If you’re looking for cast-iron skillets durability, but want to avoid the heavyweight, then consider choosing one of the best carbon steel skillets below.
Cooking with carbon steel is an easy way to get deeper flavors in your meals and reduce the chance of scratching your stovetop compared to cast iron.
I’ve rounded up the 5 best carbon steel pans available on the market for you to choose from.
I review each carbon steel pan and show you what to consider before you buy. Read on to see why a carbon steel cookware might be your new favorite type to cook with.
The Best Carbon Steel Pans
de Buyer Mineral B 14.2 Inch Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan
What’s In The Box
- 14.2” MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan
Made in France, de Buyer is 99 percent iron (including the rivets) and coated with all-natural beeswax to prevent rusting. Due to its low carbon content, it looks a lot more like steel than cast iron. This ideal if you prefer the lighter, metallic look.
Between 2.5 and 3 millimeters thick, it’s a bit thinner than a typical cast iron pan. However, this small difference in thickness is why carbon steel pans can heat up so quickly.
It’s lighter than an average cast iron pan and equipped with two handles, making it easy to maneuver. Plus, this nonstick, induction-ready pan is warp-resistant. Another pro is that you don’t have to worry about PTFE and PFOA chemicals nonstick cookware is famous for.
- The two ergonomic handles can be a godsend for anyone who cooks often and has to deal with joint problems like arthritis.
- It’s also great to have a nonstick pan that’s made of natural, recognizable ingredients. That means there’s less worry about toxins.
- One of my pet peeves is warping. For some reason, all flat pans seem to do this on my glass top stove. This pan is warp-resistant, so it will always heat up evenly.
- My only issue with this pan is the oven temperature resistance or lack thereof. It’s only safe in the oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for some reason. This is odd given the material.
Overall, the De Buyer carbon steel pan is an excellent way to get cast-iron quality without heaviness.
Mauviel 14 Inch M’steel Carbon Nonstick Fry Pan
What’s In The Box
- 14” M’Steel Nonstick Pan
Also made in France is the Mauviel M’steel pan. It’s also made from pure black steel. As with most carbon steel pans, it will heat up faster and save you time in the kitchen. The heat distribution will also be more even.
It’s suitable for all stovetops, including electric glass and induction glass stovetops. Because carbon steel is a little less heavy, your stovetop will thank you for it. You’ll experience less damage and scratching if any at all.
The only other ingredient is the beeswax coating, which is added to prevent rusting and make seasoning a little easier.
- This pan has high performance and will last a long time. It’s also oven-safe, so you could use it for baking and roasting as well. It’s also free of questionable materials and chemicals.
- Another benefit is the grayish silver color that looks similar to dull steel. Finally, it’s toxin-free and a great heat conductor.
- The first issue we have is that some other carbon steel pans of similar quality are a bit more expensive. For instance, the comparable de Buyer has more innovative features and is less costly.
- It’s also prone to warping, which causes food to cook unevenly.
- Lastly, this pan isn’t nonstick unless you can perfect your seasoning skills. It takes much longer than it should become perfectly nonstick.
Overall, the Mauviel M’steel pan is a standard carbon steel pan with good quality but maybe a bit expensive for those on a budget.
Matfer Bourgeat 14 1/8 Inch Steel Carbon Frying Pan
What’s In The Box
- 11 7/8” Black Steel Round Fry Pan (Made In France)
Next, we have the Matfer Bourgeat, a high-quality carbon steel pan with a long, carbon steel handle. It’s suitable for all stovetops and is excellent for searing, frying, and sautéing.
The Matfer is no pre-seasoned, so seasoning is a process you’ll need to perform before using the pan. It’s also oven-safe, making it a must-have if you love the rich taste that baking and roasting gives to dishes.
Weighing in at 7.4 pounds, it’s heavier than you’d expect a carbon steel pan. This heaviness might be accompanied by warping.
- It’s reasonably priced, considering it doesn’t have any outstanding features that leave me impressed. Furthermore, it’s sturdy, toxin-free, and oven-safe.
- It may require a little extra time trying to season this pan. However, that’s to be expected with carbon steel and cast iron pans.
- Another issue is the heaviness. It’s the heaviest pan on the list and makes you wonder how long you have before it starts to warp due to the heaviness.
The Matfer Bourgeat fry pan is another good choice, but it’s much heavier than carbon steel should be.
Lodge 12-Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet
What’s In The Box
- 12” Carbon Steel Pan (Made In The USA)
Next is the most versatile carbon steel pan on our top five list. Thanks to the 12 gauge carbon, it heats up fast and distributes heat evenly. It is suitable for all range types and even outdoor fires. You can also throw it in the oven or broiler.
The Lodge seasoned carbon steel skillet is naturally seasoned with soybean oil. Therefore, the only materials you need to be concerned with are iron, carbon, and soybean oil. There’s no risk of toxic chemicals.
It’s also suitable for all ranges and super affordable. Lastly, it’s the lightest pan on our list, weighing in at 4.1 pounds, making handling much more manageable and enjoyable.
- This pan can be a godsend because it’s so lightweight. If you’ve ever lifted a cast iron pan, then you know the struggle. Cooking just got much easier.
- This carbon steel frying pan is super durable and can be used in any heat setting. So there are no worries about whether you’re abusing it. It’s virtually indestructible as carbon steel should be.
- The one issue we have is the soybean oil used as a seasoning. This is because it’s not on my list of the healthiest oils. However, the seasoning can be stripped and seasoned again.
This Lodge carbon steel pan appears to be the best overall. It’s very lightweight and versatile.
BK Cookware Black Carbon Steel Skillet
What’s In The Box
- 12” Black Steel Skillet
This skillet is made from heat-resistant black carbon steel, as seen in its dark color. While the material is resistant to rust, this skillet does come with a thin silicone layer. It’s easy to remove and is less gunky than oils and beeswax.
Furthermore, this pan is designed to develop a thin patina layer over time. Therefore, it will remain nonstick and smooth.
This affordable skillet is only 4.5 pounds, contains a riveted handle for comfort, and is safe in temperatures up to 600°F. It’s also compatible with all ranges.
- The most likable feature is the weight. The lighter the kitchen gear, the easier and faster cooking will be.
- It’s nonstick and gets better with time. Food is quickly released, and scraping the pan is unnecessary.
- An unappealing quality of this pan would be the thin wax or grease coating that it comes with. Although it can be removed per the instructions, it can cause burning and sticking if left on the pan’s surface.
The BK black carbon steel skillet makes our top 5 for comfort and versatility.
How To Choose The Best Carbon Steel Pan
Do You Really Need A Carbon Steel Pan?
Carbon steel is definitely for the cook who likes cast iron but sees room for improvement in the traditional kitchen tool.
For one, home cooks like us love the toughness and durability of cast iron, but you have to admit that it’s heavy. Heavy duty carbon steel has that same hardiness without so much weight.
Additionally, carbon steel is one of the fastest heating metals there are. This is a must-have feature for a professional cook who has rush orders or someone at home with a busy lifestyle.
Carbon steel pans are versatile because you can cook anything in them. While some acidic foods may weaken the seasoning, it can be reapplied.
The material can also tolerate high temperatures except for some of the nonstick seasonings that can dissipate in extreme heat.
Carbon steel is a tad more expensive but gives you the positive features of cast iron and then some.
Things To Watch Out For
Carbon Steel Thickness
One of the trademarks that makes carbon steel different from cast iron is its thickness. It’s generally much thinner, making it lightweight and easier to heat. Thinness is often a sought-after quality.
On the other hand, manufacturers must also avoid making carbon steel too thick. Then you may have to deal with the same heaviness and slow heating that comes with cast iron.
Twelve gauge, measuring 2.6 millimeters in thickness, gives cookware both heavy-duty quality and thinness that allows fast heating.
Though many manufacturers may not disclose the gauge, it’s worth asking. Thinner but hardy like cast iron is the ideal.
It’s relatively easy to keep your carbon steel looking new and functional for a lifetime. There’s not much cleaning needed.
To clean, use warm water, but try to avoid any type of soap. Wipe clean and dry thoroughly. Apply a thin layer of the oil when the pan is completely dry if needed.
You might also need to season your pan before using it. There are a few seasoning methods. We found the procedure below to be effective and easy.
Scrub your pan to remove the manufacturer’s coating, which could be wax, grease, oil, or various chemicals. You may need to use scolding hot soapy water.
Next, add oil, salt, and potato peels.
Cook for about 10 minutes. Voila, your pan is now seasoned.
Type Of Coating Or Pre-seasoning
It’s good to know the type of pre-seasoning or coating the manufacturer uses. Some, such as beeswax, can be difficult to remove, while others are much easier.
If oil is used, make sure it’s not an oil that you or someone in your family might be allergic to.
Likewise, some pre-seasoning chemicals might contain toxins. Please make sure they are toxin-free before purchasing.
Glass And Ceramic Stovetop Safety
Many kitchen gadgets are designed in ways that may harm glass stovetops.
For instance, there may be a rough surface, or the material might be too heavy. This is often the case with cast iron.
Fortunately, there’s less risk of scratching and cracking your glass stovetop with carbon steel. It’s typically lighter in weight and usually has a smoother surface than cast iron.
However, you should check with the owner’s guide for the pan’s weight because it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
To be safe, make sure your carbon steel is completely clean before using it.
Food particles can cause carbonization. When this occurs, the particles solidify on your pan and cause scratches to happen on your glass top surface.
Furthermore, if you notice that your carbon steel is a bit grainy like cast iron, try not to slide it across the stove’s surface.
Carbon Steel Pan FAQs
Are Carbon Steel Pans Better Than Cast Iron?
As mentioned above, the materials are almost identical. However, many choose carbon steel over cast iron for a few reasons.
It has a higher gauge, which means it’s much thinner. This makes heating faster and heat distribution more even. Furthermore, it’s more lightweight.
The surface is smoother, so it’s easier to clean. The smoother surface also means fewer scratches to your stovetop surface.
Depending on the amount of carbon and surface treatment, the colors vary. This means you can choose between gray, silver, and black.
Why Do Chefs Use Carbon Steel Pans?
The main reason chefs use carbon steel is time and efficiency. They work in a pretty fast-paced environment, and speed and quality are of the essence.
Carbon steel heats and cools faster, which ultimately allows chefs to cook more quickly. It’s also lighter than cast iron, so chefs aren’t burdened down with weight while cooking.
The smooth surface all makes it easier to clean, and food releases from the cookware much easier.
How Thick Should A Carbon Steel Pan Be?
Your carbon steel should always be thinner than cast iron. The ideal thickness of a carbon steel pan is between 11 and 12 gauge. This translates to approximately 3.038 and 2.656 millimeters. Such thickness allows fast heating.
The lower the gauge, the higher the heat retention. However, a lower gauge also means slower heating. In the end, it depends on what’s more important to you, heat retention or heating speed.
Are Carbon Steel Pans Nonstick?
Carbon steel pans are not usually nonstick when you first purchase them. However, seasoning does make them nonstick (refer to the maintenance section for a seasoning method). Generally, the cooking surface becomes more smooth and nonstick with use.
Do You Have To Season A Carbon Steel Pan?
Just like cast iron, you’ll need to season your carbon steel pan. While many manufacturers coat their cookware with oil, grease, or ceramic, this should be removed before use unless it’s a pre-seasoning. After the removal, you can proceed to season your pan.
For a quick and easy way to season your carbon steel skillets, refer to the maintenance section above.
If we had to choose a favorite carbon steel pan from our list, it would have to be the Lodge 12” Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet.
This affordable pan is so versatile that it can be used with any heat source, including ovens and open fires. Its flat surface is safe with glass stovetops and is less likely to warp.
Our other favorite pick is the de Buyer Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan if you have the budget. From the lightweight to the two handles, it’s got everything most cooks could ask for, except the low oven-resistant. For some, this might be a deal-breaker.
We hope that we’ve answered most of your questions and concerns about choosing the best carbon steel pan for your cooking needs.