Television infomercials and homeware store displays are always promoting the next best thing in cookware. It’s enough to confuse even the most experienced at-home chef.
With all these products touted as the hot new thing, it’s reassuring to know there’s a reliable cookware favorite that has been used for centuries – and works just as well now as it did 100 years ago.
Cast iron cookware is durable, sturdy, attractive and safe to use. It’s also incredibly versatile and can be used for countless dishes in an endless variety of ways.
Why should you choose cast iron cookware and what should you look for if you decide to purchase it? We review seven of the most popular cast iron cookware items and give you some insight into why, how and where to use them.
If you’re looking for a cast iron pan, check out our best cast iron skillet buyer’s guide and reviews for top brands and latest options.
Top 7: Cast Iron Cookware Reviews
1. Bruntmor Pre-Seasoned 7 Piece Heavy Duty Cast Iron Dutch Oven Camping Cooking Set
The Bruntmor collection contains a 12-inch skillet with pour spouts on each side for stews; a Dutch oven with lid for biscuits and roasts; a skillet for the morning eggs and bacon; and a 2.5-quart sauce pot. In addition, there’s a trivet for easy transport to the table, and Dutch oven lid lifter.
Designed for use on an open fire or using burning ash, the collection includes a variety of cooking tools so you can prepare anything – from stews, roasts and biscuits to bacon and eggs. All surfaces are pre-seasoned and non-stick, so cooking and cleaning is fast and easy.
The Dutch oven lid is designed to hold hot coals, so you can use this piece as your camping oven. If cooking under hot coals is new to you, check out some advice from the cowboy cooking experts, and you’ll soon be enjoying delicious breads and baked goods of your own.
If you’re just looking for a Dutch oven, see our Staub vs Le Creuset comparison guide for other top rated models.
This Bruntmor set comes with an attractive, rustic wooden carrying case, making transport a breeze. Bear in mind, however, that the box isn’t overly sturdy, and if you’re relying on it to withstand some rough treatment on the road, you may need to reinforce it before heading out.
Although the Bruntmor camping set is ideal for fans of outdoor living, but you don’t have to go camping to enjoy it – you’ll find cooking at home a pleasure with these sturdy cast iron items, and the fact that they are pre-seasoned is a big bonus which will save you some time and fuss.
2. Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron 5-Piece Bundle
This set includes a 5-quart Dutch oven with domed lid; a-10.5 inch skillet with helper handle that will also work with the domed lid; an 8-inch skillet with pour spouts; and a 10.5-inch griddle with a nice long handle for easy maneuvering.
This hearty set would work great either on the trail or in your kitchen. It contains everything you need to prepare delicious, healthy meals. Seasoned only with vegetable oil, there are no nasty chemicals that will seep into your food.
SEE ALSO: Vegetable Oil vs Canola Oil
The heavy design may not make them ideal for the camper who prefers to travel light, but that same weight helps to effectively disperse heat evenly throughout your food.
It should be noted that the pour spouts on the 8-inch skillet may turn into spill spouts if your grip isn’t strong. Cast iron is heavy. Pay careful attention to what you’re doing, and if your hand strength is limited, stick with pans that offer helper handles.
Lodge Cast Iron produce quality, durable cookware that with the correct care and maintenance, can last for generations. With an attractive design and smooth cooking experience, The Lodge cast iron cookware bundle may be perfect for the discerning cook at home or on the road.
3. Lodge LPGI3 Cast Iron Reversible Grill/Griddle, 20-inch x 10.44-inch
The Lodge griddle is 20-inches wide by just over 10-inches wide, and will give you a broad cooking area for breakfast foods such as eggs and bacon on the flat side, and grilling ridges for steaks on the other.
Both sides of the griddle feature a grease trap and the entire unit can go into the oven or sit on your outdoor grill for even heat and no risk of food loss through the grate.
This reversible griddle is pre-seasoned and low maintenance. After use, it’s as simple as a quick hand wash, dry, and application of cooking oil. The addition of grease traps is fantastic for the health conscious, with those extra fats draining away from your cooking.
Even those with the best induction cooktops will need to check the specifications for their stove to see if a double-burner griddle will work for their cooking needs. If you’re looking for a generous amount of cooking space, be aware that the handles and grease traps take up quite a bit of surface area.
A quality cast iron pan is an essential piece of kitchen equipment, and this griddle is a great choice. If you’re looking for a sturdy, solid and versatile griddle that will withstand any kitchen duty, then this is a great choice for you.
4. Lodge L7B3 Cast Iron Drop Biscuit Pan
This pre-seasoned drop biscuit pan features seven wells, each measuring 3 ¼-inches wide and 1-inch deep.
Specifically built for quick breads and desserts, it is easy to care for and designed to hang in your kitchen until you’re ready to put it to work.
The pre-seasoned finish is rust proof and non-stick, but be sure to use it with an eye toward maintaining it. Follow the instructions about using vegetable oil to maintain the finish.
A quick word about sugar and cast iron. Cast iron stays hot, which can provide you with a beautiful, caramelized finish to your desserts. However, because it holds heat, your cookware will keep cooking once it’s out of the oven. Be sure to get the desserts out while the pan is still warm, or the caramelized sugar will act as a glue.
This hefty pan is a great option for desserts, including shortbreads or fruit cobblers. Biscuits will be crispy on the outside and soft inside. A great choice for those who love their baking with some old school style.
5. Lodge P14W3 Seasoned Cast Iron Wok, 14”
This 100% cast iron wok is a fantastic addition to any kitchen. With a flat base, it can be used on any cooking surface, including induction ovens or campfires.
While many of us have seen thin metal woks, a cast iron wok is a great alternative.
It features two stout handles which provide plenty of clearance for your fingers or any hot pads you need to maneuver this useful tool.
Correct maintenance is essential with cast iron cookware, so ensure you care for it appropriately by hand washing and drying it straight after use and apply a thin coating of vegetable oil before popping it back in the cupboard.
This generously sized wok is well-suited for those who like to cook a lot of food. Although it’s particularly handy for creating delicious stir fries, it’s also great for scrambled eggs, soups, or even a spicy paella.
6. 3.6 QT Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole Dish
This attractive Lodge enameled casserole dish is coated in two layers of porcelain enamel to protect the iron within. It offers a tight fitting lid for heat retention and stout handles for easy maneuvering.
Super versatile, you can use this dish for cooking and marinating, or even throw it into the fridge or freezer. It can be used on all different cooktops – excluding outdoor grills and open flames – as well as inside the oven.
It can safely go in the dishwasher, however, dedicated users of cast iron cookware recommend hand washing even enameled pans.
The enameled surface doesn’t offer the same seasoning as cooking directly on cast iron, and the enamel coating isn’t as durable as it could be, with some users complaining that it damages too easily, and frequently finding the coating peeling off. Check our guide on the best lasagna pans if you want to look at other options.
If you love the heat retention capabilities of cast iron but don’t want to deal with the seasoning process, this beautiful enameled pan is ideal for your kitchen. Not so suitable for those who expect their cookware to survive a bit of rough and tumble.
7. Lodge Cast Iron Cornbread Wedge Pan (Pre Seasoned)
This 9-inch funky black skillet is designed to help you make the perfect cornbread. With eight separate wells, it features two strong handles to help you maneuver.
This pan is pre-seasoned and ready to go to work. Simply wash it in warm water (no soap) and wipe it dry. Add a bit of vegetable oil to each section and spoon in your batter. Leave space for the batter to rise so you don’t have to deal with an oven spill, and enjoy.
All cast iron cookware can work over a campfire, but as this has no lid, be sure to use it on a calm day so your baked goods aren’t contaminated by ash.
Also, users wondered if they could use this pan to heat up leftovers in different sections? Yes, but be sure to oil all sections, even those you leave empty.
Perfect for the cornbread connoisseur, this solid pan can take a real beating in the kitchen without receiving a dent. Like cornbread, it can be enjoyed wherever you are: at home, on the road, or at your favorite campsite.
It’s not only a great choice for lovers of cornbread, you can easily make delicious scones, frittatas and quiches too.
FAQ – Top Questions & Answers
Why Cook With Cast Iron Cookware?
Cast iron does not heat as rapidly or effectively as other metals, but it does offer the bonus of retaining more heat than they do when a cold food item is added to the pan or pot, giving you the chance to sear and brown your favorite cut of beef while sealing in the fresh juices.
Additionally, if you enjoy deep-fried foods, cast iron will keep your oil hotter than aluminum cookware or stainless steel pot. It will also keep your food warmer for longer once you take it off the heat source. Here are the best oils for deep frying.
Cast iron cookware moves beautifully from stove top to oven, though the weight of the product can be a challenge for some. It is versatile and can be used in most cooking scenarios, from campfires and outdoor grills to ovens and stovetops.
SEE ALSO: How Long To Preheat An Oven
Iron is a great choice for the health-conscious chef. There are no nasty chemical non-stick linings that leach into your food during the cooking process, only natural vegetable oils used to season the surface.
There’s also the added bonus of an extra dose of iron in your food – making cast iron a fantastic choice for sufferers of anemia (iron deficiency).
The biggest danger to a great old cast iron pan is rust. Per authorities with Southern Living, preventative seasoning is much more effective than scrubbing away the rust later.
What Are The Best Things To Cook In A Cast Iron Skillet?
There’s an endless array of dishes you can cook in your skillet, but there are one or two things that these kitchen implements excel at.
One example is seafood. If you want to perfectly sear a tuna steak or impress with some scallops, place the cast iron pot in the oven and heat it to at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit / 204 degrees Celsius. Once the pan is hot, place it on the stove top.
Make sure your seafood is well-oiled, then drop it onto the hot skillet to build a crisp, brown sear before removing them from the heat.
The flesh will be sweet from searing the outside and steaming the inside. With proper planning, you can have supper ready in minutes.
Is Cast Iron Safe? Will Iron Get In My food?
Not only is cast iron cookware safe to cook with, it even has added health benefits.
A well-seasoned pan with a healthy non-stick coating lets you use less oil, meaning less fat and cholesterol.
Whereas many other non-stick pans use chemicals that can be harmful if they leach into your food, or release fumes when heated, cast iron cookware is seasoned with natural vegetable oil, so no nasties will sneak into your meals. We dive deeper in our “is ceramic cookware safe?” guide.
What cast iron DOES leach into your food is iron. With iron deficiency a problem for so many people, this is a positive thing, and an easy way to boost your iron intake.
How Is Cast Iron Cookware Made?
Cast iron cookware was first used in China during the Han Dynasty in 220 A.D. Because of its load-bearing strength, it was used to construct early skyscrapers, which gives you an idea of just how tough and durable this cookware material is.
The method of production for cookware involves melting iron and steel together and mixing them with some key chemicals. The liquid metal is then poured into molds, and the final product is smoothed and perfected.
Older methods of casting iron pots involved pouring molten iron into forms that would produce a smooth pot. Newer pots are molded in sand forms, or ‘sand casted’ – giving a rougher, more pebbled surface.
While both of these finishes can be treated and seasoned to reduce the risk of food sticking to the pot, the rougher surface is a bit harder to season well.
SEE ALSO: Griswold Cast Iron
Do You Need To Season Enameled Cast Iron Cookware?
Most definitely. Experts recommend taking the time to season your pan even if it was sold ‘pre-seasoned.’ Seasoning will stop your food from sticking, provide a better cooking surface, prevent rust, and make cleaning up a breeze
There are many different methods offered by a variety of self-proclaimed experts on the best seasoning methods, so it may be a case of trial and error to find the one that suits you.
If you do nothing else, at least take the time to heat your cookware until it’s smoking hot, rub some cooking oil into it, and then let it cool. If you do this a few times, it should provide a great non-stick surface.
The great thing about cast iron is that the more you use it, the stronger your seasoning will become, so fry, sear and bake to your heart’s content.
Why Is Cast Iron Better For Cooking?
Cast iron is a great choice for cooking because it’s sturdy and built to last. It’s most likely what your grandparents used to cook with, and is so hard-wearing that it can be passed from generation to generation.
It has the ability to stand up to higher cooking temperatures than other elements do, making it the ideal choice for searing and frying.
Along with these benefits, cast iron is making a comeback to the cooking industry due to the health benefits it offers over other products. Certain non-stick pots and pans can emit toxic fumes when they reach a high temperature, but iron is designed specifically to withstand heat.
The Japanese have been making tea using cast iron for hundreds of years. See our best cast iron teapots guide for more details.
What Foods Should I Avoid Cooking In Cast Iron?
As versatile as cast iron is, there is one food-type that you should avoid throwing into the mix: high acid items like ripened tomatoes or vinegar should be avoided where possible. The acid can mess with the pH balance of your pan and result in some funky metallic flavors.
Stewing tomatoes or cooking with vinegar or lemon juice is a no-no. The acid can cause certain elements in the metal to leach into your foods – this isn’t unsafe, it just results in that metal flavor that most people aren’t keen on in their meals.
Taste isn’t the only factor involved. High-acidity foods can damage the seasoned coating you’ve so painstakingly developed, eating away at the non-stick layer.
Fortunately, it takes at least 30 minutes for this effect to occur, so you’re fine to do a quick fry up with lemon, wine or tomatoes, but avoid things like tomato sauce that will need to simmer for longer periods.
Cast iron cookware is making a comeback to modern kitchens, and for good reason. These sturdy kitchen favorites, likely used by your great grandmother, stand the test of time.
There’s a reason why these much loved kitchen items were so favored by previous generations: they are durable, natural and produce mouthwatering food.
Because good food should be enjoyed anywhere and everywhere, our top pick of the bunch is the Bruntmor 7 Piece Cast Iron Dutch Oven Camping Cooking Set. With everything you need to create a huge variety of meals wherever you may be, it’s the ideal set for any chef.