The best cast iron pans

That aren’t skillets! And one cast iron pan that’s overrated. I love cast iron. I fought it for years because I mistakenly thought it was messy and high maintenance. But once I really gave it a chance, it made my cooking SO much better. And it’s actually really easy to keep clean, especially if you get one of these cool chainmail scrubbers. The cast iron skillet is a classic and if you’re just getting started, you can’t go wrong by making that your first purchase. But if you’ve already got a skillet,  these are the best cast iron pans to add to your collection.

Disclaimer – I’m an Amazon affiliate. It’s one of the ways I cover the cost of making content here at Hey Big Splendor.  This post has more affiliate links than normal because I wanted to provide recommendations and reviews for the best cast iron pans and other products. If I didn’t think these were excellent pieces, I wouldn’t be including them. If you have questions about any of these, shoot me an email or leave a comment.

I’ve ranked the pieces from most useful and versatile to most specialized. By the way, if you DO need a skillet, here’s the one I recommend.

Disclosure: I’m an affiliate for Lehman’s Hardware, Le Creuset, Azure Standard, Amazon and other companies. Clicking on links in my articles and purchasing products may result in the seller offering me compensation. I only share products I use and enjoy. Affiliate relationships help me cover the cost of producing content for Hey Big Splendor.

The best cast iron pan – if you’re only going to have one

If you’re only going to invest in one new piece of cast iron, make it a Dutch Oven. Why do you need a cast iron Dutch oven? Because it’s arguably the most versatile cast iron pan you can own. One amazing feature of cast iron pans is that they can go from the stove top to the oven without issue. Nowhere is that more true, or more useful than the Dutch oven. Use it for soups and stews or to roast a chicken. Sear a pot roast on the stove, then put it directly into the oven. You can bake bread in it. It’s happy to go along on your next camping trip and won’t mind sitting in hot coals or over the campfire. We use our Dutch oven constantly and it’s still in perfect shape after 12 years!

This five quart Dutch oven from Lodge is my current recommendation. Lodge is a great brand and their cast iron is consistently well-made. This pieces is also a great price. In due course, you may decide to invest in a more expensive model, but this is a rock solid starter.

Five quarts is a good size – it’s large enough for big loaves of bread, large chunks of meat and big batches of soup but not so big it’s a pain to store.

For something a bit smaller, with tripod legs, this four quart Dutch Oven is an excellent choice. If you opt to pick up a second Dutch oven for camping or outdoor use, consider this four quart option.

The only downside to a cast iron Dutch oven is that it’s heavy. But that’s a feature, as well. Still, it’s worth mentioning because lifting it, especially when it’s full, can take a lot of upper body strength.

You can’t go wrong with a plain, sturdy cast iron pan. But if you want a pan with all the benefits of standard cast iron but also dishwasher safe with a smooth finish, consider enamelled cast iron cookware. Besides being practical, enamel coated cast iron is…pretty. It’s available in a huge range of colors – and while that’s not essential to cooking, it can be a nice perk.

The best enamelled cast iron Dutch oven

In full candor, I’m an affiliate for the Cadillac of enamelled cast iron, Le Creuset. Their Dutch oven is an icon and for very good reason. It’s incredibly well-made, durable and gorgeous. And the price tag reflects that quality, friends. If you’re looking for a superb, investment piece, this is your huckleberry:

Le Creuset Oval Dutch OvenOval Dutch Oven image number 0

The iconic Le Creuset Dutch oven is indispensable in the kitchens of home cooks and pro… [More]

Price: $385.00
Speaking of Le Creuset, here’s the latest sales, discounts and Le Creuset promo codes.

Best bargain enamelled Dutch oven

If the price tag on the classic Le Creuset piece is a bit of a shock, don’t worry. Here’s a fantastic alternative, at a much more pocket friendly price. I own this piece and use it all the time – so I’m not just adding it in as an untried ‘discount’ alternative.

At six quarts, both enamelled options are a bit larger but still a great size. I use my enamelled cast iron for all the same things I use my regular cast iron for. But I also use the enamelled pans for acidic foods, like tomato sauce, and sticky foods, like jam.

Got a big shindig coming up? Whether you’re planning an intimate dinner party for six or a big fete, be sure to grab a copy of Co-Host, my party planning workbook.

Use this simple but very effective tool to keep track of every task, chore and dish. You can even use it to plan your cooking schedule.

The best speciality cast iron with a surprising amount of versatility

Think a cast iron pizza pan is only good for pizza? Surprise! While this pan does lead to incredible pizza crust, even in a regular home oven, it’s useful for so many other foods.

Next to my Dutch oven, this is the piece of cast iron I use the most. I use it as a baking sheet and it’s amazing for biscuits, rolls and free-form loaves. It’s the perfect way to dry roast vegetables or potatoes. It works great for baking French fries.

On the stovetop, I use it to sear small pieces of meat and fry tortillas and naan. When I started using it as a flat top grill, my burgers became so much better. I was finally able to get that crispy outer layer and juicy center. Many of those things can be done just as well in a cast iron skillet but the pizza pan is large enough to accommodate six burgers or four tortillas, for example. And that makes the cooking go faster, which is always helpful.

When I’m not cooking on it, I still put it in the oven because it helps keep the heat even.

We have two of these, so we can bake two pizzas at a time, and I am so glad we do.

The best specialized cast iron piece

If you have the first two items on this list, you can accomplish just about any cooking task. But if you have the space and inclination to add a few specialty pieces, may I suggest this deep roaster?

It’s perfect for deep dish casseroles or pasta bakes. Baking lasagna in this is a game-changer. Roasting a chicken, turkey or chuck roast is a cinch in this, and there’s room to throw in some vegetables, too. I’m not going to pretend this is an essential item but it is really, really nice to have.

The best cast iron pan for roasting vegetables or small pieces of meat

This large, shallow cast iron roasting pan is perfect for making crisp vegetables or a pan of chicken legs. It’s also great for smaller casseroles.

I use this pan to make my Rosemary Roasted Root Vegetables. It’s the perfect size for them and it’s small enough to share an oven shelf with another pan.

The best piece of cast iron…that’s overrated.

What’s a list post without a little controversy? I know some people, including my beloved husband, adore these pans.

I can’t stand them. First, it’s way too specialized. It’s hard to fill the niches evenly, it’s hard to get the cornbread out neatly and it’s a pain to clean. Yes, it’s cute and fun. But it also doesn’t seem like enough payoff for the hassle. You may feel differently, which is great. We have the pan above and, my husband loves it. Marriage is all about compromise.

By the way, if you’re worried about taking care of you cast iron, here’s a great resource on Caring for Cast Iron from Lodge.

Vintage Cast Iron Pans

Ask anyone who collects and uses cast iron and they’ll all pretty much say the same thing: try to find vintage and antique pans. There’s no comparison between antique Griswolds and modern cast iron. So if you come across a piece of cast iron and it feels heavy and well-made, and you don’t see any cracks or warping, buy it. Even if it’s rusty or looks battered – you’ll be amazed at how well antique cast iron cleans up. But since it’s hard to find those old gems, I’ve chosen to use readily available, contemporary products for this list.

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