A cast iron skillet is a great addition to the kitchen. As you may already know, the iron gives a beautiful flavour to some foods, especially meats such as steak.
But wait? Your probably not wanting to buy every sized skillet, that would be expensive. You are just looking for a great all rounder size right?
Well before you go ahead and purchase one, read this guide to determine which sizes will suit you best. After all, cast iron is a lifetime investment due to it’s durability, so you won’t be swapping it out any time soon. Just remember that a skillet and a frying pan are not the same pan, we discuss it more in depth in our skillet vs frying pan guide.
How Do You Measure A Cast Iron Skillet?
When shopping for cast iron skillets, you’ll often see them referred to as different inches.
The most common sizes are:
- 8 inch
- 10 inch
- 12 inch
Is It The Whole Skillet Or The Cooking Surface?
But, what does the sizes actually refer to? Is it the diameter of the whole pan or is it the diameter of the surface?
Well that actually depends on the brand, you would expect it to be universal, however some brands label it as the whole pans diameter, and some label it as the cooking surfaces diameter. Pretty frustrating right?
Well now you know that, and you haven’t jumped into buying one too quickly without researching, you can now find out which brand is referring to which measurement.
How To Find Out
Normally to find out, you can look in the manufactures manual online or look in the reviews section of the product.
Take this cast iron skillet for example. It states it’s 16″, but that’s including the edges AND handles. The cooking surface is only 13″ which leaves people extremely disappointed when they come to cooking their 16″ pizza. I simply found this information from the reviews and the comments and answers further down below the product.
Why they are not universal measurements
I can’t make claims stating why they aren’t universal, but I believe it’s simply down to marketing. You see a beautiful 16″ cast iron pan really cheap online, and you instantly want it because of the price, but it turns out, the cooking surface is only 13″ and thus it stops being a great value purchase, it just appears to be at first when you think the cooking surface is 16″ because of the title.
Some brands won’t be so devious, and others might have legitimate reasons for using other measurements, but all in all, just take it into consideration when you are shopping for cast iron cookware or any other cookware material.
What is the best size for a cast iron skillet?
Cast iron skillets come in a variety of sizes, typically it boils down to just 3 common sizes, any larger or smaller and your getting into more specialist cast iron cookware for professional chefs.
The size you need depends on what and how you cook, for example if you love your steaks, your going to need to use a cast iron skillet that’s large enough, and if you just need one for tossing your vegetables then your going to want one that’s small so it’s not to heavy to toss.
Below I will cover each size and what each size is typically used for. Keep in mind that I will be referencing the cooking surface measurement.
This is typically the smallest size you will find, as any smaller and the cast iron pan would be rather useless. 8 inches is quite small as it is, so I don’t recommend this as an all rounder cast iron pan. It’s typically used for small amounts of frying sausages, eggs or even bacon and sautéing vegetables.
8 inches is also perfect for storage and easy lifting so it can also be beneficial to those who have muscle issues or simply a small kitchen.
Next size up is 10 inches, it’s a noticeable difference in size compared to 8 inches and it’s a fantastic all rounder. If you live on your own or with a partner I would recommend this option as it’s recommended for 1-2 people.
It’s large enough to handle bigger meats such as steak or lamb and you can even get some vegetables in there too to cook them with the fat from the meat, making 10 inches a very versatile option.
Last but not least is the 12″ skillet, this is typically the largest size cast iron skillet and is mainly used when cooking for families of 2-4 people.
Again, it can handle large meats and vegetable so it’s incredibly versatile, and in my personal opinion I would only get this option if I really enjoyed my cooking and wanted to open all the doors or I regularly had guests round.
What about larger options?
Normally you will only see larger options in a commercial environment, simple because of the amount of cooking required in that environment in a short amount of time.
The only real use I’ve found larger options beneficial for at home, are large pizzas. Typically you will need a 16″ option when attempting to cook larger pizzas.
Other than that, there’s no real use for one this large unless you have a very big family which is uncommon.
Larger options can also be problematic depending on what stove you have, for example glass top stoves are not designed for heavy equipment as they can become scratched.
Is A 12-Inch Skillet Too Big?
It really depends on how many people you are cooking for. If you have a family of 2-4, then a 12″ skillet is not too big for your cooking.
However, they are extremely heavy due to their size, the require more effort to maintain such as seasoning and cleaning, and they are quite big for storing.
10 or 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet?
When deciding whether to go with a 10 or 12 ” skillet, you need to keep the following questions in mind:
- Do I have storage large enough to hold it?
- How many people do I normally cook for?
- Will the weight bother me?
- Do I have the time to keep it seasoned properly with oil whilst avoiding uneven seasoning on cast iron and clean it thoroughly?
If the answer is yes to all these questions, then definitely get a 12 inch, if the answer is no to all of these questions, then go with a 10 inch.
And if the answer is yes to some, and no to some, then you need to make a judgement call on which one is right for you based on your personal circumstances.
Best Size Cast Iron Skillet For Steak?
The best size will be 12″, it’s a big enough pan to handle larger steaks with vegetables, so you won’t run into any size issues.
However, the 10 inch skileet is also an option, so don’t dismiss it if you think a 10″ is large enough, as it’s usually the perfect size for steak.
It realistically depends on how big your steaks are and if you are cooking any other food in the same pan with the steak.
What Size Cast Iron Skillet For Cornbread?
We recommend using a 10 inch skillet for cornbread, it’s the perfect size to make enough for the average family, although in reality, you can use any size and adjust the ingredients. Most recipes for cornbread call for a 10″ skillet so the ingredient portions will be for a 10″ skillet.