Merten & Storck Carbon Steel Black Frying Pan

We Tested 8 Carbon Steel Pans—and Our Favorite Is Only $30

This chef-approved cookware is the tool your kitchen is missing.
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If you like to cook, chances are you already know how important it is to have both a quality nonstick skillet and a reliable cast iron pan in your kitchen. A carbon steel skillet combines the benefits of both pans, making it a heavy-duty workhorse that's surprisingly slick and easy to clean. Chefs have heralded this lesser-known pan for years, now it's time home cooks get in on the secret. To help you do so, we tested eight pans from leading brands to find the best one. Read on for our findings.

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Credit: Courtesy of Laura Denby

How We Tested

Carbon steel pans combine the durability of a cast-iron skillet with the functionality of a nonstick pan, so we wanted to find a pan that would conduct heat evenly on both the stovetop and in the oven while maintaining a completely slick surface. An important note: Just like cast iron, carbon steel pans require seasoning—the more you season them, the more nonstick they become over time. Although we did assess each pan's nonstick capabilities, we kept in mind that they wouldn't be as slick on the first use as they may be on the 100th use. Some of the pans we tested arrived pre-seasoned, some we seasoned ourselves. We ran each pan through three culinary tests specifically designed to evaluate heat conductivity, versatility and nonstick functionality. We also took extensive notes on ease of use, care and cleaning.

Carbon Steel Pans
Credit: Courtesy of Laura Denby
Checklist

The Best Carbon Steel Pans

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Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Overall: Merten & Storck 12-inch Carbon Steel Black Frying Pan

To buy: $30, amazon.com

Pros: It's the cheapest and most nonstick on the list.
Cons: Like all carbon steel pans, this piece must be washed by hand. 

This pan thoroughly impressed us in every category. It's lightweight, easy to maneuver, and completely nonstick. It seared chicken thighs to golden perfection, baked a moist, chewy skillet cookie, and scrambled eggs without leaving any residue behind. It came pre-seasoned, and we didn't need to add any additional seasoning, oil, or butter while cooking. It washes easily with hot water, but we could've thoroughly cleaned it with a dry cloth since nothing stuck to the pan during our testing. The Merten & Storck pan is compatible with all stovetops, oven-safe, and even safe to use over an open flame. Not only is this pan functional and versatile, but it's also the most affordable on our list. 

Credit: Courtesy of Made-In

Best Nonstick: Made In 10-inch Blue Carbon Steel Fry Pan

To buy: $79, madeincookware.com

Pros: An ergonomic handle makes maneuvering super easy.
Cons: Cooking acidic ingredients is not recommended as they can strip the coating on the pan.

Made In's carbon steel skillet passed all of our tests and was particularly useful for  scrambling eggs, thanks to the completely nonstick surface. Our testers loved the ergonomic handle, which made this pan one of the easiest to hold and maneuver. The lightweight body and balanced handle made transferring it from stovetop to oven seamless. This pan produced golden, crispy chicken skin and moist, chewy skillet cookies. It's oven-safe up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit and is easy to clean with hot water and a scrub brush.

Credit: Courtesy of Food52

Best Splurge: Smithey Hand-Foraged 12-inch Carbon Steel Skillet

To buy: $275, food52.com

Pros: Each pan is handmade and completely unique. 
Cons: It needs some seasoning before it becomes completely nonstick. 

Smithey's hand-forged carbon steel skillets are stunning pieces of cookware that are just waiting to become family heirlooms. Each piece is handmade and unique, which makes this carbon steel pan an impressive gift for your favorite home chef. It boasts a large cooking surface with gently sloped sides and a long handle. It warmed up quickly and transferred heat evenly and consistently throughout the entire pan. Though the pan comes pre-seasoned, it could benefit from additional seasoning—while it passed all three of our tests, we did notice that some egg residue stuck to the pan. It was very easy to clean with hot water.

Other Pans We Tested

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Credit: Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

de Buyer Mineral B Pro 11-inch Fry Pan

To buy: $110, williams-sonoma.com

This pan passed all of our tests and was completely nonstick throughout the cooking process. It comes coated in a protective layer of beeswax, so be sure to scrub that off and season it properly before first use. We found that our seasoning was adequate, and not only was the pan totally slick on the first use, but it also continued to get more nonstick with each subsequent test. It's durable, functional and we love how easy it is to clean with just some hot water and a scrub brush. Unfortunately, it was one of the heaviest and most cumbersome to handle.

Credit: Courtesy of Misen

Misen 10-inch Carbon Steel Pan

To buy: $75, misen.com

This heavy-duty pan is durable and conducts heat quickly and evenly. Chicken thighs browned nicely and the pan easily transferred to the oven to bake up a perfectly chewy chocolate chip cookie. We liked that the pan came equipped with a removable silicone handle, which kept it cool and slip-free while on the stovetop. The nonstick functionality worked nicely, though some bits of egg did stick to the surface. This pan comes coated in beeswax for extra protection, so make sure to scrub it off and season it before your first use.

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Lodge 12-inch Carbon Steel Skillet

To buy: $50 (originally $60), amazon.com

Lodge's carbon steel cookware comes pre-seasoned, so we didn't add any extra oil or seasoning when cooking. Though the pan is heavy-duty and equipped with an easy-to-grab extra-long handle, it was not as nonstick as we'd hoped. Our batch of test eggs got stuck, and it took a lot of elbow grease to scrub it clean with water and a brush.

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Matfer Bourgeat 12-inch Carbon Steel Pan

To buy: $64, walmart.com

This pan passed both our chicken and cookie test, but fell short on the egg test. While it's a sturdy, durable pan that transfers heat nicely, it was not as slick as we'd hoped. We also found it more challenging to clean than some of the others.

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Oxo Obsidian Carbon Steel 10-inch Fry Pan

To buy: $40, amazon.com

This pan has a large cooking surface and deeply angled sides, making it ideal for cooking large batches. However, we didn't find the surface as slick as some of the others, and a good deal of residue stuck to the pan during our egg test.