Lids for Cast-Iron Pans
How we tested
Although we typically use our cast-iron skillets to sear, sauté, and fry, occasionally we steam, simmer, and keep foods warm in them, too. Our favorite traditional cast iron manufacturer, Lodge, now makes two dedicated lids, sold separately, that fit its 12-inch traditional skillet, the winner of our most recent cast-iron skillet testing. One lid is made of tempered glass and costs about $26; the other is made of cast iron and costs about $33. Which one was better?
To find out, we ran both lids through several different tests. First, we used them to cover frying eggs and caramelizing onions, evaluating how thoroughly they retained heat and dispersed condensation, and thus how evenly and thoroughly these foods cooked. Then we saw how well they contained messes, covering skillets full of simmering tomato sauce and observing the extent to which the stove and counter got spattered. Finally, we looked at how easy the lids were to clean, washing each by hand. As per Lodge’s recommendation, we also dried and oiled the cast-iron lid after every use.
The good news is that both lids executed their tasks fairly well, covering the skillet and keeping in moisture and messes. There were, however, small differences in performance, ease of use, cleanup, and maintenance. Molded to cover the skillet’s pour spouts, the 5-pound cast-iron lid formed a tight seal and thus produced more-evenly cooked eggs and onions. But its excessive weight and small, low-slung handle made it difficult to maneuver. Its handle got so hot that we couldn’t touch it without using a potholder. Small spikes on the inside of the lid—meant to “self-baste,” or redistribute condensation throughout the skillet—made this lid difficult to clean, requiring finicky detailing with a scrub brush. And finally, the cast-iron lid requires regular maintenance. Like the cast-iron skillet itself, you’ll need to carefully dry and oil the lid after every use to condition it and prevent rusting.
We preferred the tempered glass lid, which performed almost as well as the cast-iron lid and was much easier to use. Because it didn’t cover the skillet’s pour spouts, the lid formed a slightly less complete seal, providing openings for steam and splattering food to escape. As a result, the onions cooked a tiny bit less evenly (but were still perfectly good), and tomato sauce spat out of the skillet a little more than with the cast-iron lid. But the tempered glass lid weighs just under 2 pounds, and its phenolic plastic handle stays cool enough that you don’t need a potholder to lift it. Better still, it requires no maintenance and was a breeze to clean. The tempered glass also offered the best visibility: While some fogging was unavoidable, it was still possible to gauge how vigorously the sauce was simmering or how brown the onions were getting. The lid is ovensafe to 400 degrees, which should be fine for most cooks, as very few recipes call for covering cast-iron skillets in the oven, and those that do tend to keep the heat well under that temperature. So if you’re looking to buy a dedicated lid for your cast-iron skillet, the Lodge 12-inch Tempered Glass Cover, at about $26, is the best option.