Versatile and durable, the best cast iron skillet will cook everything from a juicy steak to a tasty frittata
If there’s one thing you should have in your kitchen arsenal, it’s a cast iron skillet. More durable than your average frying pan, the best cast iron skillets are built to last a lifetime, given the proper care and maintenance.
While for some the term pan and skillet are interchangeable, the difference is that a skillet almost always refers to a cast iron pan without a non-stick coating. They’re usually oven-safe, so you can go from hob, to grilling, to table and they also retain their temperature far longer than a non-stick pan.
A skillet is great for searing meat, fish and vegetables at high temperatures, with no worries about non-stick coatings getting scratched or too hot. They can also add a smoky, charred flavour to your dish that’s impossible to achieve with a regular pan.
Below, you’ll find our buying guide to help you choose the best cast iron skillet for you, as well as our top picks for every budget.
Best cast iron skillet: At a glance
|Best double-handled cast iron skillet
|Samuel Groves Britannia | £72
|Check price at Amazon
|Best budget cast iron skillet
|VonShef Cast Iron Pan | £17
|Check price at Amazon
|Best budget enamelled skillet
|Tower Barbary and Oak | £30
|Check price at Amazon
|Best for beginners
|Judge JST15 24cm | £23
|Check price at Amazon
How to choose the best cast iron skillet for you
Which features should I look for?
Weight: Cast iron skillets are heavy, so one of the most important things to consider is how easy it is to use. If you’re not so strong, extra “helper” handles are useful on bigger skillets so you can carry it using both hands, while smaller designs tend to have a short, lighter handle to make them less arduous to lift. If you plan to use them for the occasional steak rather than an entire meal, a compact, lightweight skillet could be the better option.
Handle material: The handle you choose should depend on how you plan to use the skillet. While there are some that have wooden handles, which can help to keep the overall weight down, these are only suitable for use on a hob and not in the oven.
Typically, skillets have oven-safe stainless steel or cast iron handles, but these are heavy and can get very hot, so you’ll need to wear oven gloves. On the plus side, you can use them almost anywhere – even on barbecues and campfires.
Pre-seasoned surface: Unlike a non-stick pan that uses a chemical or ceramic coating to prevent food adhering, a cast iron skillet relies on baked-on oil to do the same. Many skillets come pre-seasoned, meaning they’ve already been treated with oil before you buy. However, for the best non-stick surface, pre-seasoned skillets should be treated with at least one more coat of oil that’s baked-on in the oven for an hour or so. All cast iron needs regular seasoning to keep it non-stick for years to come.
Enamelled coating: Some cast iron skillets have an enamel coating inside – this negates the need to season the surface and protects it from rust, but the pan won’t be quite as versatile. Enamelled cast iron can’t withstand the higher temperatures that a traditional cast iron pan can and over time, the coating can chip or crack, stripping it of its non-stick properties.
How much should I spend?
A good mid-sized cast iron skillet can cost as little as £20-30. Larger pans with extra handles cost £50-90, while enamelled cast iron skillets will set you back £90+.
The best cast iron skillets you can buy in 2023
1. VonShef Cast Iron Pan: Best budget cast iron skillet
Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at Amazon
Cast iron skillets can be a hefty investment, so if you’re not sure how much use you’ll get out of one, this affordable pan is a great choice. Pre-seasoned, it includes a short handle with a handy hanging loop, as well as pouring lips at either side so you can pour away excess fat. It also has high sloped sides, making it ideal for cooking food in sauce.
The skillet is a decent size – we were able to fit a couple of steaks and some mushrooms in it comfortably, and it’s not too heavy at 2.2kg. It’s slow to warm, but the heat conduction was good and it maintained the temperature well when food was added. One niggle we had was that although it was pre-seasoned, it was prone to food sticking on first use. However, seasoning it again with a coating of vegetable oil baked-on in the oven fixed the issue. After a couple of uses, food did start to stick again, so you’ll need to build up a robust coating over time to get the best use out of it.
Key details – Size: 36.5 x 27 x 5cm (WDH); Pan size: 25cm; Weight: 2.2kg; Handle: Cast iron; Guarantee: 2yrs
2. Samuel Groves Britannia double handle skillet: Best double-handled skillet pan
Price when reviewed: £72 | Check price at Amazon
Samuel Groves has been making cookware for more than 55 years, so you can be sure that it’s something special. This pre-seasoned 28cm skillet is a case in point. It’s made from hand-cast cast iron, 70% of which is recycled, and is finished with a pair of sleek and sturdy stainless steel handles on either side. As it’s deep with sloped sides, it’s perfect for everything from curries to stews and steaks. Two handles make it easy to move around and at 2.78kg, it’s a fairly manageable weight.
Unlike skillets with an integral handle, the riveted stainless-steel handles stay relatively cool while cooking on the hob, although an oven glove when handling is still recommended. The skillet heated up quickly and evenly, and remained at a good temperature while cooking. Moreover, the seasoned coating held onto its non-stick, even while cooking a stir fry. In short, if you have the budget, this is a beautifully engineered pan that’s sure to give you years of satisfying cooking.
Key details – Size: 38 x 28.5 x 4.5cm (WDH); Pan size: 28cm; Weight: 2.78kg; Handle: Stainless steel; Guarantee: Lifetime
3. Tower Barbary and Oak: Best budget enamelled skillet
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Amazon
Enamelled cast iron is a good choice for those who love the durability and heat retention of the material but are less keen on maintaining a seasoned surface. This pan fits the bill nicely and is also attractive and affordable. There’s a long, slim handle that’s easy to grip, and although it does grow warm as you cook, the enamel offers some protection against heat compared to bare cast iron. We cooked for 10 minutes and were still able to lift the pan without issue, although it’s still recommended you wear an oven glove. It’s oven-safe up to 260℃ as well, so great for popping under the grill to crisp up dishes.
The pan is hand-wash only, but is enamelled inside as well as out, so there’s no need to season. We found after cooking vegetables a couple of times, there were a few scorch marks inside the pan, but food didn’t stick. The skillet was light enough to lift and move around the kitchen, but tipping it with one hand to pour out food out required some strength. We appreciate the spouts at either side though – these come in handy when dishing up sauces.
Key details – Size: 26 x 41 x 4.5cm (WDH); Pan size: 26cm; Weight: 2kg; Handle: Cast iron; Guarantee: 25yrs
4. Judge JST15 24cm: Best for beginners
Price when reviewed: £23 | Check price at Amazon
There’s a lot to like about this affordable, cast iron skillet. It’s a good enough size for most dishes, yet compact enough to tuck into a crowded cupboard. As well as being a decent price, there’s also a five-year guarantee attached for extra peace of mind. At just 2kg, you won’t have to be a champion weightlifter to move it from the hob to the oven either, and it can happily withstand heat up to 210℃. There are also pouring spouts at either side, making it good for decanting sauces or excess fat.
One negative we noticed is that oil tended to gather at the edges, hinting that the surface may not have been completely flat. Another was that the cooking surface wasn’t always an even temperature, meaning we occasionally had to move food around to achieve consistent browning. However, it held onto the heat well and our food came out cleanly without mess. It’s probably not one for the perfectionists, but those with a tight budget who still demand plenty from a pan will enjoy cooking with this simple skillet.
Key details – Size: 27 x 37 x 6cm (WDH); Pan size: 24cm; Weight: 2kg; Handle: Cast iron; Guarantee: 5yrs
5. Kuhn Rikon 32cm Black Star Iron Frying Pan: Best professional-style iron skillet
Price when reviewed: £270 | Check price at Kuhn Rikon
Kuhn Rikon’s Black Star range of pans is made from spun iron, which differs from cast iron in how it’s made and how it functions. The manufacturing process enables the sides to be slimmer, helping to keep the overall weight down and is essential for larger pans, such as this 32cm version. At 4.4kg it’s still not particularly lightweight and we found it a challenge to move around the kitchen at times. However, as it’s spun iron, it’s a lot lighter than a traditional cast iron pan of this size would be.
It doesn’t have a second helper handle, but the single, long, angled handle helps with carrying the weight. Another benefit is it doesn’t grow too warm during cooking on a hob, though it’s still a good idea to don oven gloves for prolonged cooking. In testing, the pan was fast to heat up thanks to a consistent density and a thick base, and we found that the distribution of heat was superb. Even on an induction hob, where the ring was smaller than the base, our veggies and chunks of meat still sizzled at the sides.
The seasoning process is more involved, as rather than baking on oil, you’re advised to fry potato peelings and salt to help it resist starchy foods sticking. However, once it’s done, all you need to do to clean it, is wipe away food debris and re-oil the surface – it’s recommended to avoid washing altogether if you can. This top-range skillet is a must for anyone who wants the kind of pro-style results that are difficult to achieve with a standard pan.
6. Staub 28cm Cast Iron Vintage Frying Pan with Wooden Handle: Best enamelled cast iron skillet
Price when reviewed: £169 | Check price at Zwilling
Remembering to grab an oven glove every time you touch a pan isn’t for everyone. That’s why this wooden-handled, enamelled skillet is a great choice for those who usually cook on the hob. The handle remains cool to the touch while in use and there’s even a flame guard to prevent discolouring. On the opposite side, it has a cast iron helper handle and at 2.75kg, we didn’t find it too arduous to pick it up.
We really liked the size and design of this skillet. Its deep, curved sides give it a good capacity for family-sized curries and make it easy to turn food over without it spilling out. We used it to cook eggs and vegetables, and for the former, we found there was some sticking, though this was fixed by giving the pan another round of oven seasoning.
It’s more of an investment than other cast iron skillets in our round-up, but its minimal maintenance and ease of use are reason enough to buy.
Key details – Size: 28.5 x 53 x 8cm (WDH); Pan size: 28cm; Weight: 2.75kg; Handle: Wood; Guarantee: Lifetime