When it comes to cookware, carbon steel is king. Composed of roughly 99 percent iron and one percent carbon, it’s an incredibly durable material, one that heats up quickly and cooks food evenly. That’s why a carbon steel skillet is such a worthy investment.
Carbon steel skillets often get compared to their cast-iron brethren, but they’re the superior pick for a few reasons. For one, they’re stronger and therefore more long lasting than cast iron. For another, a carbon steel skillet can handle even higher temperatures than a cast iron one. Plus, carbon steel is a lighter weight material and it’s (mercifully) nonstick. Just remember to season your new carbon steel cookware before you braise any meat in it, unless it’s pre-seasoned. Otherwise, food will stick and the skillet will be more prone to rust.
A carbon steel skillet is a versatile piece of cookware, too, as it can be heated either in the oven or on the stove top. The only catch? These skillets must be hand-washed in order for them to really last. That said, you can easily use one for years and years without fear of it breaking down. In other words, it’s an investment—so you’ll want to make sure you pick up the right skillet from the start. Here are four of our favorites.
1. BK Cookware Carbon Steel Skillet
BK Cookware has been making high-quality tools for the kitchen since its originator, Hendrik Berk, invented the enameled steel Dutch oven in 1851. Its carbon steel skillet is a sleek pan with a black iron oxide layer that makes it highly resistant to corrosion or scratches. Its cast-iron handle, meanwhile, is made with rivets, so it’s plenty comfortable.
Pros: A carefully designed and durable skillet.
Cons: Taller than other skillets, so it may not fit in some ovens.
BUY NOW: $59.95
2. Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet
If you’re looking to cook up some paella, then Lodge’s carbon steel skillet is the best pick. It’s 15-inch diameter means you’ll be able to fit more food, and the two handles on either side make transporting the skillet from the stovetop to the table easy. It’s not just limited to paella, either—though it can certainly cook the traditional Spanish dish to perfection. The skillet can just as easily be used for meat, vegetables, macaroni and cheese or whatever else is on the menu.
Pros: Wider diameter makes it an extremely versatile pan.
Cons: Some may prefer a skillet with a pan handle.
BUY NOW: $49.90
3. De Buyer Carbon Steel Fry Pan
Though it’s made of carbon steel, De Buyer’s skillet will help you cut down on your carbon footprint. The skillet is handmade in France with all-natural materials, and includes no harmful chemicals. But it doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of its function, as it’s a great pan that’s as durable and nonstick as the rest. Plus, it has two handles, so it will suit many different cooking styles.
Pros: A handmade skillet with universal appeal and an eco-friendly design.
Cons: The spare design won’t wow anyone.
BUY NOW: $89.95
4. Marquette Castings Carbon Steel Skillet
Marquette Castings’ carbon steel skillet is the real deal. It’s one of the most durable, sleek pans available. Plus, it’s plenty versatile, able to transition from the electric (or gas) stovetop to the oven easier than other carbon steel skillets. Bonus: It comes pre-seasoned and includes a lifetime warranty.
Pros: A gorgeous skillet that will last for years.
Cons: With a 10.75-inch diameter, it’s one of the smaller skillets out there.
BUY NOW: $174.95