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Tools of the Trade: How To Choose a Cast Iron Skillet

Tools of the Trade: How To Choose a Cast Iron Skillet - Maria's Condo

Cast iron skillets have long been a staple in kitchens around the world. Known for their durability and versatility, these cookware items have stood the test of time. But with so many options available on the market, how do you choose the right cast iron skillet for your kitchen? In this article, we will explore the different types of cast iron skillets, discuss the benefits of antique skillets, and provide tips on what to look for when selecting a modern skillet.


Different Types of Cast Iron Skillets

Before diving into the details, let's first understand the different types of cast iron skillets available. There are essentially three categories: antique skillets, modern rough surface skillets, and modern smooth surface skillets.

Antique skillets, dating back until the mid-20th century, are highly coveted by cooking enthusiasts. Brands like Griswold and Wagner Ware are examples of antique cast iron skillet manufacturers. These skillets are known for their thinness, lightness, and smooth surfaces, making them a delight to use in the kitchen.

On the other hand, modern rough surface skillets, such as those made by Lodge, are popular for their affordability and durability. These skillets have a rougher surface, which can make them prone to food sticking. However, Lodge skillets come pre-seasoned, making them easier to cook with.

Lastly, modern smooth surface skillets, like those produced by Butter Pat Industries and Finex, offer a more refined cooking experience. These skillets have a smoother surface, making them less prone to food sticking. They are often preferred for delicate cooking tasks like searing scallops or fish.

Are Antique Cast Iron Skillets Better?

There is a common belief among cooking enthusiasts that antique cast iron skillets are superior to their modern counterparts. But is there any truth to this claim? According to Dennis Powell, owner and founder of Butter Pat Industries, antique cast iron pans are indeed superior products.

The manufacturing processes used in the past resulted in thinner, lighter, and smoother pans. Antique skillets have a non-stick surface that is more effective compared to most modern pans. However, it's important to note that antique skillets may come with their own set of issues, such as warping or rust damage. It's essential to inspect these skillets carefully before purchasing.

What Should I Look for in an Antique Cast Iron Skillet?

If you're considering adding an antique cast iron skillet to your kitchen, there are a few factors to consider. First, check if the skillet wobbles when placed on an even surface. Warping is a common issue with older skillets, and it can affect their cooking performance.

Additionally, avoid skillets with significant pitting, cracking, or major rust damage. While minor surface rust can be removed with steel wool, extensive rust damage may render the skillet unusable.

What Should I Look for in a Modern Cast Iron Skillet?

When it comes to modern cast iron skillets, there are several factors to consider based on your cooking needs. If you prefer a heavy skillet with a rough surface, skillets from Lodge are a great option. They are affordable, durable, and excellent for searing and braising.

If you're looking for a smoother cooking surface, skillets from companies like Finex and Butter Pat Industries are worth considering. These skillets are manufactured using different methods that result in a smoother surface. They are particularly suitable for cooking delicate proteins without worrying about sticking.

It's also important to consider the weight of the skillet. Butter Pat skillets, for example, are lighter than Lodge skillets, making them more suitable for baking tasks like pies or casseroles.

Price Comparison

One significant factor to consider when choosing a cast iron skillet is the price. Lodge skillets are the most affordable option, with their standard 10.25-inch skillet costing around $26.75. In contrast, Butter Pat and Finex skillets are more expensive, with prices ranging from $175 to $195 for a 10-inch skillet. The price difference is due to the manufacturing process and the exclusivity of these brands.

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Seasoning is an essential step in maintaining and using a cast iron skillet. While the need for seasoning varies depending on the skillet's surface, it can enhance the non-stick properties of the pan. If you're using a skillet with a rough surface, seasoning becomes even more crucial.

To season a cast iron skillet, apply a thin layer of neutral, high smoke point oil like vegetable, canola, or soybean oil to the entire surface. Then, bake the skillet at 400˚F for one hour. Avoid using rendered animal fat or olive oil, as they can go rancid.

Regular use and proper cleaning will also contribute to the seasoning of a cast iron skillet. Cleaning the skillet soon after use and applying a thin layer of oil afterward helps maintain the seasoning and protect the pan from rust.

Taking Care of a Cast Iron Skillet

To ensure the longevity of your cast iron skillet, proper care is essential. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Clean your skillet soon after use and avoid letting food or liquid sit in it for extended periods. Contrary to popular belief, using a little soap is not harmful to the seasoning.

  2. If there is food stuck to the skillet, use a stiff-bristled brush or a scratch-proof nylon or silicone pan scraper to remove it. Avoid using abrasive tools that may damage the seasoning.

  3. Dry the skillet thoroughly after washing and apply a thin layer of neutral oil to both the interior and exterior surfaces. This helps protect the skillet from ambient moisture.

  4. Avoid leaving the skillet on a lit flame or inside a hot oven for an extended period if you're not cooking with it. Prolonged heat exposure without any food can damage the skillet.

  5. Treat your pans with care, especially if you're using an antique skillet. Avoid dropping or clanging the skillet, as it may lead to cracking.


Choosing the right cast iron skillet for your kitchen is crucial for achieving the best cooking results. Antique skillets offer a unique cooking experience, thanks to their superior craftsmanship. However, modern skillets from brands like Lodge, Finex, and Butter Pat Industries also have their advantages. Consider your cooking needs, budget, and desired cooking experience when selecting a cast iron skillet. With proper seasoning and care, a cast iron skillet can become a valuable tool in your kitchen for years to come.


  1. What factors should be considered when selecting a cast iron skillet, such as size, weight, and handle design, to ensure optimal cooking performance?
  2. How does the seasoning process contribute to the maintenance and durability of a cast iron skillet, and what techniques can be employed to properly season and care for this essential kitchen tool?
  3. What are the advantages and limitations of using a cast iron skillet compared to other types of cookware, and how can chefs maximize the versatility of this culinary workhorse in their kitchen repertoire?

Marias Condo
Marias Condo

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