When it comes to cast iron skillets, size really does matter. It’s important to think about the type of food you’re cooking for a start! An omelet cooks very differently to a steak, for example, and requires a particular size skillet for best results.
If you’re new to cast iron cooking or just looking to add another cast iron skillet to your growing collection, here’s what size cast iron skillet you should think about buying:
(Other sizes are available, but these are the most common ones you’ll encounter!)
8 Inch – This size of cast iron skillet is ideal for cooking for one or two people. It’s also easy to store since it won’t take up much room. 8 inch cast iron skillets are great for eggs, bacon, smaller steaks or chops, and many other single servings.
12 Inch – This size of cast iron skillet is ideal for cooking larger portions of meat. These take up more space in the pan, of course, but you’ll also want room for turning and browning. If you’re cooking for a typical four person household – or a few guests – this is the best size cast iron skillet for you.
14 Inch – If you need to feed even more people than a 12 inch skillet can handle, choose a 14 inch cast iron skillet instead. You might also find this size useful if you’re doing a big batch of meal prepping for the week ahead, or are looking to freeze some of your food for the future.
16 Inch – The largest cast iron skillet you’ll easily find online is the 16 inch cast iron skillet. It can cook a huge amount of food for massive gatherings, or just make life even easier when you’re batch cooking ahead of time. Just make sure you have a heating element that’s big enough to match it, or you’ll suffer from uneven heat distribution.
(My home cookware guide contains plenty more tutorials and buying tips!)
Hopefully that’s given you a useful steer on the best size cast iron skillet for your own needs.
In this next section I wanted to highlight some of the skillets in each size category that have become tried and tested classics!
Best 8 Inch Cast Iron Skillet – Lodge
Lodge is one of my favorite cast iron cookware brands, and the company strikes a really good balance between affordability and performance.
I consider this to be the go-to small skillet for most home kitchens. It’s ideal if you’re cooking for one, and is the perfect size for jobs like frying eggs in particular.
- 8-inch Skillet can saute, sear, fry, bake and stir fry
- Pre-Seasoned and ready-to-use
- Superior heat retention and even cooking
All Lodge cast iron skillets can tolerate high heat, and distribute that heat evenly around the pan as well.
They’re supplied pre-seasoned and are pretty easy to look after. Make sure you get in the habit of keeping it well-seasoned in the long term though.
In terms of weight, the 8 inch Lodge skillet clocks in at a little over five pounds. That makes it very easy to handle on the stovetop, and it’s a very useful little kitchen helper!
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Best 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet – Lodge
For greater versatility and cooking space, Lodge’s 12 inch skillet is an easy pick. You get the same affordability and performance, but more room to work with. The difference really only comes down to size.
- One Lodge Pre-Seasoned 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet with Handle Holder
- Assist handle for better control
- Unparalleled heat retention and even heating
If you’re only frying eggs and other small items, the 8 inch Lodge will suit you very well. I think it’s worth making room for this larger skillet in your collection though, and possibly in addition to the 8 inch.
You’ll need more storage space for this one, but it will allow you to switch up for bigger meals, or when you’re just cooking for a crowd.
Best 14 Inch Cast Iron Skillet – Bayou
I like to focus on the Bayou brand when I’m working up towards bigger skillet sizes.
You still get excellent heat distribution and cooking performance, but it remains budget-friendly at a larger size. It’s not the most well-known brand on the market, but definitely don’t write them off because of that!
- 14-in Skillet w/ Pour Spouts and Helper Handle
- Transfers and Retains Heat Evenly
- Oven and Broiler Safe
Once skillets get larger in size, they get a little more tricky to work with – especially when full. For this reason, the Bayou 14 inch skillet comes with a helper handle on the opposite side of the main handle.
It also features pouring spouts on the non-handled sides, which makes draining liquids and serving easier – and less messy too.
Best 16 Inch Cast Iron Skillet – Bayou
This is effectively the next size up from the 14 inch Bayou skillet, providing even more room to work with.
It features the same helper handle and pouring spouts, which are definitely needed when you’re working with this kind of skillet size!
- 16-in Skillet with pour spouts and helper handles
- 2.625-in Deep
- Transfers and retains heat evenly
All other design aspects remain the same, and this is still surprisingly affordable despite the increase in cooking surface.
Just make sure you’ve got the space to store this skillet, and consider whether you’ll really need a pan of this size – for most people a 14 inch skillet will more than suffice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before I wrap this guide up, I wanted to answer some of the related questions that readers often have on this subject:
How Is Skillet Size Measured?
The most common way a skillet is measured is by the diameter of the bottom of the pan.
Skillets can range in size from 7 inches to 18 inches in diameter. These are very much the lower and upper limits, however.
Most commonly available cast iron skillets are sized between 8 and 16 inches.
What’s The Best Size Skillet For Cornbread?
The best size skillet for making cornbread is a 12 inch cast iron skillet.
This size ensures that all your ingredients will mix together evenly. If you use too large of a skillet, the pan will be crowded and your ingredients won’t mix together as well. This will result in a cornbread with clumps of dry flour and under-cooked batter.
If you use too small a skillet, then the edges of the cornbread will be overcooked and dry, while the center of the cornbread remains undercooked.
What’s The Best Size Skillet For Omelets?
In my opinion, the best size skillet for making an omelet is a 10 inch pan.
Any smaller, and it will be hard to make the omelet fit in the pan. Any larger, and you’ll end up with an omelet that’s too thin.
In my experience, a 10 inch cast iron skillet creates the best omelet thickness every time.
What’s The Best Size Skillet For Steak?
It depends on the type of steak you’re working with, but I believe 12 inches is the best size skillet for cooking steak.
If you’re only cooking one steak, you’ve got all the space you need. If you’re cooking two or three at a time, you’ll be glad of the extra space that keeps them separated.
What’s The Best Size Skillet For Frittatas?
A 12 inch cast iron skillet is the best size for making a frittata. With this amount of space you can easily fit all of the ingredients. It will also allow some space for the frittata to expand while it cooks.
If you try to make a frittata on a smaller pan than this, I think you’ll struggle to work efficiently with the ingredients. If you go any bigger, you’ll struggle to heat the pan and the frittata just won’t cook quickly enough.
What Size Skillet Is Most Useful?
Here we’re talking about the best balance between sheer size, usefulness and general versatility!
The most useful size cast iron skillet is a 12 or 14 inch version. Cast iron skillets bigger than this have their uses, but are not necessary for most kitchens.
Skillets that are smaller than this can be useful for specialty tasks, but are naturally limited.
The simple answer? I think every home kitchen should have a high quality 12 inch cast iron skillet as part of its cookware collection.
You’ll be able to do the majority of your cooking with a skillet this size, and you can always add a smaller or larger skillet to your collection over time if you really need it.
The first thing you’ll want to consider is if you’re cooking for one, or for the whole family.
If you are cooking for just yourself, then a smaller 8 inch skillet might be what you’re looking for. If you are cooking for a whole family, then a 12 inch pan would be perfect.
The best size skillet to buy really depends on what you’re cooking though. If you’re making specialty foods, this should determine the size you choose. If it’s a general purpose skillet you’re after though, you really can’t go wrong with a 12 inch size.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more