Steak and Cast Iron, it cannot get any more American than that. These two are synonymous with the great outdoor and americana. It is no wonder, there is such a surge in popularity with these two objects. However, the question looms on every one mind, what is the best cast iron skillet for steak? Is it the price, features, or the brand? All of which are important and we will discuss how it should affect your purchasing choice.
What is my Best Cast Iron Skillet for Steak?
For those who just want the answer, I personally choose Lodge as my best cast iron skillet for steak. It is simply the best value that you can get. You can typically find them for less than 20 dollar at Amazon and its made in America. What more can you ask for? However, this is just my own personal preference. I have a list of things that you should look for when buying a skillet. Pick one that is suited for your need.
Features of a Good Skillet
The handle is the most important aspect if ergonomic is important to you. It affects how you hold the pan and whether it is comfortable. An poorly designed handle will cause strain in your wrist and make a pan feel heavier than it should be. It can also cause you to have poor grip making you drop that steak. You dont really want that do you? For a Cast Iron pan, since its so heavy, something that is short will increase your grip on it. A loop near the base and the end of the handle will keep it cooler for longer. Although, at the heat you cook steak in, you should always wear a glove or use a towel.
Non Stick Performance
This is something that should not be in your list of consideration. Steak protein strand are long and they tend to not stick the pan. Food like fish protein strand are short which is why it sticks. I don’t think I ever had an issue with steak sticking to the pan on either cast iron or stainless steel. If you think the smooth cast iron skillet of griswald is important for searing steak, you are wrong. You should probably use that pan only for cooking eggs and bacon.
At the temperature at which you are searing the steak, the seasoning will burn off. It will eventually turn to carbon and any benefit that you get from the seasoning will be lost. I recommend getting a dedicated pan just for searing steaks. Preferably a cheaper pan that wont be used daily.
Best Cast Iron Skillet for Steaks
The best cast iron size for a skillet depends on how big your stove top burner radius is. For the average American household, the best would be around 10 inch. Once you get past 12 inch, the heat will have a difficult time reaching the outer edge of the pan. Meaning, you will have cold spots in the pan.
Another factor to consider is how many steaks you will be cooking also. If you are frequently cooking two large steaks, a 12 inch cast iron skillet might be better. Just be aware that you need to preheat the skillet for a long longer. If you plan on cooking steak for one, a 10 inch cast iron skillet is best. You can also do a trick that I do with the excess space. If you want that extra sear, move the steak around to the untouched pan to absorb all the heat.
A pouring spout is important for collecting the jus and the sauce that you make. One of the best trick that chef use to make sauce is to use the fond developed on the pan. By deglazing the pan after cooking, you can make a amazing sauce with just some stock and butter. It will take your steak to the next level. A pan without a pouring spot might cause you to loose this liquid gold.
A heavier pan means more capacity for heat. If you get a light cast iron skillet, they will lose all its heat when you drop a piece of steak in the pan. The end result is a steamed steak, something that no one wants. Avoid lightweight cast iron skillets. Luckily, the one that I listed below all have a decent weight to the pan.
Enamel Cast Iron vs Enamel
I written a complete article on this subject but in general, bare cast iron simply sear better. For whatever reason, the enamel seem to inhibit the heat transfer capability of the metal. The end result is that you will not get as good as a crust as you would on a bare cast iron pan.
Price, Colors and Looks
This should not be a factor in your choice. The prettier and pricier it is, the less likely you are to abuse the pan. You want a cheap beater pan that you would not cry if you break. To be fair, most of these manufacture claim to have a lifetime warranty, so technically you shouldn’t have to worry about it. My experience tells me that they will say its your fault and deny you the warranty.
Cast Iron Skillet Options
There are many different option available for the American market. Below is a quick summary on how I rate each skillet based on the features listed before.
Lodge Cast iron Skillet
The base does not have an opening causing heat to transfer rapidly. The handle is short forcing you go grip the pan near the rim which gives you more grip and control over it. However, it also means you always need to wear a glove handling it.
Non Stick Performance
It perform just as well as any other cast iron pan. Just be aware if you plan on searing steak, the seasoning can burn off and lose its nonstick.
It has two pouring spout on either side to let you drain jus and sauces easily.
It is the standard of what a cast iron pan. Not particularly beautifuly but it is iconic. You can get different logo bottom on the pans. Some people collect it based on that.
Really affordable, you can buy them for less than 20 dollar at Amazon and its made in America. I recommend that you buy this skillet for searing steak.
The most affordable and one of the best performing pan that you can buy. For searing steak, Lodge should be the one that you buy.
Finex Cast iron Skillet
The handle is coiled in stainless steel so that it stays cool longer. The end is brass so it conducts heat, either way it is recommended that you wear a glove due to the high possibility of burning your hand. The coil also makes it uncomfortable and unstable to grip. It is pretty but not functional.
Non Stick Performance
The inside is grinded smooth so they claim that its more non stick. However, it is actually the seasoning that provides the non stick benefit. Overtime at the heat of searing steak, it will get burned off. This pan is better used to cook everyday food.
Pouring spot everywhere at any angle. It has a definite edge in this aspect. Most other cast iron skillet only has two pouring lip on either side.
It is very beautiful, so beautiful that I am considering buying one. I think this is one of the main reason why Finex got so popular.
Beauty is expensive, expect to pay around 200 dollar for this pan. Is it worth it just for the looks, that depends on you. It wont cook the steak any better.
Pretty but wont help you cook the steak any better. If your goal is to cook steak, buy a cheaper pan. If you want to impress your friend, buy this pan.
Le Creuset Signature
The handle is short with a big loop at the end. Although the heat is disippated rapidly, it is still metal and its close the pan. A towel is recommended here.
Non Stick Performance
Although it does not have an issue with the seasoning burning off. There is a an issue with the enamel. Thankfully, le creuset have no stated upper temperature limit. However, the enamel is not as non stick as a bare cast iron pan. Something else that is interesting is that there are claims that the black enamel coating can develop a non stick finish. It becomes brown apparently…
There is a pouring spout on either side of the pan. Great for removing liquid mess free.
This is where Le Creuset shines. I personally think this is the reason why they are so popular. They have a wide array of color to suit the need of any kitchen. Their most popular color and their first one is the Volcanic Flame and it has a gentle gradient.
They are in fact one of the most expensive pan out there. Is it really worth it? That depends on what your need is. If you want performance, stick with lodge. However, for color and presentation, Le Creuset is the one for you.
Le Creuset is a very pretty pan that can suit any kitchen. There is less upkeep due to the enamel and it wont rust as easily. The enamel do degrade searing performance though. In my past test, I found that enamel inhibited heat transfer. However, if The Price and performance hit doesnt bother you, they make a great presentation piece.
Staub Cast Iron Skillet
Staub handle is a little longer than other cast iron skillet. The extra length is nice but you still need to grip it near the base to get a steady control over it. It will also get really hot so a glove is necessary.
Non Stick Performance
The enamel interior is black, because its not bare cast iron, it wont have the same performance as bare cast iron. I heard that over time, it can develop a seasoning similar to cast iron and it will turn brown.
There are two pouring spout on either side. For whatever reason, it is very angular. It doesnt affect the pouring of it but just thought it was peculiar to have it shaped like that.
I personally never liked the apperance of Staub skillet. Just thought they always looked odd. The color however is on point. I love the rich dark vibrant look. It is better than Le Creuset in my opinion.
It is expensive. expect to spend at least 100 dollar for a skillet. Whether its worth is dependent on your taste. The enamel does have a upper limit so you need to take care when searing steak.
Its basically a different version of Le Creuset Signature Skillet. It is slightly different but the features are all about the same. If you want a french enamel skillet, this and Le Creuset are your choices.
These are the current best cast iron skillet for steak, I will be updating the list as I find more.
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