I like to grill my steaks, but there are times when I like to sear them in a pan. In those instances, I use a cast iron skillet.
Due to a recent science experiment, I put my cast iron skillet out of commission and needed new.
I compiled a list of cast iron cookware brands and provide a few thoughts about cast iron pieces in this article.
Note: Many major cookware companies offer cast iron products — whether skillets, grill pans, enameled cast iron pieces, etc.
Also, this list is not comprehensive. It does not contain every possible cookware maker — just ones I have heard of or found info on. It is a work in progress.
It does not contain vintage cookware manufacturers such as Atlanta Stove Works.
Cast iron cookware companies
- Bayou Classic
- Cajun Cookware
- Camp Chef
- King Kooker
- La Cuisine
- Lava Cookware
- Le Chef
- Le Creuset
- Le Cuistot
- Mario Batali
- Old Mountain
- The Pioneer Woman
- Thunder Group
Cast iron cookware buyers guide
Before buying any cookware, it is important to know what you plan to use the piece for. A 12-inch cast iron skillet is not ideal for eggs, for instance. But, that same skillet would be fantastic for searing steak! Have a purpose in mind before buying a piece.
Heavier cast iron cookware, such as 7 lbs dutch oven, are efficient heat retainers, although it takes heat longer to penetrate their thick frames. They tend to be more versatile, if you consider the number of places they can go — the oven or the stove, for example. Smaller, lightweight skillets are perfect for cooking over grills and camp fires, where they have to be positioned directly on top of flames.
The beauty of cast-iron cookware is that it can function as a stovetop skillet and transferred to the oven without having to switch pans.
Cast iron is typically made from a single mold, where the absence of seams or bolted-on parts prevents handles from breaking off. However, newer hybrid cast iron skillets offer a combination of both.
Newer cast iron is made using thinner molds and then hollowed out even more. They are more expensive than the all-in-one cast style of traditional skillets. These models are treated with a porcelain barrier that, like other griddle styles, is not completely indestructible. However, when compared to Teflon, its double-coated surface is still more resilient to high temperatures, metal utensils, and abrasive scrubbing.
When comparing porcelain enameled cookware to bare cast iron, one of the important differences is the enamel’s ability to withstand acid without the treatment required by the latter. In its defense, your worn cast-iron can be seasoned using this simple multi-step process.
After washing and drying, wipe the inside of the pan down with vegetable oil or shortening (a thin coat will do just fine). At around 350-degrees, bake the skillet upside down for an hour. Once it cools, you’ll notice a shiny coat, which can be protected by washing gently after each use (use saltwater and a soft brush or cloth).
In a price comparison, traditional cast iron provides significant value, particularly when you factor in its longevity. Porcelain enameled cast-iron carries the benefits of traditional cast iron but with a built-in protective non-stick coat.
Although many professional kitchens purchase certain types of high-end cookware for specialized uses, most keep inexpensive aluminum and copper products available for everyday needs. For instance, boiling large quantities of pasta may be ideal for cheaper pots, whereas steak and chicken typically fair better in cast iron. Even stovetop deserts work well in a cast iron skillet, provided the pan isn’t transferring lingering spices from previously cooked dishes.
Foods high in acid, like tomato sauce and wine-based dishes, are not recommended for bare cast-iron, but will likely survive an enameled or well-seasoned skillet. However, manufacturers will assure customers that as oils from food is baked into the pan’s surface, it develops a natural protective coat, enabling its system of preservation. One truth about cast-iron, especially vintage brands, is they can always be restored after rust has wreaked havoc on them.
One of the biggest problems with the non-stick coatings found in aluminum and copper products is their degradation over time. Once that surface is chipped away, after a few months or years, it can never be restored. For cooking at home, purchasing a few high quality cast iron skillets can help save money over time, since you won’t need to replace them.
Bottom line: Bare cast iron can last forever. Enameled cast iron cookware, with maintenance, is less susceptible to rust, and preserves its non-stick surface long after copper and aluminum ceramic-based coats have failed.