Equipment Review: Best Carbon-Steel Skillets (Can This One Pan Do It All?) & Our Testing Winner

By: America's Test Kitchen

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Uploaded on 08/10/2015

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What if one pan could do everything the best traditional stainless-steel, cast-iron, and nonstick pans can do—and, in some cases, even do it a little better?

We tested 8 carbon-steel skillets to find the best one:
Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Frying Pan, 11 7/8"
Blu Skillet Ironware 13" Fry Pan
Mauviel M’steel Round Fry Pan, Steel Handle 12.5"
Turk Heavy Steel Frying Pan 11"
De Buyer Mineral B Frypan, 12.6"
Paderno World Cuisine Heavy Duty Polished Carbon Steel Frying Pan, 12 1/2"
Lodge 12" Seasoned Steel Skillet
Vollrath 12 1/2" Carbon Steel Fry Pan

Are Carbon-Steel Knives Worth It? Watch now:

Are You Using the Best Cutting Board? Watch now:

Even if you’ve never heard of a carbon-steel skillet, you’ve almost certainly eaten a meal made in one. Restaurant chefs use these pans for all kinds of tasks, from searing steak to sautéing onions to cooking eggs. French omelet and crêpe pans are made of carbon steel, as are the woks used in Chinese restaurants. Even Julia Child had a few carbon-steel pieces alongside her familiar rows of copper cookware. In European home kitchens, these pans are hugely popular. Somehow, though, despite their prevalence in restaurants, they’ve never really caught on with home cooks in the United States. Given their reputation for being as great at browning as they are at keeping delicate foods from sticking, we wondered if it was time that changed.

We bought seven carbon-steel skillets, all as close as possible to our preferred sizeof 12 inches for a primary skillet, priced from $39.95 to $79.95. For fun we also threw in a $230 hand-forged version made in Oregon. Bearing in mind carbon steel’s multipurpose promise, we decided on a range of recipes for our testing: frying eggs, turning out cheese omelets, pan-searing steaks, and baking the traditional French upside-down apple dessert known as tarte Tatin, which begins on the stove and moves to the oven. Along the way we’d evaluate the skillets’ shape, weight, handle comfort, and maneuverability. Washing the pans after every test would let us judge how easy they were to clean and maintain. Our key question: Could this one type of pan actually make owning the other skillets we’ve always had in our arsenal—stainless-steel tri-ply, cast-iron, and nonstick—more of an option than a necessity?

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Comments (1):

By KozmoNau7    2019-09-11

I've tried the flaxseed method, and while the seasoning looked good, it was very fragile.

The best method I've found over more than a decade of cooking on cast iron and carbon steel is this one, recommended by Matfer-Bourgeat (who make the best pans IMO) and America's Test Kitchen (at 2:00):

Original Thread

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