The Best Carbon Steel Pan Review: Our Top 4 Picks for 2021

Tough on the outside, tender on the inside. You'll never have to worry about sticking or burning with this pan. We've spent 20 hours reviewing 11 carbon steel pans to find the best.

Written by Katie McDonald| Last updated July 20, 2021

Choosing between carbon steel and other types of cookware (like cast iron) is already hard in itself.

And yet, it’s just the beginning – once you know that you want these pans, you still need to pick the right pan for your home or professional kitchens.

One that will allow you to cook the way you enjoy, and whatever you feel like eating.

We've spent over 20 hours reviewing 11 different carbon steel pans. You'll be surprised at what we found.

Best Carbon Steel Pans Review

Our Picks At A Glance

Header

Name

Available Sizes (inches)

Price

Best Overall Carbon Steel Frying Pan

De Buyer MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan

7.9, 10.2, 12.6 (reviewed), 14.2

Best For Home Cooks

Mauviel Made In France M'steel Black Steel Frying Pan

8, 9.5, 11, 12.5 (reviewed), 14

8, 9.5, 11, 12.5 (reviewed), 14

Best USA-Made Carbon Steel Pan

Matfer Bourgeat 062005 frying pan

8 5/8, 9 1/2, 10 1/4, 11, 11 7/8 (reviewed), 12 5/8, 14 1/8, 15 3/4, 17 3/4,

Best Budget

Best Carbon Steel Pans Review

8, 10, 12 (reviewed)


What Is Carbon Steel?

Carbon steel is a mix of steel with carbon (obviously – but the mix has to contain less than 2.1% of the latter). These mixed cooking products are relatively new in the kitchen market. As a much lighter material compared to cast iron, it’s a very popular choice for home cooking cookware in the professional kitchens.

In fact, pans made from it are frequently recommended by professionals.

On top of that, because of its lower weight, it distributes the heat much faster, what speeds up the preparation of your favorite dishes.


Who is this for?

Carbon steel pans are perfect for those who are health-conscious. They do not release any toxic fumes into the air when they are heated up.

The metal is non-reactive, which means that it will not leach chemicals into your food while cooking. This makes it a good option for those who have sensitivities to certain metals like copper, aluminum, and nickel.


The Criteria: How We Picked Great Carbon Steel Pans

The criteria we considered in our selection process are:

  • Material Type - We only considered pans made from carbon steel without any additional coatings or features like copper or nonstick coating.
  • Handles - Many pans have differerent handles. We cooked with each pan fora minimum of 30 minutes to see how they felt in our grips.
  • Construction - We compared pans together to see if they had a flat Bottom. We also looked a the rivets that connects the handles to the pans and evaluated them based on their sturdiness.

Testing The Pans

There are many different ways to test a carbon steel pan. During our testing, we looked at the above criteria as well as performed 3 key tests: 

  • Test #1 - Magnetic - One way is to test for magnetic properties. This can be done by placing a magnet on the bottom of the pan and seeing if the magnet sticks. If it does, then the pan is not made of carbon steel and if the magnet doesn't stick, then the pan is made of carbon steel.
  • Test #2 - Heat - Another way to test for a carbon steel pan is to place it in an oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and see if any rust appears on its surface. If rust appears after five minutes, then you know that it's not made of carbon steel; but if no rust appears, then you know that it's made out of carbon steel.
  • Test #3 - Seasoning - The best way to test if your carbon steel pan has been properly seasoned and maintained is to try cooking in it! After you cook in the pan, use a paper towel to wipe down the surface in order to remove any excess food particles on the surface. If this does not produce any marks on the paper towel after wiping down the surface, then your pan has been properly seasoned and maintained! We looked at the differences between pans after seasoning twice. 

Best Overall - De Buyer MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan

Available Sizes: 8", 9.5", 10.25", 11", 12.5", 14",  | Weight: 5.8bs for 12.5" pan | Pre-seasoned: No | Lid included: No | Add-on Options: None | Made in: France

De Buyer MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan

What We Like

  • Quality materials
  • Additional Handle
  • Perfectly Flat Bottom
  • Nonstick after seasoning

What We Don't Like

  • Epoxy coated handle
  • Slight rusting after 12 hours of use

The indisputable winner of my ranking is the French De Buyer, which is in my opinion so good. Why?

It’s simple – if you want the absolute best, you don’t have to scroll anymore – simply go and buy the De Buyer.

But if you want to learn more about why I think it’s so much better than its competitors, or you would like to learn about them… Keep reading.

While the initial outlay might make you recoil, you won’t ever need to buy another skillet.  

De Buyers were the first to discover the protective features of beeswax. Today, it is used to protect the pans from oxidation during storage and transportation. But the long tradition offers a lot more than beeswax.

Over the years, the company has kept improving the make of its products. Nowadays, De Buyer carbon steel cookware is regarded as one of the best in the market. It’s no surprise that the company offer is aimed at professionals and people who are serious about home cooking. But if you are either of the two – I bet you’ve already heard about that brand.

What I Like about This Pan?

  • Made from the finest materials. The product is 100% natural and 99% pure iron carbon steel, what not only helps minimize the influence of oxidation but also makes it super sturdy, and ensures top-notch heat distribution.
  • Additional handle. The extra handle makes it very easy to maneuver the frying pan, or pick it up – especially if you are not used to such a heavy cookware. If you've used short stubby handles on like cast iron, you'll love these long handles.
  • It’s a Buy It for Life Pan. The frying pan might not be the cheapest, but it’s definitely a lifetime investment. If you know that you are going to use it for years to come (and won’t put it in the cupboard after the first week), it’s worth every cent for your home or professional kitchens.
  • Perfectly flat bottom. What else do you need? In the end, that’s one of the main reasons why you buy carbon steel in the first place over cast iron. More on cast iron carbon steel versus carbon steel below.
  • As non-stick as Teflon. Meat, steaks, veggies, seafood – you name it. Once its seasoned correctly, nothing will ever stick to this frying pan. And all that without the use of any toxic chemicals.

And What I Don’t Like?

  • Epoxy coated handle. While I love the idea of an extra handle, they are both epoxy-coated. This means, that it cannot be seasoned in the oven. Note: there is a discrepancy between different buyers as some say they received a model without a coated handle. It could depend on the size or other factors. Nevertheless, the epoxy-coated version can only be flashed in the oven for 10 minutes at no more than 200°C which is too short to season it.
  • Rust. You need to watch your frying pan carefully as you unpack it as some of the pans got delivered to the buyers covered in rust. If that's the case, you can always return it for a full refund.

If you are even moderately passionate about cooking, you need to have it. Naturally, you will need a bit of patience to maintain and season it properly.

And out of all of them, I believe De Buyer is the easiest to keep in a good condition. So, don’t hesitate and hit the button below:


Mauviel Made In France M'steel Black Steel Frying Pan

The second on my list is another made in France frying pan that is almost as good as De Buyer. In fact, some believe it’s even better – but I will leave the final comparison to you.

The judgment will depend a lot on how you use the product.

A Perfect Mix

Just like the other French brand, Mauviel boasts almost two centuries of expertise. It’s no surprise their product is a perfect mix of longevity, comparable only to cast iron, with nonstick capabilities which can usually be found in Teflon cookware.

Or in perfectly seasoned, top-quality carbon steel pans – and Mauviel definitely is one of them. What makes it so great?

What I Like about This Pan?

  • Can be Seasoned in the Oven. A big advantage over some of the De Buyer models is the fact that it can be safely seasoned in the oven. This makes it a lot easier to get the best out of the pan, as seasoning in the oven is one of the easiest ways of doing it.
  • Go-to Pan for Anything. You can cook anything in it – except anything acidic, of course. When seasoned properly, cooking in it becomes so much fun you won’t feel like using any other kitchen utensils. You can even cook foods deliciously with alcohol in it.
  • Guaranteed for Life. The manufacturer provides a lifetime warranty against any manufacturing defects for household use. This, together with its quality, make it effectively a buy it for life product.
  • True Non-Stick when Seasoned Right. If you do the job right, food will have no chance of sticking and will just slide off the pan and onto your plate!

And What I Don’t Like?

  • Hard to season properly. It’s not as easy to season as De Buyer, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. On the upside, you can season it in the oven, what should make things easier, naturally as long as you follow the instructions.

Even though it’s not the easiest pan to season, it’s the only one that I think is comparable to the industry most popular brand. Compared to cast iron carbon steel it is definitely easier to season.

Because of that, if you don’t minds taking a little bit more time to season it properly and would like to compare how it presents itself against De Buyer, hit the button below to read what others think about this great product:


Matfer Bourgeat 062005 frying pan

It turns out not just French manufacturers can make great carbon steel cookware. The third in the list is, in my opinion, the best carbon steel made in America – MatferBourgeat frying pan. What makes it so great, and what are its advantages over the French competitors?

Proudly Made in America

Naturally, this is big for anyone who wants to support the local US market. Buying products made in a country where you live is not just patriotic (whatever it means to you) but has a positive impact on the economy as a whole.

But there are a few more reasons why you should consider getting this pan.

Matfer Bourgeat 062005 frying pan

What I Like about This Pan?

  • Cooks great even in very high temperatures. The pan is built in a way that ensures excellent heat distribution. This in turn makes cooking on it much easier and significantly speeds it up. Less time needed to get your favorite meal!
  • Retains heat well. A carbon steel skillt is far behind cast iron carbon steel when it comes to retaining heat. While, for obvious reasons, this model doesn’t keep the heat equally well to a good cast iron, it still does it much better than other similiar pans. (More on carbon steel versus cast iron below)
  • Easy to control. Convenient handle is very easy to control and maneuver, what makes cooking even more pleasurable.
  • Nine sizes to choose from. While you don’t necessarily need all of them, getting at least small and large ones is a great investment.

And What I Don’t Like?

  • Poor quality control. The pans were a bit wobbly after using it for a short period of time, especially the handle. 
  • No bees wax coating. Unlike its French counterparts, this pan or skillet does not use an all-natural bees wax for post-manufacturing seasoning. This seasoning / pre seasoned way not ideal if you care about avoiding chemical substances. Naturally, you need to remove it anyway – but, that’s not convenient.
  • The coating is very hard to remove. Unfortunately, getting rid of this artificial coating is not the easiest thing to do. Luckily, with enough hot water and patience, it's possible.
Matfer Bourgeat 062005 frying pan

If buying American-made is important to you, stop reading right now, and choose this carbon steel – it’s the best carbon steel skillet you can find that’s made in America, period.

Similarly, if the country is not as important for you, but you want an unusual size, this pan or skillet might soon become your go-to one.

Just click the button below and see for yourself if it’s what you’re looking for:


Lodge 12 Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet

The fourth and last product on my list of best carbon steel is another made in USA carbon steel skillet. It comes in an 8, 10 and 12 inch size.

What distinguishes it from its competitors is its highly competitive price.

Carbon Steel Pan at a Price of Cast Iron?

Does its low-price impact it's quality? Surprisingly, the product is almost as good as any good carbon steel skillet.

Of course, there are some slight differences, such as a slightly lower heat retention – but if you don’t need it for a professional or an everyday use at home, you most likely won’t even feel the difference.

Lodge 12 Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet

What I Like about This Pan?

  • Made in the US. A great proof that not just the French know how to manufacture great carbon steel cookware.
  • Almost as Cheap as like Cast Iron. It’s just a couple bucks more expensive than a good cast iron – and yet, it cooks much faster and is a lot lighter. More on carbon steel versus cast iron below.
  • Great Price to Quality Ratio. As said above, low-price doesn’t mean it’s a one-time use product.
  • Long Handle. Depending on the type of the handle that you prefer, this one can make cooking with the pan very comfortable, especially on the 12 inch model.

And What I Don’t Like?

  • Long Handle. Unfortunately, because the handle is a really long and positioned quite high for the size of the pan, you may find it very hard to maneuver the pan while cooking. But it sure beats those short stubby handles on cast iron cookware.
  • Rough, uneven surface. Unlike all other carbon steel pans reviewed previously, this one doesn’t have a smooth surface. Because of that, it takes more time to season it and make it into a non-stick one. This also means that you shouldn’t make eggs as your first (or even second or third) dish!
Lodge 12 Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet

If you’re an experienced home cook or have been using carbon steel for quite some time, you probably won’t benefit much from this one.

But, if it’s going to be your first pan, you’ve never seasoned one or cooked with one before, there’s no better choice than Lodge carbon steel.

Especially considering the great price!


Frequently Asked Questions about Carbon Steel Cookware

Carbon Steel versus Stainless Steel Cookware?

Stainless steel is mainly composed of chromium and iron. The chromium percentage ranges from 15 to 30%. Stainless steel is rust free, and does not require seasoning. However, the stainless steel surface can have trouble with food sticking to it.

On the other hand, carbon steel can become non-stick once pre seasoned unlike stainless steel. You can also use less oil on carbon steel to cook food. However, you can not use aciding foods for cooking because it may leave a metalic taste on the food. Also, carbon steel must be seasoned and dried after washing to prevent rusting. If you're using a carbon steel skillet or any other cookware, some handles require some drying as well. 

Cast Iron versus Carbon steel?

Carbon steel is mainly composed of 1% carbon, and 99% iron. On the other hand, cast iron is 2-3% carbon and 97-98% iron. So why does a small difference matter?

The extra carbon makes cast iron more heavy and more brittle compared to stainless steel. Carbon steel on the other hand is more ductile and lighter. 

Here are some additional benefits with carbon steel over cast iron:

  • Carbon steel cookware can get hotter and cooler faster - When cooking at home, this saves you time on waiting to heat up the pan.
  • Carbon steel cookware can retain more heat - Great home cooks know that heat control is the most important factor when cooking. 
  • Carbon steel can be molded and shaped - Manufacturers can mold the carbon steel and shape it better than cast iron. Which is why you see the bottom of the cast iron pan have more lumps and bumps. 

Both cast iron and carbon steel can be pre seasoned. More on how to do this below. 

Carbon Steel Cookware Safety - Is it safe?

Yes, carbon steel cookware is very safe to use. Carbon steel is composed of carbon and iron which is a very safe cooking element. Carbon steel cookware doesn't contain toxic nonstick elements such as Teflon, PTFE and PFOA chemicals. 

You can rest assured you're cooking safely with your carbon steel skillet after it's pre seasoned. 

Is a Carbon Steel Skillet Worth It?

Yes, a carbon steel skillet is worth the investment if you want everyday frying pan. Compared to a cast iron skillet, the carbon steel skillet is lighter and has a smoother surface. Cast iron cookware in general is heavier but retains heat better.

For the average home cook, I'd highly recommend a carbon steel skillet over a cast iron skillet. However, having a pre seasoned cast iron skillet handy is something all home cooks should have. You can have more than one skillet at home for different purposes such as cooking eggs or searing meats.

Can You Use A Carbon Steel Skillet For Eggs?

Yes, you can use a carbon steel skillet to cook your favorite style of eggs - fried egg, scrambled egg, or even over easy egg. The carbon steel skillet heats up very quickly and a variety of oils can be used to ensure that the eggs don't stick to the skillet. 

To prevent the sticking, you could pre season the carbon steel. This will help with stir frying, and ensure the smooth cooking surface remains nons stick.

Can Carbon Steel Skillet Be Used On A Glass Stove Top?

Yes, carbon steel can be used on your glass stove top. Carbon steel frying pans work well on with a gas burner as well. A glass stove also can be used with your good old fashioned cast iron skillets as well. In fact, before there were carbon steel skillets inveted, cast iron skillets were the go-to cookware for stir frying, restaurant kitchens and serious eats becuase of the cooking surface.

Carbon Steel versus Black Steel - What's the difference?

The main difference between carbon steel and black steel is the contents of the iron. Black steel has a form of non-galvanized steel and has high strengh and hardness. In addition, black steel has the appearance that is darker in color becuase of the iron oxide coating. 

On the other hand, carbon steel has the strength depending on carbon content. For cookware purposes, most of the steel used is carbon steel instead of black steel. 

What Can You Cook in a Carbon Steel Pan?

What Can You Cook in Carbon Steel Pans

If I were to list everything that you can cook with carbon steel, the list would probably be longer than this whole article.

Because of that, let me just say that the best carbon steel skillet, when seasoned correctly (more on that in the next paragraph) are probably the most convenient choice for cooking eggs, grilling cheese, frying meat or preparing pancakes. The same holds true for a cast iron pan. 

Simply speaking, anything that you can fry and that requires a flat and non-sticky surface.

But you need to make your carbon steel non-sticky first


How to Season Your Carbon Steel Pan

Seasoning means bonding oil to the surface of the frying pan. There are two main benefits of doing so.

First, it protects your carbon steel cookware from rusting (that’s why most pans come pre seasoned, usually with beeswax).

Second, it prevents the food from sticking to the pan. This also means that once you season your pan, you can cook with little to no oil, unlike a deep fryer.

By seasoning a pan, you'll be able to fully enjoy using your pan with minimal oil and have a great non stick surface. Warning, if you have a non-stick pan, you'll want to follow these instructions here. And, if you have a cast iron pan, follow these seasoning instructions here.

Which oil will you choose for cooking on a the pan?

The best choice for both cooking and seasoning is flaxseed or sunflower oil – but, generally, any vegetable oil with a high smoke point will do.

How to season a pan? There are a few ways in which you can do that.

One of the most common ones includes covering the bottom of the pan with flavorless oil and heating it for a few minutes. Once the oil is hot, you need to let it cool, and drain the oil using a paper towel.

This needs to be repeated for a few minutes. Don't rush seasoning a pan. While this process can be a bit slow, it is definitely worth it.

Seasoning carbon steel pans

After your frying pan is seasoned, you can enjoy a non-sticky cookware that’s safe to cook on (unlike, for example, Teflon). On top of that, there is no scrubbing required after cooking!

Instead, to ensure that your carbon steel frying pan serves you well, all you need to do is wash the pan in hot water (don’t use any soap) and dry it thoroughly. Keeping it dry after every use is a must! Keep some handy kitchen towels in your kitchen so that you can use them to dry the pan or skillets off.

Note: while you can cook almost anything with carbon steel, you shouldn’t add any acidic things, such as wine or tomatoes – even if you believe the pan is seasoned properly. This will lessen the effectives of seasoning a pan. This reason is because acidic food can react with carbon steel and damage it, what, in turn, could make the metal leach into your food.

Now that you know how to increase the chances that your frying pan, it's time to choose one.  


Get Your Carbon Steel Steel Steel! 

Compared to cast iron, carbon steel offers a lot more versatility – a trait which is very helpful no matter what you are trying to cook in your professional kitchen. Because it’s lighter, it conducts heat much faster, and is also much easier to maneuver. A carbon steel skillet is a delight to cook in.

Of course, the price tag is slightly higher – but if you value speed and convenience, the money invested will pay off very, very quickly. Not sure which of the four pans to choose?

Scroll back to the table and pick the one that’ll best carbon steel skillet that suits your needs! Or take a look at our Bialetti Cookware Review for a similar option. 

If you're out of ideas, check out our favorite food blogs!

About the author 

Katie McDonald

I have been feeding my family from my kitchen for over 15 years, and I love it. Cooking is more than a passion for me, it makes me happy. I am also a healthy mom of 4 kids, and love to practice yoga. My core strengths include being detail-oriented, quick learner and fast to hop on trends.

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