There’s been a lot of ~skillet discourse~ on the web in recent years, from Reddit threads wherein iron maidens and lairds debate the intricacies of cast iron care, to Twitter cast iron symposiums that make us want to throw ourselves out of the frying pan and into the fryer. That’s why we asked some of our favorite chefs to debunk the myths around cast iron cookware, and to tell us about their favorite cast iron skillets and care methods. “My favorite thing about cast iron is the durability,” chef Isaac Toups told VICE. “You can bring them to the camp and cook over an open fire. Use it to deep fry chicken in the back yard. Use it like a hammer, and other fun stuff.” Once you understand a few simple practices (don’t soak it too long in water, don’t scrub with tons of soap, etc.) there’s arguably no more straightforward and beautiful piece of cookware you can own.
That’s the best thing about joining the cast iron club: It’s one with no chains, baby. (Unless it’s a chain mail scrubber for cleaning.) The poster child for cast iron skillets is probably a classic, unfrilled 10-inch pan—but that’s just the beginning, since cast irons range from colorful Le Creuset skillets that will make you feel like a pensive 1970s chef on the Côte d’Azur, to cauldron-filled, lumbersexual sets that would make Johnny Appleseed drool. There are cast iron skillets large enough to cook a dragon heart, and smol enough to sizzle a single quail egg.
Whether you need a cast iron for yourself or the gentle Bigfoot who’s been frying your bacon every morning, these are the best cast iron skillets for your buck and culinary clout.
The Best Beginner’s Cast Iron Skillet
If you’re new to the world of cast iron, beloved heritage brands including Lodge, Staub, and Le Creuset are great to keep on your radar, and you can often find deals on second-hand and collectible skillets by these tried-and-true brands on eBay (especially on heftier, higher-priced Dutch ovens); just make sure they’ve been treated well by their previous Iron Masters. That being said, picking our favorite beginner’s cast iron skillet is kind of like picking our favorite child. (Read: very easy to do.) Without question, it’s the Lodge 10.25-inch cast iron skillet with a bonus handle for easy maneuvering. Lodge is priced well, has a nice and heavy (but not too heavy) weight, and will easily become one of your most versatile pieces of cookware.
We also won’t sleep until we have this mini-mini, three-and-a-half inch Lodge skillet, which is the perfect size for making a mini-gratin in the oven or frying a single, perfect egg.
Meet the New Cast Iron Players
So, you’ve already got the Lodge skillet bolted into the studs above your bed, and you’ve licked all your Staubs clean. [Puts gold start on forehead.] Your next move? Acquaint yourself with more up-and-coming cast iron players such as Field Company, who have been working hard to create lighter, USA-made cast iron:
If you’re a cast iron-lover with a nostalgic streak, Smithey Ironware Co. is your jam. The company was founded in 2014 with the goal of creating more personalized iron wares that can become proud family heirlooms, from engraveable skillets and Dutch ovens to beautiful curved pans with a brassy finish.
The Best Cast Iron Enameled Skillets
Enamel is to cast iron as bumper stickers are to your car: key personality accessories that make you the most popular person in your friend group. Aside from their visual swag, the enamel also keeps your cast iron from rusting, and it won’t retain scents of meals past. Look to Le Creuset for a variety of colors that will make you feel like a reincarnated Julia Child, making omelets in between puffs of Les Gauloises like an OG champ:
This 11-inch Staub cast iron skillet has extra-deep sides, and is also about $70 off for a limited time:
The Best Lidded Cast Iron Skillets
We would not be opposed to living inside this Barebones lidded cast iron skillet. It’ll make for the perfect tomato and eggplant shakshuka, and that gorgeous handle makes us feel like a medieval serf on a vision quest.
If your vibe is more octagonal (who are you??), FINEX makes a top-rated, very handsome lidded skillet that looks unlike
any other robot anything else in the cast iron world.
The Staub cast iron lidded braiser is also a 4.5-star rated beast on Amazon, because it gives you all the joys of a classic cast iron skillet with the added benefit of a glass lid over its three-and-a-half-quart belly, so you can watch your meal bubble in IMAX vision.
The Best Cast Iron Cookware Sets
These would also make incredible gifts, because nothing says “We’re going to share the same burial plot” like a eight-piece (inlcuding the precious lids) cast iron cookware set by Le Creuset:
The Lodge Wildlife Series set is also tear-jerkingly charming, and will have you smoking stardust out of a corncob pipe in the woods the moment you start boiling those taters in the cauldron, which is engraved with quail, because every piece of cookware has an animal on it in this version of Lodge Heaven:
This Set Is 65% Off
There’s a 4.2-star rating for this deep blue (or red—chef’s choice) set, which is oven-safe and normally goes for $250. If you or your giftee needs a little indoor grilling pan and a ten-inch skillet, this is the perfect idea:
Sizzle on, sailor.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.