How To Measure A Cast Iron Skillet The Right Way

There are a few good reasons why you might want to measure a cast iron skillet:

  • You might be thinking of purchasing a second-hand skillet where the size information isn’t readily available.
  • You have an existing skillet or two in your current collection, and would like to buy a slightly larger – or smaller – pan to go with it.
  • You need to measure a skillet so you can buy a suitable lid for it separately.
  • You want to make sure you’re using the right sized skillet for the right job!

As you’d expect, measuring a skillet isn’t a particularly tricky task, but it is important that you do it the right way.

To measure the size of your frying pan, I also strongly recommend using one of those retractable tape measures you probably have lying around somewhere in your home.

You can easily hook the end of these tape measures over the lip of your skillet, and then just pull the tape across to the handle.

With that out of the way, what’s the best way to measure the size of your frying pan though? In the rest of this guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know.

(Want to learn more about cookware? Take a look through my archive for more guides and reviews.)

How Is Pan Size Measured?

First things first, the measurement you need to take is across the top of the skillet, not the cooking surface itself.

Most skillets have sides that slope outwards, and so these two sizes will be different. Manufacturers always refer to this upper measurement when describing sizes though.

To make sure you get the full, proper diameter, start your tape measure directly opposite from the handle. From here, just pull it across until you reach the handle.

Voila! You now know the exact size of the skillet in front of you. Pretty much every skillet these days is measured in whole / half inches, so it should be obvious when you’ve done this right.

Three partially extended tape measures next to one another

Is It The Right Size?

Now you’ve measured your cast iron skillet, you might now be wondering whether if it’s the best tool for the job you have in mind.

Before I wrap things up, I wanted to share some advice about the recommended skillet sizes for different type of dishes.

(If you’re not sure if your current skillet will be up to the challenge, have a look at my guide to the best cast iron skillet brands. I’ve researched the best options from the leading manufacturers, and you’ll have no trouble finding the right piece of cookware for your own kitchen!)

The Best Skillet Size For…


Bigger is generally better with cornbread, so consider a standard 12 inch skillet for this job. Even if you’re only cooking for one or two people, it’s always easier to make a bigger batch so you have leftovers. The same advice also applies for things like tortillas too.

…Eggs, Frittatas & Omelets

Different egg dishes come in very different sizes, so I recommend having a 10 or 12 inch egg skillet in your collection. You can go smaller if you’re only going to fry an egg, for example, but a bigger pan means you can also make better omelets, frittatas and so on.

For the average household, a 12 inch skillet is the best size to aim for.

…One Person

Skillets are commonly available in 8, 10 or 12 inch editions. Although it’s tempting to buy the smallest size when you’re cooking for one, I’d actually recommend buying at least a 10 inch pan. This will give you more room to work with when making bulkier meals.


When you’re frying a steak it’s important to ensure the heat is distributed evenly. Any cold spots and you’ll have an unevenly done steak on your hands, which no one wants!

If you’re frying one steak at a time, choose a 10 inch skillet. That will accommodate most cuts, and also leave room around the edges for basting and turning without damaging the meat.

Two steaks? Grab a 12 inch skillet. You should still be able to turn and baste both of them easily enough. I don’t recommend going any larger than this though, as you’ll struggle with heat distribution.

Wrapping Up

Now you know how to measure up your cast iron skillet, and make sure it’s the right size for your next kitchen adventure.

Happy cooking!