Cast iron skillets are, if not the oldest, then certainly one of the oldest types of cookware still in use today, with a multitude of sizes and shapes from which to choose. What is the best and most versatile size of cast iron skillet is a common question. I have been using cast iron for over 50 years, and here is my recommendation.
The best and most versatile cast iron skillet size is 10 inches. It is about the size of a standard pie and is perfect for cooking meals for about two people. However, I recommend having two sizes on hand: an 8-inch and a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
The 8-inch is perfect for frying eggs and making pancakes, and the 10-inch works really well for frying meat of any kind, and making things like dirty rice and macaroni and cheese.
Popular Cast Iron Skillet Sizes:
In order to narrow down this process of choosing the best size for you, let’s take a look at each of the most popular sizes and the foods they are suited for.
While this little fellow is really cute, and everybody wants one, it is too small to be very useful if you only want one or two pieces of cast iron. It is only large enough to cook one egg at a time.
Here again, this size will only cook one egg at a time but might be sufficient for cooking for one person.
This size would cook 2 eggs and could be used to cook a couple of hamburgers and might be sufficient for cooking for a couple of people.
An 8-inch skillet is really the best size for cooking for one person. To use any smaller size, there would be certain things that you could not cook in them. This size will cook 2 eggs, 2 hamburgers, or other kinds of meat and will even be a good size for a smaller casserole or dessert.
Now we are getting to a better size for cooking many things, including 4 eggs at a time or even making a dessert of some sort.
This is actually the best size to start with and has the capacity to cook 5 eggs at one time and for cooking almost anything you want to cook. This size would be perfect for cooking for a couple of people. It is also about the same size as a standard pie plate and could be used for many desserts. I’ve cooked frittatas and cakes in my 10-inch skillets, and they turn out beautifully.
You could cook a maximum of 6 eggs at one time in this size skillet and could cook for a large family in it. The only downsides are that a skillet this size is quite heavy and is really too large to fit on a standard stove burner. However, if you don’t mind the weight and want to use it in the oven or on the grill, it will be perfect. Lodge recommends the 12-inch skillet to cook for a family of four.
This size accommodates cooking 7 eggs at once and would be sufficient for cooking for a dinner party.
This size is for those who do a lot of cooking, will cook 8 eggs at once, and will hold enough food for inviting guests.
To fully answer this question of which size is correct for you, other questions must be taken into consideration and answered, such as what you are cooking and how many you are cooking for. We have to keep in mind that cast iron skillets range in size from 3.5 inches to about 15 inches.
Another question to be answered is how much you actually cook. For a person who doesn’t cook a lot, one iron skillet might be enough, but for someone who loves to cook and who spends a lot of time in the kitchen, two or more would be the answer.
During my research, I’ve discovered that more recommendations suggest that most people should have 2 skillets in sizes 10 inches and 12 inches, which are known as the two most versatile sizes. However, I don’t agree.
Even though I have many cast iron skillets of various sizes, I mainly use an 8-inch and a 10-inch. I use the 8-inch for frying eggs and making pancakes, the 10-inch for frying meat of any kind and making things like dirty rice and macaroni and cheese.
And when I make biscuits, I use both sizes. This is because my standard batch of biscuits will not fit into a 10-inch skillet or a 12-inch, but will fit nicely into the two, the 8-inch and the 10-inch skillets.
So, my recommendations are as follows:
- For those who have decided that they should have 2 cast iron skillets, I would suggest getting an 8-inch and a 10-inch.
- For those who would like 3 cast iron skillets, I would recommend an 8-inch, a 10-inch, and a 12-inch.
Either way, I think both groups will have the size skillets they need to cook whatever foods they choose to prepare.
Note: As of this writing, the 8″ skillet above is listed at 6.5″. But the description says the correct measurement, of about 8″.
How Are Cast Iron Skillets Measured?
Cast iron skillets are measured from the top, so because the sides of the skillets are sloped, the cooking surface and the top of the sides will measure differently. Just be aware that the cooking surface is a little less than the size indicates.
How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet
- In most cases, your cast iron skillet can just be cleaned by wiping it with a damp cloth or paper towel, especially after using it to cook biscuits or cornbread.
- In other cases, such as after frying an egg, I just wash out the inside with my dishcloth and dishwater without actually putting it into the dishwater, then rinsing and drying immediately.
- For foods that have stuck to the bottom of your skillet, use a polycarbonate pot scraper like this one found on Amazon, to remove the stuck-on food, then use a little dish soap and water to finish the cleanup.
- For foods that are baked on, try soaking to remove the baked-on food and use a scraper or even steel wool to clean the skillet. And should there be any rust on or in a skillet, use steel wool to scrub off the rust. In either case, the skillet will need to be reseasoned, the directions for which can be found in the following section.
- Cast iron should not be washed in the dishwasher.
- Cast iron should not be allowed to soak in water unless it is necessary to remove baked-on food.
How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet
Seasoning Cast Iron Has Different Meanings to Different People
- Many people think that by adding a little oil and rubbing it in with a paper towel or soft cloth after every use is seasoning. In my opinion, this practice is regular maintenance that some folks employ to take care of their skillets,
- However, to others, myself included, seasoning means preparing a new skillet before using or the process of re-seasoning by thoroughly cleaning the skillet, adding a thin layer of oil to every surface, placing it inverted on the top rack of a preheated 500-degree oven and baking for one hour. Then, turn off the oven and let it sit inside the oven, undisturbed until completely cooled.
Do All New Cast Iron Skillets Have to Be Seasoned?
All cast iron skillets do have to be seasoned before they are used, but most companies that currently manufacture and sell cast iron products pre-season them before they are sent to the retail stores to be sold.
What Is the Best Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron?
The best oils for seasoning cast iron, in my opinion are:
- Canola is the oil I use on a daily basis and has worked well for me in seasoning cast iron.
- Pure Vegetable is also very good, and I have in the past used it in seasoning cast iron.
- Peanut is used by many people for seasoning cast iron but should be avoided if you cook for anyone with a peanut allergy.
- Grapeseed is highly recommended by cast iron cookware manufacturers.
- Lard was used by my mother and grandmother for many years, and the skillets passed down to me from both of them were seasoned with lard and still cook beautifully to this day. But, I would avoid seasoning with lard or butter or any skillet that will not be used very often because if allowed to sit for long periods of time, it could develop a rancid smell.
Here is a video I did on the 5 best oils for seasoning cast iron.
How to Store Cast Iron Skillets
Cast iron skillets must be stored only after being completely dried. Letting them sit either on the stovetop or in the oven after washing and drying until they are completely dry (I usually store mine in the oven until the next day.) is a really good plan.
They don’t require a lot of space for storage as the different sizes stack together very well. Just be sure you separate the different skillets by placing a paper towel, dish towel, or other absorbent cloth between them that will prevent the nicely seasoned surfaces from becoming scratched.
Why is Cast Iron Cookware Black?
New unseasoned cast iron cookware is a silvery-gray color with an uneven surface, while seasoned, ready-to-use cast iron is black. The seasoning process results in a polymerized coating that seals the uneven finish of the cast iron and gives the pan or skillet a finish that will allow food to be cooked without sticking. That polymerized coating is the black finish that is familiar to most people.
Can I use Cast Iron on any Surface?
Cast iron can safely be used on any surface. You can use it on an electric stove, a gas stove, in an oven, or over an open fire. The one possible exception is the smooth-topped stove, whose top surface is made of glass or ceramic. But manufacturers of the smooth-topped stoves say that you can use cast iron to cook on them as long as you are careful and don’t set a cast-iron skillet down too hard or slide it around on the surface.
Cast iron skillets have been around for a long time. It is believed that the Chinese began producing cast iron as early as the 6th Century BC and began using cast iron for cooking around 220 AD. However, an Englishman is given credit for perfecting the cast iron skillet during the 1700s.
Because of all the variables involved, some serious consideration should be given prior to purchasing cast iron as to how many and what size cast iron skillets you need. First of all, how much do you cook, and how many people do you cook for? The answers to these two questions will guide you in making the right decision for your specific needs.
However, if you are like me, my mother gave me cast iron when I moved into my first home, and I just seemed to acquire others over the years, so no real thought was given as to how many and what size I needed. I have just always had what I needed for anything I started to cook. But, if I did need to purchase a new skillet, I would pick one the right size for whatever I was planning to cook, and I would probably choose a Lodge because, from my experience, Lodge makes a good and durable product that will do the job and that is reasonably priced.
So, whether you have used cast iron skillets for years or whether you are new to cast iron cooking, cast iron cookware is one of those things that are made to last and should be cared for properly so that they can be passed down and used for many generations.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss 5 Best Cast Iron Seasoning Oils (Advice From a 50-Year Chef).
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