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The One Frying Pan Every Cook Needs in Their Kitchen

A classic Lodge cast iron skillet | Shutterstock
A classic Lodge cast iron skillet | Shutterstock
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Frying pans come every shape, size, and material, which can make figuring out which do-it-all skillet to buy a true predicament. Seasoned (sorry) home cooks are likely to own a few, each one called up for kitchen duty for a specific reason -- the non-stick whips up weekend omelets, the stainless steel stir-fries veggies, the mini cast-iron is the go-to for delicious skillet cookies. It's easy to imagine stovetop gurus echoing Elizabeth Warren's campaign trail policy refrain: "I have a skillet for that!"

Having an army of pans at the ready is awesome, but it isn’t necessarily realistic, especially if you're on a limited budget or are hurting for kitchen space. So comes the hard part: figuring out the one solid do-it-all frying pan to invest in. Luckily, the answer isn’t as complicated as you’d think. We spoke with Jeremy Umansky, chef and owner of Cleveland’s Larder delicatessen, to weigh in on what's best.

“Everyone should have a Lodge cast-iron, preferably 10 to 14 inches,” Umansky says. “Lodge is an American institution and just as well-respected as a Le Creuset or legacy European brand.”

And while “cast iron” might cause a more casual home cook to break out in a cold sweat, thanks to its reputation for requiring tons of upkeep, its pros far outweigh its one (negligible) con.

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“The great thing about cast-iron is as long as you season, they're non-stick,” Umansky says. “So you could stick everything from steak to eggs in them, you could stew a pot of beans in them, you could even roast a whole fish in them -- they’re just so versatile.”

Lodge has been making top-notch cookware for over 120 years, and has become the standard bearer in cast iron kitchen gear. In fact, anyone who's inherited a beloved, well-worn cast-iron product probably received a Lodge. Beyond its renowned attention to quality, the brand is distinct from other manufacturers -- mainly boutique and speciality producers -- in one other important area: price point. Lodge skillets run between just $6.75 and $112, and a standard 12-inch workhorse will only set you back $40. 

What’s so great about cast-iron in general, though? Besides its exceptional durability, it's simply the best type of skillet to cook with. They not only heat more evenly than pans made of other materials, but they also produce more thermal energy -- giving you those beautiful sears they're known for. Pair those attributes with Lodge's affordability, and owning one of their skillets is damn-near mandatory. 

Of course, there are other skillet varieties to consider. As a professional chef, Umansky says that his non-stick ceramic skillet is great for sautĂ©ing since its lighter weight, and he also appreciates that he can stick it in the dishwasher (that's about the extent of his praise for it, though). He also speaks high of his steel Cuisinart pan set, which he's been using for over a decade. 

Still, neither of them compare to veteran piece of cast-iron for one big reason.

“Take care of it, and you'll be able to pass it down to your great-grandkids,” Umansky said. And what’s cooler than creating a future family heirloom (and many great meals) for under fifty bucks?

Scope out a full selection of Lodge cookware and snag something that'll last you a lifetime.

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