cast iron always pan review lead

If you never thought a kitchen pan could acquire cult Instagram status, you haven’t met the original Our Place Always Pan. Praised by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Cameron Diaz, Paris Hilton and more, the $145 nonstick tool from the Los Angeles-based kitchenware brand comes in eight pretty colors, has sold out multiple times since its 2019 launch and garners 4.6 out of 5 stars with more than 26,310 reviews on the brand’s website.

So it was only natural that we’d put Our Place’s latest offering, the new limited-edition Always Cast-Iron Pan, to the test to see if it measures up to its older sibling’s charm.

If you’re willing to pay for an Instagram fave and love the versatility of cast iron, this pan will look lovely in your feed.

What we liked about it

For those intimidated by cooking with cast iron, it’s time to get over it: Cast iron is ultra durable and naturally nonstick, and it holds its heat wonderfully and just gets better with time. And while your grandmother’s cast-iron pan likely had to be seasoned with oil after use, today’s versions come preseasoned and ready to be put to work right out of the box.

Taking that a step further, the Our Place version is made of black matte enameled cast iron, which means no seasoning is needed at all — and, unlike regular cast iron, it can be used to cook acidic foods like tomato-based stews. It can also scratch, so metal utensils should be avoided. And since you’re not building up the seasoning over time, you’ll need to use a healthy dose of oil, butter or other type of cooking grease when you cook.

Our Place touts that the pan can be used as a frying pan, skillet, sauté pan, griddle, roaster, baker, braiser and more, but that’s no different than other cast-iron pans, which are compatible with all stovetops (we used ours on an induction top). And, like other versions, it can be used seamlessly from the stovetop to the oven (sear your steak on the stove, then move it to the oven to finish it off), and it’s able to reach temps of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing you to stick it under the broiler as well.

cast iron always pan review steak

Unlike most cast-iron pans we’ve seen, this version comes with an oven-safe (up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit) glass lid, which is handy for when you want to add steam for, say, a veggie stir-fry. I must admit, I was nervous I would shatter the thing, and I didn’t use it for my cooking tests, but I could see it coming in handy for something like a paella.

The pan includes two silicone grips — one for the 6-inch handle and one for the opposite smaller helper handle (love these!) — as well as a wooden spatula, a nifty built-in spoon rest and an all-natural sponge for cleaning.

But this is a brand built on aesthetics. Touted as “heirloom quality,” the pans feature a glossy exterior, and unlike the basic black of most cast-iron varieties, it comes in six lovely shades: a dusty pink, pale oatmeal, muted green, dusty gray-blue, charcoal and soft purple.

When it came to cooking, our dishes turned out really well. Our eggs fried in butter got nice and crispy on the edges and flipped easily, leaving just the smallest trace behind as we removed them from the pan. Our rib eye, seared in a tablespoon of cooking oil, crusted up gorgeously and put up zero fight when we flipped it a couple of times and pulled it out of the pan. And our cornbread browned uniformly and released easily from the pan. It left a bit of crumb stuck to the pan, but nothing that couldn’t be easily removed with a stiff-bristled brush.

Speaking of that, cleanup, overall, was easy. Contrary to popular myth, cast-iron pans can be hand-washed with a little dish soap as needed, and a stiff-bristled brush or abrasive sponge help remove any bits of food or grease stuck to the bottom. Just be sure to dry the pan completely when you’re done to avoid any rust buildup, although the enamel coating also helps with that.

What we didn’t like about it

Now, one thing to know about cast iron is that it’s heavy. The Always Pan version weighs 6.9 pounds and measures 9.5 inches across. That may come as a shock to fans of the original 3-pound ceramic version, but the enamel coating ensures a nice, smooth surface (better for even heat distribution) with no nicks, pits or scratches to be seen. The 6-inch handle is pretty standard and comfortable enough to hold, but you really need to use the helper handle if possible to lift the pan without struggle.

But how did it perform, you ask? We put the Always Cast-Iron Pan through the same battery of tests used to determine the best cast-iron skillets in 2022. We measured how much time it took to heat oil, how evenly heat was distributed across the pan, how comfortable it was to hold and how easy it was to pour oil into a Mason jar. We also used it to fry eggs, sear steak and bake cornbread.

cast iron always pan review egg

Cast iron is celebrated for holding heat, but not all pans heat evenly. We used an infrared thermometer gun to measure all areas of the pan and found inconsistent results, with the center of the pan measuring hottest and the right side clocking in hotter than the left. It was slower to heat oil than all of the cast-iron pans we previously tested, and the Always does not include pour spouts, which are extra handy when you’re attempting to remove oil or grease from the pan. We noted some splatter when we tried to pour oil from the Always into a Mason jar.

Finally, no specific warranty is listed on the website, but the brand does note it offers free exchanges or returns up to 30 days after the item has shipped to your home.

Bottom line

No doubt, the Always Cast-Iron Pan looks great. The colors are soft and just lovely — there’s good reason it’s so dang Instagram-worthy. It’s just really nice to look at and also performs well, plus it’s easy to maintain.

cast iron always pan review cornbread

But it’s also expensive. If you’re simply looking for a great cast-iron pan that’s a total workhorse, you’d be better off with the $49.95 Lodge Chef Collection 12-Inch Skillet, the overall winner in our cast-iron skillet tests. At a third of the price of the Always model, it bested most of its more expensive competitors, has a comfy elongated handle that makes it seem less heavy, includes two pour spouts and comes with a lifetime warranty.

But if you’re one of those rabid fans of the original nonstick Always Pan, you’re looking to add a colorful cast-iron version to your collection and you swear by Oprah’s Favorite Things, you won’t be sorry if you opt for Our Place’s foray into cast iron.