Kitchn Love Letters

I Own a Lot of Cast Iron Skillets. This Is My Favorite One.

updated Oct 24, 2023
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Brett Regot

I firmly believe that the majority of all kitchen purchases, no matter how big or small, are worthwhile investments. More than any other room in the house, the kitchen is a workstation — and having the right tools for its various jobs matters. If they bring you pleasure or increase the aesthetic quality of your space, all the better.

This introduction is my way of rationalizing the fact that I now own yet another cast iron pan: A 12-inch behemoth from Smithey Ironware Co., to be exact.

Admittedly, I already have a zillion cast iron pans. Do I really need another?

The answer is yes. (And yes!)

This is definitely the biggest cast iron skillet I’ve ever owned — it weighs roughly the same as a large baby — and for a few days after it arrived in the mail, I felt a tinge of regret. Was this too extra?

Why I Love the Smithey Ironware Co. No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet

After a few months of using it regularly, I’m very happy to report that this is one of the best cast iron pans I’ve ever owned. And it’s all because of that almost-comically large size. While its 12 inches are measured by the pan’s top diameter, the bottom is actually a little less than a full foot. But, that’s still big! It’s so big that it doesn’t really fit well on my stovetop burner. And that’s OK, because I rarely use it there. Instead, this is an oven-only pan. 

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

How I Use This 12″ Cast Iron Pan

Smithey’s website says that this pan is perfect for “searing steaks on the range” and “roasting game.” And while I don’t typically have a lot of pheasants or quail lying around, I have put one of their other suggestions to good use: baking biscuits

I’ll be honest. I pretty much exclusively use this pan as a baking sheet. Because I cook for one, my small, 8-inch skillet does the trick for steak and chicken thighs. My new 12-inch, however, is ideal for biscuits and other desserts. Here’s why.

Like a Baking Sheet, But With Better Heat Retention and Distribution

Like a baking sheet, this pan is large enough to fit plenty of food. But unlike a baking sheet, this pan has stellar heat retention and distribution. There are exceptions, but most baking sheets are cheap and poorly made … and that quality is reflected in uneven bakes.

There are no hot spots in the 12-Inch Smithey, which means that there are no burnt bottoms or weird rises on my biscuits and scones. Hooray! I’ve also used it as a griddle for pancakes and a pan for cornbread, too

Sloped Sides Make It Easy to Use

One of the first things that I’ve noticed (and appreciated) about this skillet is that the sides have a generous slope, meaning the pan is more “open” than straight-walled varieties. I like that in a pan; it means I can get all up in there with my spatula to retrieve cookies, biscuits, and scones.

In an email, Will Copenhaver, vice president of marketing and sales at Smithey, explained what makes a large traditional-shaped cast iron ideal for biscuits and baking in general. “The steeper sides encourage rising and give that classic shape to cornbread, a Dutch baby, etc.” On the other hand, a pan with shallow or straight sides is better for stirring sauces and other savory, stovetop tasks.

If the $7 baking sheet you picked up at the grocery store three years ago works fine, by all means carry on. I get that a $200 price tag is a bit much for a pan that I now use exclusively to bake biscuits. (I also get that Lodge, a well-respected and beloved cast iron brand also makes a 12-inch skillet, but this one is even more stunning and feels like a true treat to use.)

Overall, I definitely recommend this pan … for whatever kitchen tasks you perform most often. It gets ripping hot, stays hot, and transfers heat smoothly and reliably to food. There’s truly nothing better than a cast iron skillet. And this one is no exception.

Buy: No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet, $210

Do you have a favorite cast iron skillet? Tell us about it in the comments!