Best Carbon Steel Pan

Best Carbon Steel Pan for Searing and Browning

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

While most people are familiar with stainless steel and cast iron skillets, carbon steel skillets have become popular over the past few years. As a stainless steel skillet, these pans can be used on a stovetop and an oven, have the ability to brown meat just like a cast-iron skillet, and if treated well, it can fry items just like a nonstick pan. The best carbon steel pan also boasts quick heating abilities and is also semi lightweight making it easy to use.

So, if you are hoping to invest in a good carbon steel pan, read on to find out the best carbon steel pans in the market today, as well as the things you should consider before getting the best carbon steel skillet.

Which carbon steel pan is the best?

What is a Carbon Steel Pan?

A carbon steel pan is primarily made from iron, where 99% is iron and 1% is carbon, unlike a cast iron pan that has 2-4 percent carbon. Ideally, the higher the carbon content, the more brittle it becomes. To make these pans, a piece of carbon steel is cut and hammered or pressed into the desired shape. As a result, carbon is much smoother and thinner, unlike cast iron pans.

Carbon steel cookware is very versatile and can handle every job that a cast iron skillet does, and maybe even a bit better. It includes a polished cooking surface that is smoother and less brittle than cast iron cookware, providing a more uniform sear. The thinner metal also ensures that the pan conducts heat faster.

If you're hoping to give these pans a try, below are the five best carbon steel pans you should consider.

1. De Buyer - Mineral B Frying Pan-Nonstick Pan

Sale
de Buyer - Mineral B Frying Pan - Nonstick Pan - Carbon...
  • Carbon Steel Pan: 99% iron and 1% carbon, slippery with better...
  • The Darker The Better: Signature beeswax finish protects against...
  • Nonstick Kitchen Essentials: Has natural nonstick once seasoned;...
  • Made in France: Engineered and manufactured following the most...
  • About de Buyer: French maker of premium kitchen accessories,...

De Buyer is a renowned brand that boasts nearly 200 years of experience which means you can expect high quality and outstanding performance products. The De Buyer - Mineral B Frying Pan-- Nonstick Pan is one of their top picks when it comes to a carbon steel skillet. This pan comes with medium-high sides to ensure your food remains in the pan while stir-frying.

It also includes a beeswax coating that ensures the metal is protected and a long ergonomic handle to help you toss the ingredients while cooking. The handle also comes in handy to easily hang the pan when not in use. Once it is well seasoned, this pan has a natural nonstick coating. Furthermore, you get to choose from a wide range of sizes available.

However, due to the epoxy coating on the handle, this pan is oven-limited, which means you can only use the pan in the oven for a max of 20 minutes at 400 degrees. As a result, if you want an ovenproof version, you should consider a cast stainless steel handle that can stay longer in the oven.

Pros:

  • Better searing
  • Beeswax finish to protect against oxidation
  • Naturally nonstick pans once seasoned
  • Easy care and maintenance
  • Sturdy and durable

Cons:

  • The enamel coating on the handle may limit oven use

2. Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Cookware

Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow...
  • Round Bottom Heavy 14 Inch 15 gauge (1.8mm) carbon steel wok,...
  • Not suitable for flat electric or flat induction stove. Carbon...
  • Hand hammered by Chinese professionals in Guangzhou. This wok is...
  • Steel helper handle will not burn when you stir fry over high...
  • Craft Wok - Love Wok! We are a team of professionals drawn...

If you have ever used a wok before then, you understand that there is no single pan or pot that can be versatile as a work. The Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Pan comes with a design that is made to quickly stir fry foods as well as deep-frying and boiling meals. Most carbon steel cookware will be thinner, and this is no different with a thickness of 1.8mm.

This thinner carbon steel frying pan allows fast heating. Furthermore, the deep design of the work provides you with a variety of temperature ranges for cooking. Ideally, the center and the very bottom of the pan are designed to be very hot, and heat gradually decreases as you move up the sides of the pan.

Adding this inexpensive pan will make cooking a bit safer and more manageable, especially if you take time to understand9 how to use this wok properly. However, with the rounded bottom, it means that it is suited for gas burners and may not work correctly for most flat-top stoves.

Pros:

  • Great cooking volume
  • Fast heating
  • Versatile
  • Different temperature zones
  • Easy maintenance

Cons:

  • It can only be used on a gas burner

3. Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 12-inch

Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 12-inch
  • 14 GAUGE CARBON STEEL heats quickly and retains heat for even...
  • Use on gas, electric, induction stovetops, outdoor grills or open...
  • Seasoned with oil for a natural, easy-release finish that...
  • Easy care: hand wash, dry immediately, rub with cooking oil
  • Made in USA; Approx. 12" diameter rim to rim/9.875" bottom

Looking for a pre-seasoned carbon steel pan? Look no further. The Lodge Skillet is a 12-inch pan that comes pre-seasoned, unlike most carbon steel pans. Lodge company was one of the first companies to provide pre-seasoned cookware, with their no-frills and affordable cookware.

This carbon steel skillet has a straight handle which is unlike other carbon steel pans that have handles that angle upwards. This design was made to ensure the pan would easily fit on higher racks in the oven. As a result, the pan heats up very fast; however, the handle might become very hot when used for extended cooking periods.

The heat distribution, tolerance and durability of this 12-inch carbon steel skillet are unmatched. Similar to cast iron, carbon steel pans will become more nonstick as time goes without an additional layer of special coatings. This pan can also be used on all cooktops, including induction cooktops, campfires, or a barbeque grill.

Pros:

  • Pre-seasoned
  • Affordable
  • Secure riveted handles
  • Durable and sturdy
  • It can be used on all cooktops

Cons:

  • To maintain seasoning, it might require special attention

4. Matfer Bourgeat Black Carbon Steel Fry Pan

Matfer Bourgeat Black Carbon Steel Fry Pan
  • VARIETY OF USES: Brings top-notch heat distribution and...
  • NATURAL NON-STICK MATERIAL: Made of of black carbon steel, a...
  • DURABLE CONSTRUCTION: The steel handle is welded to pan's body...
  • HIGHLY COMPATIBLE & VERSATILE: This steel pan can also withstand...
  • MADE IN FRANCE: Ensures high standards for durability,...

The Matfer Bourgeat Black Fry Pan boasts nine different sizes you can choose from. This all-purpose pan is designed for both home and commercial use. It is made from unseasoned black carbon steel, which means you will have to season it yourself to achieve a nonstick surface.

Its steel handle is fitted securely to the body of the pan and doesn't have traditional rivets, making it easier to clean. The angled sides also make it great for versatile cooking, from sauteing to stir-frying. Additionally, you can use this pan on any cooking surface as the pan is heavy-duty.

This pan is made from a thick steel gauge and wide flared edges that provide a smooth surface for uninterrupted cooking and also make it easy to clean. To remove the protective coating before the first use and ensure safe meals, it is advisable to thoroughly wash the pan using a mild dish detergent and a bristle brush.

Pros:

  • Strong and durable
  • It can be used on all cooktops
  • The rivetless design makes cleaning easy
  • Nine different size options
  • Professional grade quality

Cons:

  • Requires regular maintenance and seasoning

5. BK Black Steel Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet

BK Black Steel Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet, 12"
  • Since 1851, BK is the Royal Founder of the Dutch oven and known...
  • Black Steel is three times denser than aluminum, corrosion and...
  • Pre-seasoned with oil, this pan comes with a thin silicone wax...
  • Designed to develop a natural nonstick patina layer, this is a...
  • The heat-responsive design means you get the same great searing...

If you're still unsure about trying a carbon steel frying pan, then this affordable BK Black Steel Seasoned Skillet is a great start. It is a 12-inch skillet that comes pre-seasoned, which means you can use it right after you wash it to remove the protective silicone wax.

The handle is coated with cast iron and rounded at the bottom to provide you with a comfortable hold while cooking. Additionally, this pan is well balanced, making it easy to flip the food while cooking. Its weight combined with the short handles comes in handy to create a balance.

It is also one of the best frying pans when it comes to fast heating, and it also provides one of the biggest interior cooking surfaces. The black steel used in this skillet is three times denser than aluminum metal utensils and is also stain and corrosion-resistant. This makes it more stronger and durable than the traditional carbon steel cookware.

Pros:

  • Unique and attractive design
  • Lighter than a typical cast iron pan
  • Affordable
  • Properly seasoned
  • Heats up
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Requires an extra seasoning process to make it entirely non-stick.

Carbon Steel vs. Other Cookware Materials

Every cookware comes with its pros and cons, and none is better than the other one. It simply depends on how and where you use it. So, here is a direct comparison of how carbon steel performs in relation to other cookware materials.

Carbon Steel Vs. Cast Iron

These materials are both durable and affordable. However, cast iron counterparts are thicker and heavier for even heat distribution. Unlike cast iron, carbon steel is more responsive to temperature changes.

Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is easier to maintain as it won't require any seasoning and doesn't rust. However, it is more expensive and is also a bit more challenging to cook with.

Carbon Steel Vs. Blue Steel

Blue steel is simply carbon steel that has undergone heat treatment to form a protective outer layer. A blue carbon steel frying pan has the same performance and attributes as a non-treated one.

What Do You Consider Before Purchasing the Best Carbon Steel Pan?

1. Weight

Carbon steel skillets weigh considerably less than cast iron, making them very lightweight. However, the weight varies from one model to another, depending on the construction and materials used. A good carbon-steel skillet should have a fast response to changes in the heat but also be sturdy enough to prevent moving around while cooking.

2. Heating Capacity

Generally, carbon steel has a high and medium heat tolerance and can be used on different cooktops, depending on the design. Most of these pans are able to withstand a temperature of up to 800 degrees, but some models can go up to 1200 degrees. This is more than enough for regular household use and the oven. Depending on how and where you will use the carbon steel fry pan, choose one that perfectly matches your needs.

3. Construction

The carbon steel cookware is often heated, pressed, then shaped into the desired shapes. Generally, pans come with a 2mm or 3mm thickness. With some models, the handles can be forged separately and attached using rivets. You will want to make sure that the handles are comfortable to hold and are not too short.

4. Maintainance

There are two most important factors you should consider when it comes to maintenance, including cleaning and seasoning. If you know how to take care of cast iron, then it is the same for this material. Your new carbon steel pan should have a durable finish that resists scratches, and for the most part, it is low maintenance. Like cast iron, carbon steel can't be washed in the dishwasher or using a dish detergent as it will scrape off the seasoning. Rinse it thoroughly with water and wipe it clean instead, using a paper towel. To season it, heat oil in the pan until it starts to smoke, then wipe off the excess oil.

5. Price

Carbon steel pans come in a big range of prices. While they are priced higher than cast iron, they are more affordable than copper cookware or high-quality stainless steel options. The best frying pan should be one that is within your budget. Create a budget based on the size, brand, design, and cooking needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Carbon Steel Pans

1. Do chefs use carbon steel pans?

Ye, chefs love using these pans as a good carbon steel pan can stir fry, sear, boil, bake, or act as a sauté pan, grill pan, or crepe pan. Additionally, you can use it for cooking eggs and fish with no feat of it sticking. For these reasons and many more, these pans are used by many professional chefs.

2. What can you not cook in carbon steel?

For carbon steel pans, it is advisable not to cook acidic foods like vinegar, wine, and citrus in the pan. This is because these foods may strip away the patina or seasoning that you have created on the pan. Furthermore, these pans are s made from 99% iron, which is reactive, endangering your health and others'.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.