6 Cast Iron Skillet Substitutes to Use Instead

Last Updated on January 11, 2023 by Claire

If a recipe calls for cast iron and there’s none around you, there are some modern cast iron skillet substitutes you’d want to give a shot to bring your recipe to “ready”.

Usually, a big heavy steel pan works fine, however, you don’t want any thin Teflon piece of junk to wreck your meal plan.

Cast iron skillet substitutes

Cast iron skillet substitutes

These substitutes provide a high-quality cooking experience without the penalty of cast iron’s weight or extreme heat requirements.

  •  Tri-ply stainless steel skillets
  • Nickel-plated skillets
  • Dutch ovens
  • Saucepans
  • Carbon steel
  • Pyrex Casserole dishes
  1. Tri-ply stainless steel skillets

Cast iron skillets are used for preparing meals that require an even distribution of heat throughout the food in the skillet. Ordinary stainless steel is known for its durability and sturdiness, but it is not a good heat conductor.

This is where Tri-ply stainless steel skillets come to the fore; they are an excellent substitute, as they include both aluminum and copper, both of which are excellent conductors of heat due to their high thermal conductivity, bonded together with layers of stainless steel.

Tri-ply skillets are often named after the three layers combined to form the cookware, you might even find some variations that are made up of 5-layered combos as opposed to the regular 3-layered combos.

Tri-ply stainless-steel skillets are made using a combination of aluminum or copper’s thermal conductivity and the durability of steel. These skillets possess tightly bonded layers that promote longevity, are more durable than their non-stick counterparts, and most of these skillets are oven-safe up to 500°F.

Tri-ply stainless-steel skillets are ideal for searing meat or caramelizing dishes (especially vegetables), and are great choices for making pan sauces and gravy, as they collect and retain the juices released while cooking meat.

  1. Nickel-plated skillets

Nickel-plated skillets are simply an improved variation of cast iron skillets, which makes them an almost “like for like” replacement in any recipe that requires a cast-iron skillet.

Compared to ordinary cast iron skillets that need to be seasoned occasionally to prevent them from rusting, nickel-plated skillets do not need seasoning as their surface is pre-coated to prevent rust, making cleaning easier, and will last for years. In addition to this, nickel-coating has been approved for a long time by the FDA, making it safe to cook and eat on—refer to this FDA copy for the industry guidelines.

Another advantage to using nickel-plated skillets is that they can be soaked and scrubbed in the same way as any other pan without causing any damage. This makes them far more practical for frequent use, unlike basic cast iron skillets that require careful washing precautions, as too much soap and scrubbing could peel off the seasoning of the cookware.

Lastly, almost all nickel-plated skillets are oven-safe, although their maximum temperatures will vary depending on the brand.

  1. Dutch Ovens

Dutch ovens are an excellent alternative to cast iron skillets especially when it comes to dishes that require baking, braising or oven cooking.

They can be used in the oven or on stovetops as cylindrical, heavy-gauge cooking pots mostly because they provide an even heat distribution in a multi-directional pattern within the Dutch oven, similar to the way a cast-iron skillet behaves.

Dutch ovens are available in two forms: bare cast iron or enameled cast iron.

Although bare or seasoned cast iron is typically preferred to enamel cast iron because it can withstand very high temperatures and works well for a variety of dishes, enameled ovens conduct heat just as well as bare or seasoned cast iron and are easier to clean, making them the more convenient option.

Dutch ovens are excellent for making long-simmering soups, stews, or beans, roasting meats and vegetables, and even deep frying. This is because they have a removable oven-proof lid which makes them capable of retaining heat and moisture for a long time, and also heating up oil evenly while allowing precise control over the temperature of the oil for frying.

You must note that certain enameled Dutch ovens are not suitable for deep-frying, so always check before using them with the manufacturer or manual.

  1. Saucepans

When it comes to making sauces, soups, stews, gravies, cooking various vegetables, eggs, and grains or soft-textured foods such as custard or mashed potatoes, a saucepan is a great alternative to a cast-iron skillet.

Saucepans may be made out of cast iron, stainless steel, nonstick, aluminum, or copper materials, and are typically circular in shape, with high sides and a large surface area. The most common saucepans are stainless steel saucepans, while non-stick saucepans are the most expensive.

All saucepans have a plastic handle to protect your hands from heat. While this works well over a stovetop, it will melt if placed in the oven.

As great as saucepans are, a major downside to using them is that they are not safe for use in an oven, making them only suitable for recipes that require heating on the stove. Although there are brands of saucepans that are touted as oven-safe, using a saucepan in an oven can be dangerous and is not recommended.

  1. Carbon Steel

Carbon steel skillets are an excellent choice for sautéing and cooking, and just like cast iron, can be used on stovetops and in ovens.

The composition of carbon steel is 99% iron and 1% carbon, which is only slightly different from that of cast iron- 97-98% iron and 2-3% carbon, this is what makes carbon steel skillets an almost perfect substitute to cast iron skillets.

The proprietary manufacturing process combined with its elemental composition results in a pan that has a lighter weight, a smoother surface grain that does not retain odors, and better non-stick properties when compared to traditional cast iron skillets.

It’s normal to come across blue steel or black steel varieties when shopping for carbon steel cookware. The color difference is simply down to the rust-proof treatment applied to the steel, but there is no discernible difference when it comes to overall performance.

  1. Pyrex Casserole Dishes

From the name, you can tell these dishes can be used to make casseroles, pot roasts, stews, sauces, lasagnas, and more.

Pyrex cookware is manufactured with borosilicate glass or high-quality ceramic, which makes them more durable and resistant to extreme temperature shifts and differences. Their casserole dishes have a non-stick base for easy cooking and cleaning, plus an oven heat resistance of up to 425°F, which makes them great alternatives to cast iron skillets especially when it comes to oven-baking.

The only downside to Pyrex casserole dishes is that they are unsuitable for dishes or recipes that require an open flame on the stovetop.

Factors to consider in choosing cast iron skillet substitutes

In most recipes, substituting a cast iron skillet will not affect the taste of your meal, however, there are some factors you need to take into consideration when looking for alternatives to a cast-iron skillet:

1. Cooking methods

Dutch ovens, tri-ply stainless steel skillets, nickel-plated skillets, and Pyrex casserole dishes are suitable for both stovetop and oven-based cooking, but saucepans and other alternatives may not be safe or suitable for oven-based cooking.

2. Maximum temperature range

Some cast iron substitutes can only safely handle cooking/oven temperatures of up to 350°F and are not durable enough for deep-frying.

3. Recipe or ingredients

You’ll need to consider the type of dishes or recipes you’ll be making when choosing your cast iron skillet substitute, as each cookware is better suited to some dishes or recipes than others.

Cleaning techniques for some cast iron substitutes and traditional cast iron

What can I use if I don't have a cast iron skillet

1. Tri-ply stainless steel

  • Carefully wipe the pan while it is still hot, and then mix a little soap and water,
  • Scrub away all food residues with a soft brush or pad in a circular motion until the pan is clean,
  • Then rinse with water and dry thoroughly.

2. Nickel-plated skillets

  • Hand wash them in warm soapy water and scrub them with nylon or soft brush.
  • Rinse and allow to dry completely before storage.

3. Carbon steel

  • Hand-wash with a little soap and warm water,
  • Then use a soft brush or non-abrasive scouring pad to remove any food residues,
  • Or simply heat a small amount of water in the skillet for 3-5 minutes before cleaning it to make scrubbing off stuck-on food easier.

4. Traditional cast iron

  • Similar to carbon steel, hand-wash with a little soap and warm water,
  • Then use a soft brush or non-abrasive scouring pad to remove any food residues,
  • Or simply heat a small amount of water in the skillet for 3-5 minutes before cleaning it to make scrubbing off stuck-on food easier.
  • Lastly, rub or spray a little oil on the skillet and wipe away any excess with a soft cloth or rag.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you substitute a pan for a skillet?

A cast-iron skillet and a frying pan are basically the same things. There are “skillets” and “frying pans” made with various materials in different shapes and sizes.

Can a skillet be used in the oven?

A cast-iron skillet or pan is a great choice for making recipes that require cooking in ovens. You can substitute them by using high-quality stainless steel pots with oven-safe handles, as they will produce the same tasty results.

What causes the uneven or rough surfaces on cast iron skillets?

The sand casting process used to make the pan is what causes the uneven or rough surfaces on cast iron skillets. Although an upside to this is that it allows the seasoning to bond with it. Regular use and seasoning improve and smoothens the surface of cast iron cookware over time.

Can you leave water in a cast iron skillet?

Although you can soak a cast iron skillet for a little period of time, you must be careful not to let the cast iron sit in water too long or it will start to rust. So it’s important to always make sure your cast iron skillet is dried out quickly whenever you wash it in water to prevent it from rusting.

Final thoughts

There is no “perfect choice” when it comes to choosing a cast iron skillet substitute as there are many considerations that come into play depending on your needs and the ingredients required by each recipe.

For any kind of recipe, there is a cast iron substitute that would fit in perfectly, but it’s important to be absolutely sure that the cookware you intend to use is ovenproof and meets the requirements of your dish.