F&W Game Changers: The Perfect Pan

The new generation of carbon steel cookware is durable, affordable, and stylish.

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carbon steel pan with fried egg
Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

The power of a good carbon steel pan has been an open secret in restaurant kitchens for years. Thanks to brands like Mauviel, Made In, Lodge, and Proclamation Goods, which have introduced affordable, design-forward carbon steel cookware for consumers, carbon steel is ready to come home.

READ MORE: Food & Wine Game Changers: 25 People and Companies Changing the Way We Eat and Drink

Like a cross between cast iron and nonstick, carbon steel is much lighter in weight than the former and more versatile than the latter. Chefs love it because it heats up quickly, usually in just three to five minutes, and stays hot. "A carbon steel pan maintains an even distribution of heat, which allows for an even and consistent cook," says pitmaster Matt Horn, owner of Horn Barbecue in Oakland, California. "I love using mine to make burgers."

Carbon steel pans often have sloped sides, unlike the vertical sides of cast-iron skillets, so they work especially well for sautéing vegetables and flipping omelets. Stephanie Izard, chef-owner of Chicago and L.A. restaurants including Girl & the Goat, uses a carbon steel wok for stir-fries and quick deep-frying.

Food writer and cookbook author Andrea Nguyen favors Mauviel M'Steel pans (from $70, amazon.com) because they have relatively wider bottoms—an upside when making one of her go-to recipes, Vietnamese shaking beef. "The cubes of beef need space and ripping heat. Plus, you need to move the pan a lot, and carbon steel is lighter."

Nguyen likes the handle on the pan and the fact that it doesn't get hot. She says, "Everyone needs to find the pan that feels comfortable for them, and Mauviel is mine."

3 More Favorite Carbon Steel Pans

Made In Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan

Made In Carbon Steel
Made In

This direct-to-consumer cookware brand started selling carbon steel skillets in 2018, when their France-made carbon steel products first caught the eyes of chefs like Tom Colicchio. Since then, Made In has expanded from frying pans to carbon steel paella pans, roasting pans, and woks. All of their carbon steel products are versatile, durable, and worth the investment. From $65 at madeincookware.com

Lodge Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet

lodge cast iron skillet

Lodge is known as the queen of cast iron, but its carbon steel skillet shows the range is greater than that. The skillet comes in a variety of sizes (8, 10, and 12 inches) and works just as well in a home kitchen as it does at a campsite. Lodge's carbon steel skillets come seasoned with 100% natural vegetable oil and require the same care as cast iron: rinse, hand dry, and finish with oil. From $45 at amazon.com

Proclamation Goods The Proclamation Duo

Proclamation Goods
Proclamation Goods

The Proclamation Duo is peak design genius. One half of the set is a 12-inch carbon steel skillet; the other is a 7-quart stainless steel stockpot that doubles as a wok. The skillet can be flipped over the stockpot and hinged on as a lid, creating a Dutch oven that's perfect for braising brisket and baking bread. While the set is pricey, it's a great value—especially considering its versatility. $395 at proclamationgoods.com

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