HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Am I missing out on anything without a regular cast iron skillet? AKA critique my collection.

I have the grill pan which I use most often for burgers, meat and veggies.

I use a wok since a lot of my meals are stir-fry like, and it's well seasoned.

And (don't kill me) I use a fiesta (similar to Greenpan) non stick pan for thinks like eggs and pancakes. I take very special care not to scratch it, get it too got or wash it in the dishwasher, so it's a multipurpose piece at the moment.... Can't put it in how oven though (maybe this is why I should get a regular pan?)

For most sauces that are liquidy and other veggie dishes I use stainless steel.

I have a pots, a steamer, a Dutch oven, and some baking stuff.

Do I need to use a regular cast iron skillet to make anything?

For some reason potatoes Anna is sticking out to me but I feel like I could make that in the grill pan...

Chohounders, enlighten me!

P.s. At what point and with what items might I consider upgrading to all-clad-level stuff, and why?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You are the best judge of your own cooking needs. If you want a cast iron skillet, go for it.

    As for the All Clad, back in the day when it was the only dishwasher-safe cookware that had thick sides all the way up and I was a full-time working parent with a new gas stove, a little extra birthday money, and an aversion to washing dishes after bedtime, I treated myself to an All Clad pan--just one, in the size and shape that was most useful to me. I liked it so well that I added a few more over the next few years.

    That said, I would not go immediately to All Clad today. They no longer hold the patent on their manufacturing process, and there are a number of companies that make fully clad stainless cookware. In my humble opinion, this type of cookware is best if you have a gas stove, with flames that flicker past a disk bottom (looking at you, Sitram!) and you want the option of using the dishwasher.

    Your cookware choices are a reflection of your own cooking needs. If you need a new pan, get what you think is best for you.

    2 Replies
    1. re: texanfrench

      "You are the best judge of your own cooking needs. If you want a cast iron skillet, go for it."

      I agree entirely with this statement. Don't let people on a message board tell you what you need. If you're cooking something and think, "this would be better if I cooked it on a cast iron skillet", you need one. If you don't think that, you don't.

      Getting more particular, I cook all kinds of things in mine but the area where I think they give the most advantage is in searing meat and vegetables. I have tragically weak gas burners and the cast iron's heat retention really helps me gather enough thermal energy to give the sear I want (that said, I still have to use a torch on steaks). If your grill pan does a sufficient job searing large pieces of meat and your wok does it for smaller pieces and veggies, you don't need a cast iron skillet for that application.

      OTOH, one of the great things about cast iron skillets is that they're cheap. It's not like an All-Clad pan where if you don't use it you end up constantly glaring at it wondering just how much other cool kitchen stuff you could have bought with the money you wasted on that thing. If you have the room in your kitchen to store the thing (and don't mind lugging it around -- they're heavy) you can get one and not regret it even if you only use it a few times per year.

      1. re: nokitchen

        Beat me to it. Buy what you enjoy using.

    2. A cast iron pan is good for reheating your leftovers in the oven.

      1. For what it's worth, and I have only amateur experience in forming this opinion, but I really dislike "grill pans." Grill marks are pretty but they sear just tiny portions of the meat. A flat-bottomed CIS will give better overall browning in my opinion. I also hate to clean them but that is because I only had a Calphalon non-stick version. Non-stick my booty... what a pain to clean.

        Is it worth replacing what you have for a new pan? That's entirely up to you. As was also posted, at least a CIS is pretty cheap so if you get one and find you don't use it much after all you can pay it forward to a friend without anything like that, or just oil it and take it out when you need to. I used to use mine at least twice a week but since getting into the carbon steel world, it sits...

        6 Replies
        1. re: toddrhodes

          Oh no! I got a preseasoned lodge cast iron, plus the scraper. But thank you for your tips!

          1. re: chocoremedy

            I would re-season it with some Crisco if you have time. Just melt some down and make a thin layer on the pan with a paper towel. Heat it up until it smokes - you can do this in a 450* oven if you prefer - wipe it out, and maybe do that same process one more time after it cools completely. That will most definitely help with food sticking to the grates. I bought some of those scrapers for a griddle I bought that has a grill side and I've only used it once. Thankfully, those scrapers did come in quite handy :)

            1. re: toddrhodes

              So you mean don't scrape it but do season it with crisco? Using salt in the gropes before cooking helps with the fatty stuff but idk if it's be enough to get it as clean as I like... And I hate to releasing every time... Though from what I understand once you do it it kind of cleans/ releasing itself?

              1. re: chocoremedy

                Yea, the seasoning I recommended is just a one time thing to give you a couple extra layers of carbon on the pan which will aid with meat browning and then releasing on its own which will make it easier to clean up. Again, this is all just my opinion as our experiences and pans are different. I do know that Lodge's "pre-seasoning" is OK, but you can do much better in about an hour or two's time. The salt in the grooves is a nifty idea though! Once you have a good base seasoning, unless someone takes some sandpaper to the pan, you shouldn't have to do that again. The food you cook in it will continue to build and build more seasoning layers.

          2. re: toddrhodes

            I use a carbon steel grill pan for hamburgers, and like it. The advantage is that grease drains away from the meat.

            1. re: GH1618

              The grease draining is a big plus for grill pans, it actually gives things like sausages a different taste/texture, which I prefer. But for things like steak, chops etc... I prefer getting more browning over grill marks, so I use a regular CI skillet

          3. For $20 or less you can pick up a Lodge cast iron at Wal Mart and see how you like it. I like my cast iron for pancakes, to sear steaks and pork chops (then directly into the oven if need be), to cook veggies for fajitas, burgers. Sure you can cook all that stuff in other pans, but I really like how they turn out in cast iron.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Rick

              I think I might just cave and buy one. I'll use my non stick for egg dishes only, and the rest in my two cast iron pans.

              1. re: Rick

                I use my cast iron for the vast majority of my cooking. Pancakes, eggs, omelets, burgers, fish, pork chops, frying ect. I use my clad stainless, clay pots and enameled cast iron for anything that is acidic and for braises.

                1. re: rasputina

                  I left out eggs, cast iron makes great eggs!

              2. You're not going to get a good sear with the grill pan.

                I see little reason to have one other than maybe keeping an oven-roasted chicken from sitting in its juices.

                4 Replies
                1. re: jaykayen

                  Hmmmm.... I beg to differ! The reason I got it is because I love the grilled look and taste to lots of my dinners, and even though I need to finish up in the oven most times, I think it's a pretty good substitute as my apartment complex doesn't allow grills on the patio.

                  1. re: chocoremedy

                    Bbbbuuut.... you were the one asking about what you are missing out on.

                    You cannot get as good of a sear on a CI grill pan as on a flat surface. The flat surface will have full contact with what you're cooking.

                    1. re: jaykayen

                      Grill pans do a fine job of searing. The difference due to the ridged pattern is not significant. I'll bet no one could pass a blind test to distinguish between them.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        Blind as in blindfolded?

                        In terms of cooking meat, grill pans are perfectly capable of creating dark grill marks on food. Not so good at creating an even, thick, dark brown crust over the meat's entire surface. I have both kinds of pan, so I'm not just speaking from theory here.

                        That isn't to say that one is wrong to prefer one effect over the other - just that the two effects are a bit different.

                2. For some reason those of us who like our grill pans take an awful lot of heat. I have a Lodge grill pan that works for some things very well.

                  To the OP, if you have a new Lodge CI, then I think you will know fairly quick how much you like it and if it is useful. Sometimes you just have to try things.

                  I have a Lodge grill pan and 3 CI skillets, 2 of which are vintage. I use them all. I used a non stick skillet for eggs on my new induction cook top, but I've gone back to my small CI skillet. It performs well on my induction.

                  Have fun mastering your new toy.

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: rasputina

                      I have no grill pan, have never desired to own a grill pan. But, and this is huge... I have easy access to a grill year round. If I did not, I would for sure buy a grill pan. It would be worth it for burgers alone, I think.

                    2. re: sueatmo

                      Always a matter of preference. However, if you can forgo grill marks. Take a 1 inche steak of any cut, coat with olive oil and garlic. Heat your flat bottom CI thoroughly. The brown one side for about 2 min, then the other side for about 2 min. Turn off heat and let sit for 2 min, turn over another 1 min. Remove from pan to let distribute juices. Then you can decide if like steak this rare or not and adjust relative times to your tastes. Once you master this, you will find that you make perfect steaks.

                    3. Cast iron is great for getting hot as the fires of Hell and then searing meat quick.

                      Otherwise, its heavy and clunky. If it gets too hot it takes ages to cool down. I prefer stainless clad aluminum.

                      I have two that I use as above.

                      1. It's not clear from your post whether you have a flat surfaced pan you can use to cook at especially high temperatures - a skillet beside the fiesta. You don't specifically need cast iron for this. Stainless steel, aluminum, or carbon steel will work too.

                        It's also not clear whether any of your stove top pans are designed to go into the oven when needed.

                        Aside from that, your cookware seems to have your bases covered in terms of allowing you to perform the most important/common cooking techniques.

                        1. Hi, chocoremedy:

                          To each his/her own, but not having one CI skillet is like being a golfer and not having a 7-iron.

                          They're $20, buy ad try...


                          1. Everyone has different needs and requirements -- a point similar to texanfrench. You can cook many great foods without ever having a cast iron skillet. I have a cast iron skillet which works great. However, I can probably get by without it.

                            A cast iron skillet can do many things. It is great for high temperature searing, like blacken tuna, and it is very good as a near-non-stick vessel, like frying an egg. It is also a great bakeware too. It is not particularly good for liquid acidic foods, but not impossible.

                            If you have the space, then just get one to try out.

                            1. I'm newish (1 year) to cast iron cooking and have 2 CI pieces, a 12" skillet and a 10" round griddle. Although I used them extensively for a while, neither gets much use now. I've found there's nothing I was used to cooking in my stainless steel that I find is markedly better in my cast iron, with the possible exception of hash brown potatoes. The jury's still out on those.

                              So it all depends on what you currently cook, and what you really want to cook "if only". Do you need a CI skillet? Of course not, based on what you've told us. But as others have pointed out, they're cheap if you want to try one. It might become your favorite pan.

                              1. First use what you are comfortable with for your style and needs. There are many ways to skin a cat and no one pan or type of pan is the be all and end all. Personally once I started using cast iron skillets they became my go to pans for pretty much everything but boiling water - I love that I can sear at high heat without damage or simmer low and slow without hot spots and transfer from stove to oven or use on the grill. I bake bread and cakes in them, use them as roasting pans etc. I would be lost without them. I have amassed a rack of mix and match well-seasoned Griswold, Wagner, and Lodge pans that hang above my stove and they are the first things I grab for most tasks. I very rarely use my clad ss skillets lately. Is CI necessarily the best or most efficient tool for each of these tasks maybe not but it is comfortable for me and I know how to use it do what I want. - also they are largely indestructible.

                                For upgrading to All-Clad type quality my thought is be strategic, If there is a specific pan for a specific need like a saucier or chef pan that will help you do what you need go for it but if what you have works no need to replace it all

                                of course sometimes its fun to get a new toy and take it for a spin - so don't avoid buying that old cast iron skillet or that shiny sauté pan because you are not sure if you need it... try it you might like it ;) It can be fun to try out new (and old) types of cookware when you find something that works for you they become part of your essential BDC, when it doesn't then time to gift or thrift it.

                                Ps I really recommend if you do buy a cast iron skillet to buy vintage (machined surface) or a new Lodge and season very well avoid cheap imported ones.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: JTPhilly

                                  Well said:

                                  "For upgrading to All-Clad type quality my thought is be strategic, If there is a specific pan for a specific need like a saucier or chef pan that will help you do what you need go for it but if what you have works no need to replace it all"

                                  Too many forget to have fun.