When it comes to choosing a skillet, the pros have a hands-down preference: heavy-duty, hard-to-burn-in, last-a-lifetime cast iron. It requires extra care, but trust us, it’s worth it.
Says Michael Ferraro, chef and partner at upscale NYC eatery Delicatessen, “The cast-iron pan is designed for multiple cooking techniques. It can be used as a slow cooker, frying pan, high-heat searer, roaster, and braiser.” Not to mention baking dish, pizza stone, wok, paella pan, and oven-to-table serving platter.
Beyond its versatility, cast iron also lowers the odds you’ll end up burning what you cook. “Cast iron creates more even heat throughout the pan,” so you avoid hot spots, says Victor Scargle, executive chef at Lucy Restaurant & Bar in Yountville, CA. Plus, the porous surface soaks up flavor, so your meals taste better with time.
And as for that whole nonstick thing, once your cast iron is seasoned properly (for details, see mensfitness.com/castiron), you’ll be sliding eggs off that baby without a care.
Cast iron gets better with age, so opt for one with “experience,” so to speak. “My pick: the oldest pan possible,” says Robbie Wilson, chef/partner at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos, CA. “Look for one at a yard sale or online, or bribe the oldest woman on your block.” Griswold, U.S.-made from 1865 to 1957, is the gold standard.
You can’t go wrong with a company that’s been forging cast-iron cookware since 1896 (and is still in business). This affordable, American-made option comes preseasoned, so it’s ready to resist sticking and rust from Day 1. $36, lodgemfg.com
Skip the serving dish—this 17-inch French-made, wine-hued skillet deserves a spot on the table. It’s enamel coated, so it doesn’t require seasoning, and it becomes increasingly nonstick with each use. Take that, Teflon!