Best Carbon Steel Pans 2017: Top 5+ Recommended and Reviews

There are so many different types of cookware made from different materials that sometimes even I get a little bit confused.

Many of those materials have specific features, qualities, and attributes that distinguish them from other types of cookware.

In a past couple of months, I’ve decided to test one specific and durable type of material used for making both professional and recreational cookware.

After thorough testing of several cooking utensils, I've decided to share my conclusions with you today.

Today I’m going to talk about carbon steel cookware – precisely, carbon steel pans.

What are Carbon Steel Pans?

Image Credit: Flickr

A carbon steel pan is a type of cookware made from carbon steel – an alloy of iron and a small percent of carbon (from 1 to 2 percent).

Carbon steel is very similar to cast iron, but carbon steel pans have some advantages over iron cast pans.

Both types are multipurpose - they can withstand high temperatures, they are oven-safe, and they are non-toxic when overheated (no leaking of chemicals). Also they are very durable and, with proper maintenance (they need to be seasoned), can last forever.

Carbon steel pans have a smoother surface than iron cast pans, and that makes the seasoning process much easier. The interesting fact is that they are usually lighter and thinner than cast iron pans but also less brittle. It’s safe to use metal knives (e.g. steak knives, carving knives), spatulas and other kitchen utensils in them, and they don’t retain or give off odors.

Carbon steel heats up very fast (faster than cast iron, but slower than aluminum or copper) and, because it’s a great heat conductor, it doesn’t lose heat when you start adding meat, vegetables or other ingredients you want to cook. Just to mention that carbon steel cools off faster than cast iron, so you don’t need to wait a lot to wash your pan after you’ve finished cooking your meal.

I recommend that you preheat your carbon steel pan before adding oil or lard and other ingredients and seasoning them properly. With good and orderly seasoning, your carbon steel pans can acquire non-stick properties just like Teflon cookware (e.g. Red Copper Pan, Copper Chef, and Gotham Steel Pan).

What's the best way to use Carbon Steel Pans

Carbon steel pans can be used for cooking on the stovetop, in the oven, for outdoor grillers - they work fine on almost all heat sources.

Cookware made from carbon steel can be used for almost all cooking techniques. For me, it’s the first choice for sautéing meats and vegetables but I also often use it for searing and roasting steaks and chicken. Just to mention that my stir-fried vegetables with pork made in carbon steel wok are among my favorite Asian specialties.

With proper seasoning, you can make scrambled eggs and fish in your carbon steel pan, and you don’t have to worry because it won’t stick! Sometimes I use carbon steel pan for baking apple pies (see the best apple peelers) or cornbread – they get a golden-brown color and taste delicious.

Carbon steel cookware shouldn’t be used for stewing or any other low-fat way of cooking with a lot of water. Also, you should avoid cooking with acidic food, like lemons, tomatoes, vinegar or wine, because carbon steel is reactive – the food can get a metallic flavor. For these methods of cooking, I recommend stainless steel cookware. Pans made from carbon steel should be stored in a dry place.

How To Season a Carbon Steel Pan

It’s crucial to season your carbon steel pan properly in order to get the best possible results. I present you my way of seasoning carbon steel pans – it is very easy and effective.

  1. Preheat the pan. You can place your pan in the oven, or you can use the stovetop. It need to be heated on medium-high heat (400 F). Let your pan heats up for about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from stovetop/oven let it cool off a bit and apply a thin layer of oil. I prefer olive or coconut oil, but you can use any type of vegetable oil or lard. The best way is to use a paper towel to apply the oil. The coating needs to be even. It is important that you coat the entire surface of the pan (the interior and exterior of your pan).
  3. Place the pan back in the oven or on your stovetop and leave it there for an hour. The temperature of the oven/stovetop should be 400 degrees F. Your pan will start to turn black.
  4. Turn off your oven or stovetop and leave the pan to cool off completely. Do not remove your pan from the oven/stovetop – leave the pan to cool off slowly. This will take about an hour or two.

Your pan is seasoned and ready for cooking!

You can repeat the process if you are not satisfied – sometimes the pan needs to be seasoned more times. This way you will get a non-stick carbon steel pan and also protect your pan from rusting.

Things to Look for When Buying Carbon Steel Pans

There is a lot of features which can play a role in your decision making when choosing the right carbon steel pan for you:

  • Price: The biggest catch is to find a perfect pan for your preferences for a reasonable price
  • Durability: Carbon steel is known for its durability, but some pans are more durable than others.
  • Seasoning: Is it pre-seasoned or not?
  • Dimensions: Pans differ in size – you need to pick the right size for your needs.
  • Weight
  • For what heat sources is best suited
  • The length and comfortability of the handle
  • Country of origin

The Best Carbon Steel Pans Currently on the Market - Reviewed by Barbara 2017

1. Lodge CRS12 Carbon Steel Skillet – 12-inch, Pre-seasoned, Fair Price

Image Credit: Amazon.com

An extremely durable piece of cookware – I have mine for years!

It works on all heat sources except microwave ovens – I even used it on outdoor grills and open fire, and its performance was praiseworthy. It weighs 4,1 pounds, and its measures are 20.2 x 12 x 1,4 inches

This skillet is multifunctional – it is good for roasting, frying, simmering, sauteing and braising, but it’s best for searing and browning meats and vegetables.

It is pre-seasoned with soybean vegetable oil – this means that this carbon steel pan is ready for action as soon as you unpack it. The skillet heats up very quickly and cooks the food evenly.

The handle is suitable for both stovetop and oven (it fits inside most ovens). It is a good and affordable choice for both professional and recreational cooks.

All in all, Lodge CRS12 is very versatile and effective carbon steel pan. This black and fairly large skillet is one of my favorite ones.

Things I liked:

  • Maintains very high and very low temperatures.
  • It can last a lifetime if maintained correctly.
  • Safe to use with metal objects (knives, forks, chopsticks, spatulas).
  • Pre-seasoned
  • Comes with user guide
  • Doesn’t retain odors
  • Works fine on almost all heat sources

Things I didn't like:

  • Needs to be seasoned more times repeatedly after the original seasoning wears off
  • The handle is a bit too long and roughly cut
  • The bottom isn't 100% flat
  • Handle can get hot – you need to use oven mitts or handle cover

2. Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Frying Pan - 11 7/8 inch, A Bit Pricey

Image Credit: Amazon.com

This is a very handy and useful cookware. It distributes heat evenly and it’s amazingly strong – like every carbon steel pan, this one too is made to last.

I advise you to season this pan properly – you will prolong its life and you will make it non-stick. It’s best for making steaks and scrambled eggs. For the first use, you need to remove the protective layer – this could be a bit tricky, but if you follow the instructions there should be no problems.

This pan is suited for all hob types and it is not very big so it fits in my oven with ease. Can be used on induction cooktops without worries. It has a strong, high-quality steel strip handle welded at a slight angle to the body of the pan.

This heavy duty, four point one pounds, made in Germany pan is highly useful and it quickly became very important part of my kitchen arsenal.

Things I liked:

  • Heavy duty construction
  • Very durable
  • Oven safe
  • Good heat distribution
  • Suited for all hob types

Things I didn't like:

  • It can get wrapped if exposed to extremely high heat (it should be heated gradually)
  • Not very easy to season the pan
  • Hard to remove protective coating
  • Very heavy for its size

3. Mauviel M'steel Frying Pan – 8-inch, High Performance, Lifetime Guarantee

Image Credit: Amazon.com

This pan is made from of extra thick black carbon steel and it’s an excellent heat conductor.

Build to withstand very high temperatures – this means that this pan is perfect for prolonged sautéing, searing and baking. Great for searing steaks, chicken, turkey, or fish!

It’s safe to use on all cooking surfaces – stovetops, gas, electric (skillet), induction, and in the oven. It comes with a lifetime guarantee against any manufacturing defects for household use.

Mauviel M'steel Frying Pan is not pre-seasoned, so you need to season it – follow the instructions from manufacturers user guide and the pan will build up natural nonstick properties and it will darken with use.

Do not use dish soap while cleaning the pan – you can remove the black coating at the bottom of the pan and then you’ll need to season it again. Instead, wash the pan in hot water, wipe it with a sponge or paper towel and dry it thoroughly.

This two pounds pan is extremely durable, and metal utensils are safe to use - they will not scrape the surface of the pan. Its measures are 15.5 x 8 x 2 inches and its made in France.

Before the first use, you need to remove the protective beeswax with very hot water and paper towel.

Things I liked:

  • Lightweight
  • Can be used on all cooking surfaces
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Good heat conductor
  • Can withstand very high temperatures
  • Very durable

Things I didn't like:

  • Needs to be seasoned more times repeatedly in order to acquire its full potential
  • Not easy to remove the protective beeswax
  • Rusts really fast if not seasoned immediately

4. Paderno Heavy Duty Carbon Steel Frying Pan – 9.5-inch, Lightweight

Image Credit: Amazon.com

This pan is made from solid carbon steel, it’s safe to use at very high temperatures and it distributes the heat evenly.

It needs to be seasoned to acquire natural nonstick properties.

It is oven, gas stove, and induction cooktop safe. Paderno Heavy Duty Carbon Steel Pan is very well built, and it should last a lifetime. The handle isn't particularly comfortable, so I have to use silicone sleeve handle cover. The rivets are not totally flush with the pan – there is a small gap that can collect gunk and liquids can leak out from time to time.

Nevertheless, this pan is a very good choice for a reasonable price.

Things I liked:

  • Excellent heat conductor
  • Lightweight
  • Safe to use at high temperatures
  • Distributes the heat evenly
  • Good quality-price ratio
  • Pretty easy to season

Things I didn't like:

  • Can be shipped only within the USA - not eligible for international shipping
  • Rusts easily if not seasoned correctly
  • Country of origin not indicated
  • Sides are pretty shallow
  • The handle isn't comfortable
  • The rivets are not totally flush with the pan

5. Garcima Carbon Steel Paella Pan – 15-inch, Best For Making Paella

Image Credit: Amazon.com

The carbon steel pan comes with an informative guide with two recipes, tips for making perfect paella and instructions for proper maintenance. It is ideal preparing meals for the family of four like mine.

It needs to be seasoned before first use, and it should be stored in a dry place to avoid a rusty oxidation. The pan requires a bit of maintenance after washing, but if you follow the instructions from the guide, there will be no problems.

It’s pretty big (19.5 x 19.5 x 1.75 inches) so it might not be suitable for some ovens.

This is an authentic, made is Spain paella pan (carbon steel is the traditional material for paella) and, of course, it’s perfect for making paella because it conducts heat quickly and evenly.

My special paella with chicken, sausage, and seafood always turns out great in Garcima Carbon Steel Paella Pan.

The pan is quite thin but also surprisingly durable. It’s safe for stovetop, oven, grill and induction cooktops. Although it is primarily a paella pan, it can be used for making other meals – I used it for roasted chicken, pizza, and grilled vegetables!

Things I liked:

  • Durable
  • Perfect for making paella
  • Conducts heat well
  • Ideal for serving 3 to 5 people

Things I didn't like:

  • Requires a lot of maintenance
  • Hard to clean
  • Rusts easily if not seasoned correctly
  • Plastic on the handles can melt if exposed to extreme heat

And the best Carbon Steel Pan You Can Get Is...

All those carbon steel pans are high-quality, durable and useful kitchen utensils, and I don’t regret buying any one of them. They served me good and I have no doubts that they will serve just as good in the future.

Between those five carbon steel pans, I have to say that Mauviel M'steel Frying Pan impressed me the most! It is extremely durable and can withstand very high temperatures. This pan is an excellent heat conductor and cooking with it is very easy and enjoyable. It can be used on all heat sources (although I never tried it in the microwave) and it comes with a lifetime guarantee against any manufacturing defects.

With proper seasoning, this piece of cookware can be a very powerful ally for preparing delicious and breathtaking specialties!

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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