Straight to the Point
We liked the enameled cast iron skillet from Staub the best; it heated up quickly and evenly, was easy to clean, and everything we cooked in it turned out great. The skillet from Le Creuset came in close second, with even heating and solid searing. For a budget-friendly option, we liked the Crock Pot Artisan Cast Iron Skillet, which performed well.
Enameled cast iron skillets, a cousin of the uncoated cast iron skillet, offer certain advantages over their non-enameled counterparts. For one, the enamel coating provides protection from rust and doesn’t need to be seasoned, and it can still handle high temperatures. Some enameled cast iron skillets can even be washed in the dishwasher, while you would never do that with uncoated cast iron. The glossy surface is also easy to clean and offers a bit more of a nonstick coating right out of the box (though, to be clear, this is not a nonstick skillet coated in nonstick material; ceramic is naturally nonstick).
While enamel does provide some distinct advantages, it’s also prone to chipping, scratching, and staining. Extreme temperature changes can expose the enamel to thermal shock and could potentially cause cracking. However, there are still plenty of occasions where an enameled cast iron skillet is a great choice (like when scrambling or frying eggs). But are all enamel cast iron skillets created equal? We put eight to the test to find out.
The Winners, at a Glance
The Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillet: Staub Cast Iron 10-inch Fry Pan
We found this offering from Staub was a fantastic skillet in terms of quality, performance, and ease of use. The flared sides allowed for great browning (since they didn't capture steam) and easy spatula access, and because it was relatively lightweight, it heated up quickly and evenly.
Alternative Pick: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Skillet
While this skillet heated up a little more slowly than the Staub, it still reached high, even temperatures. It also seared steak well, cooked up perfect over-easy eggs, and the flared sides made it easy to maneuver a spatula into the pan.
The Best Budget Enameled Cast Iron Skillet (Less Than $100): Crock Pot Artisan 10-inch Cast Iron Skillet
If you want to add an enameled cast iron skillet to your kitchen, but don’t want to make a large financial commitment, go for the Crock Pot skillet, which did better than many other, more expensive models. It almost did as well at heat absorption and retention as the Staub, and the smooth, enameled interior let us flip fried eggs easily.
- Heat Conduction Test: To determine how quickly and evenly the skillets heat on the stove, we placed each pan on an electric burner over medium heat (setting five out of ten on our burner). Starting at 30 seconds, we recorded the temperature on the surface of the pan using an infrared thermometer every 30 seconds (for four minutes total) in the center, left, and right sides of the pan.
- Fried Egg Test: We examined how evenly the skillet cooked fried eggs, if the eggs stuck, and if it was possible to get a spatula into the pan to flip the eggs. To do this, we coated each pan with an even layer of oil (the amount differed because the pan sizes differed), heated the skillet to medium heat, and cracked two eggs into it. After two minutes, we flipped the eggs and observed the quality of each egg.
- Steak Test: We coated each skillet in an even layer of oil and seared 6-ounce steaks for three minutes on each side. After flipping, we noted how even and deep the sear was.
- Cornbread Test (Winners Only): We baked skillet cornbread in our favorite pans to determine how evenly the skillet heated and whether or not the cornbread stuck to the surface when we tried to turn it out.
- Usability and Cleanup: We evaluated how comfortable the skillets were to grip; how easy (or difficult) it was to maneuver a spatula into the pans, and how easy each was to clean.
What We Learned
Lighter Skillets Absorbed Heat Better and Heated More Evenly
Results varied in our heat tests, with some pans heating up fast to high temperatures, and others not so much. Some pans were all over the place in terms of temperature between the center and sides, whereas others were more even across the entire surface. When looking at the results measured from the center of the pan, we saw that the Staub, which was on the lighter side at 4 pounds, 15 ounces (heavier skillets ranged from 7 to 9 pounds) got the hottest the fastest. It remained in the top spot, achieving a maximum heat none of the others could reach (though the Le Creuset came close). This tracks with findings we saw in our uncoated cast iron skillet testing, where the lightest pans reached a higher temperature faster because of less overall metal. However, that doesn’t explain why the Lodge skillet (solidly in the middle of the pack weight-wise at 6 pounds, 13 ounces) was so slow to heat and never reached temperatures that all the other pans hit. Instead of weight, we think this is likely due to the makeup of the enamel, which can affect how the heat is distributed over the surface of the pan. Enamel quality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, depending on the methods and materials used in the enameling process.
We also saw varied findings when examining the ranges of temperatures taken across the surface of the pan. Some pans had a similar temperature regardless of where the temperature was taken, whereas others differed widely. The Staub, for example, starts to look like an almost straight line towards the end of the test, indicating extremely even temperatures across the surface.
Gently Flared Sides Were Better Than Straighter Ones
Skillets with high sides that stuck up at right angles from the bottom tended to trap steam, which hindered browning and caramelization. Conversely, flared sides whisked steam away from the bottom so meat seared optimally. We also found that cornbread released more easily from skillets with sloped sides; straighter sides clung to the cornbread and made it difficult to remove. Plus, a flared edge made it a bit easier to maneuver a spatula into the pan to retrieve food.
Big Handles (and Helping Handles) Made Maneuvering Easy
Design also played a part in usability, as heavy pans with small handles were much more difficult to grip and transfer to the oven or sink. We preferred longer handles with rounded edges, which were more comfortable to grab (like the handle on the Le Creuset). For heavier pans with pour spouts (which should be large and deep, or they risk not really being useful at all), helping handles were absolutely vital, and we liked ones that were big enough to grab easily with a thick kitchen towel or oven mitt.
The Criteria: What to Look for in an Enameled Cast Iron Skillet
There are huge differences in price with enameled cast iron. Generally speaking, the more expensive the pan was (and if it was from a legacy brand like Staub), the better it performed. This is because the craftsmanship and quality control of these brands is very meticulous (as we've found when we tested Dutch Ovens). We also found that, generally, matte black enamel on the interior is preferable since it’s less prone to staining.
The presence or lack of a helping handle isn’t that big of a deal unless you are dealing with pans that weigh more than eight pounds. Any less than that, and the average home cook should be able to lift or pour from the pan one-handed without issue. That being said, if it does have a helping handle, it should be big enough to easily grasp with a thick kitchen towel in hand. The main handle should also be large enough to grab with two hands. Regarding pour spouts: the best are larger and deeper; shallower ones tend to dribble. However, this isn't a dealbreaker—just don't use the spout.
When it comes to weight, lighter skillets were easier to lift and carry and also tended to heat up faster (which makes sense, because less material to heat means less time to reach a consistent temperature). We also preferred skillets with gently flared which resulted in better browning and less sticking when baking cornbread.
The Best Cast Iron Skillet: Staub Cast Iron 12-inch Fry Pan
What we liked: The Staub surpassed all the other skillets in every test. When we conducted our heat absorption and retention test, this skillet reached the highest temperature the fastest and was the most consistent from center to edge. This was reflected when we cooked in it as well—the eggs and steak cooked evenly (and they didn’t stick). The smooth, curved sides whisked away steam before it had a chance to interfere with browning and made it easier to get in there with a spatula.
Another great aspect of the Staub skillet is that the maximum heat rating is 900°F, about 400 degrees higher than any other pan in our lineup. While most home ovens don’t get that hot, you could roast vegetables in a pizza oven with this skillet no problem. The pan is also (amazingly) dishwasher-safe, though hand washing was very easy; we hardly needed to scrub it at all due to the slick enamel coating.
What we didn’t like: While the Staub skillet did well in our cornbread test, we did notice some very slight variation in the evenness of the color on the bottom. Also, the helping handle is quite small; if it was a bit bigger, it would be even more useful.
Price at time of publish: $195.
- Weight: 4 lbs, 15 oz
- Diameter: 10 inches
- Cooking surface diameter: 8.25 inches
- Max Heat: 900°F
- Care Instructions: Dishwasher-safe (though we'd recommend hand washing to preserve it's longevity).
Alternative Pick: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Skillet
What we liked: Like the Staub, this skillet heated up to high temps evenly across its surface, seared steaks beautifully, and perfectly cooked over-easy eggs. We liked the rounded handle, which was easy to grasp, and the curved sides, which allowed for steam to escape and also made it easy to use a spatula in the skillet.
What we didn't like: This skillet has more material than the Staub, so it did take longer to heat up but once it did, it retained its heat beautifully across the cooking surface.
Price at time of publish: $220.
- Weight: 5 lbs, 6 oz
- Diameter: 10.25 inches
- Cooking surface diameter: 8.5 inches
- Max Heat: 500°F
- Care Instructions: Dishwasher-safe
The Best Budget Enameled Cast Iron Skillet (Less Than $100): Crock Pot Artisan Cast Iron Skillet
What we liked: The Crock Pot brand is a household name for the eponymous slow cooker appliance, but their cookware line is equally solid. While other enameled cast iron skillets easily cost a couple of hundred dollars, the Crock Pot skillet will set you back $68. It produced great results during the egg and steak tests, and even the cornbread had nice, even browning on the bottom.
While the enamel isn’t totally nonstick (we had some issues with cornbread sticking), we didn’t have any issues with fried eggs or seared steak sticking to the bottom. We expected the white enamel interior to stain or discolor after testing, but no residue remained after cleaning. The handles are comfortable to hold, and maneuvering the pan is just as easy with one hand as it is with two due to the pans light weight.
What we didn’t like: The white enamel interior requires a bit more elbow grease when cleaning to get back to pure white, and the finish wasn’t entirely nonstick; cornbread got a bit stuck in it when we tried to turn it out (though it did brown nice and evenly on the bottom). The high sides had a hard right angle from the bottom, which made it difficult to use an offset spatula to help release the cornbread. This pan is also not dishwasher-safe.
Price at time of publish: $36.
- Weight: 6 lbs, 5 oz
- Diameter: 10 inches
- Cooking surface diameter: 8.25 inches
- Max Heat: 500°F
- Care Instructions: Hand wash only
- Great Jones King Sear Skillet: While we liked the broad cooking surface of this skillet (it’s good for serving larger groups), the cornbread and eggs both stuck to the bottom of the pan. The handle was also too short to hold with two hands, but also too heavy to hold with just one.
- KitchenAid Enameled Cast Iron Frying Pan: Large, bulky, and awkward to hold, this skillet didn’t do very well in any of our tests. It also had temperatures that were all over the place during our heat absorption test.
- Tramontina Covered Skillet Enameled Cast Iron: The Tramontina skillet was deep with tall, high sides that trapped steam and prevented caramelization during searing.
- Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Skillet: Even though the Lodge skillet fried a couple of perfect over easy eggs, we had to disqualify it for its low heat absorption that led to a poorly seared steak.
- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Skillet: This is a great skillet, but it just didn’t do quite as well as the Staub, despite being more expensive.
- Our Place Cast Iron Always Pan: While we liked the accessories that came with it (the glass lid, wooden spoon, and silicone handle covers), they didn’t make up for overall poor cooking performance. The high sides trapped steam, interfering with browning and caramelization, and the enamel interior wasn’t as nonstick as other pans; the cornbread stuck to it and emerged unevenly browned.
Which is better—cast iron or enameled cast iron?
The short answer is neither—and both! Cast iron is undoubtedly more durable and would be the better choice for cooking over open fire or for projects where you plan to use extremely high temperatures. The seasoning on a cast iron pan can eventually become completely nonstick, whereas enameled cast iron will remain unchanged over time. Enameled cast iron is also more suited for recipes high in acid (which could damage uncoated cast iron) or for situations that would benefit from a more even distribution of heat.
Is there anything you can’t cook in an enameled cast iron skillet?
Can you put an enameled cast iron skillet in the oven?
You can absolutely put enameled cast iron in the oven, and some pans can tolerate up to 900°F (though most max out at 500°F).
Can you use enameled cast iron on an induction burner?
All of the enameled cast iron pans we tested were compatible with induction burners, as well as gas and electric. To be sure, check the manual on your enameled cast iron pan to see if it’s compatible.