Iron pans prepare food in a particularly tasty way and also release natural iron, which is a great advantage, especially for people with iron deficiency. Unlike frying pans, iron pans do not release harmful substances into the food. These cooking utensils are a little heavier to handle, but they are particularly tasty when used to cook spicy foods.
With our large iron pan test 2021 we want to help you find the best iron pan for you. We have compared cast iron pans and wrought iron pans with each other and listed the respective advantages and disadvantages. This should make your purchase decision as easy as possible.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The Best Iron skillet: Our Picks
- 4 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an iron skillet
- 5 Decision: What types of iron pans are there and which is the right one for you?
- 6 Buying criteria: You can compare and evaluate iron pans based on these factors
- 7 Facts worth knowing about iron pans
- Iron pans enable you to prepare food in a particularly tasty way without harmful substances getting into the food, as can happen with coated frying pans.
- A basic distinction is made between wrought iron pans and cast iron pans, with both variants available in different sizes and price ranges.
- Forged pans are particularly suitable for beginners, as they are lighter and often cheaper. Heavy cast-iron pans achieve excellent frying results, as do the professionals.
The Best Iron skillet: Our Picks
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an iron skillet
Who is an iron skillet suitable for?
Since iron pans, especially cast iron pans, are often heavy, they can be difficult to handle when cooking. For people who do not have much strength in their arms, cooking with an iron pan can sometimes be a nuisance.
On the other hand, people who love to eat steak, fried potatoes or spicy food in general should definitely consider getting an iron pan. The taste experience certainly outweighs the higher weight of the pan.
The health aspect should also not be underestimated. Due to the release of natural iron into the food and the fact that you need less fat or oil than with many other pans, an iron pan is fully in line with the health trend.
An iron pan is therefore ideal for people with high cholesterol or iron deficiency.
Cast iron pans are sometimes the heaviest pans you can buy. You might have to train a bit before you can handle them perfectly. The weight of cast iron pans ranges from about 2.5 to 3.5 kilograms, but can be higher.
Is an iron pan suitable for an induction cooker or a ceramic hob?
Essentially, these are the reasons why iron frying pans are suitable for these types of cooker:
- Iron pans are magnetic
- Iron pans have a smooth bottom
Since the heat in induction cookers is transferred by means of a magnetic field, it is only logical that the magnetic iron in the pans is perfectly suited to induction hobs.
Ceramic hobs (consisting of glass ceramic) can be scratched very easily. Iron pans, however, have a smooth bottom, which is why they are made for this material.
All in all, with both types of hobs, you should make sure that the pan lies flat and has no dents on the bottom. Otherwise, the heat cannot be distributed evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Iron pans are also suitable for all other types of cookers, such as gas cookers, electric cookers or open fires.
What size iron skillet should I buy?
Depending on what you want to cook, you can use either a small, medium or large pan. If you want to cook for a lot of people, it is better to use a larger model.
For a portion of fried potatoes, a small pan can be sufficient. It is best to have different sizes of pans in your household so that you have the right size pan for every occasion.
How much does an iron pan cost?
The range can go from about 20 to 160 euros. If you use this particular cookware frequently and prepare many delicious dishes with it, the prices for iron pans seem reasonable to us.
Cast iron pans start at 25 euros, although smaller pans are usually cheaper than larger ones.
Pans made in a forge are much lighter than their cast-iron cousins, which is why you can buy them cheaper.
|Cast iron pans||approx. 25-160 €|
|Wrought iron pans||approx. 20-50 €|
Cast iron pans range in price up to €160, with different manufacturers charging very different prices. However, a wrought-iron alternative in the high-price segment can be bought for as little as 50 euros.
Among the wrought-iron pans, the hot-forged ones are considered more expensive. They are usually hand-forged, which can be easily recognised by the handle: If the handle is welded on, the pan is often not hand-forged.
However, if the pan and the handle are one piece, you can assume that it has been handmade.
What are the alternatives to an iron pan?
|Ceramic pan||A ceramic pan has a ceramic coating that can be either white or black. This type of pan is particularly suitable for preparing pancakes and fish.|
|Aluminium pan||This pan is also particularly suitable for pancakes or omelettes. An aluminium pan is not recommended for hot frying or braising. If you heat the pan too much, harmful substances can get into the food.|
|Stainless steel pan||This type of pan is made of a material that cannot rust. It is very popular in the kitchen, but does not conduct heat as well as an iron pan.|
|Copper pan||Many professional chefs use both iron pans and copper pans. The copper pans are considered to be the models that have the best heat conductivity among all others.|
Each of the pans has certain advantages that are not to be sneezed at. Nevertheless, the iron pan seems to be superior to the others in many criteria. It is not without reason that iron pans have been considered a very good tool for cooking and frying since the Middle Ages.
Decision: What types of iron pans are there and which is the right one for you?
If you want to get an iron pan, there are two alternatives you can choose between:
|Cast iron pan||No substances that get into the food, low-fat frying, robust, scratch-resistant, heat-resistant||Heavier than comparably sized pans|
|Wrought iron pan||Lighter than a cast iron pan, unique (if hot-forged), heats up quickly||Stores heat worse, cheaper on average (if you don't want it to be unique)|
With forged pans you have the choice between a hot-forged and a cold-forged pan.
The handling, care and use of the two different iron pans each have advantages and disadvantages. Depending on what you prefer and what you want to use the iron pan for, a different type is suitable for you. In the following section, we would like to make your decision easier.
What distinguishes a cast iron pan and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
The big plus of an iron pan is the taste it produces. In addition, no undesirable substances can get into the food. Professional chefs use iron pans every day. So if you want to become your own star chef, a cast iron pan could be just the thing for you.
Cast iron pans are made by melting a special iron alloy and placing it in a mould. The main difference to other types of frying pans is the high carbon content, which has a number of advantages.
Since less fat and oil is needed when frying with a cast iron pan, the prepared food is lower in fat. This is good if you value a calorie-reduced diet.
In addition, the iron pan passes on valuable iron substances to the food we eat. It is therefore health-promoting, especially compared to aluminium or stainless steel pans.
The cast iron pan is robust, scratch-resistant and heat-resistant. After you have bought it, it will probably stay in your household for a long time. However, the sturdiness of the pan means that it will weigh a certain amount (around 1.5 to 4 kilograms). This could be a big adjustment for you at first.
What characterises a wrought iron pan and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
A wrought iron pan is much lighter than a cast iron pan, which makes cooking and general handling easier.
Cold forged pans are forged into shape from a cold piece of iron using a press. This is done without the addition of heat. Hot-forged pans, on the other hand, are - as it is classically imagined - strongly heated and then forged into the right shape.
The difference between these two types is mainly that hot-forged pans have a rougher surface, unlike cold-forged ones. Hot-forged pans are mainly handmade and therefore fetch a higher selling price.
The forged iron pans heat up faster than cast iron pans and are therefore ideal for quicker dishes. On the other hand, they don't retain heat very well, so you can't keep food in them for long.
Finally, forged pans are often much cheaper to buy than cast iron pans. So if price is your main concern, you should consider a wrought-iron pan.
Buying criteria: You can compare and evaluate iron pans based on these factors
In the following, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible iron pans.
The criteria you can use to compare iron pans with each other include:
- Diameter upper rim / base
- Suitability for induction plates
- Suitability for ceramic hobs
- Dishwasher safe
In the following paragraphs, we will explain what is important in each of the criteria.
As already mentioned, the weight of iron pans is often significantly higher compared to pans made of other materials. You should be aware that the weight can also affect frying and braising.
Lighter are the wrought-iron pans, whether cold- or hot-forged. If you place particular value on the handling of the pan, but still don't want to miss out on an iron pan, then we advise you to go for a forged pan.
You can read about all the advantages in more detail in the section above. The weight range of wrought-iron pans is usually between 1.5 and 1.8 kilograms.
Cast iron pans are sometimes the heaviest pans you can buy. You might have to train a little before you can handle them perfectly. The weight of cast iron pans ranges from about 2.5 to 3.5 kilograms, but can go beyond that if necessary.
Diameter of upper rim / base
When it comes to diameter, the bottom of the pan is of particular importance. The pan should be no more than 1 to 2 cm larger than the respective stovetop.
Since the pan will warp if it is too big in relation to the hob and the heat cannot be distributed evenly over the bottom of the pan, it is important to choose the right pan size.
To do this, simply measure your hob or refer to your hob's technical specifications for size details. Almost all of the pan models listed above are also available in different sizes, so you are sure to find the right one for your cooker.
So both cast iron and wrought iron pans are available with different diameters. The specifications of the upper rim range from 24 to 32 cm. The base diameter is always smaller than the diameter of the upper rim of the pan. One exception is a square steak pan, for example, whose top and bottom dimensions are the same.
Suitability for induction plates
All iron pans are suitable for induction cookers. On induction cookers, the hob does not get hot until you put the pan on it. This creates an alternating magnetic field that reacts exclusively to magnetic cookware.
Did you know that the bottom of the pan should always be smaller or the same size as the hotplate?
This is especially important for wrought iron and carbon steel pans. This prevents the bottom of the pan from bulging.
Induction cookers are becoming more and more popular these days because they pose less of a risk of burns for children and adults. Among all the other advantages, the iron pan once again proves to be an all-round talent.
Thanks to its iron content, it can be used on all types of induction cookers without any problems. So you don't have to buy new pans if you are thinking of switching to an induction cooker in the near future.
Suitability for ceramic hobs
In principle, iron pans are suitable for all types of cooker. This includes ceramic hobs. However, Ceran is only a brand name, and the material is called "glass ceramic". A glass ceramic hob works with radiant heat technology.
Pans absorb the heat radiation, but for this they must have properties such as heat absorption capacity. Iron pans, which generally also have very good heat conductivity, can therefore be used for ceramic hobs without hesitation.
We emphasise this here because not all cookware is suitable for ceramic hobs. Finally, iron pans are also very suitable for gas hobs and electric mass hobs.
As you can read under "Trivia", iron pans need special cleaning. You should never wash cast iron pans or wrought iron pans in a dishwasher, as the pans will start to rust.
If you are looking for tips on how to bake and properly clean iron pans, you can read valuable tips and instructions in the trivia section of this page. In addition, you should carefully read the instructions for use that come with each pan and follow the instructions.
If iron pans are exposed to moisture for a long time, rust will form. They are therefore not dishwasher safe and should not be soaked in water overnight or stored in damp places.
However, if you do accidentally put your cast iron or wrought iron pan in the dishwasher and notice rusty spots when you take it out, there is still a rescue. Wipe the iron pan with an oil-soaked cloth and then work on the rust with a steel brush.
Again, do not use any grease-dissolving detergents, just use water for cleaning. After the rust has been completely removed, you need to bake the pan again. Instructions on how to do this are given below.
On the one hand, it can be interpreted as a disadvantage that iron pans cannot simply and easily be put in the dishwasher with the other cookware. On the other hand, cleaning by hand is not too difficult a matter.
Neither type of iron pan has a coating. In other words, you could also say that both types of iron pans have a natural coating.
When you buy your iron pan new, it has an anti-corrosion coating to protect it from rust. You must therefore clean the iron pan properly before using it for the first time to remove this coating. Then, as described in another section, bake it to create a natural patina.
Did you know that, unlike many other products, the longer the iron pan is used, the better its quality?
Discolouration or stains do not mean a quality defect and they do not affect the frying properties.
A patina is a thin layer of fat and charcoal that acts like a natural non-stick coating during frying. It can often take several roasting processes after baking until a stable patina layer has developed and nothing burns.
However, since you will enjoy your robust iron pan for a very long time, it is worth investing the time to build up an optimal patina.
Facts worth knowing about iron pans
How do I bake an iron pan properly?
There are many different methods for baking an iron pan. Here we introduce you to one of the uncomplicated variants using oil.
- First, rinse the pan thoroughly with hot water and dry it with kitchen paper. Before you start the actual baking process, open the windows and switch off the smoke detectors if necessary, as there will be a lot of smoke.
- Then cover the bottom of the pan with sunflower or rapeseed oil and wait until the oil gradually heats up. Take a brush and brush the sides of the pan with oil. Leave the pan to fry for about five minutes.
- As soon as the pan walls have turned dark brown, turn off the heat and pour away the remaining oil. Now you can put the pan back on the hob when it is switched off. The residual heat will also turn the bottom of the pan brown. Then wipe off the excess oil with a kitchen towel.
- After you have allowed the pan to cool sufficiently, brush it with a little oil one last time and then rinse it thoroughly with water. This way, your pan is perfectly prepared for its first use.
How do I clean an iron pan?
Cleaning an iron pan is actually not difficult: After the pan has cooled down sufficiently, you can simply take a paper towel and clean the pan with it if it is slightly dirty.
If the pan is a little more dirty, you can clean it under running hot water with a washing-up brush. Never use a detergent that dissolves grease, as this will damage the pan's natural protective layer.
If something does burn: Pour water into the pan and heat it on the hob. If that doesn't help, you can add some salt to the empty pan, heat it up and then rub it off with a kitchen towel.
What fat/oil should I use for an iron pan?
Iron cookware can be very hot. This requires heat-resistant oils. Not all fats can withstand such high temperatures. Some types of oil lose their flavour or even form harmful substances if they are heated too much.
Oils and fats that can also be used at high temperatures:
- Sunflower oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Sesame oil
- Coconut oil
At temperatures between 160 and 220°C, these substances can still develop fully and do not lose any of their qualitative ingredients.
When frying with cold-pressed olive oil, toxic vapours can develop at temperatures above 180°C. In addition, the valuable ingredients are lost in this way. We advise you not to heat olive oil strongly in an iron pan.
Furthermore, thistle and walnut oil, for example, are not suitable for frying in an iron pan. Oils that contain omega-3 should also not usually be heated very strongly. This process destroys the good substances in the oils.
"Forged iron pans require some care and practice when frying, especially when it comes to regulating the temperature correctly. Often less temperature is better for a good cooking result, apart from a short and hot seared steak. Very acidic ingredients, such as tomato sauce, should be avoided, as otherwise the food tastes of iron, which is not harmful. A pan especially for people who love perfectly cooked meat and fried potatoes."
Image source: unsplash.com / Max Delsid