Are you shopping for a cast iron skillet but need help picking the right size?
In this guide to cast iron skillet sizes, you’ll learn:
- How cast iron skillets are measured
- What sizes are available
- The amount of food you can cook in each
- Key factors to consider when picking the right size
- What size cookware manufacturers and retailers say is the best
By the end, you’ll be able to confidently choose the right skillet.
Use the links below to navigate the comparison:
- How Cast Iron Skillets Are Measured
- Cast Iron Skillet Sizes: What Is Available
- Cast Iron Skillet Sizes: Comparison Chart
- Most Important Factors to Consider
- What Cookware Brands and Retailers Say
- Bottom Line: What Size Cast Iron Skillet Do You Need?
Cast iron skillets are measured by the diameter from rim to rim. In other words, the size you see online and on the box refers to the distance between one end of the top of the skillet’s walls and the other.
Most cast iron skillets have vertical walls that stand straight up and down, meaning that the diameter of the walls and the cooking surface will be about the same.
But some cast iron skillets have sloped walls similar to a frying pan. In those cases, the diameter from rim to rim is usually 1 to 2 inches larger than the flat cooking surface.
For example, the diameter of the Calphalon 12-inch cast iron skillet is exactly 12 inches from rim to rim, but the flat cooking surface is 10 inches.
Cast Iron Skillet Sizes: What Is Available
Cast iron skillets range in size from 3.5 to 17 inches. However, 10- and 12-inch skillets are the most popular.
Lodge, one of the best-known cast iron skillet manufacturers, offers the widest range of sizes. The chart below shows how the different sizes compare.
|Skillet Diameter||Cooking Surface||Wall Height|
|8-inch||29.5 inches sq.||1.87 inches|
|10.25-inch||53.43 inches sq.||2 inches|
|12-inch||74.62 inches sq.||2.25 inches|
|15-inch||114.17 inches sq.||2.87 inches|
The chart below shows how each cast iron skillet size compares in weight, the number of people it can serve, and the type of food you can cook.
I also included the number of eggs each size can fit to help you visualize the difference.
Note: The number in the “Serves” column is more of an estimate than a hard-and-fast rule. The number of people each skillet can serve varies by what you’re cooking.
Swipe to view the entire chart on mobile.
|3.5-inch||2.1 pounds||1||One egg or individual desserts||1|
|5-inch||3.0 pounds||1||Single-serve breakfast skillet||1|
|6.5-inch||3.9 pounds||1||Scrambled eggs or hot dips||2|
|8-inch||4.8 pounds||1-2||Small meals or side dishes||3|
|9-inch||5.4 pounds||1-2||Biscuits, cornbread, or pies||4|
|10.25-inch||6.2 pounds||2-3||Two chicken breasts||5|
|12-inch||7.2 pounds||3-4||Family meal preparation||6|
|13.25-inch||7.9 pounds||4-5||Double-batch recipes||7|
|15-inch||9.0 pounds||5-6||Cooking for a gathering or large family||8|
|17-inch||10.2 pounds||6-7||Large batch recipes, cornbread for a group||10|
*The average weight of a cast iron skillet is .6 pounds per inch based on this dataset. Actual weight varies by brand.
To pick the right cast iron skillet size, you need to understand the key factors to consider. Let’s quickly explore those factors.
One of the main factors to consider is the size of your household.
Consider how many people you plan to cook for most of the time. Choose a cast iron skillet that is large enough that you won’t have to cook in batches.
If you’re only cooking meals for yourself or two people, you can get away with an 8- or 9-inch skillet. But if you’re cooking for a larger family (4+ people), go with a 12-inch skillet.
Your cooking style and the type of food you cook matter. Some sizes will work well for certain meals but may be impractical for others.
For example, if you plan to use your cast iron skillet for cooking breakfast, choose one mid-sized option, like a 10-inch skillet. Keeping eggs contained makes them more fluffy. If the skillet is too large, the eggs spread thin, and you end up with a flat omelet.
Certain foods, like burgers and other meat dishes, need more space to cook. Overcrowding a skillet while cooking meat will trap moisture in the pan, and the meat will steam rather than sear.
But if the pan is too big and you only use a small portion of it, the areas that aren’t touching food can get too hot and scorch and discolor the pan.
One thing most people overlook when choosing your cast iron skillet is storage. Because cast iron skillets are heavy, they’re difficult to store.
You want to avoid putting it in an overhead cabinet since the weight of the skillet can strain the shelves. Pulling down a heavy skillet from up high can also be a safety hazard.
Avoid stacking it with other cookware because you risk degrading the seasoning (the layers of fats and oil that cook onto the skillet), and moisture from other pans can cause the iron to rust (even a drop of water left on cast iron will lead to rust).
When picking out your skillet, check the dimensions to ensure it will fit in your cabinets (preferably on the bottom shelf). Consider the handle’s length and any extra accessories like a helper handle when measuring.
Since cast iron skillets are not the best heat conductors, it’s important that your skillet fits the size of your stovetop burner. If the skillet is too large for the burner, the pan will not heat up evenly, and your food may burn in the center or be underdone on the edges.
Because of that, 15- and 17-inch skillets are too big for most indoor cooktops. Those sizes are designed to be used outdoors over a campfire or grill. They’ll heat slowly and unevenly if you try to use them on the stove. Even 13-inch skillets can be too wide for many burners.
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Due to its thick construction, cast iron is the heaviest type of cookware.
Before choosing your cast iron skillet, make sure you know how much it weighs and pick a size you can comfortably lift and maneuver, even when it’s full of food. The largest and heaviest cast iron skillets are challenging to pick up with one hand.
This chart provides a quick look at the weights of popular cast iron skillets in various sizes.
|Lodge 8-inch cast iron||3.13 lb|
|Le Creuset 9-inch cast iron||5.15 lb|
|Lodge 10.25-inch cast iron||5.35 lb|
|Mercer Culinary 10.25-inch cast iron||5.14 lb|
|Lodge 12-inch cast iron||7.89 lb|
|Mercer Culinary 12-inch cast iron||6.69 lb|
|Lodge 15-inch cast iron||12.36 lb|
I provide more examples in this guide to cast iron skillet weight.
Cast iron skillets are thick and heavy. And, because of that, they heat up slowly.
Larger skillets take longer than smaller ones because there’s more material to heat. That’s why it’s important to choose a cast iron skillet that’s only just as large as you need it to be.
Prices vary significantly across brands. But within the same brand and collection, larger skillets will always cost more.
The good news is that cast iron cookware is inexpensive compared to other materials like stainless steel and copper.
The chart below shows current prices across various sizes so you get a better idea of the difference. Click the prices to learn more about each item on Amazon.
|Cast Iron Cookware||Price||View Details|
|Lodge 5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
|WINCO 5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
|Lodge 8-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
|Lodge 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
|Utopia Kitchen 12.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
|Victoria 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
|Calphalon 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
|Amazon Basics 15-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
|Cuisinel 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
|Backcountry 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet||Amazon|
I contacted two cookware experts to get a broader perspective on this topic.
First, I spoke to a product specialist at Lodge, the oldest and one of the best-selling cast iron brands in the world.
I asked her which sizes are most popular and what factors people should consider when choosing a size.
She said, “10 and 12-inch skillets are the best-selling sizes. If you’re planning to do most of your cooking in cast iron, go with a 12-inch skillet or a set, which includes multiple sizes. Don’t buy a skillet under 10 inches unless you live alone.”
When I asked about larger sizes, she said, “A few inches may not seem like much, but when you see the 13- or 15-inch skillet in person, it’s huge. For indoor cooking, 12 inches is the largest you should go. The larger skillets are more for outdoor cooking. They work best on the grill or over a campfire. They won’t heat evenly on an indoor stove.”
I also spoke to a cookware specialist at Williams Sonoma. He said, “We carry three primary sizes. Eight-inch cast iron skillets are considered small, 10-inch is medium, and 12-inch is large. The 8-inch skillet will fit one chicken breast, 10-inch will fit two, and 12 will fit three.”
When I asked which size is ideal for households with three or four people, he said, “If you’re cooking for three or four people, a 12-inch skillet is the perfect size. It provides extra room for larger meals and big steaks. Even if you don’t have a large household, it’s nice to be able to cook more and have leftovers. Just keep in mind these skillets are heavy.”
Now that you know what’s available and the key factors to consider, the question is:
Which cast iron skillet size is right for you?
Before I provide my recommendation, let’s quickly recap.
- Choose a skillet large enough to cook for everyone in your household without splitting the meal into batches.
- Consider the kinds of foods you plan to cook in your skillet. Steaks and roasts require a larger skillet, while breakfast and desserts cook better in a smaller skillet.
- Storing cast iron skillets can be tricky due to their weight, so check the dimensions, including the handle.
- For food to cook evenly, your skillet shouldn’t be more than one inch larger in diameter than your stovetop burner.
- The weight of your cast iron skillet depends on its size and the thickness of its walls. Choose a size you can easily handle, even when it’s filled with food.
- Cast iron skillets take a long time to heat completely. The larger the cast iron skillet, the longer it takes.
- Within the same brand and collection, larger cast iron skillets cost more.
Ultimately, the right cast iron skillet size depends on your household size, what you plan to cook, and how much weight you can handle.
For most households, an 8- or 10-inch skillet is the smallest size you should choose. If you’re cooking for three or more people, go with a 12-inch skillet. A skillet larger than 12 inches won’t cook evenly on an indoor cooktop, so only buy those sizes if you plan to use it outdoors.
If you only have the space and budget for one, a 12-inch skillet is the best option. You can always cook less food in a large skillet, but overcrowding a small skillet won’t produce great results. And since cast iron works so well for browning and searing, a 12-inch skillet provides enough space for the liquids to evaporate and the meat to form a crust.
Having two or three skillets in various sizes might be helpful if you have the storage space and budget. Buy a 12-inch skillet for everyday cooking, a 10- or 8-inch skillet for eggs, desserts, and small batches, and/or a larger one for large meals and outdoor cooking.
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