Best Carbon Steel Pan – Tried & Tested

A good carbon steel pan is the versatile kitchen workhorse that many home cooks don’t know they need. 

Carbon steel pans are very popular in restaurant kitchens and European homes. While they are slowly gaining popularity with home cooks in the US, they are still way behind cookware materials like stainless steel, aluminum, and cast iron.

If you love cooking with cast iron, you will probably have an easy time accepting carbon steel into your cookware family.

Detailed Breakdown of The Best Carbon Steel Pans

If you’re unfamiliar with this type of cookware, I’m here to show you some of the best carbon steel pans, and how to take care of them. By the end, I think you’ll see how useful and versatile they would be in your kitchen. 

Best Upgrade: Mauviel M’Steel, 11-Inch Fry Pan

Best Upgrade
Mauviel M
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02/18/2024 10:27 am GMT

Even novices can handle the Mauviel M’Steel fry pan like a pro. The curved sides are designed to make tossing ingredients feel very natural, which is in stark contrast with carbon steel pans that use a straight flared edge design.

This M’Steel also has a lot of similarities with our “best overall” pick. The handle design is almost identical and they both use thick steel that is between 2 and 2.5 millimeters thick.

There are five sizes of this carbon steel pan available, ranging from 8 to 14-inches. They are all made in France and come with a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects.

Mauviel is best known for their copper cookware, but every line the produce is of exceptional quality. The company has been manufacturing cookware in France since 1830.

What we like

  • Very durable even with daily use
  • Curved walls are great for easily tossing ingredients
  • Top-notch fit and finish

What We don’t

  • More expensive but similar materials and design to other options
  • Some owners had problems with warping

Best Overall: De Buyer 11-Inch Fry Pan

Best Overall
De Buyer Carbon Steel Fry Pan, 11-Inch
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02/18/2024 03:47 pm GMT

The craftsmanship and build quality on the De Buyer carbon steel fry pan is top-notch. 

Their pans always sit flat and are made with thick gauge steel that should never warp. The long angled handle is very secure and it makes moving the pan around on a full stovetop easy.

One thing that sets this carbon steel pan apart is the sides that are a bit higher than many other options. This adds extra volume and allows you to cook more food without having to step up to a larger, more cumbersome pan.

The epoxy coating on De Buyer’s steel handle makes this pan more comfortable to hold than most competitors. One drawback of the epoxy is that it limits oven-safe temperature to 400 F for this carbon steel skillet.

Personally, I’ve used the De Buyer carbon steel pan in ovens higher than 400 F, but the epoxy coating will burn off and can release some unpleasant fumes.

De Buyer has been making cookware since 1830. With nearly 200 years of experience, you expect products with high performance and few flaws.

The pans are made in France and come with a limited lifetime warranty, protecting against manufacturer’s defects. The 11-inch size is a great all-purpose carbon steel pan, but they make a variety of different sizes.

What we like

  • Heavy-duty and durable
  • Inexpensive for a carbon steel pan that will last a lifetime
  • High sides offer more volume

What We don’t

  • Handle coating limits oven temperature

Best Budget: Winco French Style 11-Inch Fry Pan

Best Budget
Winco French Style Fry Pan (11")
$45.46 $36.69
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02/19/2024 08:13 am GMT

The Winco French Style carbon steel pan is a smart option for casual cooks, because most people can’t distinguish a difference in performance between this and the premium models. Most importantly, it is half the price. So yea, you could say it’s a smart buy.

Winco is not necessarily a household name, but it’s what you’ll find in restaurant supply stores and professional kitchens across the country. They make every type of kitchenware imaginable, and it’s always affordably priced.

The thinner gauge metal will heat faster, but the heating can also be a little less even. Another effect of the thinner carbon steel material is a lighter weight. It’s still not exactly lightweight, coming in at just over three pounds, but that’s almost two pounds less than Mauviel and De Buyer. 

Having a lighter weight and faster heating carbon steel pan can be crucial in a busy restaurant, but I think a lot of home cooks will appreciate those attributes as well.

There are no advertised oven limits, but I know that many restaurant kitchens store these in stacks either directly on a high burner or in 500-degree ovens. This ensures the pan can be used at a moment’s notice without any preheating time.

An unnecessary step at home but it speaks to the durability and heat tolerance of this carbon steel pan. 

What we like

  • Very inexpensive
  • Trusted in many professional kitchens
  • Thinner metal is more responsive to temperature changes
  • Lightweight

What We don’t

  • Thinner carbon steel material heats less evenly
  • Thinner carbon steel material is more susceptible to warping

Best Pre-Seasoned Option: Lodge 12-Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet

Best Pre-Seasoned Option
Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 12-inch
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02/18/2024 08:12 pm GMT

Lodge makes an incredible option for home cooks who aren’t practiced in seasoning their own carbon steel pan, or simply want a skillet that is ready to go out of the box.

Lodge was the first company to offer pre-seasoned iron cookware, and their factory-ready coatings have turned the company into a famous American brand. Like their signature pre-seasoned cast iron, this carbon steel skillet falls right in line with their affordable, no-frills cookware.

The carbon steel skillet features a straight handle, which is a little different than most other options which tend to angle upwards.  This was done so that the pan would fit on the higher racks in an oven. Something that can be difficult with some other options. The downside of this is that it is not as easy to maneuver around the back burners of the stove.

The durability and heat tolerance of the Lodge carbon steel skillet is up there with the best brands.

Home cooks who are well-versed in seasoning their own cookware, may benefit from choosing a different skillet. Lodge’s method for pre-seasoning yields a slightly textured cook surface which some people like. The best carbon steel pans are known for their smooth surface. Some owners may choose to scrub clean and re-season if a smooth feel is what they’re after.

What we like

  • Very durable
  • Quite inexpensive
  • Arrives seasoned

What We don’t

  • Additional seasoning may be necessary
  • The flat handle can be hard to maneuver on the stove

Most Sizes Available: Matfer Bourgeat 11-Inch Carbon Steel Fry Pan

Most Sizes Available
Matfer Bourgeat Black Carbon Steel Fry Pan, 11"
$83.00 $73.00
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02/18/2024 10:57 am GMT

A carbon steel pan in the 10 to 12-inch range are great for a lot of daily cooking tasks. But, having nine sizes to choose from makes Matfer Bourgeat a great choice for every task imaginable.

The other thing that sets this carbon steel pan apart from the crowd is that the handle is welded on, where everyone else uses rivets. This is one of the most well-loved features of the pan. Rivets are strong and made to last, but they also create a place for food and grime to get stuck.

This pan is a heavy-duty option made from thick gauge steel with wide flared edges. The shape and design are very similar to our top pick, De Buyer.

Matfer Bourgeat is another French company, and they have been in the cookware business since 1814. They produce all kinds of kitchen equipment, and their carbon steel fry pan is available in nine different sizes. They range from 8 ⅝-inches all the way up to 17 ¾-inches.

Having a welded handle gives you a smooth and uninterrupted cooking surface that’s easy to clean. And considering the company has been around for over 200 years, I doubt that durability will be an issue.

What we like

  • Rivetless design is easier to clean
  • 9 sizes for all cooking situations
  • Very strong and durable

What We don’t

  • Some owners have less confidence in the rivetless design

Best Design: Solidteknics 7-Inch AUS-ION Skillet

Best Design
AUS-ION Skillet, 7" (18cm), Smooth Finish, 100% Made in Sydney, 3mm Australian Iron, Professional Grade Cookware
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Solidteknics is an Australian company that has only been around since 2015. The founder is an engineer with a background in kitchen knife making and also spent time working for De Buyer.

I should note that this “carbon steel pan” is actually wrought iron rather than carbon steel. In cooking performance it functions about the same, so I let it sneak in here.

Many of the best carbon steel pans on the market look very similar, but the Solidteknics skillet really stands out from the crowd. It is the only one to be made entirely from one piece of metal.

The one-piece design looks very unique and also means there are no rivets or welding points to deal with when cleaning. It also means you don’t have to worry about the handle ever coming loose.

Another unique feature is that there are vent holes that reduce heat transfer to the rest of the handle. The vented handle is also indented and can function as a handy spoon rest.

Yet another design aspect that sets this option apart is the rounded rim that makes pouring easier and less messy. 

This pan is packed with unique features and should certainly last for several lifetimes, all of that comes at a price, and make this one of the most expensive choices on our list.

What we like

  • One-piece design means nothing will ever come loose or detach
  • Easy to clean
  • Only option with an easy-pour rim
  • Stay cool handle

What We don’t

  • A new brand that hasn’t stood the test of time
  • More expensive than most

Best Grill Pan: De Buyer 12.5-Inch Carbon Steel Grill Pan

Best Grill Pan
De Buyer - Round Grill Pan - Mineral B Element 12½''
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02/18/2024 10:22 pm GMT

De Buyer’s fry pan was our best overall pick, so it makes sense that they make another appearance. Their grill pan is made from the same carbon steel material as the fry pan but it has raised ridges on the cooking surface.

This is an excellent option if you live in an apartment that doesn’t allow grills or you just don’t feel like cooking outside in the middle of winter.

Using grill pans inside can often lead to smoke-filled rooms so make sure you have a good hood installed or keep your doors and windows open.

Since oil likes to gather in between the raised ridges, seasoning can be a little trickier with this pan. But if you’re careful and only use the thinnest layer of oil like you’re supposed to, you should be just fine.

What we like

  • Same quality you expect from our top pick
  • Grilling qualities without leaving your kitchen

What We don’t

  • Only one size available
  • A limited number of uses
  • Harder to season

Best For Beginners: Misen 10-Inch Carbon Steel Pan

Best For Beginners
Misen 10" Carbon Steel Pan
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This 10-inch carbon steel pan looks a lot more like a standard non-stick or stainless steel frying pan. Misen ditched the traditional design for one that might be a bit more approachable to home cooks who are new to carbon steel cookware.

Like most American frying pans, the flat base of the Misen pan gently curves up to short rounded sides. This offers a slightly larger cooking surface than much of the competition. And more importantly, it makes the pan feel like something you’ve used before.

As a nice added bonus, Misen ships their pan with a removable silicone handle cover. This does a good job adding some much-needed comfort to the flat handle, and it helps keep things cool when cooking on the stovetop. Just be sure to take it off if you’ll be using your pan in an oven over 500 F. 

The fairly straight, angled sides of more traditional options can take some getting used to. But, if you go with Misen, you’ll be flipping and tossing ingredients like a pro.

The handle is made from stainless steel and has a flat design similar to the rest. Although it does not have as steep an angle, which can make it a little more difficult to grab if it’s on the back burner of a crowded range.

What we like

  • The shape of the pan is more user friendly for first-timers
  • The silicone handle grip is a useful addition
  • Larger cooking surface compared to many other 10-inch options

What We don’t

  • Sides are more shallow than most
  • A new brand without a long and proven  track record

Best Wok: Craft Wok Hand Hammered 14-Inch Carbon Steel Wok

Best Wok
Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok with Wooden and Steel Helper Handle (14 Inch, Round Bottom) / 731W88
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02/19/2024 11:47 am GMT

If you know how to use a wok, then you know what a versatile tool it can be in the kitchen. There is no single pot or pan that can do as much as a wok can.

The primary design of a wok is to quickly stir fry bite-size pieces of food, but it’s also an excellent tool for boiling and deep-frying. With a little extra know-how, it can fill in for a crepe pan and also works beautifully for eggs and even flatbreads.

Most woks are made of thinner steel than your average fry pan. This one is 1.8mm thick and weighs about 4.5 pounds.

The thinner carbon steel material allows the pan to heat very quickly and get extremely hot in the center of the pan.

The deep shape of the wok gives you multiple temperature ranges to cook with. The very bottom and center are meant to be very hot, with heat gradually decreasing as you move up the sides.

Unfortunately, the rounded bottom also means that this is really only suited for gas stoves (or better yet a wok burner ), and won’t work on most flat-top stoves. Adding an inexpensive wok ring will make cooking a lot easier and safer.

This is definitely a more specialized choice, but if you take the time to learn how to use a wok properly you will be greatly rewarded and your cooking repertoire greatly expanded.

What we like

  • A very versatile cooking tool
  • Huge cooking volume
  • Heats very quickly
  • Multiple temperature zones

What We don’t

  • Special equipment required
  • Cant be used on glass top or coil stoves
  • Takes practice to become proficient

Most Comfortable Handle: Made In 10-Inch Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan

The curved handle on Made In’s blue carbon steel frying pan pays homage to traditional designs, but makes it more modern, and frankly, much better.

Many of the best carbon steel pans share a similar handle design. It’s usually a long flat piece of steel that is angled up and away from the pan. It gets the job done, but it’s not very comfortable.

Their handle is made from stainless steel rather than carbon steel. It is long and flat, but the edges are very nicely rounded and it has a sweeping arch rather than a straight angle. In the middle is a slight indentation that your thumb rests nicely in.

The curved handle and curved walls of the pan make tossing ingredients feel smooth and very natural.

Made In is an American direct to consumer cookware brand that was started in 2016. They focus on accessible, professional-level cookware. These fry pans are manufactured in France, and built as a modern take on traditional carbon steel pans.

What we like

  • Very comfortable handle
  • Curved walls are great for tossing food
  • More modern design than most options

What We don’t

  • A new brand that hasn’t been proven over time
  • Only available directly from Made In

Best Splurge: Smithey 12-Inch Carbon Steel Farmhouse Skillet

In most cases, carbon steel pans are meant to be utilitarian kitchen workhorses. Rarely are they designed to be ogled by cookware nerds like myself. The Smithey Farmhouse Skillet is one noteworthy exception.

This carbon steel skillet is a work of art as much as it is a functional fry pan. But, it also costs over $200 more than most of the options on our list.

Each skillet is hand forged and hammered in South Carolina, making each piece unique. The sides are more shallow than most and they very naturally curve up from the bottom of the pan.

The shape and design translate to a very large cooking area, but tossing ingredients can be a little cumbersome.

The handle is thick and sturdy, and also features a unique hammered look. There is a helper handle on the opposite side which is great for a pan of this size.

Most brands only offer warranties against manufacturer’s defects, but Smithey goes a step further and will repair or replace their cookware even if it “fails you after honest and normal use”.

What we like

  • Beautiful design and aesthetic
  • Large cooking surface
  • Warranty covers normal use
  • Handmade in the US

What We don’t

  • Very expensive
  • Only one size available
  • Very low sidewalls

What Is So Good About Carbon Steel Cookware?

Carbon steel is so useful in the kitchen because it’s very durable, and can become exceptionally nonstick. 

The initial cost of a carbon steel pan is often between $30 and $75 depending on what brand you go with. That can be a little more expensive than a Teflon or ceramic nonstick pan, but the best carbon steel options should last for generations. 

Compared to cast iron, it can also be slightly more expensive, but you get big weight savings. Being a lighter weight pan makes carbon steel more friendly to use on a daily basis.

The nonstick capabilities are also very impressive, but they do take some work and consistent upkeep for the life of the pan.

If you do put in the time and effort, you’ll end up with a nonstick pan that contains no chemicals and won’t need to be replaced every few years.

Common Drawbacks of Carbon Steel

The biggest and most obvious drawback is that even the best carbon steel requires maintenance in order to function properly.

An initial seasoning process is required and there are special steps that must be taken for cleaning and storage. When used and cared for improperly you’ll have a pan that foods always stick to, and is likely to rust.

Some people also find the appearance of this type of cookware to be less than attractive. Most options out there have a similar rudimentary design, and they can’t be scrubbed and polished to a sparkly sheen. 

I on the other hand love the way that the pans develop and change as they are used more and more. As your carbon steel pan develops its nonstick patina, it becomes a badge of honor that you can show off to those in the unofficial carbon steel cooking club. 


Many of the best carbon steel pans are made from 99% pure iron and 1% carbon. So you know what you’re getting and you don’t have to worry about any potentially dangerous chemicals.

The one thing to keep in mind from a health perspective is that an unproperly cared for pan can develop rust. If that does happen you should take the steps to scrub away the rust with steel wool and restart the seasoning process.

The thin iron handles that most brands utilize can have a tendency to get hot during longer cooking sessions on the stovetop. The unique slotted handle on the Solidteknics skillet does a good job of mitigating that.

Performance and Responsiveness

Carbon steel shares a lot of cooking characteristics with cast iron. After all, iron is the main ingredient in both.

Carbon steel is much thinner than cast iron. Because of that, it doesn’t distribute heat quite as evenly and hot spots are more common.

The great benefit of the thinner carbon steel material is that these pans are very responsive to temperature changes and you don’t have to wait ages to preheat your cookware.

Since carbon steel is pressed or hammered from a sheet of metal it is incredibly smooth from the start. This is a characteristic the leads to a better and more easily achievable nonstick surface.

The iron content also means that you can use any carbon steel pan with induction cooktops, and any other type of cooking surface. The only exception on our list is the wok, but that’s due to the rounded bottom and not the material itself.

How Heavy Is Carbon Steel?

As you may have noticed, carbon steel pans are often compared to cast iron, and I’m going to do it again here. Cast iron skillets are known for their weight and thickness. Two things that contribute to their durability and great heat distribution.

Carbon steel cookware is generally much thinner than cast iron, but are still made from hefty gauged metal. Most of the options on our list are between 2-3 millimeters thick, while a classic Lodge cast iron skillet is around 5-millimeters.

The thinner carbon steel material means less weight. Have you ever tried tossing a stir fry in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet? It can be a good arm workout, but also leads to a messy stovetop. A carbon steel pan is designed to be more mobile and maneuverable on the stovetop.

When you consider carbon steel is the material of choice in many restaurant kitchens, you can imagine that it’s important for cooks to be able to lift and toss these pans repeatedly during a busy lunch or dinner service. 

Still, they are not what I would call a lightweight option. Most of the choices on our list are between 3.5-5 pounds.

Is Carbon Steel Durable?

A good carbon steel pan will last for generations, especially when cared for properly.

One of the reasons cast iron pans are so thick is that it is a rather brittle material. It’s not common, but cast iron pans can crack, but they’ll never bend. Carbon steel on the other hand is more malleable. 

Rather than cracking, carbon steel will bend. This is what allows manufacturers to stamp and mold pans using thinner gauged metal. This also means that it is more durable (in a sense) than cast iron.

While it’s rare that a carbon steel pan will ever crack, it can bend or become warped. All of our choices have solid track records for maintaining their shape, but there are occasions where owners did have warping issues. 

Related Reading: How To Season Your Carbon Steel Pan

Our Recommendations

If you’re buying a carbon steel pan for the first time there are a lot of good and fairly inexpensive options. Since the performance differences between models are often negligible, I wouldn’t go spending hundreds of dollars on something like the Smithey carbon steel skillet right off the bat.

De Buyer carbon steel is what I stock in my kitchen because I’ve used it at home and in demanding restaurants and it has never failed me. Its middle of the road pricing is also well worth the usefulness and durability.

The Winco carbon steel pan as our budget pick is really a great value and a good place to start if you’re not sure if carbon steel is for you or not. Winco

I also really like the Misen option, with a shape similar to something you probably already have in your kitchen. It’s an approachable and user-friendly way to get into carbon steel cookware.

Whatever you choose, if given a chance, I think carbon still will become the pan you reach for more often than not.

De Buyer 11-Inch Fry Pan
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02/18/2024 03:47 pm GMT

About the author

William is a classically trained chef, who spent years cooking in top NYC restaurants before bringing his talents home to Colorado. Now a stay-at-home dad, William has brought his passion for professional cooking home, where he continues to cook and bake for his wife and daughter.

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