The Best Carbon Steel Pan to Buy (7 Carbon Steel Skillet Reviews)

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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.

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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 De Buyer 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 cookware?

Which is the best carbon steel pan for me? Here is my list of the best carbon steel frying pans:

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 a good 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. 

3 types of carbon steel pan

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. Just make sure you do so carefully. If you damage the seasoning, it can be repaired, but why damage it in the first place?

Carbon Steel Pan Benefits: 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.

In fact carbon steel can withstand heat outputs higher than most home kitchen stoves can manage. If you want to use your new carbon steel pan for high heat cooking, check out my outdoor wok burner guide.

What Are The Disadvantages?

In a word, maintenance. Caring for a carbon steel skillet 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 typical cast iron pan but is lightweight, easier to maneuver in the kitchen, and more durable.

Because of the way they are made, carbon steel pans have a smooth surface with better heat distribution due to the thinner metal.

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.

In both cases, it’s better to avoid acidic foods as they literally eat the metal!

Carbon Steel Pan vs Stainless Steel Pan

A carbon steel pan will heat more evenly than stainless steel, avoiding hotspots.

It’s also easier to clean, if properly seasoned.

Yet carbon steel pans do need seasoning, and unlike stainless steel, cannot go in the dishwasher.

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 ideal carbon steel frying 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

Best Carbon Steel Pan: A Carbon Steel Pan on a Blue Table

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

In my carbon steel pan reviews, 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 11-inch De Buyer Mineral 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.

This frying pan also comes in other sizes, including, 8 inches, 9.5 inches, 10 inches, 12.5 inches and 14 inches.

This is my favorite carbon steel frying pan, as it is easy to season, easy to maintain and priced in the mid-range. 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 Mauviel fry 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 skillet 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.

Many restaurant kitchens will have a Mauviel M’steel fry pan, on the other hand it’s not ideal for the home kitchen.

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 11 inch carbon skillet is not for professional chefs with experience of carbon steel. 

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 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

If you want to shop around then you can find the 8-inch version of this frying pan on Bed Bath and Beyond:

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.

This does mean that, unlike most carbon steel pans, this fry pan won’t work well as a sauté pan.

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

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.

These glowing reviews and recommendations for the Matfer carbon steel frying 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

No round up of carbon steel frying pan reviews would be complete without a Lodge carbon steel skillet review!

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. Lodge is perhaps best known for its cast iron pans, but it makes a mean carbon steel skillet as well.

This Lodge carbon steel 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.

It comes in both a 10 inch and 12 inch size – (the ideal sizes, if you’re not sure probably best to go with 10 inches as 12 can be a little large.)

Pros:

  • Seasoned by manufacturer –ready to use
  • 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

If you want to shop around to make sure you are getting absolutely the best price, then the 12 inch version of this frying pan is also available on Bed Bath and Beyond:

Garcima 18-Inch Carbon Steel Paella Pan (Best Paella Pan)

If you are looking to cook paella in your pan, then a dedicated, wide and shallow pan, is best. Garcima, a Spanish brand, offer great quality paella pans.

The manufacturer claims that the 18 inch (46cm) paella pan (reviewed) serves 5 to 8 people. In my experience you could get 7-10 servings out of it. If we say 7-8 servings we should be safe!

WARNING: The 18 inch pan will need two burners so check it fits on your stove.

There are other options as well. They offer a big 22 inch pan (55 cm) that they say serves 7 to 12 people (I reckon 9 to 14 people – so 9-12 meals is a safe bet). This is probably too big for most people!

They also offer a huge paella pan 40 inches (100cm) which they say produces 85 servings. I’ve never used a pan that size and I don’t recommend it for home use. For starters, imagine how much work it would be to season!

The 18 inch pan is enough for most people, maybe even a little too big.

Pros:

  • Range of sizes
  • Sturdy, long lasting carbon steel pans
  • Restaurant quality traditional pans
  • Affordable price for the quality / size offered

Cons:

  • Needs to be seasoned before use
  • Extra care needed when using
  • Prone to hot spots – you need to rotate occasionally

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a cast iron grill pan worth it?

Yes it’s worth it. Cast iron is well suited to making grill pans as it is just as easy to cast ridges as it is to cast any other shape. What’s more, cast iron is more tolerant of the high temperatures parts of the pan can reach than other materials.

Carbon Steel is not so suited to making grill pans because it’s harder to roll the steel into the right shape.

Can I use a cast iron skillet for paella?

Cast iron skillets are not ideal for cooking paella. A paella pan should be wide and shallow, which would be very heavy if made from cast iron, which also takes a long time to heat up. This isn’t what’s needed for paella.

Carbon steel pans are more suited to cooking paella. You can use one of the skillets in this review, but if cooking a large quantity, then a dedicated pan is ideal. Check out my paella pan guide.

Is carbon steel really non stick?

Carbon steel has a natural nonstick surface, yet it will stick more than materials like Teflon. If you use a carbon steel cooking surface correctly, (season it, pre-warm and use oil), you should be fine.

If you want something super convenient and easy, with the least chance of sticking, then you need something with Teflon or artificial nonstick surface.

How do you start carbon steel seasoning?

Seasoning carbon steel is little more than rubbing oil on to a dry, clean pan and heating the pan until it smokes. If you want more details check out my guide to seasoning cast iron (which applies equally to seasoning carbon steel.)

If you don’t want to bother with this, then you need to look for pre-seasoned carbon steel.

Does carbon steel get rust?

Yes, carbon steel does rust. Stainless steel is designed to be rust resistant–carbon steel isn’t and easily oxidises.

Yet my carbon steel cookware doesn’t rust. Why? Because I look after it. Steel rusts in combination with two things: Water and Oxygen (air). Well there’s nothing we can do about air!

But we can do something about water. For any iron / steel cookware (even stainless steel) follow these guidelines to prevent rust:

  • Keep it dry
  • Keep it clean
  • Handwash it as soon as you have finished using
  • Immediately dry properly
  • Once dried, gently heat on the stove to remove any moisture
  • Then apply a very thin layer of oil

The thin layer of oil is especially important if you live in a damp area as it stops the moisture from the air reaching your cookware.

If you’re cookware has already rusted don’t despair. Honestly in most cases it’s fixable, just a lot of work. If it’s a cheap fry pan – throw it out. Yet, if it’s a family heirloom, you can remove the rust and fix it.

What can you not cook in a carbon steel pan?

You can, in fact, cook anything in a carbon steel plan, especially if you have seasoned it well. However it’s probably best to avoid cooking acidic foods. Acidic foods literally eat the metal. They won’t eat much metal, just a little. Yet they damage the seasoning, and add a lot of iron to your food.

A little iron is good–a lot will ruin the taste.

So if you must cook acidic foods in your pan, then do so rarely and as quickly as possible (less time for the acid to eat the metal.) Don’t ever leave food sitting in carbon steel, especially if it’s acidic.

Acidic foods include citrus fruit (lemons, oranges), tomatoes and vinegar. Let’s be clear though: a dash of lemon or splash of vinegar isn’t going to do any harm; perhaps avoid preparing a tomato sauce though!

Why do pro chefs use carbon steel pans?

The first reason chefs prefer carbon steel pans is durability. Cookware in restaurants has to take a lot of use and abuse so it needs to be tough. Most non-stick, while perhaps fine for the home kitchen, will be ruined after a few days.

The second reason is that once carbon steel is seasoned it is nearly as non-stick as Teflon. Maybe a touch more sticky, but if you know what you are doing (and chefs do), it works fine. Plus if it goes wrong, the chefs can always use the dishwasher.

The final reason is that carbon steel isn’t too heavy. This means it heats up faster and is easier to manage in the kitchen.

Do carbon steel pans have Teflon?

No carbon steel pans do not contain Teflon. Once they are properly seasoned they are naturally non-stick, but not quite to the same extent as Teflon.

However they are tougher than Teflon, able to withstand higher temperatures and more use. Neither one is better than the other–they have different use cases. Teflon is more delicate but easier to use, carbon steel is for heavy use but a little bit more work.

Can you use metal on a carbon steel pan?

Yes you can use metal on a carbon steel pan, but you should do so carefully. Metal can damage the seasoning or even scratch the underlying pan.

This is fixable–just reseason (the new seasoning will cover the scratch), but this isn’t ideal. Best not to damage it in the first place.

Will eggs stick to carbon steel pan?

If you preheat the pan, add plenty of oil and then add eggs to the hot pan–they shouldn’t stick. If you don’t do this–they will stick.

On the other hand I’ve also seen eggs stick to a non-stick pan, so shouldn’t be the only test.

Are Carbon Steel pans good? Carbon Steel Cookware Pros and Cons

The top carbon steel pans are durable, affordable, heat evenly and easy to use.

The main downside is that they can be a little bit extra work in terms of maintenance: hand wash and dry immediately after use, and keep seasoned.

I would suggest having at least one carbon steel pan in your kitchen cupboard, but also consider other cookware. Non-stick, while not as healthy, nor as durable, is very convenient if doing some quick frying.

The Best Carbon Steel Skillet

The De Buyer Carbon Steel Pan is one of the best carbon steel pans on the market. 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 skillet 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.

Alternatives to Carbon Steel

If you are looking for a carbon steel skillet because you want a form of health non-stick, then consider checking out my guide to Teflon-free non-stick pans. Non-stick isn’t as durable as carbon steel but is a little bit easier to manage.