If you find yourself struggling with sticking or the heavy weight of your cast iron skillet, carbon steel is the skillet for you.

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Everyone has that one pan they reach for all the time — the workhorse that just seems to get it all done, time and time again. For a long time, my go-to pan was a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. But then, a carbon steel skillet came into my life, and my kitchen was never the same again.

What Is Carbon Steel? Carbon Steel vs. Cast Iron

Professional kitchens have relied on carbon steel for a long time. It's prized for its durability and light weight, as well as its ability to get very hot and stay that way. Carbon steel pans, sometimes called French steels, are made with the same components as cast iron: carbon and iron. But unlike cast iron, they have a smaller amount of carbon, which basically means that they're considerably more durable than cast iron.

I love my carbon steel pan because it is so incredibly slick — the surface of the skillet is smoother than any cast iron I own, and it is much easier to season. Though most carbon steel pans come pre-seasoned, I maintain the seasoning in the same way I would with my cast iron: After cooking, I wipe it out and rinse it, then heat it over a medium flame to make sure all the water has fully evaporated. Every few weeks, I wipe it with a thin layer of canola oil and continue heating until it begins to smoke, then I remove it from heat.

Best Carbon Steel Pans

I love Lodge's super-affordable, pre-seasoned carbon steel pan, which is a great entry point for anyone looking for a workhorse pan. At only $35, it's also an excellent gift for a home cook who is just getting started.

For a slightly upgraded option, check out Made In's carbon steel frying pan, which is made in France and backed with a lifetime guarantee. In addition to being a beautifully designed pan, I like the high sides and arched handle of this pan, which make it a little more comfortable to cook with.

This pan does not come pre-seasoned, but Made In offers clear, simple directions about how to do your initial seasoning and keep the pan in excellent shape. With the correct seasoning, this pan will stay slick enough to scramble eggs with minimal clean-up. For either of these, I love the 10-inch size, which is perfect for cooking dinner for two.

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