Which is best: a cast iron skillet or a nonstick skillet?
When buying new cookware, you may face the choice between a cast iron skillet and a nonstick skillet. Both have their pros and cons, and different specialized uses. Cast iron skillets are durable enough to last several lifetimes, but they’re heavy and require more careful washing and maintenance. Nonstick skillets are lightweight and easy to use, especially when cooking foods prone to sticking, but they have much shorter lifespans and don’t give a good sear.
Cast iron skillets
Cast iron skillets are made from thick raw cast iron. They need to be seasoned with vegetable or plant oils to create a nonstick protective coating before use, though the vast majority of cast iron pans sold today come pre-seasoned.
Due to their heavy construction, well-cared-for cast iron pans are durable enough to be passed down from generation to generation. Cast iron skillets range in price from around $15 for smaller, more basic options to $100 for large, high-end cast iron skillets, though most cost less than $50.
Cast iron skillet pros
- All cast iron skillets can be used on both the stovetop and in the oven, even at very high temperatures.
- Due to their excellent heat retention, cast iron skillets are great for baking bread and pizza, as well as cooking food you want to sear or get a nice crust on, like steak.
- Using cast iron cookware causes some iron to leach into your food, which is beneficial since iron is an essential nutrient.
- Once you’ve built up a decent layer of seasoning, cast iron skillets are essentially nonstick.
Cast iron skillet cons
- When washing and drying cast iron skillets to avoid scratching off the seasoning or causing them to rust, you must be careful not to leave to soak or use scouring pads to clean them. You must always dry them thoroughly before putting them away.
- Cast iron skillets are extremely heavy, making them tricky for some people to use. They also take up more storage space in your kitchen.
Best cast iron skillet
This well-sized 12.5-inch skillet comes pre-seasoned with soybean oil. As you continue to use the pan, you’ll have to re-season it with oil.
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Lodge is one of the biggest names in cast iron pans, so you can trust you’re getting a quality skillet. It comes in a range of sizes, from 3.5-15 inches, so there’s an option to suit every need.
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This pan is a little thinner and lighter than some cast iron skillets, which some buyers love. The seasoning on it is light, so it’s great for anyone who wants to season their cast iron.
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Nonstick skillets are made from metal — usually aluminum — with a synthetic nonstick coating. The coating completely prevents foods from sticking to the pan, which makes cleanup a breeze.
There is controversy surrounding chemicals in some nonstick coatings. If you prefer pans without PFOA and other chemicals, there are options with ceramic nonstick and hard anodized coatings. Most nonstick skillets cost $10–$30, while some large, durable options may cost as much as $80–$100.
Nonstick skillet pros
- Since food doesn’t stick to nonstick skillets, they’re straightforward to wash by hand, and some are even dishwasher safe, unlike cast iron skillets.
- Although they don’t retain heat and cast iron skillets, nonstick skillets transfer heat more quickly and evenly, so you don’t have to wait as long for them to heat up, and you shouldn’t get noticeable hot spots.
- Nonstick skillets are lightweight and much easier to handle than cast iron skillets.
Nonstick skillet cons
- Nonstick skillets are essentially disposable — you shouldn’t expect basic options to last more than one to two years. Even the most durable options are unlikely to last more than five years.
- You can’t use nonstick skillets at extremely high temperatures because this causes them to release chemicals in the coating that may be linked to potential health concerns.
Best nonstick skillet
Sturdier than most nonstick options, this is an excellent choice for anyone who wants the convenience of cooking with nonstick and a durable, long-lasting pan.
This deep skillet is versatile enough to cook a wide range of dishes. It’s dishwasher safe, comes with a lid and is oven safe to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
This model is made with a granite-based nonstick coating that’s PFOA-free but just as effective as traditional nonstick. It comes in four sizes, from 9.5-12.5 inches.
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Should you get a cast iron skillet or a nonstick skillet?
If you only have the budget to buy one pan, you’ll need to choose between a nonstick skillet and a cast iron skillet. Neither is necessarily better than the other, they just have different strengths. Objectively, cast iron skillets are far more durable and somewhat more versatile than nonstick skillets, but they require more care, and even well-seasoned pans can struggle to prevent some foods from sticking. Nonstick pans are easier to care for and prevent food from sticking, even with little to no oil. However, if you can afford it, most home cooks can benefit from owning both nonstick and cast iron skillets.
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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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