In this article, I’ve narrowed down the best cast-iron skillet pans for cooking the perfect steak, every time!
When we think of cooking steak, we often think about outdoor smokers and grills. However, if it's rainy or cold and you don't want to stand outside, this is a fantastic alternative.
Top chefs and quality restaurants rarely cook steak on a grill. The secret to making a fantastic steak that is seared to perfection and cooked through is a cast iron skillet.
Benefits To Cooking With Cast Iron
There are several advantages to using cast iron skillets. Here's what I love about them.
- Cost effective- They are reasonably priced and if cared for properly will last you a lifetime.
- Even heat distribution- no hot spots give you the best result when cooking anything. If you use a normal ceramic or non-stick pan, you’ll get “hot spots” where parts of your steak will get too much heat and other parts will get too little. Having that even temperature gives you a good sear.
- They retain heat like no other cookware material. In addition, cast iron also has the advantage of being able to handle high temperatures of 500+ degrees. For searing steak, this is ideal.
- They have no synthetic chemicals so they are a healthier option.
- Durable- this is the best material, it's heavy duty and as mentioned will last.
- They hold seasoning flavors, which infuses your cooking.
- Versatile- You can braise, fry, saute', etc. Cook meats, vegetables, eggs, and so on. The versatility of moving your cast iron pan back and forth creates simplicity in cooking not only steak but other meats, savory dishes, and even desserts.
The advantage of using a cast-iron skillet for steak is that cast iron will cook at an even temperature throughout the pan.
These reasons and more are why I love cast iron anytime I’m cooking steak.
So now that I’ve got you thinking about cast iron, the next question becomes: Which cast iron skillet is the best option?
Choosing The Right Skillet
When looking for a new cast iron skillet, there are a few things you'll want to consider: Pre-seasoning, handle length, helper handle, and pour spout.
Pre-seasoning- Cast iron is unique in that the older the pan is, the better it works. A new cast iron pan will feel rough to the touch. An older cast iron pan, that has years of use, will be slick- more like Teflon. Pre-seasoning is a coating from the manufacturer that helps your pan get to that slickness, faster. The more coats, the better.
Handle Length- One advantage of cast iron is that it can go from the stove to the oven and back again without a problem. A short handle gives you better leverage as you are lifting the hot pan. It also fits in your oven better. You’re less likely to burn yourself by accidentally touching longer handles.
Helper handle- This is the shorter handle on the opposite side from the regular handle. This makes it easier to transport whether you're moving it to the oven or to the table. Cast iron is a heavy pan! So to me, this is an important feature. No one wants to drop dinner on the floor.
Pour Spouts- If you're pouring drippings or anything out, especially into a smaller opening, this is helpful to keep it where it's going and not dribble down the outside of the pan. Chances are, you'll be cooking more than steak in your cast iron pans.
The 5 Best Cast Iron Skillets For Steak
There are so many brands to choose from! These are my top picks for the best skillets for home cooks and any of these will last you a long time.
I definitely recommend a Lodge skillet. It has all of my top preferences, a shorter handle, pre-seasoning, helper handle, pour spouts, and a great price.
It is the most affordable cast iron cookware with the highest quality. It's also lighter weight by comparison. It has a pretty smooth surface to begin with, but will become even more smooth with use.
There are several different sizes to choose from and they carry all the accessories you can think of.
For steak, a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet is the ideal size. I use mine for all sorts of things and have a large family, so I prefer the 12 inch.
Lodge has been in business since 1896. They are an American company and create products that are durable and easy to use. You can’t go wrong with Lodge!
Cuisinel offers a great pan that is pre-seasoned, has safety covers, lids, and comes in a 2 piece set. It has a lifetime warranty and a money back guarantee. They are still quite an affordable price.
They start out with a little bit rougher surface than the lodge, but as with any of these skillets, after time, that will smooth out more.
Legend skillets have a “forever” warranty. They come with or without a tempered glass lid. They have a safety silicon grip and they weigh in at 4.9 pounds. The handle length is a bit longer than I’d prefer, but this pan meets all of the skillet musts and is a great option.
These skillets are slightly cheaper and come in a set of three. They are factory pre-seasoned and close to non-stick. They offer a thirty day satisfaction guarantee. They do not come with silicone covers for the handles, but you can buy them separately. They also don't have the helper handle.
This Utopia brand comes with a three-piece set and is the least expensive of the brands. They do not have handle covers, but you can buy them separately. The pre-seasoning they come with is soy-based and ready for immediate use.
- Unlike a stainless steel pan with a long handle, the cast iron pan gets hot everywhere, including the handle. A great accessory is a silicone grip. It's a bit easier to work with than an oven mitt, but both work. Many of the recommended brands sell them with the skillet, but they can always be purchased separately too.
- Preseasoned from the manufacturer is a great head start on your skillet. It's still a good idea to season it at home before the first use.
- Proper care and maintenance have a big impact on the durability and performance of your pans.
- Many people ask about enameled cast iron pans. For steak, I prefer the original. I do have a dutch oven that is enameled cast iron, and I've used it for braising as well as simple soups and stocks, but for the purpose of a great sear, I still prefer traditional cast iron.
- To get your cast iron skillet piping hot, you can easily place it in the hot oven and get it up to 500 degrees before you switch it back to the stove and vice versa.
How To Season a Cast-Iron Pan
Make sure your skillet is clean. If you have one that has rusted, it's okay to use a mild dish detergent on it to scrub it and get rid of the rust. You don't want to use soap on a regular basis, but it's okay in this instance. After seasoning it, and maintaining it, you won't need to use soap.
- Preheat the oven to 500°. In order to really set the seasoning, you do need it to reach beyond the smoke point, which is why the temperature is so high.
- Lightly coat the pan with vegetable oil. I typically use olive oil because I always have it on hand. Flaxseed oil is one of the best you can use. Avocado oil also works well, but even good ol' Crisco works. Just avoid animal fats.
- Use paper towels to spread the oil all over the surface of the pan. Include the sides of the pan too. If you do have an old pan that you're trying to resurrect, go ahead and spread it on the outside of the pan too.
- Place it in the oven for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and let it cool completely to room temperature in the oven.
Proper Care and Maintenance
Some would consider the maintenance a disadvantage, but honestly, it doesn't take much effort and it's worth it to keep your pans nice.
- Rinse- After using your pan, rinse it well in hot water while it's still warm. You can use a sponge or brush to gently wash away any leftover stuck on food. If you have stubborn stuck on pieces, boil some water in the pan, that will help loosen it up.
- Dry- Use paper towel or a kitchen towel to dry it immediately. Don't air dry! Alternatively, you can place the pan over low heat to quickly dry it. Remove it from the heat.
- Oil- pour a drizzle of oil in the pan (you don't need much!), and use a paper towel to spread it all around the entire surface and up the sides. Let it set for awhile so the oil absorbs before putting it away.
- Store- Lay a paper towel over it before stacking any other pans on top to prevent scratching or the oil transferring over. Store in a cool dry place.
Consider this like a mini-seasoning. With cast iron, the more you use it the better it becomes.
If you're finding that you don't use it that often and food is sticking, then do a full seasoning on it and that should help. Seasoning once a year is recommended, but you may need it more or less. It really depends on how often you use it.
Frequently Asked Questions
First and foremost for its taste. Cast iron allows you to get a super high temperature which will give you a nicely seared crust on the outside while leaving your steak perfectly tender and juicy on the inside. It also retains its heat which makes for even cooking. Cast Iron is naturally non-stick.
If you love Restaurant-style steak, this will give you the result you're looking for.
A 10-inch pan or 12-inch skillet is ideal.
If you get the heat high enough, yes. The drawback is that incredibly high temperatures will damage the enamel over time.
Yes. Seasoning makes your pan release food easily, clean up well, and keeps it from getting rusty. Cared for properly, these will be better than any nonstick pans out there.
Alternative Skillets For Steak
Cast iron is definitely the best for cooking steak, however, there are other alternatives.
These pans are very durable but require a bit more maintenance. They are light and easy to handle, they have a smooth cooking surface which gives a great sear. They are higher priced, but worth it if you care for them properly.
These pans are light and easy to use, they cook well at high heat and have even heat distribution. Clean-up is a breeze and you can even put them in the dishwasher.
My parents gifted me with an All-Clad stainless steel cookware set when we got married. Over twenty years later they still cook like new.
Ready to cook
Now that you know what to look for, here's a fantastic simple steak recipe to try in your new cast-iron skillet.