When it comes to perfecting a new dish, having the right ingredients is essential. But in some cases, having the right kitchenware can have an even more impact on the success of a meal. Kitchen storage space is typically at a minimum, so investing in kitchenware that will last for years and can be used to make a variety of dishes are two crucial factors when deciding to add a new tool to your culinary lineup. That’s why we recommend using a carbon steel skillet, which can cook everything from eggs to steak and is safe for the stovetop, the oven, the broiler and even the campfire. Plus, it’s durable, easy to clean with just water, affordable and lasts for years. The only thing a carbon steel skillet can’t do is buy your groceries, but give it time.
Cast iron skillets have long been a staple in home kitchens, but professional kitchens tend to use carbon steel skillets because of their tough makeup and ability to withstand high temperatures for extended periods. Carbon steel skillets are more durable than cast iron and tend to have a lower price point. Like cast iron, carbon steel can withstand high temperatures, making them safe for use when baking, broiling, sauteing, braising and frying on the stovetop. Unlike cast iron, carbon steel skillets conduct heat quickly and hold the heat after they’ve been removed from the heat source, meaning your food will stay warm longer. It’s also lighter than cast iron, which makes it easy to use.
Like cast iron, carbon steel is also naturally seasoned through use, which eventually makes it non-stick. It also holds heat in its handles like cast iron, so it’s important to exercise caution and use oven mitts whenever handling a carbon steel skillet.
For an affordable alternative to cast iron that can be used to caramelize, fry, brown and braise, check out our top picks of carbon steel skillets.
1. MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan
Heat food quickly in a skillet made without any harsh chemicals using the MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan. Available in six sizes ranging from 7.9 inches to 14.2 inches (the 11-inch model is shown here), the Mineral B Round pan is made with 99% steel and 1% carbon. The all-natural pan is made without PTFE or PFOA and has no chemicals added. Made in France, the company has used hand rivets to keep the handle in place similar to those used in the Eiffel Tower. The ergonomic handle has a French curve that is designed for easy stirring and flipping. The pan arrives with a beeswax coating to help protect against oxidation and is easily seasoned using oil and heat. The induction ready, warp-resistant pan is oven safe for up to 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pros: Multiple size options, made without chemicals and has an ergonomic handle.
Cons: The handle is epoxy coated which means users cannot broil the pan or leave it in the oven for extended periods at high heat.
2. Lodge CRS10 Carbon Steel Skillet
If you’re looking for a pan that can handle high heats, we recommend the Lodge CRS10 Carbon Steel Skillet. Available in four sizes ranging from eight inches to 15 inches (10 inches shown here), the Lodge Skillet is made with 12 gauge carbon steel that heats quickly and evenly. Made to last for years, the Lodge Skillet is safe for use on gas, over open flames, stovetops and outdoor grills. The skillet arrives pre-seasoned with soybean oil for a natural and easy-release finish that will continue to taste and work better the more it’s used. The skillet’s nonstick abilities will improve with each use. Three steel rivets hold the handle in place and the tough skillet is safe for use with knives and forks.
Pros: Can withstand high temperatures, arrives preseasoned and has a long lifespan.
Cons: Microwave ovens are the only heat source not approved for the Lodge Skillet.
3. BK Cookware Skillet Black Carbon Steel
The BK Cookware Skillet made with Black Carbon Steel advertises itself as the more durable and lightweight alternative to traditional carbon steel. The pre-seasoned pan can sear and is oven safe like cast-iron and traditional carbon steel, but without the bulk. Black carbon steel is corrosion- and stain-resistant and is designed to be three times denser than aluminum for added longevity and durability. Safe for use with metal utensils, the BK Cookware Skillet can be used up over open flames and grills, electric or induction stovetops, and is oven safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. The skillet arrives with a thin silicon wax coating that must be removed using soap and water.
Pros: Lightweight, high heat rating and stain-resistant.
Cons: The skillet does not have a flat bottom which makes it difficult to evenly distribute heat.
4. Lodge CRS15 Carbon Steel Skillet
Prepare meals for a large crowd with the Lodge CRS15 Carbon Steel Skillet. The 15-inch skillet comes with two handles on either side to help evenly distribute the weight when moving the pan. Designed especially for high heat, the skillet is ideal for browning and searing. Made in the USA, the skillet is designed to last for years and is safe for use on gas, electric, induction stovetops, open fire and outdoor grills. Featuring an easy-release finish, the skillet improves with each use and should be naturally seasoned with oil and hand washed with water only.
Pros: Large size, two handles for easy carrying, designed for high heat.
Cons: The pan is heavy.