Menu
Search
Menu
Close

Lids for Cast-Iron Pans

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2016

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.

Try CooksIllustrated.com Free for 14 Days

Included in your trial membership

  • 20+ years of Cook's Illustrated foolproof recipes
  • In-depth videos of recipes and cooking techniques
  • SAVE all your Favorites for easy access
  • Up-to-Date reviews and product buying guides

Get everything Cook's Illustrated — become the Smartest Cook you know, guaranteed.

Email is required
How we use your email address

The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*