What Cast Iron Skillet Size Is Best? Complete Guide!

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There is no better cookware than a cast iron skillet. It is versatile, durable, and can last generations with simple care and maintenance. But with so many options, choosing the best size for a cast iron skillet can be a challenge. I’m here to help you decide!

Stacked cast iron skillets

On my YouTube channel, you’ve probably noticed the same old trusty cast iron skillet in practically every video. From baking cobbler to frying sourdough chicken, I use my cast iron skillet for just about everything.

That’s because a good cast iron skillet is a homestead staple. It’s perfect for suburban homesteads because it can seamlessly integrate into a suburban lifestyle. And homesteading lifestyle aside, once you cook with cast iron, you’ll never look back! The more you use it, the better it gets.

There are endless types of cast iron cookware. So, I’m here to help you decide on the best size cast iron skillet for your kitchen. Once you pick your cast iron pan, don’t forget to check out my cast iron care guide!

YouTube video

What Is Cast Iron?

Cast iron’s origins date back to China in the sixth century BCE. Modern manufacturing has changed the process of making cast iron, but the material itself hasn’t changed much since its conception (source).

Though its name seemingly implies that cast iron is made of 100% iron, it is actually not. Cast iron cookware is an alloy of iron and carbon. And since we are getting science-y, iron and carbon combined also make steel. The difference is that cast iron has 2% to 3.5% carbon, whereas steel has less than 2% carbon (source).

The metals are heated to 2,500° F and poured into a mold before smoothed and prepped for your kitchen.

Pizza in a cast iron skillet

Benefits of Cast Iron

  • A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is non-stick and does not use questionable coatings and chemicals. To create the non-stick surface, oils and fats are polymerized using high heat, which creates a naturally non-stick surface.
  • A classic non-enameled cast iron skillet is the best bang for your buck when it comes to cookware. My Lodge 15″ skillet is approximately $50 at most retailers (in May 2024). Considering cast iron can last a lifetime and even generations, that is a huge value!
  • Cast iron cookware can also increase the iron content of your food. If it is well-seasoned, the amount may be less. But many folks who need more iron in their diets use cast iron for this very purpose.
  • When considering versatility in cookware, cast iron is the clear winner. It can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, and even on an open flame or campfire.
  • Cast iron can handle high temperatures. Generally, up to 650° F is safe, which is much hotter than most cookware can tolerate.
  • Cast iron is next to impossible to ruin. It won’t scratch, and the non-stick surface can be reseasoned. Even if it rusts, it can be refinished.
Cast iron skillets with "The Best Size For a Cast Iron Skillet"

What Are the Cons of Cast Iron?

  • Rust is one of the main issues with cast iron. Though it isn’t hard to maintain, your cast iron skillet will need proper care and maintenance. Drying your skillet with paper towels or a lint-free cloth is the best way to prevent rust.
  • Cast iron can have hot spots where the heat is unevenly distributed. Usually, allowing your pan to preheat longer will prevent hot spots.
  • Though it seems hard, cast iron is actually a brittle metal. In fact, the reason why cast iron is so thick and heavy is to prevent breaking. If you pour cold water on a hot cast iron skillet, it can break.
  • Cast iron is really heavy. So if lifting heavy pans off the stove or in and out of the oven is an issue, a lighter skillet might be a better option. Carbon steel is a popular option for a lighter pan.
  • Non-enameled cast iron is hand-wash only. If it is well-seasoned, it only takes a minute to wipe it clean. However, this is something to keep in mind as you decide on the right skillet for your kitchen and lifestyle.
Close up of pizza in a skillet

What Are the Standard Sizes for Cast Iron Skillets?

The look, size, and shape of cast iron skillets will vary depending on the manufacturer. However, there are some relatively standard skillet sizes. Lodge Cast Iron is the only cast iron manufacturer in the United States (and my beloved cast iron skillet is a Lodge). So this list of sizes is based on their options and specs:

  • 6.5-inch: This is the smallest skillet I recommend unless you need a smaller one for a specific recipe. A 6.5-inch skillet is a good size for individual breakfast recipes and can fit two eggs.
  • 8-inch: An 8-inch cast iron skillet is slightly more versatile than a 6.5-inch skillet. It is great for individual meals or side dishes and can hold up to three eggs.
  • 9-inch: A 9-inch skillet will make meals for one or two people and fit four eggs. However, I recommend a larger pan if you plan on cooking full meals in cast iron. This size is perfect for making sourdough crepes.
  • 10.25-inch: This is good when cooking for one or two people and making skillet meals. It fits five eggs.
  • 12-inch: For home cooks making family meals, a 12-inch skillet is the smallest I recommend. It makes meals for 2-4 people. You can bake a pie in it, and it fits six eggs.
  • 15-inch: This is perfect for large meals and batch cooking. It fits eight eggs. This is what I make creamy lemon chicken in.

Note: Lodge makes other sizes. But in my experience, these are the most standard. For the full list of Lodge cast iron skillets and their specs, check out Lodge’s cast iron guide.

Creamy lemon chicken in cast iron skillet

What Is the Best Size Cast Iron Skillet for Family Meals?

A 12- or 15-inch skillet is large enough for most families’ meals. Depending on the number of people you are cooking for, the 12- and 15-inch skillets are also sizeable enough for batch cooking.

We are a family of three, and I use a 15-inch cast iron skillet. It seems like a large skillet for a small family, but I can make our meals and double up for leftovers. I use it for searing, sauteeing, baking, and frying.

What Is the Average Cast Iron Skillet Size?

According to Lodge, the 10.25- and 12-inch cast iron skillets are the most popular sizes. These sizes fit on standard burners and will work for most recipes. They also work with most kitchen storage spaces.

If you are feeding a family and if you have the storage space, I recommend selecting a larger skillet like the 12- or 15-inch.

Woman holding frying pan

Enameled vs. Non-Enameled

This is the great debate! Should you buy an enameled or non-enameled cast iron skillet? Both have their pros and cons:

Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled cast iron is cast iron with a non-porous coating. It is a popular misconception that enameled cast iron is non-stick. However, enameled cast iron is not non-stick; the enamel protects the cast iron from rust and acidic ingredients like tomatoes.

I love my enameled cast iron Dutch ovens because I use them for deep frying sourdough donuts, making tomato sauce (tomatoes can damage the seasoning on non-enameled cast iron), and, of course, cooking meals that wouldn’t work in a skillet, like garden vegetable soup.

The biggest downfall of enameled cast iron is that it can scratch. Scratches can lead to uneven cooking. And though enameled cast iron can last a long time, it probably won’t last a lifetime or generations like non-enameled will.

Also, the decorative handles on many aesthetically pleasing enameled Dutch ovens cannot withstand high temperatures.

Non-Enameled Cast Iron

When it comes to skillets, I prefer non-enameled cast iron. When I say I use it every day, I really mean it. It almost never leaves my stovetop. I use it for sourdough flatbreads, beef and broccoli, and beyond.

Non-enameled cast iron is a little more high maintenance. Unlike enameled cast iron, non-enameled can rust. Also, you should avoid a few ingredients like tomatoes, vinegar, and other acidic foods.

However, it’s worth it! With proper care and maintenance, non-enameled cast iron will last a lifetime and possibly generations. It’s cheaper than enameled cast iron, works just as well, and lasts longer.

Also, as long as it has a good seasoning, non-enameled cast iron is naturally non-stick. In fact, today, after making scrambled eggs, I simply wiped my cast iron skillet clean with a dry cloth. That’s how non-stick it is!

Stacked cast iron skillets

Dutch Oven vs. Skillet

Dutch Oven

Essentially, a Dutch oven is a shorter and wider stock pot. It usually has a tight-fitting lid that holds in steam, which is why it works well for no-knead sourdough bread. A Dutch oven is great for soups and stews. And I especially love using it as a slow cooker in my Brod & Taylor proofing box.


A skillet is a shallow pan, often with a long handle and no lid, used for sauteeing, searing, and frying. It is particularly useful for high heat, flipping food, and shallow frying.

Fun fact: “skillet” and “frying pan” are interchangeable terms. “Skillet” is more common in the southern United States.

Dutch Oven-Skillet Combo

One of the best purchases I’ve ever made is my 10.25″ Lodge Dual Cooker. It is a Dutch oven with a skillet lid. So you can use it like any traditional non-enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Or you can use the top and bottom as separate pieces. It’s a great bang for your buck!

Sourdough skillet meal shown with red onions and green beans

What Is the Best Skillet for Baking?

A 10.25-inch cast iron skillet is ideal for most baking recipes. It’s big enough for a pie crust and is perfect for cornbread. But the right size for baking depends on the recipe. Larger recipes call for larger skillets. For example, I always make my sourdough cinnamon rolls in my 15-inch cast iron skillet. But I make smaller recipes in my 10.25-inch skillet.

Do You Need a Pre-Seasoned Skillet?

In short, yes, a pre-seasoned skillet is helpful. But it isn’t perfect.

Many cast iron skillets are sold as “pre-seasoned.” This theoretically means that they are ready for use straight out of the box. Though the pre-seasoning helps, I have found that to be truly non-stick, they need more seasoning before the first use.

Additional Features

  • Pour spout: This is a small spout for pouring liquid or fats from the skillet. I find pour spouts helpful when using my cast iron skillet for frying. Transferring oil to another container is easy and mess-free with the pour spout.
  • Helper handle: Cast iron is hefty. The helper handle is a small handle directly across from the skillet’s arm. It can help you move the skillet more easily and carefully from the stove into the oven, for example. My Lodge skillet has a helper handle, and I love it.
  • Weight: Take note of how heavy the skillet is and account for the weight of the food. If lifting heavy pots and pans is an issue, check out lighter weight options like carbon steel cookware.
Helper handle on skillet

My Cast Iron Skillet Size Recommendation

The perfect skillet size is a personal choice. Different sizes meet different needs for individual cooks and families. In the end, the right size depends on how you want to use it and the number of people you are cooking for.

In my opinion and experience, a big skillet is more useful than a small one. If I were to gift you a skillet today—one that I feel you would get the most use out of—I’d give you the 15″ Lodge skillet. It’s the most versatile and useful piece of cookware I own. For my daily use, it is the perfect size.

I also like my 10.25-inch dual-cooker Dutch oven/skillet combo, but I often feel that the smaller size is limiting. I use it once a week to bake sourdough bread, while I use my 15″ skillet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.

Unless you need a small skillet for a specific purpose, I would err on the larger size. In my experience, you’ll get the most out of your money, and you will have more flexibility with how you use your cast iron.

Ultimately, the best cast iron skillet for you is the one you will use.

Frying pan and stainless steel turner

Where To Purchase a Cast Iron Skillet

Just about every major retailer that sells cookware has a cast iron collection. But you can also find cheaper and unique options at your local thrift store and antique stores. If the thrill of the hunt is your vibe, you can search for beautiful antique pieces that are one-of-a-kind.

You can also purchase a cast iron skillet through my Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to use my affiliate link, I will receive a commission at no expense to you. It’s a great way to help me provide more free content for you. Thank you for supporting my content!

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