Best Cast-Iron Frying Pans From Consumer Reports' Tests

These top-rated pans turn out amazing seared steaks and more

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cast iron pan testing
An array of enameled cast-iron skillets in CR's cookware lab.
STEPHEN YANG

Cast-iron frying pans are making a comeback. They've been around for centuries, but sales of this type of cookware have increased nearly 15 percent over the past three years, according to a housewares census conducted by HomeWorld Business, a trade journal.

In addition to being incredibly durable—they can last for decades, if not generations—cast-iron pans are particularly good at searing because they retain heat well. In fact, all of the cast-iron pans in our ratings ace our searing test.

Consumer Reports tests two types of cast-iron pans—uncoated pans, the ones you probably picture when you think of cast iron, and those coated with enamel, like you see on a Dutch oven.

The advantages of that coating? The enamel creates a smoother surface that makes these pans a bit easier to clean than traditional cast iron and a bit gentler on a smooth-top ranges. And it prevents the pan from rusting or reacting to acidic foods like a traditional cast-iron pan. The disadvantage is that the outer coating can chip.

To see how well a cast-iron frying pan works for home cooks, we focus on the tasks people typically use this cookware for: searing steaks, browning scallops, and baking cornbread. We also measure heating evenness with a thermal camera, as well as record how hot the pan and the handle get. Heads up: All the handles get hot enough to burn your hand, so make sure you have a pot holder nearby.

Below are the 10 top-scoring 12-inch cast-iron frying pans from our tests, listed in alphabetical order. For more information on these and other pans in our tests, see our cookware and frying pan ratings.

CR’s take: Sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, the Artisanal aces our browning tests, earning an Excellent rating and making perfect scallops. It's just as good at searing a steak, too. It bakes cornbread that's moist and golden brown, but not quite as good as the cornbread from our top-rated pan. The downsides: This pan isn’t great at heating up evenly, and at 8.3 pounds, it’s the heaviest in our tests.

CR’s take: Like the other pans featured here, the Bayou Classic earns an Excellent rating for searing steak. It’s almost as good at browning scallops, but only so-so at baking cornbread. Heating evenness is also middling. It weighs 7 pounds.

CR’s take: The pricey Butter Pat aces our tests for baking cornbread and searing a juicy New York strip steak, and it's the only cast-iron pan that earns a Very Good for heating evenness. At just over 6 pounds, it’s also one of the lighter models in our tests. Its handle gets much hotter than the handles of all the other frying pans in our labs, though, so you’ll want to be careful handling it while cooking. The Butter Pat is sold only on the company's website.

CR’s take: Lodge has been making cast-iron frying pans in its Tennessee foundry since 1896 and is one of the few surviving iconic American brands. This 12-inch Lodge is top-notch at browning scallops and earns an Excellent rating for searing a steak. Baking is only so-so, though. Heating evenness is also mediocre. It weighs 7.8 pounds, which is about average.

CR’s take: The Victoria is one of the lowest-priced pans we've tested, but it browns and sears just as well as some higher-priced ones, earning top scores on both tests. But it was only so-so in our cornbread test, and scored a Fair on our heating evenness test, the lowest rating of the pans here. At 6.9 pounds, it’s lighter than many other pans in our tests.

CR’s take: When it comes to searing, this pan from Chrissy Teigen knocks it out of the park. So if steak or pork chops are your thing, it’s worth a look. It also did well at browning scallops, earning a Very Good rating. Cornbread came out moist and tasty, and this pan is easy to clean. Like all cast-iron pans, you can move it from stovetop to oven.

CR’s take: You might not associate the name Crock-Pot with something that isn’t, well, a crockpot. But it makes this well-priced Crock-Pot Artisan pan, which can sear a steak and earns Very Good ratings at both browning scallops and baking cornbread. And after all that cooking, it’s easy to clean. Unlike the other enameled pans featured here, the inner coating of this one is white rather than black. The only advantage? It makes it easier to see how your food is browning.

CR’s take: Le Creuset is known for its Dutch ovens, which are also enameled-covered cast iron. You can easily sear a steak in this nifty Le Creuset frying pan, and it earned a Very Good rating at browning scallops. However, it was only so-so at baking cornbread. But not everyone bakes in their cast-iron skillet. It’s just as easy to clean as all the other pans on this list.

CR’s take: The fiery red Staub frying pan is a champ at searing steak. And you won’t be disappointed when you use it to cook cornbread, because it earns a Very Good rating on that test. But it’s only so-so at browning scallops in our tests. It’s easy to clean, and you can move it from oven to table for serving.

CR’s take: The Tramontina 80131/066DS excels at two tasks that you depend on with a cast-iron skillet: searing steak and browning scallops. We also baked cornbread and it earned a Very Good rating, which is on a par with most of the top pans on this list. And it’s as easy to clean as all the other top-rated pans here.


Mary H.J. Farrell

Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.