To cook the perfect steak, you need to have a certain degree of knowledge in the field and the right tools.
Sometimes, the weather does not cooperate with our personal desires and the grill is not an option. This is when we normally turn our attention to the alternative indoor method of using a trustworthy skillet.
So, which are the best skillets for steak? While cast iron skillets are generally accepted as the best type of pans for steak, carbon steel and stainless steel are high-quality alternatives. The best skillet should be well-constructed, but the best material is somewhat up to preference.
In this article, we’ll look at each of the three best kinds of skillets, by material. Although cast iron, carbon steel, and stainless steel are all great, it’s worth looking at each side by side to find your personal favorite.
We’ll also share our top 5 picks for the best skillets, made with different materials, so you can make the perfect steak!
The Main Types of Skillets
While cast iron may be considered as the best option, you may prefer carbon steel or stainless steel cookware since it matches your culinary taste. The good thing is that there are valuable choices in each category.
1. Cast Iron Skillets
Cast iron is easily one of the most durable materials used in cookware. Cast iron skillets are considered to be the most suitable option for searing steak since they retain and distribute high heat evenly.
The only downside is that it often takes longer for a cast iron skillet to heat up but then, your pan will retain that heat for much longer.
While most cast iron skillets are pre-seasoned, we suggest re-seasoning yours before you use it for the first time.
If you are not yet familiar with the process, cast iron pans are seasoned with oil or similar food products to improve the surface of the pan and makes it non-stick. Eventually, you would have to season it after some use anyway if you do not want to ruin it.
If you take good care of your cast iron pan, it could literally last a lifetime. Surprisingly or not, it will actually cook better with time and use.
Advantages of a Cast Iron Skillet
- No other cookware material retains heat like cast iron.
- Cast iron is free of synthetic chemicals which is why people consider it to be a healthier alternative to other cookware materials.
- Cast iron pans naturally boost your food with iron which is another health-related advantage of using one.
- While cast iron skillets may appear to be expensive, they can easily last a lifetime which makes them a one-time investment.
Disadvantages of a Cast Iron Skillet
- Cast iron skillets require additional re-seasoning.
- While cast iron skillets are made out of one component which improves the distribution of heat during cooking, this also means that the handle also absorbs a lot of that heat. In other words, you can easily burn yourself if you forget about this little detail.
- Cast iron cookware is naturally heavier which makes it uncomfortable for some people.
- Cast iron skillets need additional time to heat up.
2. Carbon Steel Skillets
Carbon steel cookware is another common alternative to cast iron that comes with certain advantages and disadvantages in comparison.
Carbon steel is also hardy and durable but requires an additional amount of maintenance. Unlike with a cast iron skillet, you will have to re-season it regularly if you want it to last.
Cookware made from carbon steel is relatively more expensive than cast iron cookware but remains a worthy purchase if you plan to take care of it.
Stay away from cheap alternatives since they are often made from cheap and thin carbon steel which does not heat up well and does not last long.
Unlike cast iron, carbon steel heats up quickly and reacts well to temperature changes during the cooking process. On the other hand, it also cools down quicker, thus, you should not expect it to retain heat for long.
Advantages of a Carbon Steel Skillet
- The smooth surface of carbon steel pans improves searing.
- Carbon steel skillets are light and convenient to use.
- Carbon steel skillets are free of synthetic chemicals
- Your carbon steel pan will likely develop its own non-stick surface as time passes by. That is, of course, if you season it regularly.
Disadvantages of a Carbon Steel Skillet
- Carbon steel distributes and holds heat well but does not retain it.
- Carbon steel skillets require more maintenance and re-seasoning.
- The handle can get dangerously hot if you cook at high heat.
- Washing a carbon steel skillet with regular soap removes the seasoning.
3. Stainless Steel
The main advantage of stainless steel cookware is that you can cook anything in it without risking damage to the pan or skillet.
When it comes to cast iron or carbon steel, in comparison, you need to stay away from acidic foods that damage the surface.
Stainless steel is easy to heat up and it is highly responsive to temperature changes.
Since most stainless steel pans are made from a mixture of materials that includes a core made from something else like copper or aluminum, they distribute heat better than most alternatives like cast iron and carbon steel.
In a similar fashion, stainless steel pans are often slightly more expensive but will serve you for a lifetime if you take good care of them.
Advantages of a Stainless Steel Skillet
- You can cook everything besides steak without any risk of damage or wear-off.
- Stainless steel is light and comfortable to use.
- Stainless steel pans are easy to clean and can even be put in a dishwasher.
- Stainless steel pans distribute heat well and cook well at high heat.
Disadvantages of a Stainless Steel Skillet
- Stainless steel cookware is normally more expensive than carbon steel and cast iron.
The Best Skillets for Steak
Now that we’ve gone over materials and you’ve had time to pick your favorite(s), it’s time to look at some specific skillets.
Here are our top five choices:
|1.||Lodge Cast Iron Skillet||Pre-seasoned, 10.5"|
|2.||De Buyer Carbon Steel Fry Pan||Beeswax finish, 14"|
|3.||Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet||Pre-seasoned, 12"|
|4.||Tramontina Stainless Steel Fry Pan||Induction stove safe, 12"|
|5.||Simple Chef Cast Iron Skillet Set||Pre-seasoned, 10", 8", 6"|
Let’s read on to learn more about these great skillets.
1. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
Lodge is one of the go-to brands for durable cookware and this particular cast iron skillet will last a lifetime. It comes pre-seasoned and is suitable for any type of cooking and specifically for searing stakes. Nevertheless, we recommend seasoning it additionally before your first use.
One of the big advantages of this cast iron skillet is the hot handle holder that comes with the pan. It is made from silicone and will protect your hand when the pan gets hot.
The handle is also helpful during the cooking process because it improves your grip. We mentioned how heavy cast iron pans are, therefore, a better grip is a big advantage.
Last but not least, you can use this skillet on the stove or in the oven, which is a nice bonus.
- Made of cast iron free of synthetic chemicals
- Comes with a genuine leather hot handle holder
Biggest Drawback: The drawbacks here are directly connected to the material – cast iron. Cookware made from cast iron is heavier and harder to control. It also takes longer to heat up but while this is a drawback it is also an advantage since it retains the heat longer afterward.
2. De Buyer Carbon Steel Fry Pan
This skillet by De Buyer is made entirely from natural materials and 99% pure iron. While we have selected the largest version, you can also settle for one of the five smaller versions of this skillet if you do not need such a large one.
While these pans do not impress with appearance, De Buyer uses beeswax as an additional layer of protection against rusting. It does also improves the seasoning that you will have to do if you want a non-stick surface since this pan is not pre-seasoned.
This pan cooks well and quick at high temperatures and is also known to distribute heat evenly at all times. It can also be used in the oven for shorter periods at up to 400 F.
- Made from 100% natural materials
- Additional protection from rusting and oxidation with beeswax
- Cooks well at high temperature
Biggest Drawback: Apart from the normal drawbacks that come with carbon steel cookware, the major drawback here is that this pan does not come pre-seasoned.
3. Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet
We chose a second skillet by Lodge because the quality of this brand is irreplaceable. This time, we have a carbon steel skillet that is perfect for searing steak and as the name suggests, it is pre-seasoned. Once again, you have several options of size but we chose the 12-inch skillet since we feel like this size has more usability.
This skillet stands out in the carbon steel cookware mix with its thickness which helps retain heat longer than usual. Even with this size, it heats up well and quickly, and cooks perfectly both high and low temperatures.
- Thick surface that improves heat retention
- Cooks evenly on high heat which makes it perfect for searing steak
Biggest Drawback: Due to the extra thickness, this pan is not as light as your normal carbon steel skillet. Nevertheless, the difference is not that significant.
4. Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Frying Pan
As the name suggests, this stainless steel skillet is made from a blend of three materials – stainless steel, aluminum, and magnetic stainless steel. This structure improves heat distribution and then retention.
This stainless steel skillet is suitable for all types of cooking including induction. As we already specified about stainless steel, you can use this pan in the oven as long as you keep it below 500 F.
While stainless steel is not the most durable cookware material, Tramontina gives you a lifetime warranty on the skillet which means that even if it breaks a decade later, you can easily get a replacement from the brand.
- Tri-Ply structure – stainless steel, aluminum, and magnetic stainless steel
- Perfected heat distribution and heat retention
- Lifetime warranty
Biggest Drawback: Before anything else, this pan is not pre-seasoned which is unfortunate, and second, the price tag is significantly higher than your normal cast iron pan, for example.
5. Simple Chef Cast Iron Skillet, 3-Piece Set
To end our list on a high note, we selected a set of cookware that is most suitable for people that are just now equipping their kitchen. It includes a set of three cast iron skillets of different sizes – 6, 8, and 10 inches.
The brand itself is curious since it does not have an official website or a lot of information. However, they do sell genuine cookware that is of the highest quality and is quickly growing in popularity. Their marketing strategies are irregular and they often mention their competitors in their product presentations.
Nevertheless, these three skillets are as hardy as cast iron gets. You are guaranteed that your pans will last a lifetime.
Unlike many skillets nowadays, these three are factory pre-seasoned and according to the brand, the seasoning is good enough for you not to do it at home. However, we strongly suggest that you do it nonetheless.
Like any cast iron skillet, you can expect these to heat up slowly but evenly which is suitable for searing steak.
Last but not least, this set comes with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee which enables you to return the products for a full refund if you are not happy in the first thirty days after purchase.
- Three heavy-duty cast iron skillets in different sizes
- 30-day satisfaction guarantee
Biggest Drawback: Besides the obvious problems with cast iron cookware that include weight and slow heating, we feel like the only potential drawback could be the lack of transparency from the company. If you’re used to purchase from renowned brands, you may be wary of lesser-known brands like Simple Chef.
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