cast iron pans

Cast iron pans are  fantastic investment pieces, loved by chefs for their heavy duty bases with even heat distribution and efficient heat retention properties. However, choosing the right cast iron pan can be confusing. In our comprehensive buyer’s guide, we break down everything you need to know about cast iron cookware, including the best brands to buy and how care for your pans to ensure they last forever.

Sous Chef’s Cast Iron expert Kristin Lohse is our cookware buyer. She has many years of experience using, testing and cooking with a huge breadth of pots and pans. She shares her expertise from her career looking for the very best cast iron pans.

Become a cast iron expert, with our ultimate guide to cast iron pans. And browse all cast iron cookware at Sous Chef.

What are cast iron pans?

Cast iron pans are incredibly durable, with fantastic heat retention properties – this makes them a popular choice for a lot of people, with pans often being handed down in generations. Unlike other materials, cast iron improves with age, creating a natural patina: a non-stick surface that makes it easy to release food from the pan. 

What are cast iron pans?

Cast iron pans are incredibly durable, with fantastic heat retention properties – this makes them a popular choice for a lot of people, with pans often being handed down in generations. Unlike other materials, cast iron improves with age, creating a natural patina: a non-stick surface that makes it easy to release food from the pan. 

What can I cook in a cast iron pan?

A cast iron pan is a great choice for many everyday cooking techniques:

  • Great for baking, its ability to retain heat ensures breads and pizzas come out with a crispy crust. 
  • It’s also a good choice for frying, from crispy bacon to golden pancakes, thanks to its steady temperature.
  • Use it for simmering and sautéing. Its heat retention is perfect for slow-cooking stews and sauces, infusing flavours deeply.
  • A cast iron pan can even be used for outdoor cooking over an open fire, proving its versatility. It's durable, improves with age, and adds iron to your diet.

What is the difference between cast iron and other pans?

Cast iron pans are unique in their material, heat handling, and care needs. And you need to treat them differently to copper, non-stick or stainless steel pans.

  • Cast iron is heavy and heats slowly but retains heat well. This makes it ideal for searing meat and baking bread. Regular pans, like aluminium or stainless steel, heat up quickly and are lighter. They're great for sautéing vegetables or boiling water.
  • Regular pans often have non-stick coatings for easy food release. Cast iron, however, develops a natural non-stick surface over time with seasoning.
  • Care routines are different for cast iron pans. Cast iron requires seasoning and can't be soaked in water.
  • In terms of durability, cast iron always wins. It can last a lifetime with proper care. Regular pans, depending on their coating and material, may wear out faster.

How can you tell if a pan is cast iron?

Identifying a cast iron pan is straightforward. 

  1. First, check its weight. Cast iron is significantly heavier than other pans. If it feels heavy, it’s likely cast iron.
  2. Next, look at the surface. Cast iron has a rough, textured finish. This is unlike the smooth surface of non-stick or stainless steel pans.
  3. Also, examine the colour. Cast iron is usually dark grey or black. This differs from the shiny silver of stainless steel or the colours of coated non-stick pans.

The image below, clearly shows the difference in appearance between a cast iron pan and other - stainless steel and copper - pans in a home kitchen.

What are the disadvantages of a cast iron pan?

Cast iron pans are often heavy, making them harder to handle than lighter pans. They require seasoning to maintain their non-stick surface. This process can be time-consuming for some. Cast iron is not dishwasher safe; it must be hand washed and dried immediately to prevent rust. 

Acidic foods like tomatoes can strip the seasoning on cast iron. Cast iron also heats up slowly, which may not suit quick cooking needs. While durable, cast iron requires specific care to keep it in good condition.

However, with all that in mind, we think the benefits of cast iron far outweigh the possible disadvantages!

What are the benefits of a cast iron pan?

  • Natural patina: Cast iron develops a seasoned surface that naturally prevents food from sticking, minimising the need for excessive oil. This built-in non-stick quality promotes healthier cooking practices by reducing the amount of added fats required for your dishes.
  • Heat retention: Cast iron's exceptional ability to retain heat makes it a fantastic choice for slow cooking. 
  • Long-lasting: Unlike traditional non-stick pans, cast iron cookware is renowned for its longevity and resistance to wear and tear. 
  • Versatility: Cast iron pans are incredibly versatile, seamlessly transitioning between different cooking methods. From stovetop frying and oven baking to broiling and more, these versatile pans accommodate a wide range of culinary techniques, allowing you to explore new recipes and flavours with ease.

Is it OK to cook in cast iron everyday?

Yes, it's perfectly fine to use cast iron daily. Its durability makes it ideal for everyday cooking. Cast iron evenly distributes heat, ideal for various dishes. Regular use actually improves its non-stick surface, enhancing cooking over time. 

Just avoid cooking acidic foods frequently, as they can erode the seasoning. Proper care, like drying after washing, keeps it rust-free. So, feel free to make it your go-to pan. Cooking daily with cast iron can be a joy for any home chef.

Do chefs use cast iron pans?

Yes, many chefs favour cast iron pans. They're prized for their heat retention and even cooking. Chefs often use them for searing meats to perfection. They're also great for achieving crispy skin on fish. In kitchens worldwide, cast iron is used for baking pizzas and bread. Its ability to go from stovetop to oven makes it versatile. 

Whether in high-end restaurants or home kitchens, cast iron is a popular choice. Chefs appreciate its durability and the flavour it adds to dishes.

Which is the best cast iron pan to buy?

Skeppshult Cast Iron Gratin Dish & Frying Pan, 25cm

Best cast iron pan for frying pan pizzas

Use the cast iron gratin dish and  frying pan from Skeppshult on the hob, in the oven, under the grill and even over an open fire. The double-handled pan is perfect for bubbling, cheese-topped gratins, sweet skillet-pan baking such as clafoutis, delicate crepes and fluffy Dutch babies, or for searing meat and fish before roasting in the oven.

Skeppshult Traditional Cast Iron Frying Pan

Best cast iron pan to last a lifetime

The Skeppshult cast iron frying pan is a serious piece of kitchen kit. With its slanted sides, this pan is ideal for cooking pancakes, fried eggs and omelettes. The long Swedish beech wood handle doesn’t conduct heat, meaning you can move the pan without using a glove.  

Lodge Blacklock Cast Iron Skillet

Best cast iron pan for everyday use

Use Lodge Blacklock’s cast iron skillet pan to sear steak, cook shakshuka and bake giant choc chip cookies. It is also thinner and more lightweight than other cast iron cookware.

Made in the USA, this cast iron pan comes pre-seasoned with 100% natural vegetable oil, so it’s ready to use straight away.

Finex Cast Iron Skillet

You can also use Finex Cast Iron Skillet with its unique octagonal shape that is great for pouring from any angle, making it an ideal choice for draining cooking fat, pouring out deglazed juices, or smoothly transferring caramel sauce into your serving jug. This pan is also great for searing meat, making crispy bacon or try baking pies or steaming vegetables. You can also get cast iron skillet with a lid.

Cast Iron Always Pan, Blue Salt

Another great option is the Cast Iron Always Pan. Crafted for searing, baking, and cooking, this enamelled pan is ready to use from the get-go, and doesn't need to be seasoned, ensuring convenience in your daily cooking routine.

Its thoughtful design make it an essential for various culinary tasks, from searing steaks to whipping up delicious one-pan meals.

Skeppshult Traditional Cast Iron Saucepan, 1 litre

Best cast iron pan for sauces

Use the Skeppshult traditional cast iron saucepan for making silky bechamel sauces, or to gently heat through a rich ragu. At 16cm wide, this endlessly useful pan is one that you’ll reach for again and again for everyday cooking. 

Finex Cast Iron Saucepan, 950ml

Or you can use the Finex Cast Iron Saucepan that has an octagonal shape, cool-staying stainless steel handle, and versatile design. It is also an excellent alternative for crafting smooth polenta, thickening glossy gravies, or bringing veg to the boil quickly that you can also use for everyday cooking.

Skeppshult Traditional Cast Iron Dutch Oven 5.5l

Best cast iron pan for campfire cooking

The Skeppshult cast iron casserole Dutch oven is the ultimate pan for campfire cooking, and dishing up hearty slow-cooked casserole and stews. It will also help you bake fantastic sourdough loaves.

The stainless steel handle means you can hang the pan from a frame over your fire for wonderfully smoky flame-cooked recipes.

Finex Cast Iron Grill Pan, 25cm (10inch)

Best cast iron pan for grilling

The Finex cast iron grill pan 25cm (10inch) is perfect for grilling bite-sized chopped meat. Its wide grill ribs ensure beautiful marks, while the unique diamond shape aids in easy fat drainage. With a coiled handle that stays cool while you grill and versatile usage on stoves, barbecues, and ovens, this pre-seasoned pan is a practical and efficient choice for achieving delicious grill results every time.

Finex Cast Iron Grill Pan with 2 Handles, 30cm (12inch)

Best cast iron pan for skewers

The Finex Cast Iron Grill Pan (30cm/12inch) is perfect for skewers, ensuring even heat distribution and impressive grill marks. Its barbecue-width grill ribs prevent excess fat, letting your food grill flawlessly. With coiled stainless steel handles for easy transfer, it imparts a delicious chargrilled flavor to skewers of vegetables or robust fish. This versatile pan, suitable for ovens, barbecues, and all hob types, is pre-seasoned and ready to use, delivering a non-stick surface that improves with each use.

Finex Cast Iron Lean Grill Pan, 38cm (15inch)

Best cast iron pan for outdoor grilling

The Finex cast iron lean grill pan (38cm/15inch) is your ultimate outdoor grilling companion. Crafted for quick and even heating, it imparts irresistible chargrilled flavors to steaks, fish, and veggies. With easy-grip edges and a non-stick surface that improves with each use, it's perfect for a quick, healthy supper. This versatile pan suits ovens, barbecues, and all hob types, including induction, pre-seasoned for immediate use. Cleanup is a breeze, making it a must-have for outdoor grilling enthusiasts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which brand of cast iron is best?

Here at Sous Chef, we love and use several cast iron cookware! Including Skeppshult, Lodge, Finex, and Always Pan!

Skeppshult cast iron cookware

Skeppshult cast iron cookware is a Swedish company has been making cast iron products by hand since 1906. The process starts with raw iron that is heated to a searing 1,500°C in the furnaces. The molten iron is then cast into special moulds made from sand, which can withstand the extreme temperatures.

Sand moulds can only be used once, meaning each product is unique.. Skeppshult season their cast iron with rapeseed oil (also called canola oil) from Osterlen to protect it from damage, which his also gives the cast iron its natural non-stick properties.

Lodge cast iron pans

If you’re after a cast iron pan for everyday use, choose Lodge, a family-run American brand that makes pre-seasoned cast iron cookware. What sets Lodge apart from other cast iron brands is that the cookware comes already triple seasoned, is  lightweight and has raised handles, making it practical for everyday use.

Finex cast iron pans

Finex is an American brand, based in Portland, Oregon, that has been around since 2012. The founders weren't happy with the available Cast Iron products on the market and wanted to create something different. The first product was the 12" skillet and was launched in Kickstarter with a record setting success.

Finex products are inspired by vintage cast iron pans, with modern twists and improvements added to create truly excellent products. An added bonus is the beautiful design, you can happily keep the items on display in your kitchen, sure to cause cookware envy amongst your friends.

Our Place - Always pan

Our Place is an American cookware brand founded by Shiza Shahid and her husband Amir Tehrani. Their mission is to bring people together around the dinner table to share meals, moments and memories. Their beautiful multi-purpose pans will make cooking easier and more enjoyable, whilst taking up minimal storage space.

The cast iron Always Pan is perfect for the person who wants the benefits of cast iron, but with less maintenance. The Cast Iron Always Pan has an enamelled coating, meaning you don't need to season your pan, and it will be less sensitive to acidic ingredients. As an added bonus it comes in beautiful colours to brighten up your kitchen!

Can you ruin a cast iron pan?

Cast iron pans can be damaged, but with a little care and knowhow, they can last a lifetime. After cooking, it’s important you wash your pans in warm, slightly soapy water, and make sure the pan is completely dry after washing. Remember to always hand wash your cast iron pans. They should never go in the dishwasher, as they will rust, and it will remove the seasoning. For more tips on caring for cast iron, read our guide here.

What should you not cook in cast iron?

Some acidic foods can damage your cast iron pan’s patina, such as tomato sauces, or dishes containing a lot of wine. However, re-seasoning your pan will  prevent any long term damage. You may want to wait until your cast iron pan has developed a non-stick coating before cooking delicate ingredients, such as fish, eggs or gyoza.. 

Shop all cast iron pans here, and read our guide to caring for cast iron pans here.



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