Cast iron pans can do it all and last a lifetime—but finding a good one isn't always easy. Here’s how to choose the best one for you.
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A solid, dependable cast iron pan is one of those things every serious home cook needs. It's versatile (going from stove top to oven without a hitch), sturdy, and with some care, will last forever. And that last part is the real trick: You don't want to buy one casually, since it's something you could conceivably be giving to your grandkids someday.
In fact, when it comes to cast-iron skillets, newer is actually not necessarily better. That's because the thing that makes cast iron so great—the seasoning—only really starts to get good after a few years of regular use. And you can immediately tell the difference. A newish cast iron pan feels rough to the touch. A well-seasoned one is so slick that eggs will slide around on it just like in a nonstick pan.
Though most new cast iron comes pre-seasoned, there are typically only one or two layers of seasoning on there. It would take too long, and be too expensive, for manufacturers to add more. And that's something that will happen naturally with regular use and proper care.
But what is seasoning? It starts as cooking oil, but it's not that, exactly. As the Field cast-iron manufacturer explains on their site, "When subjected to high heat, long chains of fat molecules break down into short-chain polymers that bond with naturally produced carbon and bare iron, forming a kind of glaze. This is seasoning, and it has smooth, non-stick properties similar to Teflon."
If a new pan takes some time, however, buying a good used cast-iron pan can be a gamble. You can find older pans at antique stores and on Ebay, but they may end up being slightly warped, or have hairline cracks that, over time, end up completely breaking. Or they can need so much work that it negates the point of getting an older pan in the first place. Still, that gamble can sometimes pay off.
Here are four great kinds of pans to get, plus the advantages and drawbacks of each:
A Lodge Pan
Chances are if you've seen a new cast-iron pan for sale anywhere, it was a Lodge. The company has been making cast-iron kitchen tools of all kinds in South Pittsburg Tennessee since 1896, and they're the last of the "old" American manufacturers still going. One of the biggest advantages are that they are very inexpensive—a standard 10.25” pan runs less than $15 on Amazon.
A drawback, however, is that they tend to be heavy. They're made much thicker than other skillets (which is part of what makes them so inexpensive). However, they recently released a lighter, "chef collection" line, which is a little easier to handle and, at $27 for a 10" skillet, not much more expensive.
The other drawback is that these are among the roughest and least seasoned pans, meaning that it takes a lot of cooking on it before you get a truly smooth, teflon-like base—though it will happen in time.
A Used Pan
If you're willing to hunt around a little and possibly take a gamble, it can be fun to check out antique stores or on Ebay for a good vintage pan. One very popular brand is Griswold, which was founded in 1865 and went out of business in 1957, but whose skillets are still highly valued for their quality.
The advantage of Griswold was that they made skillets much thinner, so they're easy to wield, and they take less time to get fully hot. The drawbacks are, of course, that there are no guarantees or warranties when buying something used. And they tend to be a little more expensive—a quick search shows that basic 10-inch Griswold skillets are going for around $75 or more after shipping, though plenty of people are asking $200 and even $300 or more for the better ones.
A Marquette Castings Pan
Marquette is a Michigan-based company that has been making cast-iron and steel pans since 2016. Many of their pans are cast in China, though recently they began selling a pan called the 10.5, which is made in Michigan. This pan is much lighter and thinner than Lodge pans, though not quite as light as a Griswold. And while it will still take some time to get fully seasoned, it's also much smoother on the inside, meaning you can start frying eggs in it much more quickly. The drawback is that the work it takes to make the pan means it's much more expensive—a new one runs $195 on Amazon—though it also comes with a lifetime warranty.
A Field Pan
Field is another one of the newest and most interesting cast-iron companies. Their pans are made in the USA, and are incredibly light and smooth. What's more, they're relatively well seasoned—and their advice on caring for and seasoning the cookware is impeccable. As with other new American manufacturers, they aren't cheap: A 10" skillet is $125, and is only available on their site or in a couple dozen specialty stores around the country. And their warranty is a little vague—while you're explicitly able to return anything within 45 days, after that, they offer "lifetime guidance" on care and maintenance by phone or email.
The 10 Best Cast-Iron Skillets, From Lodge to Victoria to Stargazer
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Cast-iron cookware has been on a comeback tour in American kitchens since the turn of the century. As home cooks reconsider where their food comes from, so too are they considering the origins of their cooking equipment. Consequently, the cast-iron skillet has become a paragon of longevity, intentionality and, much of the time, American manufacturing. But the most mystifying thing about the hefty pans is how often people misunderstand them.
There are endless reasons to buy yourself a cast-iron skillet: they can last generations, unlike nonstick pans which get trashed every few years they can handle all types of cooking situations from stovetops to campfires, unlike often more expensive stainless steel and they’re the vessel by which some of the most satisfying recipes are made, from perfectly seared meat to crispy pizzas to spicy shakshuka. Recently, however, it seems many people are latching onto the negatives: the idea that they’re heavy, hard to clean, a pain to maintain and not easy to cook with.
The thing about those drawbacks is that they’re not actually true — at least they don’t need to be. Cast iron is not a monolith. While cookware companies back in the 19th century stuck to a similar formula, the benefit of the material’s resurgence in the 21st century is that companies are innovating, designing skillets and other cast-iron pots and pans for specific use cases. Yes, cast iron is just like every other type of cookware — you can pick which brand suits your specific needs.
Forget what you know, or think you know, about cast iron. We’ve hand selected the best and most popular companies still making the pans to this day to help you decide which skillet is right for you. (We’re specifically focusing on the frying pan that’s closest to 12 inches in diameter, which we find is the best size for most people.) Whether you want to try the latest and greatest on the market, a super lightweight skillet that needs a lot of attention, or something ready to cook out of the box, you’ll find it below.
Costco Is Selling a Dupe of Ina Garten’s Favorite Cast Iron Skillet & The Price Is so Good
We’re always on the hunt for a good cookware deal, especially if it’s for an item that our culinary hero Ina Garten approves of. We’ve loaded our cupboards with things like her favorite Dutch ovens from Le Creuset and her recommended KitchenAid Stand Mixer and all of its attachments, but probably the thing we use most is Garten’s beloved Lodge Cast Iron Skillet. So when we saw that Costco is currently selling a dupe that’s discounted, we knew we had to tell the world.
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Costco’s Tramontina Cast Iron Skillet 2-Pack comes with a 10-inch skillet, a 12-inch skillet, and two removable silicone grips for the handles. It also currently $6 off, meaning you can get the bundle for just $23.99 in-store and $29.99 online, if you have a Costco membership.
That’s a pretty amazing deal, considering that a 12-inch Lodge cast iron skillet with handle holder is more than $40 on Amazon.
The trade-off, of course, is that with Costco’s deal you’re going with a brand that’s less familiar. If you want to go the tried-and-tested, Ina Garten-approved route, you could also just upgrade and get a 2-pack of Lodge cast iron skillets, which includes a 12-inch skillet, a 10.25-inch skillet, and two red silicone handles.
Regardless of how you get one, you can rest easy once there’s a trusty cast iron skillet in your own kitchen. Cook up a big batch of bacon, make a skillet brownie, or treat yourself to a seared steak. Whatever you make, you’ll soon wonder why it took you so long to get a cast iron skillet to begin with.
8 Reasons You Need a Cast-Iron Skillet in Your Kitchen
Every seasoned (no pun intended) home cook knows the value of keeping at least one trusty cast-iron skillet in their cook--and bake--ware arsenal. If you&aposre just starting to cook with them, it will only take a few dishes to discover that this piece of kitchen equipment is unmatched in terms of versatility, durability, and functionality. Their purpose goes way beyond simple cornbread to make delectable appetizers, desserts, main dishes and much more, so here are our top reasons to unlock the limitless potential of this must-have kitchen tool.
#1. They&aposre inexpensive.
You can purchase a good-quality skillet at most local home-goods stores for $15-20. Cast-iron maintains and distributes heat just as well as some of the most expensive cookware, making it an easily attainable, cost-effective way to take take the quality of your dishes from good to great without much added expense.
#2. They&aposre virtually indestructible.
Cast-iron is some seriously heavy-duty kitchen equipment that will last you forever--given that it&aposs properly cared for. You can even scrape away excess food from its non-stick surface using metal cookware (a usual no-no). The seasoning in cast iron is chemically bonded to the metal so it&aposs extremely resilient. Acidic food, however, is the one thing to steer clear of when cooking with cast-iron, as any unseasoned spots on your skillet can potentially leech metallic flavors into your food.
#4. They&aposre incredibly versatile workhorses in the kitchen.
Cast-iron skillets can be used for sautéing, pan-frying, searing, baking, braising, broiling, roasting, and even more cooking techniques. Pro tip: The more seasoned your cast-iron skillet is, the better flavor it&aposs going to give to whatever you are cooking--from cornbread to chicken. To learn how to season (and re-season) it, keep reading.
#5. They heat up and stay hot.
Cast-iron cookware is unmatched in its heating properties and capacity--which means it gets extremely hot and stays extremely hot. This is important for many reasons, but especially when searing meats to create a nice char, making great hash, or pan-roasting chicken and vegetables.
#6. Cleaning them is easy.
Cast iron skillets should never be washed with soap (unless you&aposre about to re-season them). For those lazy-when-it-comes-to-the-dishes home cooks, like myself, this is wonderful, wonderful news. To wash, simply rinse in really hot water while scrubbing with a stiff brush. For stubborn food that&aposs stuck to the pan, boil water in the skillet and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. Then rinse again. Another note: Never allow cast-iron to drip dry--you should always towel-dry it immediately to prevent rusting. After patting it down with a clean towel, you can also place you cast-iron over low heat on the stove to dry it completely.
#7. Re-seasoning them is too.
You&aposll know it&aposs time to re-season your cast-iron skillet when food begins to stick or the once shiny black pan starts turning a dull color (which means the food may start sticking soon). Here&aposs how to do it:
Simply preheat your oven to anywhere 350° to 400°. Line the bottom with foil. Clean your pan with hot soapy water and a scrub brush and dry it well. Spread oil over the entire surface (inside and out) of the pan. Place the pan upside down on the top rack and bake for one hour. Turn the oven off and let the pan cool in the oven completely (you can just leave it overnight). The next morning, take it out, and voilà!
#8. They can be used for a variety of dishes--from breakfast, to entrees, to desserts, and many things in between.
What to Do with Mini Cast Iron Skillets
What do you do with those tiny cast iron pans that are only about six inches in diameter—or the even smaller ones that clock in at three and half? Don’t relegate them to ashtray or spoon-rest status—mini cast iron skillets have plenty of other fun and practical uses, from toasting spices to baking up perfect individual portions of anything you’d make in a big skillet!
A post shared by Lodge Cast Iron (@lodgecastiron) on Mar 11, 2016 at 5:14am PST
Lodge 6.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet, $7.99 on Amazon
Adorable and more useful than you might think.
If you still find yourself not using your Lilliputian skillet in the kitchen, you could always turn it into an ornament or statement necklace. We prefer to keep it food-related, though.
So here are 13 ways to use mini cast iron skillets. (And remember, since it is cast iron, you still need to season it and properly care for it to keep it in good shape.)
1. Toast Small Amounts of Spices or Nuts
No need to turn on the oven or get out a large pan to toast a small handful of spices or nuts for a recipe. Just use your mini skillet (leave it dry no oil or butter required)—keep a close eye on the ingredients so they don’t burn, and trust your nose to tell you when they’re ready to come off the heat. Dump them onto a small plate, cloth or paper towel, or clean countertop to stop them cooking any further, rather than leaving them in the hot pan where they could carry over. See more tips on toasting spices from the Chowhound community, and try out the technique with our Chicken Tikka Masala recipe. But you can toast and grind whole spices any time conventional pre-ground spices are called for to intensify their flavor in a dish!
Griswold cast iron markings include:
|Made around 1880-1907|
(Griswold diamond logo)
New logo introduced called circle cross
With heat ring circa 1906-1916
Slant logo with EPU
Slant logo without Erie
No Erie under logo circa 1909-1920
Griswold with large block logo
Without italic lettering 1920-1930
Large block logo
(without heat ring)
Griswold large slant logo
(without heat ring)
Small block logo
|Notable reduction in logo size. Circa 1939-1957|
Erie cast iron (approximation date 1880-1907)
Erie cast iron is some of the most sought after vintage cast iron you can collect. Griswold used this logo between 1880-1907.
Erie cast iron was manufactured between 1880-1907. Over the years Griswold made slight changes to the Erie line such as the handle, Erie logo and the pattern number in the center. In total there are six known series of Erie skillets.
Erie cast iron skillets are very thin and light. Because of this they are more prone to warping. So if you are buying an Erie online, make sure you ask the seller if the skillet rocks or spins. That being said, I wouldn’t look past an Erie skillet just because it has a little movement.
Erie skillets are also known to be super smooth and are often priced similar to other vintage pans.
Other foundries during time, used Erie skillets as a template to make to their own molds. It’s not uncommon the find Sidney Hollow Ware and Wapak skillets with an Erie ghost mark.
If you have an Erie skillet, you can further break the Erie logo into 6 different versions of the pan. The Wagner and Griswold Society has an article on the different Erie series.Erie cast iron skillets are super light and smooth. However, if the skillet was used on coal or wood ranges it may have pitting on the base. It is not uncommon for an Erie skillet to have pitting.
If you look on the back of you cast iron griddle and you see a diamond logo then it’s your lucky day. The Griswold Diamond logo is an early logo and it’s more scarce than other logos.This isn’t a skillet but I though including this logo could be useful. It’s called the Dimond logo and you’ll likely see it on Griswold griddles.
Griswold manufactured griddles with this logo Circa 1884-1910. The logo is positioned in the center. Unfortunately, this is an area on cast iron often damaged by sulphur pitting.Griswold Erie Diamond Logo often found on griddles rather than skillets circa 1884-1910
Griswold’s Erie Trademark
Griswold used this logo somewhere between 1905-1909. There are conflicting dates so I used the wider conservative timeline. Since Griswold used the Griswold’s Erie logo for a short time it is harder to find skillets using this logo.
The Griswold’s Erie logo is the first Griswold logo. It transitions from previously used Erie logos to Griswold logos. However, the Griswold’s Erie logo shares similarities which Erie skillets.
Look for Griswolds’s Erie skillets between sizes 6-9 and 11 to 12.
Griswold’s Erie logo circa 1905-1909. Great logo and is a little harder to find.
Griswold Slant logo with heat ring no EPU
The first of the famous Griswold skillet logos. The Griswold Manufacturing company used the Slant trademark from 1906-1916. Again this is a wide conservative range.Griswold Slant Logo without EPU. You can see this is missing the words Erie PA., U.S.A under the logo.
The Griswold slant logo is easily with the word Griswold which is in italics. Also the Slant logo has characteristics which differ from Erie and Griswold’s Erie skillets.
Changes Griswold made on their Slant logo skillets
- The size number on the base of the skillet moved from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock.
- Erie placed below the Griswold logo. From 1880-1907 the word Erie was place at 12 o’clock.
- The patten number moved from the center of the skillet to 6 o’clock on skillet to make room for the Griswold circle cross logo.
Does your slant logo pre-E.P.U. have “ERIE” in quotation marks or ERIE without quotation marks? If you know why Griswold did this please let me know in the comments.
Griswold Slant logo sizes
Slant logo sizes range from 1-14. The largest skillet with the Griswold Slant logo is #14. A Griswold #13 slant logo can cost thousands of dollars to the serious collector. Needless to say, the skillet has to be in great condition for this price.
Griswold slant logo skillets without EPU mostly do not have a number on the handle.
Griswold slant logo with E.P.U and heat ring
The Griswold slant trademark changed to add the words cast iron skillet in an arc at 12 o’clock on the skillet. The EPU is in reference to the words Erie PA., U.S.A., added to the skillet.
The slant logo, however, remained the same. Again I cannot pinpoint the exact date of manufacture of the Griswold slant logo with EPU. If you have a Griswold slant logo with EPU the manufacture date is around 1909-1929.
Griswold slant logo with EPU. What’s EPU mean? It’s an abbreviation standing for Erie PA., U.S.A which is seen under the Griswold logo. Note the heat rings in the number 8 skillets tend to be more rounded.
Griswold Slant Logo with EPU. Note the size number is now stamped on the handle.
Slant logo without Erie marking
I have only seen this trademark used on a few Griswold cast iron skillets. It seems to be quite rare. The logo is the same as Slant logo without EPU however this logo also omits the marking Erie.Here’s a Griswold skillet which is a little different. It lacks the Erie marking under the circle cross logo.
Griswold cast iron skillets without Erie marking had a manufacture date around 1909-1920.
Sizes available: I have only seen the large slant logo without Erie on size #9 skillets. I don’t know of other sizes with this logo.If you think this sometimes missing you’re spot on. The Erie is missing underneath the logo. Circa 1909-1926.
Large block logo
One of the more popular markings or trademarks is know as the Griswold block logo. The block logo is very similar the slant logo however, Griswold is no longer in italics. Griswold is in straight block letters.
Skillets with the block logo probably were made between 1920-1930.
Griswold also made a wide of sizes ranging from 0-14, however Griswold Manufacturing also made a larger number 20. The Griswold #20 is a huge skillet and can cost a pretty penny online.
The Griswold no20 is huge. The skillet is called the “Griswold Hotel skillet”.
The Large Block Logo was made circa 1924-1940.
Large block logo without heat ring (smooth bottom)
Griswold also made the large block cast iron skillet with a smooth bottom rather than the familiar heat ring. However, the sizes were more limited. Look out for sizes between 2-10 if you want to collect a full set.
Smooth bottom skillet are not as desirable to collectors as skillets with heats rings so you can expect to pay less for a Griswold without a heat ring.
Why the change? Cookware with heat rings were for use on wood or coal ranges. However, with the introduction electric cookers, cast iron cookware with heat rings slowly gave way to cast iron skillets without heat rings.
So if you want a great old skillet without the price tag of highly collectable pieces then a skillet Griswold Large block trademark could be a great option.
Griswold made skillets with the large block logo and a flat bottom between 1930-1939.Beautiful skillet with large block logo. This skillet was made Circa 1930-1939.
Griswold slant logo without heat ring
Griswold also used slant logo on smooth bottom pans. Smooth bottom pans are like what we use today.
However, slant logos on skillets without a heat ring is not as common as skillets with a heat ring. These pieces seem to sell at a similar price to a smooth bottom Griswold with a block logo.
Griswold made these skillets between 1939-1944Here’s a smooth bottom pan with the large Griswold slant logo. Circa 1939-1944.
Small block logo.
The Griswold Small Block trademark is not as collectable to cast iron enthusiasts but they are still fantastic skillets. Griswold drastically reduced the size of the logo and skillets came without a heat ring. Skillets lost much of their character however, there are some beautiful skillets around with the small block logo.
Watch out for sellers pricing these skillets at high prices. You can expect to pick up a skillet with the Griswold small block logo at lower price than more collectable skillets.
Not the say small block skillets are not any good. Rather the small block logo is simply not as collectible, so you may pick a good skillet at bargain prices.
The Small Block logo were made between 1939-1957.
Griswold Manufacturing’s big brands were Erie and Griswold. But they also made cast iron cookware under different brands.
Griswold like many other foundries such as: Wapak, Wagner and Favorite cast iron made a lower grade range of cast iron cookware which was more budget friendly.
Table: Griswold Manufacturing’s budget friendly line
Victor cast iron
Victor was Griswold’s budget-friendly grade of cast iron. Griswold made Victor skillets between the 1880s to the 1930s. The Victor logo also changed over the 50 years. Simply marked in the beginning with Victor at the 12 o’clock position like Erie skillets. Later Victor cast iron skillets became embellished.
Griswold Manufacturing marketed Victor cast iron as a lower grade however this does not mean lower quality. Victor skillets have super smooth cooking surfaces.
Victor cast iron skillet were intact made by Griswold Manufacturing Co., Griswold made Victor skillets for around 50 years. Circa 1880s-1930s.
Griswold made another lower-priced range of cast iron known as Iron Mountain. Unlike other cookware made by Griswold Manufacturing the Iron Mountain range doesn’t have any logos or trademarks which makes it hard to identify than other skillets.
But there are a few characteristics which the Iron Mountain skillet series have which can identify them. Look for rectangular hole in the handle.
Griswold made Iron Mountain cast iron between 1930s-1940s. Since Iron Mountain cast iron was a budget range it’s probably not a surprise Iron Mountain skillets have a heat ring for use on older wood and coal ranges rather than new electric technology.
Here is an Iron Mountain skillet. Note the 4 digit pattern number and the unusual shaped handle.
Griswold Manufacturing made skillets for other companies
Sears contracted with Griswold Manufacturing Company to make cast iron cookware for their department stores. The Cast Iron Collector also has some great information on cast iron store brands. Griswold store bands included:
Table: Store brands manufactured in the Griswold foundry
Manufactured in the 1920s
From the 1920s-1930s Griswold Puritan cast iron will have
a pattern number at 6 o’clock
Made from 1920s-1930s
Best Made Sillets were made by Griswold Manufacturing for Sears Puritan Cast iron skillet made by Griswold Manufacturing Company. To Identify Puritans Skillets thats were made made Griswold look for the 4 digit pattern number below the size number.
1. Buy pre-seasoned, but don't cook with it right away.
Druckman says: “You still want to give it a little bit of care when it first comes out of the box. You can just rinse it and dry it, but it’s nice to give it a few coatings of a quick seasoning before you use it to build up a nice little base. Pull it out of the box, rinse it off, heat it on stove, then oil and blot gently all around the pan to make sure there’s no area with too much oil. Let it cool to room temp, then repeat.”
How We Tested
- We scrambled eggs, seared steaks, made a tomato-caper pan sauce (to check if its acidity reacted with the pan surface), skillet-roasted thick fish fillets that went from stove to oven, baked cornbread, and shallow-fried breaded chicken cutlets.
- At the end of testing, we scrambled more eggs to see whether the pans&rsquo surfaces had evolved.
- To simulate years of kitchen use, we plunged hot pans into ice water, banged a metal spoon on their rims, cut in them with a chef&rsquos knife, and scraped them with a metal spoon.
The 13 Best Cast Iron Skillets For All Types Of Cooking
This story is a part of Forbes Shopping's 2020 Gift Guide. For more holiday shopping ideas, check out the Forbes Shopping Gifting Hub.
While it can be a bit intimidating to novice cooks, cast iron is often the go-to material for many professional chefs—and for a good reason. Not only is cast iron one of the best cookware materials for heat retention and distribution, but it’s also unbelievably durable, lasting for generations if cared for properly. Whether you’re searing meat or baking cake, the best cast iron skillets deliver consistent and reliable results.
As you cook with your skillet, the metal will develop a natural patina often referred to as “seasoning.” This is essentially just numerous layers of oil that have been baked onto the metal, and it will protect the skillet from rust and create a naturally nonstick surface that makes cooking eggs or sticky sauces a breeze. (Just be sure to go gentle on your cast iron skillet when cleaning—you want to keep the seasoning intact, so steer clear of harsh soaps and abrasive brushes.)
There are a number of standard sizes of cast iron skillet to pick from. Eight or 10-inch skillets are often best for everyday use, as they can easily fit two pieces of protein or a serving of vegetables. Those with larger households may need to size up to a 12- or 14-inch skillet—just make sure your stovetop can accommodate the larger cookware. You’ll also want to consider the depth of your pan, as a skillet with shallow walls isn’t ideal for cooking sauces.
As you shop, you’ll likely encounter the term “enameled cast iron,” which means the metal has been coated with a durable non-porous glaze. Unlike traditional cast iron, enameled cast iron is nonstick right out of the box—no need to build up seasoning—and you can clean it more vigorously without worrying about damage. For these reasons, it’s often a better choice for beginners or anyone who likes lower maintenance pots and pans.
Whether you’re new to cast iron or are looking to grow your collection, here are some of the best cast iron skillets across the board. From the best budget pick to the perfect pan for beginners, any one of them deserves a spot in your kitchen.
How to season a cast iron skillet
Although most cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned, it’s a good idea to season it yourself to really develop the pan’s nonstick properties. The process is simple and is as follows.
Start with a clean frying pan.
Use a paper towel to rub oil over the pan’s surface, both inside and out. Corn, vegetable, and canola oil are all suitable.
Buff the oil slightly so it appears to soak into the metal. There should be no drips or puddles of oil in the skillet.
Place the pan upside down in an oven heated to 450°F. Leave the pan there for 30 minutes. You might notice the pan smoking slightly this is normal. It’s a good idea to layer foil underneath the pan to catch any oil drips.
Repeat the process three more times.