A chef’s kitchen isn’t complete without a cast iron skillet. Made from an iron-carbon alloy, these heavy duty pans are an essential and versatile tool for use on the grill, on a stovetop, or even over a campfire. Chefs love cast iron because the durable material retains heat better than stainless steel, and the cooking surface improves over time as it’s used and re-seasoned. As it cooks, food leaves behind a natural coating on the pan that provides flavor as well as a reliable non-stick surface for simmering, searing, braising, baking, and sautéing pretty much anything.
Cleaning Your Skillet
Cast iron skillets are tough, but you still need to take care of them. The cleaning ritual can seem intimidating to newbies, but really, maintenance is quite simple. Since water causes rust on cast iron, the first rule to remember is to never soak a skillet. You can, however, wash it by hand with a small amount of soap and use a scrubber to pry off stuck bits of food, according to skillet manufacturer Lodge. Once you’re done scrubbing, immediately dry your skillet thoroughly with a lint-free cloth.
Seasoning Your Skillet
To keep that non-stick coating in shape, you’ll need to season your skillet. Add a thin, even layer of cooking oil to its surface, and then place it upside down in a 500-degree oven for an hour. Take it out, let it cool, and your skillet will be ready for its next use.
Cast iron skillets come in many different varieties. Below, we’ve rounded up the best types for different uses, from cooking for a crowd to whipping up a meal in the backcountry.