Can you fall in love with a skillet? We did.
WINNER - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
GOOD ★★★ FAIR ★★ POOR ★
EASE OF USE ★★★
12" Weight: 4.7 lb 10" Weight: 3.11 lb 8" Weight: 2.12 lb
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How we tested skillets
We bought seven carbon-steel skillets, all as close as possible to our preferred size of 12 inches for a primary skillet.
Bearing in mind carbon steel’s multipurpose promise, we decided on a range of tasks for our testing: frying eggs, turning out cheese omelets, pan-searing steaks, and baking the traditional French upside-down apple dessert called 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.
Reason to Season
Carbon steel, like cast iron, rusts when it’s bare. It requires seasoning, a process that bonds oil to the pan to not only provide a layer of protection but also start the process of making the pan nonstick, which happens remarkably quickly. It’s easy to do (instructions come with the pan and are available on our website).
Lightweight Heavy Hitter
Our first discovery was a big one: Getting true nonstick performance from a carbon-steel skillet is remarkably quick. The impressively deep, even browning we saw during our steak searing tests was on par with cast iron, but because carbon-steel pans are lighter and thinner than similar-size cast-iron pans, the carbon-steel pans were able to heat up in half the time.
Through Thick and Thin
We found two basic styles: very thin, shell-like pans and a thicker variety. The thin pans scorched food and threw off recipe times (butter instantly browned and even blackened before we could crack an egg to fry), and they warped by the end of testing. We preferred the thicker skillets. Even if they were a bit harder to lift, they regulated heat much better and did not warp.
Some pans felt unbalanced or had slightly cramped cooking surfaces. Others had too-high sides that impeded access to the food or too-low sides that let liquids splash out. And several of the pans had unusually long, steeply angled handles; these made shorter testers grab them at awkward angles, and they barely fit inside the oven when we baked tarte Tatin.
Our favorite, the Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Frying Pan, is the pan that does it all:
・Cooks beautifully and is nonstick without a synthetic coating
・Performs like stainless-steel tri-ply and can brown more deeply
・Sturdy and easier to maneuver than cast iron
・Quick to acquire a slick seasoning and to clean up
・Smooth, rivet-free interior that won’t trap food particles
・Ergonomically angled handle
・Affordable at one-fifth the price of our second-favorite carbon-steel pan