Any good home cook knows a cast iron skillet ups their game in the kitchen. A good cast iron skillet is a staple for chefs around the globe, thanks to its superb quality and longevity. You can cook almost anything in a cast iron skillet, making them a great piece to invest in, especially if you’re trying to keep your kitchen collection down to only the essentials.
If you browse online for a new cast iron skillet, you’ll come across a wide variety of available shapes and sizes. The size of the cast iron skillet you buy will vary from cook to cook, but it boils down to what you’re planning to cook in your skillet and the number of people you’re cooking for.
If you need some help deciding which size is right for you, allow us to come to the rescue! Let’s break down what different sized cast iron skillets are best for, so you can choose the size that’s perfect for you.
The Best Size for a Cast Iron Skillet
As we touched on above, cast iron skillets come in a wide range of sizes! The size of a cast iron skillet can make it ideal for different kinds of cooking tasks. Let’s dig deeper into what size of cast iron skillet works best for what cooking technique.
3”-5” Cast Iron Skillets
Yes, cast iron skillets really do come this small! You may think that a cast iron skillet this tiny would be useless, but there are some surprising things you can do when a cast iron skillet becomes miniaturized.
Three-inch cast iron skillets are perfect for use with desserts. You can cook some great individual-sized portions here for cookies, cakes, or the more popular choice, brownies. The benefits of cooking a dessert in a pan like this are that the pan is oven-safe and holds heat once you remove it from the oven.
A fun dessert idea would be to cook a warm brownie in a small cast iron skillet, remove from the oven, then eat it from the pan with ice cream on top! The retained heat in the pan will keep your brownie nice and warm.
There are some other uses for a pan like this! Some cooks like to use these to make individual eggs, cornbread, heat up small amounts of sugar, or even to use a spoon rest. While this size isn’t great for daily cooking or a wide range of tasks, it has uses that make it relevant to cooks today.
6” – 8” Cast Iron Skillets
The size jump here will allow your cast iron skillet to accomplish even more tasks. These pans are great for those who may not have much storage space but still want to enjoy the process of cooking on cast iron.
At the 6”-8” size range, your skillet can comfortably cook 2-3 eggs at a time for breakfast. It’s also an ideal size for cooking two chicken thighs at once, 4-5 sausages, or an 8 oz steak. It’s also great for 1-2 portions of veggies, like potatoes or green beans.
If you’re cooking for only one or two, it can be accomplished easily at this size point! However, if you’re cooking for an entire household, you may want to go for a pan that’s a larger size.
10” – 12” Cast Iron Skillets
At this size range, you’re going to be able to cook for a lot more people! A cast iron skillet starting at 10” can cook 5-6 eggs at once. It can also accommodate larger cuts of meat like ribeye, bigger fish fillets, or chicken breasts.
The amount of food you can cook increases as you get to the 12” size, which fits two steaks at once! This pan is also a great size if you want something for searing a whole chicken and transferring it from stovetop to oven. It’s perfect for cooking a standard-sized pie, making this a great choice for those looking to use it for sweet and savory dishes.
This pan isn’t the absolute largest pan you can get, making it a good choice for 1-2 person households that think they may grow. You can comfortably whip up eggs for a family of four or make an amazing dessert for a larger group with a skillet of this size.
13”-15” Cast Iron Skillets
A cast iron skillet between 13″ and 15” in size is on the large end of the size spectrum. These are the kinds of skillets you’re more likely to see in professional kitchens that need to accomplish a lot of simultaneous cooking.
You can easily cook 7-8 eggs at a time on a pan of this size. It’s great if you’re looking to cook for a crowd, preparing larger portions of meats and vegetables. You can double any of your favorite recipes and have them fit on a pan like this. It’s also great for cooking large one-pan meals while entertaining, such as paella.
If you’re an average home cook, this isn’t the best size to invest in for everyday, stovetop use at home. However, you may still want to look into it if you plan on doing non-stovetop cooking where a cast iron pan can prove useful.
While these sizes may struggle to fit on the average stovetop element, they can be great in other ways. You can use a skillet of this size over a fire if you’re cooking while camping! Who doesn’t love eggs and bacon prepared by the campfire?
They’re also great to put on top of a barbecue grill if you’re looking for a smooth non stick surface while grilling. When you put a cast iron on a grill, you can do some interesting side-by-side cooking all in one place.
Benefits of Cooking with Cast Iron
You may be wondering about the benefits of using cast iron cookware. There are way more than you think! There’s a reason this cookware is praised by so many chefs and why cast iron cooking has such a great reputation. Here are some of the things that make cast iron so great:
Cast Iron is Nonstick
The most loved feature of a cast iron pan is the fact that they are nonstick. However, to become nonstick, your cast iron pan has to be cured. Curing involves rubbing down your pan with cooking oil and baking it in to help it absorb the oil.
The more you cook with a cast iron pan, the more oil it absorbs during the cooking process. That means that with continual use, your pan will build up a natural non-stick layer, meaning you can use less butter and oil while you cook.
With proper care and regular oil rubdowns after washing, your pan will stay nice and nonstick for years to come.
Cast Iron Has No Chemicals
Another benefit to this oil absorption non-stick quality is the fact that it makes cast iron pans chemical-free.
These days, many cooking pans use metal but have chemically made non-stick coatings. While this isn’t always dangerous, sometimes these linings can leach into the foods we cook, affecting the things we eat.
While there isn’t inherent evidence of these linings causing things like cancer to happen (a common belief among some), it can worry some cooks who want their tools to be all-natural. Cast iron is a trusted, tested material that we have cooked with for years. If nonstick linings concern you, then cast iron is your new best friend!
Cast Iron is Highly Heat Resistant
Cast iron is great for its ability to withstand and maintain high levels of heat. These things can withstand temperatures upwards of 500 degrees! They can get super hot to put an amazing sear on pan-fried foods.
This heat tolerance also makes them great for multiple forms of cooking. You can cook food in a cast iron on the stovetop and easily transfer the pan to your oven for baking. It’s pretty amazing to be able to do two kinds of cooking with a single tool.
Cast Iron Adds Iron to Food
Not many people know this, but cast iron skillets can offer some cool health benefits! When you cook with cast iron, it will naturally add iron to the foods you cook.
There are many people out there who suffer from iron deficiency. Usually, this is rectified through the taking of iron supplements. Some people even purchase items like iron fish to infuse their water and foods with iron while cooking.
Cooking with cast iron is the easiest way to get an additional iron boost while cooking. If you’re iron deficient, cast iron can be worth it for this feature alone.
Cast Iron Can Last a Lifetime
One of the reasons people love cast iron so much is because these tools can truly last a lifetime. With proper care and upkeep, you can expect your cast iron cookware to outlive any of your nonstick pots and pans.
Cast iron is highly durable when taken care of properly. All you have to do is ensure food doesn’t sit in the pan, you fully wash and dry it after use, and you regularly season and oil the surface of your pan. As long as you do this, your pan will stay in tip-top shape.
Cast iron actually improves with age. The longer you use and care for your cast iron, the better its cooking surface becomes. Regular use will make your cast iron pan even more nonstick and smoother with each use. Once you buy a cast iron, you likely won’t need to replace it.