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Best Carbon Steel Frying Pans Reviewed

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Carbon steel frying pans have a reputation for being durable and lighter than cast iron. In this article, we evaluate the best carbon steel pans so you can choose the right one for your culinary needs.

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Reviews of the Best Carbon Steel Frying Pans

Made In 10" Carbon Steel Fry Pan 

Made In cookware regularly sells well because it’s sturdy, durable, and promises to go head-to-head with higher priced cookware for a lower price. That said, this is not your inexpensive and inferior cookware. It’s clearly well-made. All of Made In carbon steel products are made in France. So, how does the Made In carbon steel fry pan stack up to the competition?

Pros

  • Solid, sturdy construction
  • Handle is securely attached
  • Can use up to 1200°F

Cons

  • Uneven seasoning

First Impressions

The first thing you’ll notice is that when you pick it up, it feels solid and sturdy. It has a really solid feel and has that certain heft and a weight you’d normally associate with higher-priced cookware.

Look wise, the Made In carbon steel fry pan has a lot going for it. The solid stainless steel handle is attached to the pan by three bolts. There’s no play and no movement to speak of. You immediately get the sense that this handle will last for ages and ages no matter what you throw at it in the kitchen.

But the real heart of this product is in the pan itself. It’s uniformly black and the weight of cast iron, but without the total weight you’d associate with it. This is Made In’s carbon steel.

Construction of Made In Carbon Steel Pan

Lots of people sear with cast iron cookware. It’s not just durable in the long-term, but also retains heat very well and has nonstick properties. The problem is that it’s also very expensive. Made In says that this frying pan combines the best of both iron and stainless steel, so how does it work?

Carbon steel feels like a lighter version of cast iron. If you’ve ever worked with cast iron cookware, you’ll notice that this frying pan does feel lighter. What Made In has done is use a hybrid construction process and has created a pan that has some properties of stainless steel and some properties of iron.

Temperature

In use, the carbon steel does have some non-stick properties without all of the weight. This pan will endure temperatures of up to 1200°F, so you can easily move from stovetop to baking in the oven without missing a beat.

Heat Retention

In terms of heat retention, you get the nice qualities of cast iron and the control of stainless steel. This means that you won’t get annoying hot and cold spots in the pan during cooking.

Seasoning

What you do need to be aware of is that carbon steel will need to be seasoned. In essence, you’ll be seasoning it with beeswax even before you use it for the first time. From then on, you’ll need some wax for regular upkeep. Made In has included very good care instructions as well as some beeswax to get you going.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this is a great frying pan. The use of carbon steel means that you can almost replace two other pieces of cookware. The only issue is that the extra care and seasoning process may not suit everyone, but perhaps that’s a small price to pay.

De Buyer Mineral B Pan

De Buyer is one of the most reputable manufacturers of carbon steel pans. Founded in the first half of the 19th century, this brand now produces more than 3,000 different cookware products. Their frying pans are always in the top bracket when it comes to quality and reliability, hence the higher price. The same goes for this frying pan, too.

It is made with top-quality, non-toxic material and is well-constructed.

MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan 11-Inch

Pros

  • Durable due to the high-quality workmanship
  • Made in France
  • Versatile
  • Good heat distribution
  • Angled control panel
  • ETL Approved

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Coating on the handle can melt in the oven (over 400°F)

Products Highlights 

The MINERAL B is a standard-shaped frying pan with a completely natural coating. It doesn’t contain any synthetic covers such as Teflon, therefore the nonstick element is completely safe and non-toxic. The coating is comprised of 99% iron and 1%  carbon. If your first seasoning goes as planned, you should never have problems with sticky surfaces. The more you use it, the darker the surface gets – and the better the results should be.

When it comes to cooking style, the pan allows you to do as you please. Reasonably light-weight, you can move it around, tilt it, and lift it without problems. It contains an ergonomic handle with a comfortable grip that reduces pressure on your arm, allowing you to cook without strain or discomfort. The curved shape of the handle (aka the ‘French curve) will assist in stirring and flipping your food.

All construction details on the pan are top-notch. The handle is hand-riveted with high-quality carbon steel rivets. This makes them tight and secure so the handle won’t loosen over time – there isn’t any risk of the handle falling off and causing some type of accident. These rivets are made to expand along with the rest of the pan so there’s never an imbalance between the two.

The 0.1” thickness (2.5-3mm) of the pan will quickly reach high temperatures and distribute heat to all areas. Since this makes the contents of the pan hot quickly, the food will retain all the juices, vitamins, and nutrients and maintain the natural aroma throughout the cooking. This pan is ideal for any cooking surface (including the induction stovetop) and you can place it in the oven, too (up to 400°F).

This pan needs to be seasoned.

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Matfer Bourgeat 062004 Frying Pan

This round frying pan from Matfer Bourgeat is coated in black steel with no trace of a synthetic finish. Its demand was significantly increased when it was recommended by the prominent Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The Matfer Bourgeat is easy to season, durable, and comes at a reasonable price, which makes it extremely popular among customers.

Pros

  • Walls are sloped 
  • Made in France
  • Pan is available in many sizes

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Depending on the size and shape of your hands, the handle may not be comfortable
  • It takes a lot of work to season the pan prior to the first use

Product Highlights

The black steel coating of the Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Frying Pan is notable for its strength and longevity. If you opt for this pan you should expect it to last for a long time. Besides, the blackened steel is much more resistant to corrosion than the regular carbon steel pan, so it should endure unfavorable conditions much better.

Since the walls of the pan are 2” high, you can easily maneuver the food inside. The sloped shape allows you to toss the food easily without it spilling down the sides. This makes the pan ideal for sautéing, frying, or making pancakes. The 11” diameter of the pan is great for 2-3 servings, ideal for medium-sized families.

When it comes to seasoning and maintenance, this pan shouldn’t cause you any trouble. The seasoning takes a lot of work, but you need to consider removing the wax finish (which prevents corrosion during delivery) from the new pan before you apply the seasoning.

The maintenance shouldn’t be difficult – just avoid using soap and never scrub it since you may damage the surface. Remember, the surface should get blotchy and dark over time. This will increase the non-stick effect and add a distinctive aroma to the food.

The long steel handle is tightly bolted so there’s no risk of it falling off.  Just make sure that you’re holding it closer to the pan and not on the end, as it will allow you to balance it a bit better. The black steel construction makes it resistant to various conditions so it’s compatible with all types of stoves.

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Mauviel M’Steel Frying Pan

Mauviel is another top-rated pan manufacturer from France, with only De Buyer coming close to this brand’s reputation. Since it also has near 2-century of successful history, the customers aren’t shy of paying premium prices for their pans. It’s no different with the M’Steel model either.

Mauviel M'Steel, carbon, nonstick fry pan, 11 Inch, Black Steel

Pros

  • Made in France
  • Can place it in the oven up to 600°F
  • Even heat distribution
  • Sturdy construction

Cons

  • Thick layer of beeswax to remove prior to first seasoning

Product Highlights 

The Mauviel M'Steel carbon fry pan has a top-quality black steel carbon construction, making it one of the most durable pans on the market. Moreover, this material heats up quickly and is able to endure exceptionally high temperatures. It will distribute the heat equally throughout the pan, ensuring your food is evenly cooked.

In addition to durable construction, you’ll also notice the long iron handle that’s riveted to the pan. This handle is tightly secured and won’t loosen over time, ensuring both your safety and cooking performance. Thanks to the sturdy construction this pan is ideal for both pre-heating and searing. All food will maintain the natural juices and aroma and no vitamins and nutrients will get lost in the process.

You’ll find a seasoning manual inside the product which will explain how to perfectly prepare the pan for nonstick and everlasting capabilities. The pan comes with a rust-preventing beeswax cover which you need to remove prior to the seasoning. After that, the seasoning and maintenance are simple. As long as you stick to the provided instructions, you can expect a lifetime of service.

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Lodge CRS 10 Carbon Steel Skillet

Out of all American cookware manufacturers from the mid-19th century, Lodge is the only one that remains in business to this day. This places it alongside top-class French cookware brands such as De Buyer and Mauviel. Their CRS 10 model is a lightweight carbon steel pan with a neat design and an affordable price.

Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 8-inch

Pros

  • Made in USA
  • Pre-seasoned
  • Versatile - can be used for many types of cooking

Cons

  • Rough surface
  • Some consumers reported the base was not flat
  • Might be too heavy for some folks

Product Highlights 

The Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 10-inch pan comes in completely dark carbon steel coating. This versatile look is particularly appealing to those who enjoy old-school cookware design. For that reason, it’s a fine addition to both a contemporary and vintage kitchen aesthetic.

This sturdy construction makes it resistant to metal kitchen items such as forks or knives, so you can use sharp objects to turn or move the food along the surface without worrying about damaging the surface. To clean the pan, just wash or rinse it by hand without soap (use a mild soap if you need to), and then dry it thoroughly with a paper towel (to avoid corrosion). The carbon steel is exceptionally durable and, if properly maintained, it should last for life.

When it comes to cooking efficiency, the 12-gauge carbon steel warms quickly and has excellent heat-maintaining properties. Your food will cook evenly and keep all its valuable properties. In addition, it’s ideal for various types of cooking such as roasting, baking, sautéing, searing, and others.

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Made In Cookware Carbon Steel Fry Pan

Carbon Steel Frying Pan Buyer’s Guide

There’s a reason why carbon steel frying pans are among the favorite cookware of your favorite cooks, but not every pan is good. When you decide it’s time to purchase a carbon steel pan, first you should consider certain parameters that separate below-par products from those at the higher end of the spectrum.

The following guide should explain the key things to look for depending on your cooking style, stovetop, budget, and various other factors.

We have an article that discusses the pros and cons of carbon steel pans if you are on the fence about investing in one.

Seasoning 

Just like cast iron frying pans, the carbon steel ones require seasoning before you can use them. Seasoning is essentially preparing the surface of your pan to prevent corrosion, stains, and food sticking to the bottom by filling out small holes in the coating. The process is usually done by applying a very thin layer of oil (usually a vegetable oil for health reasons) which will later minimize or completely remove the need for applying any fats.

The food will never stick to a well-seasoned frying pan and the cooking will be much more pleasant and effective. That said, the carbon steel frying pans are usually easy to season and when you finish with the process, the food should never stick to the surface.

However, the seasoning of the pan is a one-time thing. The effectiveness of your seasoning will determine whether your cooking will be an enjoyable experience or a nightmare. Therefore, you should always look for carbon steel pans that have clear and easy seasoning instructions. If you need further advice, you should ask the experts (or employees in the appliances store) how to approach the process, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.

On the other hand, some steel frying pans come pre-seasoned. These are more expensive than the regular ones but save you time, frustration, and disappointment if you don’t season it well. Although they provide reliability and comfort, you can’t apply your own ‘touch’ to the taste of the food. That’s why experienced cooks have their own way of seasoning to add a special aroma.

Size

The size of your frying pan will impact both its weight and price. Your choice of size depends solely on what you’re going to prepare in your pan. Think about the servings – will you prepare meals only for yourself, for two, or for the whole family? Depending on the answer, you’d need a small, medium, or large-sized pan, respectively.

Small Pan

If you’re looking for an optimal frying pan, a small pan should be your choice. This type of pan shouldn’t have a diameter bigger than 8”, ideal for a single meal (or even two smaller ones). This size should be enough to make two eggs over-easy, for example.

Medium Pan

The medium pan is around 10” in diameter and you can use it for 2-3 servings depending on the size of the portions. Medium-sized pans are ideal for couples and smaller families and are usually made out of non-stick stainless-steel.

Large Pan

This is the biggest pan that you’ll find in regular cookware stores. It has 12” diameter and is used for preparing large meals for several people. These pans are great for frying a hefty amount of protein, vegetables, and even making specialties like paella.

Weight 

Similar to size, your choice of weight depends mostly on what type of food you prepare. Moreover, frequency of use can influence your choice. There’s a simple reason for this – your cooking style may require moving the pan around less or more frequently, tilting it to one side, and even lifting it to toss food.

All that considered, it’s easy to distinguish between a lightweight and a heavy frying pan.  Lighter pans will strain your arms less and require less power to lift them or move them. If you’re doing a lot of cooking and you’re not comfortable with lifting heavy items all the time, consider a lighter pan. 

On the other hand, heavier pans with sloped walls are great if you’re sautéing your food. Also, if you’re frequently preparing several servings, it’s more convenient and resource-saving to use larger (and heavier) pans to prepare food.  

Design

The design of the steel carbon pan includes the shape, and handle, and the compatible cooktop.

Shape

When it comes to shape of a pan, it mostly depends on the height of the sides. For example, a sauté pan will have a flat bottom with tall, straight walls.

On the other hand, a regular fry pan has rounded edges that widen in the middle. This means a frying pan has a smaller cooking surface, but at the same time, it allows you to toss your food and roll it around, thanks to the slopes.

There’s also a skillet type. Unlike the aforementioned two, the skillet uses a lid and is a bit deeper. It’s perfect for grilling and preparing stews.

Handle

The design of the handle requires most of your attention. All carbon steel frying pans will have either iron, steel, or wood handles. Of course, their length and number vary depending on the shape, but you should always consider those who are better at carrying weight.

The riveted handles should never feel loose, especially when they’re attached to heavier pans. This means that they’re prone to falling off, which can also cause unnecessary accidents – and sometimes even severe injuries.  Avoid pots with handles that seem weak or loose.

If you’re planning to cook at higher temperatures, the iron handles are the best option. That said, it’s not recommended to use wooden handles in these circumstances, as they can easily catch alight. Some iron handles have silicon sleeves, but seasoned cooks usually use them bare.

Usability

Finally, before you purchase a pan, make sure that it’s compatible with your cooktop. There are several cooktops currently on the market – electric, induction, gas, and ceramic.

Carbon steel pans are usually compatible with most cooktops. But since small varieties in structure can impact the effectiveness of cooking, always consult an expert. For example, an inductive cooktop requires a completely flat bottom with a thick surface, while rounded, thick bottoms work well with gas stoves.

Price

Plenty of factors may influence the price of a frying pan. Of course, the bigger the pan the more it will cost. However, products from trustworthy manufacturers will cost way more than low-quality brands as they provide certain durability.

The optimal price for a good, small frying pan should be around $50. For this price, you can find brands with decades in the business, such as De Buyer or Mauviel. On the other hand, larger reputable frying pans can reach up to $100 in price. That said, these products usually offer a lifetime warranty and are said to last for a lifetime.

If you’re on a strict budget, you don’t have to worry. There are affordable pans on the market that you can find for around $30, that can serve you for many years as well. A thorough search can reveal quite a bargain.

Make sure to spend some time looking for manufacturers that are still finding their feet in the market. Some of them have top-quality materials and state-of-the-art features and sometimes cost half the price of an established brand. However, when cookware is concerned, you should always strive for quality.

Carbon Steel Frying Pan FAQ

What is a carbon steel frying pan?

A carbon steel frying pan is a combination of a stainless steel frying pan and a cast iron skillet. On one hand, it has the best features of stainless-steel is that it’s lightweight and great at distributing and maintaining heat. On the other hand, it has the needed seasoning and ‘non-stick’ properties of a cast iron skillet.

These pans are usually compatible with any cooktops, including the induction (carbon steel is a vessel). On top of that, they’re easier to maintain and have an extraordinary lifespan, so they’re considered a sound investment.

Why do chefs use carbon steel pans?

They’re considered essential cookware in the finest restaurants as they’re suitable for various cooking techniques. One reason professional chefs and home cooks prefer carbon steel pans is that they have some of the same attributes as cast iron, but with less weight.

Due to the effectiveness and light-weightiness of the carbon steel pans, seasoned chefs and passionate cooks prefer them over any other type of pan on the market.

In addition, old-school chefs prefer to season their pans in a certain way before they prepare a meal. Other than making the surface stick-free and ready for frying, a unique seasoning can add a bit of an aroma to meals. Experienced cooks consider this akin to adding a ‘secret ingredient.’

Even the heaviest carbon steel pans are lighter than cast iron pans. Therefore, tossing food and moving/angling the pan is much easier. When someone frequently cooks, particularly with these cooking maneuvers, a lightweight pan prevents strains or applying too much pressure on your arm. The combination of these two factors makes carbon steel pans extremely popular among cooks.


Is a carbon steel pan toxic?

Carbon steel pans aren’t toxic. They’re extremely safe as they only contain carbon and iron and, there aren’t any harmful particles or nonstick coatings integrated with a carbon steel surface. That said, the carbon steel surface is reactive to acidic food. This means the iron will leach if you’re frying acidic food in it, but that’s not considered toxic.

Conversely, a Teflon coating is considered toxic, so you should avoid carbon steel pans with this kind of coating. When Teflon coating is damaged its toxic substances can enter food, emitting a harmful gas. The recent nonstick chemical coatings that are added to cookware have not been on the market long enough for us to know the harmful effects on the body.

When you’re purchasing a carbon steel pan, make sure it’s 99% iron and 1% carbon, with no added particles and coatings. This way you’ll be completely safe.

Does carbon steel rust easily?

Carbon steel rusts easier than stainless steel. Both types contain iron which will oxidize when exposed to the atmosphere and produce rust on the surface of the pan. Stainless steel pans have added chromium in their structure. Since chromium will attach to oxygen before iron can, it will create a chromium-oxide barrier that significantly reduces corrosion.

The carbon steel doesn’t contain that much chromium, so the iron is free to bond with the oxygen, creating rust. However, if maintained properly, you should easily avoid rust on your carbon steel pans. Particularly in the most recent models that are made to be much less corrosive than their predecessors.

How do you season a carbon steel pan?

To properly season a carbon steel pan, you’ll need a baking sheet and tinfoil, a paper towel (and tongs to hold it), your preferred oil (vegetable oil and olive oil are good options), and an oven. When you prepare all the necessary items, follow these steps:

  • Rinse your pan with warm water, rub away any oil residue.
  • Turn on the oven and set it to 400°F.
  • While you wait for the oven to heat up, place your pan on a medium-fire stove.
  • When the oven reaches the desired temperature, you can oil your pan. First, remove it from the stove.
  • Drip a paper towel in your preferred oil. Then, return the pan on the stove.
  • Use tongs or another item to rub the oiled paper tower both on the inside and the outside of the pan until it’s completely covered in oil.
  • Set the baking sheet over the oven floor so it can catch any oil that drips.
  • Place the pan in your own face-down, so the oil residue can drip on the sheet.
  • Leave the pan for about an hour in the oven at the same temperature. Don’t worry if you see smoke or sense a strange smell – it’s normal.
  • Turn off the oven after an hour and wait for the pan to cool inside.

Keep in mind that this will slightly discolor your pan, which is essentially a good thing when it comes to carbon steel frying pans.

Updated August 23, 2020

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