The type of pan that actually makes food taste better

·9-min read

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caast iron pan filled with chicken, potatoes and veggies.
Just think of all the meals you can make! (Photo: Getty)

A cast iron pan is a kitchen necessity — it checks all the boxes. Cast iron just makes your food taste better — even if you’re a so-so cook. Why? It heats up slowly but evenly and retains heat well — so you get an amazing sear on meat, and veggies cook fast without constant tending-to. The material is virtually indestructible, so you can bang it around and even cook outside. And the more you use your hardy pan, the better it gets, while infusing your food with nutritional iron.

Cast iron needs to be seasoned (which means using a thin layer of fat to seal the iron) to get its telltale non-stick coating. You can either season it yourself (coat with cooking oil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour) or buy a pan pre-seasoned (many are). When seasoned well, cast-iron pans are naturally non-stick, which makes them easy to cook with and easy to clean.

That being said, you’ll want to clean cast iron right after cooking by rinsing with hot water and a bit of mild dish soap if necessary. To get off any stuck-on food, use a stiff non-metal brush. To prevent rust, immediately dry and rub in a light layer of vegetable oil when still warm. If you do see rust, it’s an easy fix: Scrub with steel wool and re-season the pan.

So which one should you get? Read on for a ribbed pan that makes pro-looking sear marks, a set that includes three different sizes and more.

Calphalon Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware, Skillet, 12-inch

Calphalon cast iron pan
Perfect for groups. (Photo: Amazon)

With a roomy 12-inch diameter, this skillet is great when cooking for a group. Some reviewers commented that it’s a bit thinner than other cast-iron pans, making it a little lighter. It’s also deep, with rounded corners for easily manipulating food. Full lifetime warranty.

$25 with coupon $50 at Amazon

Lodge 10.5-inch Cast Iron Griddle

Lodge cast iron pan
A must for pizza. (Photo: Amazon)

Low and lean, this pre-seasoned griddle is ideal for pancakes, quesadillas and pizza. Reviewers have even used it for dosas, crepes, chapati (Indian flat bread) and fried eggs.

$20 $30 at Amazon

Norpro Cast Iron Plett Pancake Pan – Seven 2-inch Pancake Cavities

breakfast cast iron skillet
A must for breakfast sandwiches and silver dollars. (Photo: Amazon)

Perfect mini pancakes can now be your claim to fame thanks to this cast-iron beauty with seven 2-inch cavities. Includes recipes for filling pancakes with cheese, jam and other goodies. Also nice for cornbread.

$30 at Amazon

The Pioneer Woman Timeless Beauty Cast Iron Set

Pioneer Woman cast iron set
An essential set for any home. (Photo: Walmart)

Now you’ll always have the right sized skillet! This 3-piece set includes 6-inch, 8-inch and 10-inch pre-seasoned pans, all with a rust-resistant coating. Reviewers loved the even cooking; the easy-care aspect; and the butterfly imprinted in the largest handle.

$50 at Walmart

Bruntmor Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven

cast iron pot
Make sure you bring it along for your next camping trip. (Photo: Amazon)

Use it for cooking over an open flame, whether a campfire or in the fireplace. The heavy lid will lock in flavor on that famous chili, pot roast or stew.

$65 $70 at Amazon

Lodge 10.25-inch Cast Iron Skillet

Lodge cast iron pan
The quintessential cast iron. (Photo: Amazon)

Made in the good ole USA (South Pittsburgh, Tennessee to be exact), this skillet is Amazon's Choice for cast irons with over 105,000 five-star reviews. And for good reason: pre-seasoned with vegetable oil, it’s heavy, durable, offers great heat retention and features an assist handle to keep things steady. Plus, it’s made by a family-run company founded in 1896.

$20 $30 at Amazon

Camp Chef Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Single Square Cooking Iron

Pre-seasoned cast iron pan by Camp Chef
Perfect for paninis, omelettes and more. (Photo: Walmart)

This two-sided tool is awesome for cooking omelettes, toasty sandwiches, pies, pizza and—hello, s’mores—over a bonfire or even a backyard fire pit. The 30-inch handle stays cool.

$20 at Walmart

Lodge 12 Inch Square Cast Iron Grill Pan

Lodge cast-iron grill
Perfect for that perfect steak. (Photo: Amazon)

This 12-inch square pan features a ribbed bottom for amazing grill marks on chicken, fish, veggies—actually anything you’d throw on it.

And reviewers can’t get enough: “I once cooked a steak for a girl, and SHE MARRIED ME. While I cannot post my recipe here, as it’s a 7+ page dissertation, I can tell you that I make the best steak in the world and I make it on this grill. My steaks have a slight salty crunch on the outside; soft, tender and so juicy and flavorful you’d think a geyser exploded in your mouth. There are very few items that you can purchase for less than $50 that will be with you for the rest of your life. This however, is one of those items.”

$40 $42 at Amazon

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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