Whether you’ve just gotten your first-ever cast iron skillet or are lucky enough to have one passed down from your grandmother, one thing’s for sure: It’s likely to be among the more valuable, versatile, and useful tools in your kitchen. Though cast iron requires a bit of special attention (if you need a refresher, here’s how to clean a cast iron pan), a well-seasoned pan will last for generations. That’s far longer than the five or six years you can expect to get from a nonstick pan, and yet a well-seasoned cast iron pan is relatively nonstick! (And if the seasoning does wear out, here’s how to reseason a cast iron skillet.)
In fact, when it comes to certain tasks, such as searing practically any type of steak or making cornbread, cast iron has no equal. That’s because the iron itself is fantastic at holding heat, meaning it can create the kind of char you want on the surface of a piece of meat, while the seasoning helps food “release” from the surface when it’s cooked, so you aren’t scraping everything out of the pan. All that, and it can move from the stove top to the oven with ease, taking temperatures that would warp or bend other pans. But best of all? Well-made cast iron is really inexpensive! You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to end up with a pan you can love and use for years. In fact, one of our favorite pans is often just $25.
To help you make the most of this kitchen workhorse, we’re sharing our very best cast iron skillet recipes. Here you’ll find a batch of seared sausage with cabbage and Pink Lady apples, as well as a skillet cornbread finished with freshly-ground black pepper and creamy butter. Or try one of our favorites, a decadent skillet chicken with Brussels sprouts and apples. For dessert, make our cast iron apple-blackberry crumble with sour cream whip. You’ll be amazed at just how quickly your family devours it!