Choosing the right cast-iron cookware can be a challenge. There are so many different types, and being that cast-iron has been the choice for many chefs for many years, there are often many used cookware on the market as well.
Which one is for you?
If you’re lucky, the cast iron chose you…meaning it was passed down to you. However if you are reading this, then you are probably in the market for some new cookware.
I’ve put together this guide to help you find the best cast-iron cookware for your money. Follow these 4 simple steps to help you choose your next cast-iron cook set!
1. Do you want to buy new or used?
Cast-Iron cookware can last a long time, and you can often find it gently (or not so gently) used.
This can be your best bet if you’re looking for a new pan and don’t mind having someone else’s seasoning on the pan (here’s more information about seasoning), then this is the route to go.
There are a variety of brick-and-mortar and online retailers that have some great deals on used cast-iron cookware. One of my go-to places for used cookware is Amazon and Ebay.
Both provide the option to find the best prices on used items, and their reputation allows for quick and easy returns if the cookware wasn’t what you expected it to be.
My advice is to get used vintage cast iron. It looks cooler and has a story behind it. In addition, the old cast iron is smooth and slick. They used to sand and machine the interior surface down. Now, they skip that step.
2. Understand the different types of coatings
There are a variety of coating options, whether you choose to go new or used. Bare cookware is just the iron with no coating.
This is probably what you’re thinking of right now when you think of cast-iron cookware. I prefer the non coated cast iron myself. Read about cast iron vs enameled cast iron.
Some cast-iron cookware is coated in enamel, which makes it so you don’t have to season your cookware. However this coating is prone to chipping if you don’t take good care of your pots and pans.
Le Creuset is a common and pricey example of enamel coated cast iron.
On the whole, you’re going to pay a lot more for pans that have an enamel coating vs those that do not.
3. Figure out what you need
If you’re buying your pan new, that’s great! You can probably just take a good look at what you’re buying, and make sure it’s what you want.
If you are buying used, you need to make sure your pan still sits evenly on the burner, or still has good shape for baking.
You’re also going to want to look for cookware that hasn’t really rusted (this guide can help you get light rust off cast-iron).
Some used pans will come with their own seasoning already.
Know that this can cause food cooked in it to have a distinct flavor (e.g. someone fried onions in this pan for years, anything you make will likely have a slight onion taste).
This is what makes cast-iron great to cook with, but can also present challenges when buying used.
4. Buying the pan
There are a few retailers online that provide the best deals for new cast-iron cookware.
Lodge Cast Iron is a US made cast-iron cookware company that has great deals on locally sourced cookware. Their cookware comes pre-seasoned, taking the guesswork out of seasoning. Their skillets are top notch, and run around $20 for a mid-size pan. They have a variety of other cookware as well. I highly recommend checking them out if you are looking for a pre-coated pan that is reliable and ethically produced.
You can also use a site like Overstock.com to help you find your next cast-iron cookware set. Keep a careful eye on reviews and make sure there are good pictures for what you are getting. This site often has great deals on new products that were, like the name says, overstock. Smart shopping here can lead to some great deals.
In addition to the above, Amazon.com has an overwhelmingly large number of sets, but with some careful searching, you can get a great deal on what you are looking for. Again, just like with overstock.com, please carefully read the reviews and make sure you get something you want.
Ebay is a great source for used cookware, and is the only source that I use that is online. Check out the description carefully, and make sure that you check out the seller’s return policy.
You’ll want a policy that lets you return the pan no questions asked if it’s not what you are looking for.
Many brick-and-mortar antique and thrift shops often have cast-iron pans. Check out your local stores before hitting the online retailers. Sometimes your best deals are in these stores!
With a little bit of research, buying cast-iron cookware can be a breeze. Just remember to know what you are looking for, and to shop around, and you’ll find that you’ll be cooking on your new cast-iron cook set in no time!
Here are my recommendations for the best places to buy cast iron cookware.
See our recipes section for some ideas on what to cook in your cast iron cookware, such as cast iron skillet pizza.