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The best carbon steel skillet may not have the shine of stainless, but what it lacks in sparkle it makes up for in durability. Unlike stainless, carbon steel tells a story; you can see how much use a carbon steel skillet gets in the kitchen. Depending on your style, that character and coziness could be just what you need. If this sounds like something for you, keep reading for our carbon steel skillet reviews and ratings.
In This Article
Aesthetics aside, carbon steel is incredibly strong and conducts heat more quickly than most similar materials, making it a great choice for camping cookware. It needs to be seasoned similar to cast iron but is a fraction of the weight. Are you sold yet on getting a carbon steel skillet? We found the top five best carbon steel skillets for you to learn about below.
The Lodge 12-inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet is the best carbon steel skillet because it comes in three convenient sizes and is pre-seasoned so you can start using it immediately without seasoning it yourself.
The Lodge 12-inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet comes in 8″, 10″, and 12″ options. You can pick just one pan, or have a whole set from the same company. Lodge is said to make the best carbon steel pans because they are made to last decades for professional, personal, and outdoor use.
These carbon steel fry pans come pre-seasoned with soybean oil, so part of the work of building up non-stick seasoning is already started for you. Lodge Carbon Skillets are made with high-density 12 gauge steel, meaning that they are thick and durable to last for years. Like most carbon steel skillets, they must be hand washed, dried immediately, and rubbed with cooking oil while still warm to keep it seasoned and nonstick.
- Made from 12 gauge carbon steel
- Pre-seasoned for use right out of the box
- steel riveted handle
- Seasoned with soybean oil and not suitable for people with soy allergies
The deBuyer Mineral B 14-inch Round Carbon Steel Skillet is the best carbon steel skillet because these skillets are handcrafted and coated with natural beeswax instead of artificial chemicals.
The deBuyer Mineral B 14-inch Round Carbon Steel Skillet is made in France of some of the highest quality alloys. These skillets are guaranteed to be without Teflon or Perfluorooctanoic Acid, and the nonstick quality comes from natural oils without any added chemicals.
This set of carbon steel fry pans come in five different sizes at varying price points: 7.9 in, 9.5 in, 10.2 in, 11 in, 12.6 in, and 14.2 in (the measurements are odd because of the conversion from centimeters). No matter which size (or sizes) you get, this is a purchase to last a lifetime if maintained well.
This company touts itself as the original carbon steel, and has been in the business of cookware since 1830. The skillets are also protected by deBuyer’s beeswax finish and handcrafted to last a lifetime.
- Beeswax finish
- Non-chemical coatings
- Company has a long history
- Epoxy handle limits oven use
The Winco French Style Carbon Steel Frying Pan w/ Long Handle is the best carbon steel skillet because it’s an affordable option that is great for bringing on camping trips due to its light weight.
The Winco French Style Carbon Steel Frying Pan w/ Long Handle is an excellent option for home chefs on a budget, or those of you who love to whip out the frying pan on a camping trip but don’t want to bring your most expensive set! This French-style carbon skillet comes in five different sizes, varying from 7-⅞” to 12-⅝”, making it an excellent smaller skillet option.
Since the handle is also metal on this carbon steel fry pan, it may become extremely hot to the touch if left on the stove for an extended period, so remember your oven mitts! The handle is painted, so you’ll want to be careful if using this skillet in the oven since the painting might not hold up as well to that heat. It also comes coated in a varnish that prevents rusting while in transport and storage, but you’ll want to scrub it off and season it before use.
- Extra long handle
- Affordable price
- Doesn’t come pre-seasoned
The Lodge 12-inch Black & Orange Carbon Steel Skillet is the best carbon steel skillet because it has a removable silicone handle cover that gives you a better grip and protects your hand from the heat.
The Lodge 12-inch Black & Orange Carbon Steel Skillet is another option from Lodge and made from the same heavy duty 12 gauge carbon steel. This product is offered in both the 10″ and 12″ sizes and comes with a removable silicone handle cover. The silicone cover is ridged to give you a firm grip on the skillet and protects your hand from temperatures up to 500° Fahrenheit.
The fact that the silicone cover is removable is great for general kitchen use. The skillet can be placed in the oven at high temperatures without worrying about a handle melting. You should remove the silicone cover for cooking over an open flame, as well. While cooking with an open flame, the extra long handle will come in handy so you don’t have to get too close to the fire. Like the Lodge CRS10, this skillet comes pre-seasoned with soybean oil, so you can get cooking right away.
- Comes with a removable silicone handle cover
- Comes pre-seasoned
- Made with thick 12 gauge carbon steel
- Seasoned with soybean oil and not suitable for people with soybean allergies
The ICON 8-inch Dishwasher-Safe Carbon Steel Skillet is the best carbon steel skillet because this company offers many different sizes and types of pans that are all dishwasher safe so long as they’re seasoned afterwards.
The ICON 8-inch Dishwasher-Safe Carbon Steel Skillet comes in four different skillet sizes: 8″, 10″, 12″, and 14″. Not only that, but they also offer a carbon steel 14″ wok, four quart sauce pan, 9-½” steak pan, 12″ griddle, and appropriate lids for each size option. I love the variety of options from this company because if you fall in love with one of the products, you can get a whole set from the same company!
These skillets come with a 25-year consumer warranty, 5-year commercial warranty, and are the only dishwasher-safe option of today’s list. These skillets are advertised to be able to withstand temperatures up to 800° Fahrenheit, so you don’t need to be afraid when putting them in the oven.
- Wok and quart pan options
- Dishwasher safe
- Lids available for purchase
- If washed in dishwasher, the pans will need to be re-seasoned before each use
Features to Consider for the Best Carbon Steel Skillet
When reading carbon steel skillet reviews, you’ll see a lot of features that claim they make one skillet the best carbon steel skillet over all the others. In reality, most characteristics of individual skillets and pans aren’t inherently good or bad, just better or worse suited to certain tasks. Once you know what you want to use carbon steel for, you can find the traits that best meet those needs. Here are some things to look out for when purchasing carbon steel cookware.
Gauge of steel
The gauge of the steel really just indicates the thickness of the metal. Measuring by gauge is totally independent of measuring systems like standard or metric, but it can be nice to know the thickness of the sheet metal. Generally, thicker metal is sturdier and will last longer, but the trade off is that it’s heavier and may take longer to heat up.
The Difference Between Carbon Steel and Cast Iron?
Both carbon steel and cast iron skillets need to be seasoned with each use in order to keep them nonstick and prevent rust and corrosion. Due to these similar traits, you may wonder what the difference between them is at.
Carbon steel and cast iron are both durable, able to withstand very high temperatures, need to be seasoned, and are prone to rusting. However, cast iron skillets take longer to heat up because they are less conductive and are considerably heavier than carbon steel skillets. When you’re camping, every pound counts, so you will want to save on weight wherever you can. Having a carbon steel skillet can mean being able to bring an extra camping cutting board, pot stand, or extra camping plates.
Despite their differences, carbon steel needs to be taken care of like cast iron. You’ll still need to follow the same general rules like not soaking the skillet or cooking extremely acidic foods in it.
Is Your Carbon Steel Skillet Oven-Safe?
While carbon steel itself is oven safe, if you plan on using your new carbon steel skillet in the oven, you need to check that any additional materials (like the handle) are either oven safe or removable. This applies to cooking over an open flame as well. Certain coatings and materials like Teflon, plastic, rubber, and some silicone are not oven-safe. If you’re looking for the best carbon stteel skillet, you definitely want to know that before you make a purchase rather than after.
Carbon Steel or Stainless Steel
The best carbon steel skillets are stronger, more heat-resistant, and longer lasting than stainless steel skillets—with the proper care. If you don’t commit to the correct maintenance of carbon steel, what should have been a lifelong purchase will rust within months. With both of these materials, you can use any type of utensil. Don’t worry about scratching your new pan if you have metal camping utensils.
Handle Length and Material
The main part of the pan that will have a different material is the handle. If you want oven use, you’ll definitely want a solid metal handle. If you’re worried about it getting too hot over the campfire, opt for a longer handle. The further from the heat source the tip of the handle is, the less hot it will get while cooking.
One of the most basic (but most important) characteristics of a skillet is the size. Keep in mind that the measurements refer to the width of the entire pan, edge to edge, and not the diameter of the flat base. Cooking omelettes for yourself on occasion is going to require a drastically different skillet than feeding a hungry family of five.
Benefits of Using Carbon Steel Skillets
The best carbon steel skillets are naturally nonstick without involving chemical coatings that wear and scratch over time. They are also extremely durable and heat-resistant, even when compared to other metals like stainless steel and cast iron, and considerably lighter than cast iron. Carbon steel accommodates high temperatures without warping, and you don’t have to worry about coatings wearing over time. Well-maintained carbon steel cookware will last you a lifetime, making it an excellent choice for your camping mess kit.
Even with all that, the thing I love the most about carbon steel is its versatility. A carbon steel skillet can sear, braise, sauté, broil, and bake with ease—you can even use one as a paella pan. There aren’t a lot of materials that can boast the same, so whether you’re trying to make crêpes or cornbread, the best carbon steel skillet has you covered!
Precautions of Using Carbon Steel Skillets
As mentioned briefly at a few earlier points, the best carbon steel pans needs some extra care that you wouldn’t have to give your average stainless steel pan. Here are some things to remember if you’re thinking about purchasing one of the skillets from our carbon steel pan reviews.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you have to take care of your skillet. These aren’t pans that you can leave on a wet countertop or forget in the sink. Even the best carbon steel pans require maintenance and attention. They need to be kept try and seasoned. Moisture is your worst enemy, and will turn even the best carbon steel skillet to rust before you realize what happened.
It may sound odd if you’re coming from traditional nonstick cookware, but when cleaning carbon steel use very little soap or none at all. Soap can damage even the best carbon steel pans, so you need to scrape any food residue off with a metal spatula and wipe clean with a soft-brush scrubber or a sponge until all the leftovers are gone. Dry the pan immediately and thoroughly before re-seasoning.
Carbon Steel Doesn’t Like Acidic Foods
It’s best to avoid cooking highly acidic foods in even the best carbon steel skillets. The acid causes iron to seep from the pan, stripping away the patina you’ve worked so hard to build up and resulting in metallic-tasting food. Probably not what you want for dinner! Acidic foods include citrus fruits (like lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges), tomatoes, and vinegar. If you’re not sure if something is too acidic for carbon steel, consulting the internet isn’t a bad idea. Otherwise, save stewing tomatoes for your roasting pan.
We got to cover a lot of great products in these carbon steel skillet reviews, but at the end of the day, we think the Lodge 12-inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet is the best carbon steel skillet overall. With good maintenance this skillet will give you decades of delicious home cooked food. The fact that is comes pre-seasoned is a bonus, and the metal handle means there aren’t any worries when cooking in or out of the oven. Whether you’re cooking meat, vegetables, potatoes, broiling, baking, or whatever else you can come up with, this is the best carbon steel pan for the job.
No matter which carbon steel skillet you choose, make sure you take care of it well so that it will take care of you in return for years to come!