The best cast iron pans for your wish list – and one piece that’s a little overrated
I love cast iron. I fought it for years because I 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, but that’s a post for the future. 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, or even if you don’t, these are the best cast iron pans for your wish list.
Disclaimer – I’m an Amazon affiliate. It’s one of the ways I cover the cost of making content here, without having to use obnoxious ads. This post has more affiliate links than normal because I wanted to provide recommendations and reviews for specific 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.
The best cast iron piece, if you only have one
If you’re only going to invest in one new piece of cast iron, make it this Dutch Oven. It can be used in the oven, even at extremely high temperatures, on the stove top and over open flame.
We got this very same Dutch oven as a wedding present almost 12 years ago. It gets used constantly and you’d never know it’s been in service for over a decade. I use it to bake bread, make soup (like my Tomato Lentil Soup) and stews, braise meat, and roast chicken. The fact that it’s a feature in all the recipes I linked to should show just how useful and versatile it is. It also makes a great stove top fryer for things like egg rolls and wontons.
The only downside to this 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. If you have mobility issues or other physical limitations, an enamel Dutch oven might be a better option.
The piece of 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. While 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 often 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 one of two of the other 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 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.
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.
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