two primary styles of cast iron cookware: plain and enamel coated. While most of us are probably more familiar with using the former, the latter variation has its own benefits. It doesn’t require seasoning, is resistant to rusting, and some even find it to be easier to cook on without sticking (although others may have their own opinion on that point). Staub is one of the most renowned makers of enamel coated cast iron, and their 12″ Fry Pan would make a welcome addition to almost any kitchen.
Available for $200 from Williams Sonoma.
4) Lodge: 12″ Cast Iron Skillet
Lodge might be the most recommended brand for new, made in the USA cast iron skillets, and honestly they’re hard to beat. Their 12″ Cast Iron Skillet is simple, classic, and easy to care for. While non-coated skillets aren’t resistant to rusting, as long as you dry them directly after you handwash them you’ll be fine. If you’re only going to own a single cast iron skillet, then I’d personally suggest the 12″ model, but Lodge offers a wide range of sizes so you can find the one that’s perfect for you.
Available for $33 from Crate & Barrel.
5) Le Creuset: 11.75″ Signature Skillet in Amethyst
Le Creuset is another famous maker of enamel-coated cast iron, and many people accept no substitute. Their skillets come in a wide range of exterior colors, but the cooking surface is always coated with their matte black enamel that is known for aging beautifully. Whatever color you choose you’ll get the same excellent heat retention and overall durability that’ll keep you coming back whenever you need a new piece of cookware. Since their pieces are fully enamel coated you’ll also get the added benefit of being able to wash them in a dishwasher.
Available for $200 from Le Creuset.
Plus One – Finex: 12″ Cast Iron Skillet
Finex’s 12″ Cast Iron Skillet truly lies at the intersection between functionality and design. The cooking surface is polished to give the best cooking experience—just like vintage skillets—and the octagonal design and spring handle give the piece a truly unique look. Finex is also one of the few companies that sells a matching lid, which both looks great and helps with many of your favorite recipes. Having a lid on a cast iron skillet can be tough because it means you can’t have pouring spouts on the side, but that’s where the brilliance of the design comes in: the octagonal shape provides a means to pour accurately while also allowing for a properly fitting lid.
Available for $200 ($270 with lid) from Finex.