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Cast-Iron Skillets

Artisan brands of American-made cast-iron cookware challenge the old guard.

Top Picks

Winner

Smithey Ironware No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet

Best Buy

Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet

See Everything We Tested
More Cast-Iron Skillets

Looking for a smaller size? We've also tested 8-inch and 10-inch cast-iron skillets.

What We Learned

We tested 12-inch preseasoned cast-iron skillets, including artisan pans made by small American companies. While we were able to cook successfully in every skillet, our favorite pans shared certain traits: They were among the heaviest, at around 8 pounds, with sides measuring more than 2 inches tall. The Smithey Ironware No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet is made by a small company in South Carolina. With a smooth, polished interior and a classic shape, it aced all our tests, searing, baking, and browning beautifully and releasing food like a nonstick pan would. But it’s about $200, so we also chose a Best Buy. The Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet, at about $44, offers equivalent performance at a bargain price. Its surface felt pebbly right out of the box and was a bit sticky in the beginning, but after a few rounds of cooking it released food like a champ. 

What You Need to Know

We love cooking in cast-iron skillets; they’re an essential part of our kitchen. Whether we're searing, frying, baking, braising, or roasting, these pans are incredibly sturdy; they're also naturally nonstick. As you use them, their seasonings keep improving because heated fat molecules link up to form a polymer (essentially a connected grid). This creates a hard, elastic film that bonds to the iron, protecting it from rust and forming a surface layer that easily releases food—and is endlessly renewable. You can hand down these pans for generations.

Cast-iron skillets were common in the United States in the 19th century and made by many American manufacturers. Sadly, almost none of those companies survived past the middle of the 20th century, as sales of cast-iron cookware fell behind newer stainless-steel and aluminum pans. Two of the most famous companies, Wagner and Griswold, folded in the 1950s, and their vintage pans are now highly sought after by collectors. Lodge Manufacturing, based in Tennessee, has been producing cast-iron cookware since 1896, making it the longest continuously operated American cast-iron cookware company (and the largest). Today, most cast-iron skillets—aside from Lodge—are imports from China, where cast-iron cookware was invented. But within the past decade, artisan cast-iron cookware makers have sprung up in the United States, many with a declared goal of re-creating labor-intensive features that have disappeared from most modern cast-iron cookware, including smooth, hand-polished interiors (unlike modern pans, which have a rougher, more “pebbly” surface that shows the texture of the sand they were cast in) and pans that are cast to be slightly thinner and more lightweight—prized features in vintage cookware.

What to Look For

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Everything We Tested

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Highly Recommended

Recommended

Recommended with reservations

*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.