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Best Carbon Steel Frying Pans in 2022 – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews

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Carbon steel is made of mostly iron and less than two percent carbon while cast iron contains more than two percent of carbon. Carbon steel is used to make frying pans, woks, and knives.

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

We discuss a few factors to consider when buying a carbon steel and th we’ll look at five of the best carbon steel skillets in the market today.

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 needs, budget, and various other factors.


carbon steel frying pan with potatoes

Size

The size of your frying pan will impact both 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 and is used for preparing 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.

The design of the handle requires most of your attention. All carbon steel frying pans will have either iron, steel, or wood handles. The length and angle of the handle vary.

If you’re planning 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 how to season 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.

Here is a general idea of the seasoning process. The pan is heated for 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat. This can be done on the stovetop. 

Using a paper towel or clean dishcloth, apply a thin layer of oil (usually a vegetable oil). Place the pan on the stovetop or in the oven at the specified temperature for a specific time. 

The theory is the food will not stick to a well-seasoned frying pan. The carbon steel frying pans are usually easy to season.  

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. 

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.

Reviews of the Best Carbon Steel Frying Pans

Made In Cookware 10" Carbon Steel Fry Pan 

Made In cookware regularly sells well because it’s sturdy, durable, well-made, and promises to go 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
  • Handle is securely attached
  • Can use up to 1200°F

What Makes Us Think Twice

  • Uneven seasoning

Product Highlights  

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

Construction 

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 of both iron and stainless steel.

The solid stainless steel handle is attached to the pan by three bolts. There’s no play and no movement to speak of.  

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 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.  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. Seasoning directions for this carbon steel pan are also provided on their website.

Final Thoughts 

Overall, this is a high-quality, durable 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 for quality and reliability, hence the higher price.  

MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan 11-Inch
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What We Like

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

What Makes Us Think Twice

  • 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 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.

Construction

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).

Seasoning

This pan needs to be seasoned before the first use.  

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Matfer Bourgeat 062004 Frying Pan

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 comes at a reasonable price, making it extremely popular among customers. There are several sizes available.

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What We Like

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

What Makes Us Think Twice

  • 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 of Matfer Bourgeat Carbon Steel Pan

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.

Construction

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 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 end, as it will allow you to balance it a bit better. 

Seasoning

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 applying 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 nonstick effect and add a distinctive aroma to the food.

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Mauviel M’Steel Frying Pan Carbon Steel 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
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What We Like

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

What Makes Us Think Twice

  • Thick layer of beeswax to remove prior to first seasoning

Product Highlights of Mauviel M’Steel

Construction

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 can endure exceptionally high temperatures. It distributes heat equally throughout the pan, ensuring your food is evenly cooked.

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.

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 your safety and cooking performance. 

Seasoning

You’ll find a seasoning manual inside the product, which will explain how to prepare the pan for nonstick and everlasting capabilities perfectly. The pan comes with a rust-preventing beeswax cover which you need to remove before 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
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What We Like

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

What Makes Us Think Twice

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

Product Highlights Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet

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.

Construction

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, 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, 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.

The handle is long and comfortable. Lodge sells silicone handles for their carbon steel and cast iron pans.

Seasoning

The Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet is pre-seasoned at their foundry with 100% vegetable oil.

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Made In Cookware Carbon Steel Fry Pan

Carbon Steel Frying Pan FAQ

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 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. Professional chefs and home cooks prefer carbon steel pans because 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 preparing 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 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 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 to the stove.
  • Use tongs or another item to rub the oiled paper towel both inside and outside 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 that 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.

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