The Best Cast Iron Skillets Under $50
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What's not to love about cast iron pans?! Virtually nothing... except the price. But don't worry! We've researched budget-friendly options below.
A cast iron pan is a non-stick, chemical-free, versatile kitchen wonder! Cast iron pans provide consistent heat, and not only do they last a lifetime—many lifetimes actually—every cast iron pan actually gets better with time. And of course, there are so many recipes you can make in them for spring, summer, fall, and winter.
The only downside is that cast iron kitchen staples can be a bit more of an—[ahem]—investment than we would always like—especially if you want to own multiple sizes. But the great news is, there are some inexpensive options that are absolutely worthy of your kitchen. Below are our top three cast iron pan picks under $50—including our Executive Culinary Director’s recommendation.
What to Look for When Buying Cast Iron
We already know you’re looking for wallet-friendly cast irons pans, but here are a few other things to keep an eye out for when you’re shopping:
Be sure it’s pre-seasoned. The amount of seasoning usually corresponds to the price (more seasoning = more expensive), but most should have a couple layers of seasoning.
Look for “helper handles.” Cast iron is heavy! So, if you’re looking for a larger pan (think 10-inch and up), it’s helpful if the pan has a smaller second handle, opposite of the main handle.
Consider how you’ll use it. Will you need your cast iron to pull double-, triple- and even quadruple-duty for the types of things you want to use it for? Looking for a larger surface area for big servings? Or do you need one with a lid? Take some time to think how you’ll be using it before you decide on a keeper.
And if you happen to land a used cast iron pan that has a bit of rust, here are some tips for restoring it.
Cast Iron Pan Evaluation Criteria
So, how did we decide on our final cast iron pan picks? There are a few things we considered. We looked for pre-seasoned, trusted brands that fit our budget of $50 or less. All the pans below have been reviewed by at least 5,000 customers on Amazon, and at least 70% of those were five star reviews. We also provide some versatility in what’s featured, so the descriptions should make it easier to decide the best cast iron pan for your kitchen. And, of course, we asked our Executive Culinary Director, too.
Cast Iron Pan Picks
You will likely see at least one, if not several, Lodge cast iron pans on any “best of” list, and there’s good reason. Lodge has been making cast iron kitchen tools in South Pittsburg, Tennessee since 1896—they are one of the few remaining “old school” makers, in the very best sense of the word. In fact, after Taste of Home’s own cast-iron pan, our Executive Culinary Director, Sarah Farmer, named the Lodge cast-iron skillet as her second favorite pan. “Lodge is tried and true,” she says. “They’re a leader in the industry.”
Lodge cast iron pans tend to be a bit heavier than other more expensive pans and have less seasoning, but if you plan to cook on it a lot, that seasoning will happen in good time. Find out why this Lodge cast iron skillet has over 100,000 positive reviews on Amazon.
If you’re looking to get maximum bang for your buck, this three-piece set from Utopia is perfect. Whether you’re frying up eggs for the whole crew or making a grilled cheese just for yourself, you’ll have a pan that’s the right size for the job. One drawback to note is that, unlike the Lodge, these pans don’t have “helper handles,” though this is less of an issue with smaller pans.
Another solid, inexpensive cast iron option is this pan from Victoria. With a bit more surface area than the comparable Lodge, this pan is ideal if you’re consistently whipping up multiple servings. And the nearly 7,000 Amazon reviews for this budget-friendly pan are overwhelmingly five star raves.
How to Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet
Do: Clean Immediately After Use
Try to rinse your cast-iron pan right after cooking. This will prevent clingy food scraps like eggs or sauces from hardening and sticking to the pan. (You can also pour a glass of hot water into the pan while it sits on the stove.) Wait until the cast iron has cooled enough to handle, then hand wash in the sink—yes, it’s okay to get your pan wet. Note: Submerging an extremely hot pan in cold water can cause it to crack. So don’t do it.
Don’t: Let the Pan Soak Too Long
Although you might be tempted to toss your skillet in a sudsy sink while you eat, avoid letting it soak. Cast iron is not rust-proof! Make sure to minimize the amount of time it comes into contact with water. This means no dishwasher, either!
Do: Use Hot Water and Soap
It’s a common misconception that soap will strip the seasoning from your pan. A little soapy water now and then will help banish stuck-on food and reduce the elbow grease. Hot water helps dissolve the stuck-on bits better.
Don’t: Use an Abrasive Scrubber
Abrasive scrubbers like scouring pads or steel wool will take off your hard-earned seasoning. Got tough residue? Our editors tested dozens of products and these were our favorite scrubbers for cleaning cast iron pans.
Do: Dry Well and Oil
Instead of leaving your pan in the rack to dry, wipe it down with a clean rag (don’t use a light towel—the cast iron can stain it) or paper towel right away. This will prevent rusting. Let your pan dry right on your stovetop or even in the oven.
Extra credit: Reinforce your seasoning after a wash. While the pan is warm, apply a light coat of vegetable oil with a paper towel.
A little rust or scrubbed-off seasoning isn’t the end of the world. You can always scour off rust and re-season the pan. Remember, cast iron pans are extremely durable. With a little care, they’ll last a lifetime.
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