The Best Carbon Steel Pan to Buy in 2021

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I’ve found that the De Buyer Mineral B Carbon Steel Frying Pan is the best option for versatile, everyday cooking in my home.

After years of cooking for my family, I’ve learned the difference between high-quality cookware and pieces that won’t hold up to everyday wear and will need to be replaced regularly. With this information, I’ve become skilled at finding the best quality cookware within my budget.

The Mineral B pan is my top choice due to its versatility, affordability, and positive customer reviews. Although it requires some effort to maintain and properly care for, I think it’s completely worth it for the performance it provides.

For those of you new to this type of cookware, you may have some questions.

What is carbon steel and why should you consider it?

What’s the difference between carbon steel and cast iron?

Which is the best carbon steel pan for me?

Keep reading to find out why I recommend this cookware and how to find the best option for your home.

Why Choose Carbon Steel Pans?

Steak in Carbon Steel Skillet

Finding the best carbon steel pan doesn’t have to be a chore, as I’ve done the work.

What Is a Carbon Steel Pan?

Carbon steel pans are an alloy of iron and a small amount of carbon, most commonly 99% iron and a low carbon content, typically 1%. These pans are thin, lightweight, and extremely durable and are most popular in restaurants for that reason.

But they have yet to really become as popular as non-stick or even cast iron in the everyday cook’s home. This is likely due to their need for seasoning, which is covered in more detail below. 

Is Carbon Steel Safe?

Carbon steel pans are all-natural and safe to cook with. Traditional non-stick cookware has polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is the active ingredient of Teflon. These are man-made chemicals that have been linked to potential health concerns

My favorite thing about an all-steel pan is that without the chemical coating you can use metal utensils on these pans without worrying about chipping or scratching the surface.

What Are The Advantages to Carbon Steel?

Carbon steel cookware is durable. Non-stick cookware can scratch and flake. Cast iron can break with heavy use. With proper care, carbon steel cookware can last for years.

When looked after properly these pans end up with a natural non-stick surface.  No they aren’t as good as Teflon, but they sure come close.

While carbon steel pans are durable, they’re also lightweight when compared to some other cookware – I’m looking at you, cast iron! This makes carbon steel a natural go-to pan in the kitchen.

Woking with Carbon Steel: Mussels being thrown into the air

These pans are also versatile. Most home cooks grab a carbon steel pan for frying, sautéing, stir-frying, and recipes that require stove-to-oven cooking. From delicate eggs to hearty home fries, carbon steel works.

The best carbon steel pans provide a flat, even cooking surface and can withstand very high heat without warping or exhibiting hot spots.

What Are The Disadvantages?

In a word, maintenance. Caring for a carbon steel pan is much different than just using the soft side of a sponge like you would for non-stick skillets.

If you’re looking for a pan that needs a quick wash in warm water before use and is dishwasher safe when you’re finished, these pans are not for you.

Remember that carbon steel is not stainless steel.  Stainless steel is designed to resist corrosion.  Carbon steel, like cast iron cookware, will quickly rust if you don’t look after it.

When your pans first arrive, you’ll need to remove the factory coating, normally some form of wax. Then you’ll need to season it before using.

I will admit I’d been hesitant to try carbon steel, fearing I wouldn’t season it correctly. But even if you make mistakes with seasoning on the first try, you can try again. These pans are quite forgiving. 

What Is “Seasoning” and Why Do I Need To Do It?

Pans that don’t come with a non-stick coating need seasoning. Seasoning a pan means creating a naturally non-stick surface by treating the pan with heated oil.

Seasoning is essential, not only to make the cooking surface non-stick, but also to prevent rusting and damaging your cookware.

Once seasoned and used, you’ll need to keep up with seasoning and clean it carefully to keep the surface naturally non-stick. 

If you’re hesitant about seasoning your carbon steel pan like I was at first, there are pre-seasoned options available that come ready to use.

Carbon Steel Skillet vs. Cast Iron Pan

Let’s compare carbon steel to another kitchen essential, the cast iron skillet. Cast iron is great for sauteing, searing, and going from stovetop to oven, but they are heavy, cumbersome, and can break.

Yet cast iron can last for generations and its heat retention helps give amazing sears.

Carbon Steel Pan and Cast Iron Pan Side by Side

The best carbon steel skillet will give you the same versatility as a cast iron pan but are lightweight, easier to maneuver in the kitchen, and more durable.

Carbon steel skillets, like cast iron, can go from stovetop to oven.  Yet unlike their cast iron counterparts, these pans respond to heat changes more quickly, giving you more control over your cooking.

This isn’t perfect for every style of cooking.  Carbon steel heats faster than cast iron but also loses its heat quicker.

What To Look For In A Carbon Steel Pan

Be aware that carbon steel pans do come with a slightly higher price tag when compared to cast iron or some non-stick skillets. The best carbon steel pan is the one that fits the needs of your own kitchen.

Ranging in size from 8-inch (20cm) to 12-inch (30cm), choose the size that best fits your home cooking needs. If you’re cooking for a large family and do a lot of one-pan meals, an 11-inch (22.5cm) or 12-inch (25 cm) may be best. 

A 10-inch is an excellent starting size if you aren’t sure.

Look for a pan that can go in the oven and remember to check maximum oven temperatures, especially for the handle.  

The Best Carbon Steel Pans

Choosing the best carbon steel pan depends on your home cooking style, budget, and comfort in the kitchen.

Below are some favorites as well as the pros and cons of each to help you decide which option is best for your home.

De Buyer Mineral B Frying Pan – Best Overall Carbon Steel Pan

De Buyer has been in the kitchen business for nearly 200 years and I trust their quality and their lifetime warranty made me feel confident in my purchase.

This pan is not pre-seasoned and the seasoning instructions from the manufacturer have left some buyers feeling frustrated. Research other seasoning methods, like using potato peels and grapeseed oil, for an easier experience.

To me, this is the best carbon steel frying pan overall because it was easy to season, has been easy to maintain, and is mid-range in price. Many cooks report that they ended up getting this skillet after having issues with other pans first.

Pros:

  •  All-natural 100% beeswax coating, easy to remove
  • Compatible with all stove types, including induction cooktops
  • Lifetime limited warranty
  • 6 sizes available

Cons:

  • Not pre-seasoned
  • The epoxy-coated handle is only oven-safe up to 400°F (204°C) for 20 minutes
  • It’s heavy – at 4.75 lbs (2.2kg). it’s the heaviest of our favorites

Mauviel M’Steel Carbon Steel Frying Pan – Best High-Heat Option

This pan is a great choice if you regularly cook using high heat. The entire pan, including the handle, is safe to use in ovens as high as 680°F (360°C). 

This Mauviel carbon steel pan is loved by experienced cooks and chefs. Yet the very same people don’t recommend it for novices. At a minimum, you will need the patience to correctly maintain and prepare it.

Pros:

  • Commercial grade construction
  • Compatible with all stove types, including induction
  • Oven safe up to 680°F (360°C)
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Some complaints about warping and difficulty seasoning
  • Heavy, weighing in at 4 lbs
  • Difficulty removing coating before first use
  • Single handle makes for difficult maneuvering with larger size pans

BK Cookware Carbon Steel Skillet – Best for New Home Cooks

BK Cookware offers an impressive carbon steel skillet. A winner of the Red Dot Award in 2019 for product design, this skillet can handle high heat and comes pre-seasoned.

With proper maintenance and care, this skillet is durable and ideal for new home cooks who may feel hesitant in trying a non-seasoned skillet.

With an affordable price tag, keep in mind that you could see some performance issues like uneven heating and hot spots. For some, the pre-seasoned convenience may outweigh the issues in performance.

This pan is not for professional chefs with experience of carbon steel.  Yet it is ideal for home cooks looking to try it out.

Pros:

  • Pre-seasoned
  • Oven safe up to 600°F (315°C)
  • Durable enough for use on the grill and open flame heat sources
  • Compatible with all stove types, including induction
  • Lightweight, under 4 lbs.

Cons:

  • Only provides a 2-year limited warranty
  • Customers say the pre-seasoning is not adequate and required more manual seasoning before first use
  • Some warping reported and complaints of poor customer service
  • Skillet described as having uneven heating

Matfer Bourgeat Black Carbon Steel Frypan – Best for Size Variety

Another French cookware brand that has been around for a couple hundred years, Matfer Bourgeat has been recommended by many as the best carbon steel pan.

These glowing reviews and recommendations for the Matfer carbon steel pan may have led some novice cooks to purchase these without much thought into these types of pans and how to treat and maintain them, leading to some poor reviews.

Experience of long-term users indicates this is a great pan to use.

Pros:

  •  9 sizes available
  • Compatible with all stove types, including induction
  • Rivet-free, welded handle, to prevent bacteria buildup

Cons:

  • Heavy, the 11” weighing in at 4.2 lbs.
  • Some warping reported and customer service reviews are mixed
  • Factory coating is difficult to remove
  • Single handle makes for difficult maneuvering with larger size pans

Lodge Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet – Best Affordable Option

Lodge is a great brand for newer cooks due to its affordability and ease of use and they have one of the best carbon steel skillets available.

This skillet comes pre-seasoned, so it’s ready for use right out of the box. Like any budget-option, there are some reported drawbacks when compared to higher-end brands, like warping and uneven heat distribution.

Pros:

  • Pre-seasoned
  • Removable silicone handle
  • Compatible with all stove types, induction included

Cons:

  • Silicone handle is not oven safe, remember to remove it
  • Reports that it warps easily and some pans are not level
  • Heavier skillet than some customers expected

De Buyer Carbon Steel Crepe Pan – Best Griddle Option

The De Buyer Crepe Pan offers the same benefits of their above mentioned Frying Pan, but in a size and shape best suited for crepes.

Crepe pans are designed with lower walls for easy flipping, heat-resistant handles, and even heat distribution.

Though this pan is designed for crepes, its low walls are also a perfect option for eggs, pancakes, omelets, and anything else that needs to be easily flipped.

Pros:

  • French curved handle, ideal for flipping
  • Lightweight, under 3 lbs.
  • Compatible with all stove types, induction included

Cons:

  • Handle is only oven-safe up to 20 minutes in a 204°C (400°F) oven
  • Some reports of uneven heating and warping
  • Handle gets hot during use, making it hard to flip

The Best Carbon Steel Pan

The De Buyer Carbon Steel Pan is the best option for those of you looking to add a carbon steel option to your kitchen. De Buyer is a trusted brand and the lifetime warranty should give you peace of mind that they stand by their products. 

While seasoning the pan and keeping up on the proper care and maintenance is more time-consuming than some other cookware, it’s worth it for the durability and non-toxic properties.

With a little extra effort and some TLC, I believe my carbon steel pan will last me for years. Plus, it’s neat knowing that I’m using the same cookware used in restaurant kitchens to make dinner for my family.