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A popular choice among fans of cast iron cookware who want a lighter alternative to this beloved yet bulky cookware staple, carbon steel undergoes a similar production process to cast iron. Both materials are alloys created from carbon and steel, but different proportions of these ingredients make carbon steel less cumbersome and give pans made from this material a smoother finish than their cast iron counterparts.
Since cast iron and carbon steel are made with similar materials, the resulting cookware does need to be maintained the same way. Carbon steel pans often arrive with a rust-preventing finish that should be rinsed off before use. You will also need to regularly season your pan to maintain its nonstick surface, never use dish soap, and dry thoroughly after each use.
If you’re ready to give carbon steel pans a try, here are the best carbon steel pans that will serve you well.
Best Overall: de Buyer Mineral B 12.5-Inch Steel Fry Pan
Our top recommendation for carbon steel pans delivers serious versatility. The de Buyer Mineral B 12.5-inch fry pan provides ample surface area for a wide range of cooking endeavors, and its clever design allows it to excel equally at sautéing and frying.
This French-made pan features an ergonomic handle that enables smooth tossing and makes this tool an easy one to hang on a storage rack. The carbon steel construction achieves high cooking temperatures and ensures even heat distribution, preventing food from sticking and burning ingredients. De Buyer coats their pans with beeswax, which serves as an all-natural layer of protection to keep the pan in perfect condition as it ships from France to your home. You will need to season the pan before using though.
If you’re concerned about the longevity of your cookware, De Buyer's hand-riveted carbon steel collection should last decades, and it offers a 2-year guarantee on all purchases.
Best Overall, Runner-Up: Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Fry Pan
Another much-beloved French carbon steel pan, the Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Fry Pan delivers many of the same benefits as the DeBuyer Mineral B. It’s a pro at conducting heat, is naturally nonstick, and can be effectively used for countless kitchen pursuits.
This fry pan's consistent heat distribution comes from 3 millimeters of carbon steel, and it can be used at high temperatures for the perfect sear. The steel handle is welded in place which eliminates any risk of coming loose and gives users plenty of free rein to toss and saute. It also means being able to properly clean their pan since a welded handle won’t trap bacteria.
Like the de Buyer, this pan comes with a beeswax coating and will need seasoning before use.
Best Budget: Lodge Carbon Steel 12-Inch Skillet
It makes perfect sense that a top purveyor of cast-iron cookware would also make excellent carbon steel pieces. Lodge, an iconic force in the world of cast iron, makes good on that assumption.
Lodge’s 12-inch carbon steel skillet will offer you the most versatility in the kitchen, though smaller models can be had. Its reasonable price affords you a pre-seasoned carbon steel pan with a long handle that's perfect for tossing and a weight that’s far lighter than that of Lodge’s cast iron pans. This skillet prides itself on its adaptability; it conducts heat beautifully over a stovetop, but can also be used over a campfire, a grill, or in the oven.
Related: The Best Woks
Best High-End: Marquette Castings 10.75-Inch Carbon Steel Skillet
If you’re in the market for a professional-grade carbon steel pan and price isn’t an object, then the 10.75-inch skillet from Marquette Castings might be the perfect choice for you.
An artisanal brand based in Michigan, Marquette’s pans are all hand-fashioned with an eye toward longevity, and the company offers a lifetime warranty. Marquette proudly operates as a small family-owned business, making their pans excellent choices for shoppers interested in supporting independent craftspeople.
Best Frying Pan: Mauviel M’Steel 12.5-Inch Fry Pan
When adding a new frying pan to your kitchen, you’ll want to seek out a model with nicely sloped edges to easily transfer food from the pan to the plate, and even heat distribution to prevent burnt spots on the food and scorching on the pan. Mauviel achieves both in spades with its M'Steel pans.
Mauviel 1830, a heritage cookware brand from France, has a long and esteemed history with carbon steel pans, so they have no problem offering a lifetime warranty on their equipment. The Mauviel M’Steel fry pan works equally well with all types of cooktops as well as in the oven, and Mauviel points out that M’Steel pans are “ideal for searing.”
Related: The Best Nonstick Pans
Best Sauté Pan: BK Cookware 12-Inch Carbon Steel Skillet
In order to avoid splatter during the cooking process, sauté pans require steeper sides than the typical skillet or fry pan. Luckily, this 12-inch carbon steel pan from Dutch brand BK Cookware features sides with a suitably vertical slope for even your most ambitious sautéing projects.
The BK Cookware black carbon steel skillet boasts 2 millimeters of thickness for excellent heat conduction and its ergonomic cast-iron handles are riveted to the pan. This ships with a silicone coating that’s easy to remove, so you won’t need to wait before diving into your favorite recipes. Plus, it comes pre-seasoned, cutting out any risk of food stickiness.
Best Grill Pan: Lodge Carbon Steel 12-Inch Grilling Pan
Any grilling enthusiast can attest to the incredible value of a reliable grill pan. A great one will allow food to come in contact with your cooking flame, but the notches on the pan bed keep you from losing any errant pieces of veg or protein. It comes in handy anytime you don't want to cook directly on your grates.
In addition to its carbon steel skillets, Lodge makes a fantastic 12-inch carbon steel grilling pan. It's made with 12-gauge carbon steel with steel side handles for easy maneuvering and can also be used over a campfire. This grilling pan is pre-seasoned for your convenience, though it should be regularly seasoned while still warm.
Related: The Best Grills
Best Paella Pan: Garcima Paella Pan
Paella, a seafood and rice dish native to the Valencia region of Spain, is a massively beloved entree that’s also notoriously tricky to make in a home kitchen. To create the signature golden crust that makes paella so iconic, you’ll need a pan with abundant surface area and the capacity for even and thorough heat-conducting.
Carbon steel is uniquely suited to the heat distribution needed for paella, and carbon steel pans have been used for paella for generations. Made in Spain, the Garcima Pata Negra Paella Pan offers authenticity and prime construction for its purpose. The 18-inch pan can easily feed a small dinner party, and Garcima uses an especially heavy-duty version of carbon steel, which safeguards the paella against overheating. If you have paella-making ambitions, then this particular pan is a very worthy (and not too spendy!) investment.
De Buyer's carbon steel fry pan (view at Amazon) is a great tool to have in your kitchen that will provide years, if not decades, of cooking enjoyment. Those just beginning to experiment with carbon steel before making a bigger investment can't go wrong with Lodge's 12-inch skillet (view at Amazon).
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Taylor Tobin is a freelance journalist who specializes in recipe testing and deep dives into popular dishes and ingredients. She regularly uses a wide range of cookware to try out new recipes and to execute old favorites, and while she’s a devoted fan of her vintage Lodge cast iron skillet, she’s ready to add a lightweight carbon steel skillet to her kitchen equipment rotation.
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