Carbon steel pans are popular among professional and home cooks alike, due in part to their durable, lightweight, and highly-conductive construction. But, as you shop for a carbon steel pan, keep your cooking preferences in mind. Ultimately, the best carbon steel pan for you will be the right size, and have features you may need, like double handles for transferring into the oven or high walls for soups and stews.
When it comes to finding the perfect size or shape pan, think about what and how you’ll be cooking. A carbon steel frying pan that measures between 10 and 12 inches is large enough to prepare several servings, and deeper sauté pans and woks can help contain splatter when cooking with a lot of oil or sauce.
There are a few other features you might want to keep your eye out for. While carbon steel pans will develop a nonstick patina after regular use, you may want to opt for one that comes pre-seasoned to make your cooking experience that much easier. Also, as stated previously, if you're planning to use your pan in the oven, be mindful of both the size of your oven as well as the size of the pan you purchase. Some carbon steel skillets or woks have higher walls or large handles, making them great for stews or soups, but harder to fit in your oven. If you're planning to get a pan that you'll transfer from stove to oven, you may also want to look out for helpful features like a double-handled design that'll make it easier (and safer) to lift and move.
Ultimately, the best carbon steel pans can last in your kitchen for years to come. Here's a guide to the best ones, with all cooking projects in mind.
1. The Overall Best Carbon Steel Pan
- Available sizes: 8.625 inches, 9.5 inches, 10.25 inches, 11 inches, 11.875 inches, 12.625 inches, 14.125 inches, 15.75 inches, 17.75 inches
Matfer Bourgeat’s carbon steel frying pans are made in France, come in a wide range of sizes, and are also a favorite with professionals and Amazon users. This 11-inch pan is made of naturally nonstick black carbon steel, a material that is free of chemicals and toxins like PFOA and PTFE. The pan distributes heat evenly across the cooking surface, and excels both at gently cooking and searing, and can be used over any heat source including induction, as well as in the oven. One note on oven usage: This skillet has a lip that's roughly 5 inches in height (according to reviewers), so take a look at the clearance you have in your oven (there are shorter pans on this list if you don't want to risk it). The pan’s long stainless steel handle is welded directly onto the pan so you’ll never have to worry about bacteria or loosening screws or rivets if you put your pan through its paces in your kitchen.
According to one reviewer: "Very nice, cooks great. Really is non stick after seasoning and clean up is a swipe. Going to have to get used to that. Seared the steaks perfectly and finished the cream sauce without at hitch. Yep, gotta get you some."
2. The Runner-Up: A Pre-Seasoned Pan
- Available sizes: 8 inches, 10 inches, 12 inches, 15 inches
Lodge may be best known for their line of iconic cast-iron cookware, but the company also makes a range of highly regarded carbon steel pans, like this 12-inch skillet. The pan is made of 12-gauge carbon steel for superior heat retention (gauge is a measure of the thickness of steel, and generally the thicker the pan the better the heat retention). This pan also comes fully seasoned so you can get cooking right away. The low-profile, 3.5-inch edge of the Lodge makes it ideal for recipes that require flipping such as steaks, pancakes, eggs, or scallops, since spatulas and other utensils can easily slip beneath ingredients without a tall rim to contend with. With that said, it may not be the best pan to reach for when making recipes with a lot of components or volume to them like stir fries or risottos. This skillet is also oven safe, so it's super versatile for any kitchen project.
According to one reviewer: "I love my cast iron skillets, but to be honest, the older I get the heavier they feel. So I thought I would give carbon steel a chance. Being a cooking snob, I had my doubts because these pans are so much cheaper than other types. Well, the end result is: This is my [go-to] skillet. I use it and use it and use it. It heats faster than cast iron and is [distinctly] lighter. It sears things beautifully and loves bacon and eggs too."
3. The Best For Use In The Oven
- Available sizes: 7.9 inches, 9.5 inches, 10.2 inches, 11 inches, 12.6 inches, 14.2 inches
This carbon steel fry pan from De Buyer measures just over 12 inches in diameter, and has a bonus helper handle to make it easy and ergonomic to transport it in and out of the oven. This pan is also a good option for people who like to sear on the stovetop and finish recipes in the oven or want to bake in their carbon steel pan. This is also one of the lower profile options on this list at just under 2 inches in height, so it'll likely fit in any oven. It comes seasoned with natural beeswax, which is free of PFOA and PTFE, and provides a nonstick cooking surface.
According to one reviewer: "This pan lives on my stovetop. I use it multiple times a day and just as many others have said, it only gets better and better. I've been using it daily since 2014 and it's still perfectly flat on the bottom. Carbon steel is a dream to cook with, but it does require a different sort of care regimen."
4. The Best Carbon Steel Wok
- Available sizes: 12 inches; (Although there are non-wok carbon steel skillets available in a range of sizes)
If you’re looking for a highly conductive pan for making high-temperature recipes like stir fries, seared meats, or even naan, a wok is a great choice. This 12-inch carbon steel wok from BK has tall, 4.1-inch sides that are sloped to increase the overall cooking surface area, and also helps to contain sauces and splatter from recipes, thereby keeping your cooking area tidier. The lightweight pan is easy to lift and maneuver, even when loaded with ingredients, and a bonus helper handle provides a secure spot for gripping the pan when transporting it or shaking during cooking. The BK is compatible with all cooktop surfaces, including induction.
According to one reviewer: "Love it! I’ve never gotten fried potatoes to turn out this delicious, even with my cast iron pans. No sticking. Can’t wait to try steak, fish and veggies. Cleaned up was easy."