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Updated: 1 Jun 2022

Best cast-iron frying pan skillet

Find out which cast-iron skillet from Le Creuset, Lodge, Kuhn Rikon and other brands is the best 
Joey Willoughby-Rainsford
Family cooking with a cast iron skillet

A trusty cast-iron skillet can be a lifelong companion in your kitchen, and many chefs say they are better than the alternatives for searing food. Fans of cast-iron frying pans love them because they are almost indestructible (or should be anyway) and, like a fine wine, get better with age - the more you cook on them, the better the cooking surface gets. 

Cast-iron frying pans are normally made from a single piece of forged iron and are renowned for their versatility, durability and reliability, but they are often not cheap, and you need to do more to take good care of them.

In April 2022, we tested five cast-iron skillets ranging from less than £15 to more than £150, from the most popular brands: Le Creuset, Samuel Groves, Lodge, Merida and Kuhn Rikon.

Cast-iron cookware has a reputation for being heavy but, while this is true, some aren't as heavy as you'd expect. The skillets we tested ranged from 1.9kg to almost 4kg, although some designs made them better at distributing the weight, so they were easier to lift.

Read on to find out which cast-iron skillets are the most durable, easiest to clean and the best at conducting and retaining heat. Also, discover how to season and care for your cast-iron cookware and check out our cooking tips to get the most from your cast-iron skillet.  

Prices and availability last checked: 1 June 2022.


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The best cast-iron skillets

Only logged-in Which? members can view the cast-iron frying pan test results below. If you're not yet a member, you'll see an alphabetically ordered list of the cast-iron skillets we tested.

Join Which? now to get instant access to our test scores and Best Buy recommendation below.

Belfy Kitchen Merida Black Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron

Belfy Kitchen Merida Black Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron

Only available at Wayfair: £13.25.

Diameter and weight: 25.5cm, 1.9kg

Other sizes available: No

Dishwasher safe: No

Oven safe: Yes, up to 250°C

Induction hob: Yes

Belfry says this cast-iron frying pan skillet is pre-seasoned, which means that vegetable oil is baked into the pan at a high temperature to create a natural non-stick surface.

Did this mean the pan was ready to use straight out of the box? 

Log in or join Which? now to find out and read all our reviews, including this one.

Kuhn Rikon Black Star Iron Frying Pan

Kuhn Rikon Black Star Iron frying Pan

Cheapest price: £95.33 available at Amazon, also available at Kuhn Rikon.

Diameter and weight: 32cm, 3.9kg

Other sizes available: 24cm, 28cm, 36cm

Dishwasher safe: No

Oven safe: Yes, up to 240°C 

Induction hob: Yes

This Kuhn Rikon cast-iron skillet has an extra-long handle compared with the others we tested. We wondered whether this would make it easier to lift and make the handle get less hot.

To find out if that was the case and see all our reviews and recommendations, log in or join Which? now.

Le Creuset Cast Iron Signature Skillet

Cheapest price: £100.16 available at Amazon, also available at Harts of Stur, John Lewis, Le Creuset.

Diameter and weight: 23cm, 1.95kg

Other sizes available: 16cm, 20cm, 26cm

Dishwasher safe: Yes

Oven safe: Yes, up to 250°C

Induction hob: Yes

Le Creuset claims the satin-black enamel interior of this cast-iron frying pan skillet takes caramelisation to delicious new heights.

It's made by one of the biggest names in cast-iron cookware, but did our testers agree with Le Creuset's claim?

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results.


We also tested the Le Creuset Cast Iron Signature Square Grillit. See how it fared in our rundown of the best griddle pans.


Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Only available at Lakeland: £44.99.

Diameter and weight: 24cm, 2.4kg

Other sizes available: No

Dishwasher safe: No

Oven safe: Yes, up to 260°C 

Induction hob: Yes

Lodge claims that no matter how messy your cooking turns out to be, this skillet is a breeze to clean.

As part of our tests, our researchers deliberately burnt bacon onto each pan to present a real cleaning challenge.

To find out if this pan was as easy to clean as claimed and to unlock all our full reviews, log in or join Which? now.

Samuel Groves Britannia Cast Iron Double Handle Skillet Frying Pan

Samuel Groves Cast Iron Double Handle Skillet Frying Pan

Cheapest price: £89.99 available at Amazon, also available at John Lewis, Samuel Groves.

Diameter and weight: 28cm, 3.1kg

Other sizes available: 20cm, 24cm

Dishwasher safe: No

Oven safe: Yes, up to 300°C 

Induction hob: Yes

Samuel Groves says cookware from the Britannia range arrives at your door pre-seasoned, ready to use out of the box.

Was this the case, or did we find we needed to season this skillet first to get the best results?

To find out, log in or join Which? now to unlock all our reviews and recommendations, including this one. 

How we tested cast-iron skillets

We used each cast-iron frying pan skillet before seasoning to see how any pre-seasoning held up to scrutiny. Then we seasoned each of the frying pans and put them through the following tests. 

Cooking

We basted a ribeye steak with a teaspoon of melted butter.

After pre-heating the hob, we then cooked the steak to medium-rare (three minutes on each side) in each pan to assess how satisfying the cooking experience was.

Heat conduction, retention and distribution

We used a thermal coupling to record the temperatures across the surface of the cast-iron pans as they were heated on a gas hob for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

We then left the pans on the hob without heat for another 3 minutes and 30 seconds while still measuring.

The best skillets heated up quickly, held onto that heat well, and distributed the heat evenly across their surface. The worst cast-iron pans were slightly slower to heat up, lost the heat quickly and didn't distribute the heat that well at all.

Washing

We dirtied each pan by dry-frying four rashers of bacon in them and then washed them in eight litres of hot tap water mixed with one teaspoon of washing-up liquid.

The easiest skillet to clean only needed a dunk and a rinse, while the hardest needed scrubbing with considerable effort.

Of course, this isn't the method we'd recommend for the best care of your cast-iron cookware. See our care tips below for the best methods for keeping your cast-iron pans in perfect condition.

Build quality

We examined the design, shape and manufacturing of each of the cast-iron frying pans, as well as checking whether any had any faults or flaws.

The best were well crafted and cleverly designed. The worst had manufacturing flaws, such as ragged edges or large blemishes from the forging process.

Durability

First, we washed each skillet using a wire wool scourer in eight litres of hot tap water with one teaspoon of washing-up liquid.

Second, we scraped a metal spatula up and down across the surface of the skillets 10 times, ensuring we used even pressure throughout the test. 

Finally, we simulated damage caused by storage by placing each skillet under a stockpot and for one minute, we pressed down on the stockpot with all our strength and twisted it back and forth.

The fewer signs of damage on the cast-iron frying pan's surface, the better the pan did in these tests.

How we choose the cast-iron skillets we tested

We tested cast-iron frying pans from the most popular brands sold at leading UK retailers.

We bought all the products we tested.

How to season your cast-iron frying pan

When you first get a cast-iron frying pan, it's best practice to season it before using it. 

This process is called polymerisation, which is when an oil is heated at a high temperature and forms a smooth, solid surface across the cookware.

When done correctly, you'll provide your cast-iron cookware with protection from rust and give it a chemical-free non-stick coating.

  1. Scrub the skillet clean in hot soapy water and dry thoroughly.
  2. Spread a thin layer of rapeseed or vegetable oil over the skillet and rub it into every nook and cranny on the whole pan (front and back).
  3. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F or Gas Mark 4).
  4. Place the cast-iron skillet into an oven, upside down on a baking tray (so any excess fat melts off and is collected) for an hour.

A properly seasoned cast-iron pan should have a nice shine to it and show no signs of rust.


See our pick of the best non-stick frying pans.


How to care for your cast-iron frying pan skillet

Cleaning

Most cast-iron cookware can't be cleaned in your dishwasher, and we'd recommend hand-washing even for those that say they can be.

To clean your skillet and get it back to its just-seasoned splendour, follow these steps:

  1. Allow the pan to cool down after cooking, but don't leave it for so long that the food residue gets fully stuck.
  2. First, you need to get rid of any big chunks of food residue stuck in the pan by wiping them into the food waste bin with a paper towel or dry dishcloth.
  3. If the chunks are badly stuck, pour salt into the pan and rub it into the surface with a tea towel or dishcloth.
  4. Then rinse the skillet in warm soapy water and scrub gently with a non-scratch sponge or dishcloth.
  5. Once done, rinse and thoroughly dry the inside and outside.
  6. Then apply a thin layer of oil to the cooking surface of the pan. 
  7. Cook this on a medium heat until the oil begins to smoke.
  8. Allow the pan to cool naturally before storing.

Storing

Some people store their cast-iron pans in their ovens. They can also be kept in a cupboard, but you are best off protecting them and your other items of cookware.

A few of the cast-iron skillets we tested, including the Samuel Groves and Kuhn Rikon pans, came with a storage bag to do just this.

Removing rust

As cast-iron pans are made from solid metal, if they are stored damp or get damp while in storage, they will rust.

If you ever find a patch of orange rust in your cast-iron pan, it can be removed with wire wool and some elbow grease or a fistful of salt, a dry dishcloth and more elbow grease.

Afterwards, wash the pan in hot soapy water, then rinse and dry thoroughly before seasoning it as if new.

Cooking tips we learned testing cast-iron frying pans

Preheating takes time

If you're used to lighter aluminium or stainless steel pans, you may be surprised with how long you need to preheat a cast-iron pan.

It's best practice to take your time and heat them on low to medium heat, and this can take up to five to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the skillet and of the hob.

We found they don't heat up as quickly as a thinner non-stick pan, but they do hold onto the heat extremely well.

An easy way to check if the pan is ready to use is by dropping a tiny droplet of water onto the pan and seeing if it starts to bubble and fizz.

Getting a good sear

Getting a good sear on your food is one of the reasons people choose to use a cast-iron pan. 

To get a nice caramelised crust, try not to move the food on the pan. 

When you see a brown crust forming on the outside of your meat, you know it's ready to flip.

If you try too soon, the meat may stick, but don't worry. It will self-release when the crust has formed.


Need a good pair of tongs for sizzling up a steak? Check out the best BBQ tongs.


Acidic foods

Cooking a lot of acidic foods, such as vinegar, wine, lemons and tomato sauce, in your cast-iron pan can break down the pan seasoning.

However, if you've built up a good layer of seasoning on the pan, it's fine to cook some acidic foods in moderation, such as roasting a few tomatoes in your skillet.

If you cook regularly with acidic foods, you'll need to re-season your cast-iron frying pan.