If you’re looking for cast-iron skillets durability, but want to avoid the heavyweight, then consider choosing the best carbon steel skillet in 2020.
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.
5 Best Carbon Steel Pans
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.