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Best Carbon Steel Frying Pans in 2022

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Carbon steel is an alloy of iron and less than two percent carbon. It is used to make frying pans, woks, and knives.

After seasoning, carbon steel pans have a nonstick surface. They can be used for frying, searing, and sauteing on conventional and induction cooktops. Like cast iron, carbon steel pans can be used on a campfire. 

We discuss factors to consider when buying a carbon steel pan and look at five of the best carbon steel skillets.

Our Top Picks

Matfer Bourgeat Black Carbon Steel Fry Pan - Best Overall

This round frying pan from Matfer Bourgeat is made of black carbon steel with no trace of a synthetic finish. Its demand was significantly increased when the prominent Cook’s Illustrated magazine recommended it.

The Matfer Bourgeat is durable and reasonably priced, making it popular among customers. There are several sizes available.

What We Like

  • Even heating
  • Responds to heating changes quickly
  • Walls are sloped
  • Pan is available in many sizes
  • Made in France

What Is Not Ideal

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

Product Highlights

The Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Frying Pan is notable for its strength and longevity. The blackened steel is much more resistant to corrosion than the regular carbon steel pan, so it should endure unfavorable conditions better.

Since the pan walls are 2” high, you can easily maneuver the food inside. The sloped shape allows you to toss the food easily without spilling down the sides. This makes the pan ideal for sautéing, frying, or making pancakes.  

The black steel construction makes it resistant to various conditions, so it’s compatible with all types of stoves.

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. 

This pan shouldn’t cause you any trouble when seasoning and maintenance. 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 applying the seasoning.

The maintenance shouldn’t be complex – 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 nonstick effect and add a distinctive aroma to the food.

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De Buyer Mineral B Fry Pan - Best Overall Runner Up

MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan 11-Inch

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 for quality and reliability, hence the higher price.  

What We Like

  • Durable due to the high-quality workmanship
  • Good heat distribution
  • Made in France

What Is Not Ideal

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

Product Highlights

The MINERAL B is a standard-shaped frying pan with a natural coating. It doesn’t contain any synthetic covers such as Teflon. Therefore the nonstick element is safe and non-toxic.

If your first seasoning goes as planned, you should never have problems with sticky surfaces. The more you use it, the darker the surface and the better the results should be.

All construction details on the pan are top-notch. The ergonomic handle has 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.

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.

Reasonably lightweight, you can move it around, tilt it, and lift it without problems. 

The 0.1” thickness (2.5-3mm) helps the pan 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 also place it in the oven (up to 400°F).

This pan needs to be seasoned before the first use.  

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Mauviel M’Steel Frying Pan Carbon Steel Pan - Best Frying Pan

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

Mauviel is another top-rated pan manufacturer from France, with only De Buyer coming close to this brand’s reputation. Since it also has nearly 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.

What We Like

  • Sturdy construction
  • Slight curve allows cook to toss ingredients
  • Even heat distribution
  • Can place it in the oven up to 600°F
  • Made in France

What Is Not Ideal

  • 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 available.

The pan is slightly curved as opposed to being at a straight angle. 

Moreover, this material heats up quickly and can endure exceptionally high temperatures. It distributes heat equally throughout the pan, ensuring evenly cooked food.

Thanks to the sturdy construction, this pan is ideal for pre-heating and searing. All food will maintain the natural juices and aroma, and no vitamins and nutrients will be lost.

In addition to durable construction, you’ll also notice the long iron handle riveted to the pan. This handle is tightly secured and won’t loosen over time, ensuring your safety and cooking performance. 

A seasoning manual included with product explains how to season the pan. Prior to seasoning the pan, remove the beeswax layer Mauviel added to prevent rust.  

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Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet - Best Budget

Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 12-inch

Although Lodge is known for their cast iron products, they also offer USA Made, pre-seasoned carbon steel cookware. Carbon steel pans are thinner and lighter than cast iron skillets.

This review looks at the Lodge 12-inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet (8, 10, and 15-inch are also available).

What We Like

  • Thin, flat handle
  • Securely riveted handles
  • Reasonably priced
  • Retains heat
  • Made in the USA

What Is Not Ideal

  • Some consumers reported the base was not flat
  • Rough surface

Product Highlights

Although the Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet pan is pre-seasoned at their foundry with 100% vegetable oil, it’s best to re-season the pan for optimal results. When properly seasoned and cleaned, the seasoning patina on carbon steel pans becomes more smooth and nearly nonstick.

This carbon steel skillet warms reasonably quickly and is responsive to temperature changes.

The riveted handle is long and comfortable. Lodge sells silicone handles for their carbon steel and cast iron pans.
The Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet can be used on electric, gas, and induction stoves, on the grill, or over a campfire.

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Made In Cookware Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan - Best Hybrid

The blue carbon steel frying pan from Made In Cookware sells well because it’s sturdy, durable, well-made, and goes head-to-head with higher-priced cookware for a lower price.  

All Made In carbon steel products are made in France. 

What We Like

  • Solid, sturdy construction
  • Good heat control and retention
  • Even heating
  • Handle is comfortable and securely attached
  • Can use up to 1200°F

What Is Not Ideal

  • Since Made In is a relatively new company, its products don't have a proven track record in terms of performance.

Product Highlights

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

Lots of people sear with carbon steel cookware. It’s durable in the long term, retains heat well, and has nonstick properties. Made In says this frying pan combines the best qualities of iron and stainless steel.

The solid stainless steel handle is attached to the pan by three bolts. 

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 feels more lightweight.

Made In used a hybrid construction process and created a pan with some properties of stainless steel and some properties of iron.

This pan will endure temperatures of up to 1200°F, so you can quickly move from stovetop to baking in the oven without missing a beat.

In terms of heat retention, you get the 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.

The Made In carbon steel frying pan needs to be seasoned with beeswax before using it. From then on, you’ll need some wax for regular upkeep.

Made In has included complete care instructions and beeswax. Seasoning directions for this carbon steel pan are provided on their website.

Overall, this is a high-quality, durable frying pan. The only issue is that the extra care and seasoning process may not suit everyone, but perhaps that’s a small price.

How to Choose a Carbon Steel Frying Pan 

Size

The size of your frying pan impacts its weight and price. Your choice of size depends on what you will be preparing and the number of servings. Will you prepare meals only for yourself, for two or several people? Depending on the answer, you’d need a small, medium, or large-sized pan, respectively.

A small pan is about 8" and is ideal for a single meal.  Two eggs over-easy can be made in this size 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.  

A 12” diameter pan is used to prepare large meals for several people. These pans are great for frying a hefty amount of protein and vegetables and making specialties like paella.

Design

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

All carbon steel frying pans have iron, steel, or wood handles. The length and angle of the handle vary.

If you plan to cook at higher temperatures, the iron handles are the best option. Some iron handles have silicon sleeves, but seasoned cooks usually use them bare.

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 from sticking to the bottom by filling out small holes in the coating.

Some companies season the pans at the manufacturing plant and are ready for use out of the box. These are typically more expensive than unseasoned pans but save you time, frustration, and disappointment if you don’t season them well.

Other sellers provide specific instructions on seasoning the pan before using it. 

If you need further advice, email the company for instructions. Some companies, such as Made In Cookware, provide seasoning instructions on their website.

Price

Plenty of factors may influence the price of a frying pan. Of course, the bigger the pan, the more it will cost. In addition, since products from trustworthy manufacturers are more durable, they will cost more than low-quality brands.

carbon steel frying pan with potatoes

Frequently Asked Questions About Carbon Steel Frying Pans

What is a carbon steel frying pan?

A carbon steel frying pan combines a stainless steel frying pan and a cast iron skillet. On the one hand, it has the best stainless steel features because it’s lightweight and great at distributing and maintaining heat.

On the other hand, it has a cast iron skillet's needed seasoning and ‘non-stick’ properties.

These pans are usually compatible with 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.

We compiled a thorough assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of carbon steel frying pans

Why do chefs use carbon steel pans?

Carbon steel pans are considered essential cookware in the finest restaurants as they’re suitable for various cooking techniques. Professional chefs and home cooks prefer carbon steel pans because they have some of the same attributes as cast iron but with less weight.

Seasoned chefs and passionate cooks prefer them over any other type of pan on the market, given the effectiveness and light-weightiness of the carbon steel pans. Old-school chefs like to season their pans in a certain way before preparing meals. 

Besides 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.’

Since the heaviest carbon steel pans are lighter than cast iron pans 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 applies too much pressure on their arm. The combination of these two factors makes carbon steel pans popular among cooks.

Is a carbon steel pan toxic?

Carbon steel pans aren’t toxic. They’re 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, 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, toxic substances can enter food, emitting a harmful gas. The recent nonstick chemical coatings added to cookware have not been on the market long enough for us to know the detrimental effects on the body.

When 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 that will oxidize when exposed to the atmosphere and produce rust on the pan's surface.

Stainless steel pans have added chromium in their structure. Since chromium will attach to oxygen before iron can, a chromium-oxide barrier will significantly reduce 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 aluminum foil, a paper towel (and tongs to hold it), oil (vegetable, canola, and grapeseed are good options), and an oven.

When the necessary items are gathered, follow these steps:

  • Wash the pan with warm water, and rub away any oil residue. Dry thoroughly.
  • Turn on the oven and set it to 400°F.
  • While the oven is heating, place the pan on a medium-fire stovetop. This helps the oil spread thinly.
  • When the oven reaches the desired temperature, remove the pan from the stovetop.
  • Dip a paper towel in oil. Return the pan to the stove.
  • Use tongs or another item to rub the oiled paper towel onto the inside and outside the pan until it’s completely covered in oil. Wipe excess oil off the pan.
  • Set the baking sheet on the rack below the pan.
  • Place the pan in the oven face-down so the oil residue drips on the sheet.
  • Leave the pan for about an hour in the oven at 400°F. Don’t worry if you see smoke or sense a strange smell – it’s normal.
  • After an hour, turn off the oven and leave the pan in the oven to cool. 

Keep in mind that this will slightly discolor your pan, which is a good thing for carbon steel frying pans.

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