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Tired of throwing worn-out or scratched non stick pans away? Take a look at cookware that will stand the test of time and improve the more you cook with it. We think every kitchen should have a cast iron skillet; although often associated with steaks (and they cook a mean sirloin) they’re also great for bubbling bakes, one-pot roasts and crisping veggies and stir fries.
What you need to know about skillets
Skillets take a bit of extra care compared to normal frying pans, however. Because of the materials used, they can be heavy to move around and may scratch if you slide them across a ceramic or induction hobs.
All but one of our selection here can be moved into the oven too, so ideal if you want to start something off on the cooker and then bake, grill or slow cook to finish off.
It follows, then, that the whole thing gets incredibly hot and you’ll need to train yourself to remember the burn risk, as it’s easy to grab a hot pan without thinking when busy in the kitchen.
Take your skillet outdoors
Skillets withstand open fires too – you can even use skillets in pizza ovens or on campfires, so take yours into the great outdoors if you get a chance.
Getting better with age: How to take care of your skillet
Cast iron skillets should ideally be washed by hand, using only a small amount of detergent or a handful of salt. Dry them thoroughly, as they can rust if left damp (though they’re easy to revive with some wire wool and a bit of elbow grease.)
As you use your pan more, the patina will build and the non-stick qualities will improve. A chemical-free way to avoid food sticking must be a good thing – just remember those oven gloves!
Round Cast Iron Skillet
Key specs: Size: 23cm; Pouring lips: two; Pre seasoned: yes; Weight: 1.9kg; Heat resistant to 250 degrees
A stylish choice that’s available in a range of colours, this is a worthy investment for anyone serious about cooking. Of course, once hooked there are lots of matching accessories and pans you can add to your collection.
This skillet will last for years (and is guaranteed for a lifetime), looks great on cooker and dining table alike and has superior-quality cast iron that has an enamel-coated black inner. This gives a smooth, slide-off surface for steaks, cakes, rice dishes… everything you could wish to cook.
With no surface hotspots you’ll achieve a crisp finish every time.
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
Key specs: Size: 26cm; Pouring lips: Two; Pre seasoned: yes; Weight: 2.27kg; Heat resistant to 260 degrees
Made in the deep South with traditional methods, this cast iron skillet is a US bestseller. An integral part of many households’ kitchen – and barbecue – armoury, you’ll see it used by top chefs too.
The perfect size for two steaks, it comes beautifully pre-seasoned with soy-based vegetable oil, making for an interior that’s more refined than the rough and ready style of some of the cheaper pans we looked at.
It’s a good weight and thickness, with a chunky handle and ‘grab bar’ for secure transportation.
Kichly Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
Key spec: Size: 26cm; Pouring lips: two; Pre seasoned: yes; Weight: 2.4kg; Heat resistant to: 250 degrees
From the bargain end of the scale, this skillet arrived pre-seasoned, but we felt it needed a once-over with some rapeseed oil as it didn’t seem as evident as with some of our other choices. We gave it a wipe with rapeseed oil on some kitchen towel, before roasting in the oven for an hour before we gave it its first try-out. This resulted in a non-stick coating and we were pleased with the results after cooking up a full English. Even fried eggs stayed unstuck: a good performance from a basic pan.
Staub Cast Iron Frying Pan
Key specs: Size: 26cm; Pouring lips: two; Pre seasoned: yes; Weight: 2.58kg; Heat resistant to: 260 degrees
A very smooth, enamelled ‘black matte’ interior coating means there is no need to worry about food sticking to the base of this classic French skillet.
It heats quickly and cooks everything evenly, so you can be sure ingredients on the edge of the pan are as evenly cooked as those in the centre.
The Staub also retains heat very well, so be sure to use it for those long, leisurely meals at the table – our chicken and chorizo bake looked great against its dark, glossy interior and graphite enamel. The sides are nice and deep on this one, too, so there’ll be plenty of food to go round.
VonShef Cast Iron Skillet Pan
Key specs: Size: 6, 8, 10”cm; Pouring lips: two; Pre seasoned: yes; Weight: 2kg, 1kg, 545g; Heat resistant to 250 degrees
A versatile set of skillets that come in three great sizes and can be used on electric, gas, induction and ceramic hobs, as well as in the oven or barbecue. Use the larger of the pans for your main course and meat sears and sizzles, forming a tasty crust and juicy inner.
Once you’ve ditched a flimsy frying pan and tried cast iron, it’s the only way to cook steak, and with this set you can perfect oven-baked sides at the same time. We tried stuffed garlic mushrooms in the medium pan and a cute apple crumble in the smallest, with great results in all three.