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12-Inch Cast-Iron Skillets

Cheap and tough, a cast-iron skillet is a kitchen workhorse, but the upkeep makes some cooks balk. Could enameled cast-iron pans, which need no special care, top the classic?

UpdateJanuary 2019

We can also recommend the 10-inch and 8-inch versions of our favorite traditional and enameled cast-iron pans. We also tested the AmazonBasics Cast Iron Skillet against our top-rated traditional cast-iron pan. Our original Best Buy enameled cast-iron skillet, Mario Batali by Dansk 12" Open Sauté Pan, is discontinued. Our recommended Lodge Enamel Coated Cast Iron Skillet, 11" is our new Best Buy enameled cast-iron skillet.

Top Picks

Winner

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Winner

Le Creuset Signature 11 3/4" Iron Handle Skillet

BEST BUY

Lodge Enamel Coated Cast Iron Skillet, 11"

See Everything We Tested

What We Learned

Few pieces of kitchen gear improve after years of heavy use. In fact, we could think of only one: the cast-iron pan. As you cook in it, a cast-iron pan gradually takes on a natural, slick patina that releases food easily. Well-seasoned cast iron can rival, and certainly outlast, a nonstick pan. Cast-iron pans are virtually indestructible and easily restored if mistreated. Their special talent is heat retention, making them ideal for browning, searing, and shallow frying. Our longtime favorite and best cast-iron skillet in the test kitchen has been the Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet ($33.31) for its low price, generous size, sturdiness, smooth factory pre-seasoning, and ability to get ripping hot.

Fortunately, cast iron is having a renaissance. Manufacturers have launched new versions of traditional cast-iron pans with innovative design tweaks to their handles and overall shapes in an attempt to rival the bare-bones pans. Perhaps more notably, there’s been a boom in the number of enameled cast-iron skillets. These pans cloak the rough surface inside and out with the same kind of porcelain coating found on Dutch ovens. Enameling promises a cast-iron pan with advantages: The glossy coating prevents the metal from rusting or reacting with acidic foods, both of which are concerns with traditional cast iron. It also lets you thoroughly scrub dirty pans with soap—generally taboo with traditional pans since soap will remove the patina. (The patina can be restored; see “What’s the Deal with Seasoning?”) While a handful of expensive enameled skillets have been around for years, new models are now appearing at lower prices. We had to wonder: Should we be trading out our traditional pan for an enameled one?

We bought 10 cast-iron skillets, six enameled and four traditional, each about 12 inches in diameter. Prices ranged from $21.99 to a whopping $179.95. We included our old favorite, from Lodge, in the lineup, along with our former Best Buy, from Camp Chef ($21.99). Comparing the new pans with our old winners, we set about scrambling eggs, searing steaks, making a tomato-caper pan sauce (to check if its acidity reacted with the pan surface), skillet-roasting thick fish fillets that went from stove to oven, baking cornbread, and shallow-frying breaded chicken cutlets. At the end of testing, we scrambled more eggs to see whether the pans’ surfaces had evolved. To simulate years of kitchen use, we plunged hot pans into ice water, banged a metal spoon on their rims, cut in them with a chef’s knife, and scraped them with a metal spatula.

Sticking Points

All the traditional pans arrived preseasoned from the factory. Two traditional pans off...

Everything We Tested

Good Fair Poor 

Highly Recommended - Traditional Cast Iron

Highly Recommended - Traditional Cast Iron

Recommended - Traditional Cast Iron

Recommended with reservations - Traditional Cast Iron

Highly Recommended - Enameled Cast Iron

Recommended - Enameled Cast Iron

Recommended with reservations - Enameled Cast Iron

Recommended with reservations - Enameled Cast Iron

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

Reviews you can trust

The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.

Lisa McManus

Lisa is a cast member of America’s Test Kitchen, co-host of Gear Heads on YouTube, and Executive Editor of ATK Reviews.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.