5 Best Carbon Steel Skillets to Buy for 2021

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Despite being hugely popular among professional chefs and European home cooks, carbon steel skillets have yet to take off in America. But we honestly feel like they should. What exactly is carbon steel? It’s an alloy made of mostly iron and less than two percent carbon. (That’s slightly less than cast iron.) It was developed alongside steel, stainless steel, and aluminum in the 18th and 19th centuries. Carbon steel can be rolled, stamped, and forged into shape and is most commonly compared to cast iron. Carbon steel is less brittle than cast iron; it’s also lighter, has a smoother surface, and is quicker to heat.

Carbon steel is commonly used for woks (our favorite wok is a carbon steel one) and we’re now seeing it used more and more in knives. A good carbon steel skillet, though, can be used for baking, broiling, searing, sautéing, stir-frying, frying, campfire cooking — basically everything (except cooking dishes with acidic ingredients, as that can strip some of the seasoning).

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of carbon steel skillets. Then, we’ll look at five of the best carbon steel skillets out there and see what the pros (and satisfied shoppers!) have to say about each one.

Pros of Carbon Steel Skillets

Cons of Carbon Steel Skillets

1. Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Frying Pan

The Best 12-Inch Carbon Steel Skillet, According to Cook’s Illustrated

The folks at Cook’s Illustrated made eggs, steaks, and tarte Tatins in eight different carbon steel skillets during a recent update to their guide. Ultimately, they decided to stand by their original favorite. Testers noted the pan’s thick, solid construction, the fact that there are no handle rivets (which can often trap food), the ergonomically angled handle, and the way the sides flared out to allow for easy access while still containing splashes. They also loved the price, how easy it was to season and clean, and the pan’s maneuverability.

2. de Buyer Mineral B 10.2-Inch Frying Pan

The Best Carbon Steel Skillet, According to Serious Eats

Our friends over at Serious Eats don’t have an official list of the best carbon steel skillets (although they do have a great explainer), but they did include this option in a gift guide for beginner cooks. If you’re not familiar, de Buyer is a French brand that’s extremely well-regarded and known especially for its carbon steel pieces.

3. Blanc Creatives 9-Inch Carbon Steel Skillet, $200

4. Lodge 12-Inch Carbon Steel Skillet

A Bestselling Carbon Steel Skillet on Amazon

One of the bestselling carbon steel skillets on Amazon, right now, comes from Lodge (the other is the Matfer Bourgeat one we mentioned above), the company that makes arguably the best cast iron skillets. It has over 4,000 five-star reviews and satisfied shoppers point out the unbeatable price, how well it heats up and sears, and the fact that it comes pre-seasoned (which, again, is rare for a carbon steel skillet).

5. Made In 10-Inch Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan

The Best Carbon Steel Skillet, According to Kitchn

A lot of Kitchn editors love this skillet from direct-to-consumer company Made In. It doesn’t come pre-seasoned like the Lodge pan, but it does come with the brand’s proprietary pan wax. Simply take the pan out of the box, wash it, roast it with the wax for an hour, let it cool completely, and the pan will be ready to go. (Use the rest of the wax for regular upkeep!) We love the shape of the pan (the high sides help contain messes during stovetop frying sessions and make it easy to flip veggies), how it gets more and more nonstick the more you use it, and that it browns food faster than cast iron can. Honestly, we were shocked by the price, too. While it’s not the cheapest carbon steel skillet out there, it’s incredibly high-quality from a top new cookware brand, which gets the thumbs up from loads of celebrity and top chefs.

Do you have a carbon steel skillet you love? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Lisa Freedman

Lifestyle Director

Lisa Freedman is the Lifestyle Director at The Kitchn. She has never met a cheese or a washi tape she didn’t like. She lives in New York state with her husband and their pup, Millie.

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