Cast Iron Conundrums

Hi all,

I'm gleefully starting my cast iron collection (well, adding it to the registry) and in addition to the classic question of LC v. Staub v. Lodge I'm having a hard time figuring out which sizes I need and which pieces are actually necessary. Right now I'm just cooking for my fiance and myself but look forward to cooking for more and entertaining in the future. So the list goes:

French oven (5.5 or 7.25?)
Raw cast iron skillet (10"?)
Braiser (5 qt?)- If I have a french oven do I really need a braiser?
Grill pan- seems like this should be raw cast iron to get hot enough to sear meat. What's the argument for enameled?

Thanks for your help!

  • Posted by: GourMel
  • June 19, 2015


Garlic F. June 20, 2015
We love all our cast iron skillets of all sizes (don't know the brands since we inherited them from a great aunt and grandma). Our biggest one is 16" and that is a two-handed lifting.

We also have a grill pan. It is a Lodge rectangular one that is on the small side. We use it for steaks all the time. We live in a place where we can't grill outside, so the grill pan is our friend. I don't recommend using that small pan for a crowd, bit it does allow the fat to drain off like when grilling and with grill marks, we can pretend we cooked it on our grill. Do you absolutely need one, I don't think so. Should you buy one if it happened to ne on sale for less than $20 including shipping? Absolutely
Nancy June 19, 2015
I can only speak to the skillet. Dithered a long time between the Lodge 10 and 12", bought the 12 and love it. I do lots of things in it - pancakes, cakes, pumpkin pie, roast vegetables, stews. Sometimes, yes, it seems large, but on balance the extra space is often useful. On the other hand, Lodge makes a covered 10" skillet, where the cover can also be a shallow frypan. Basically, both sizes are kitchen workhorses. I also happen to have a small (6" or so) French cast iron fry pan, which I use now for many small jobs, not just the pancakes. Not essential, but nice to have.
Knitting L. June 19, 2015
I mostly cook with cast iron, except for a few sauce pans & a stock pot. They are easy to clean, relatively inexpensive & heat really evenly. For raw cast iron skillets: I have one 8" and two 10" skillets. I think 10" is the perfect size. I recently helped cook at a friend's house & she had a 12" & it was really too heavy for me. Re the French Oven, are you talking about an enameled pot with a lid & handles? If so, I'd go with the larger size. I have a really large one & use it all the time. I still use it for smaller amounts, but it's great to have the extra capacity for dinner parties, cooking soups & stews, etc. Re the grill pan, I don't have one. I use my regular skillets to sear steaks, chicken & fish. I'm not an expert, but to me, the frill pan just seems to be for giving 'grill marks' on meat or bread. And finally, enameled cast iron is super easy to clean - you want enamel for soups & stews, dishes where you'll be cooking things for a while & you don't want stuff on the bottom to stick or burn. Raw cast iron is more for frying, sautéing, searing, or for dishes that start on the stove & end in the oven (frittatas, etc). Both are easy to clean, but you use dish soap with enamel-ware, whereas you should only ever use hot water & a good scrubber with raw cast iron. Hope this helps!
GourMel June 19, 2015
Yes, I was talking about an enameled pot. I was also thinking better to err on the side of too large than too small.
Susan W. June 19, 2015
How fun. I can tell you what I have and how they've worked out. I have a LC 3.5 at that I use ALL the time. I use it to cook rice in larger quantities (to me, rice for 6 is larger quantities), stews, soups, chili, potatoes, artichokes,and yes..braises. It's the perfect size for Jamie Oliver's Chicken and Milk. I really do use it all the time. I could go on and on. I've probably owned it for forty years. I also have one of those collapsible steamer baskets that turns it into a steamer for vegetables or pot stickers. I also have a 6.5 qt knockoff brand from Costco. It doesn't get as much use, but when I need a larger size, I'm so happy that I have it.

Raw cast Iron. I own a ten inch. Sometimes I wish I also had a 12 inch, but I've lived without it. If I need a 12 inch, I have a 12 inch, heavy bottomed non stick that works quite well.

I don't have a grill pan. When I grill, I do it outside on my Weber, so I'm no help there, but my gut tells me raw cast iron. Hopefully someone who knows will chime in.

If someone were to tell me they were going to purchase a LC for me, I probably would go for a braiser, but that's because I have the two Dutch ovens.

Have fun!!
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