You may have heard of blue carbon steel and black carbon steel and wonder if one is better. After our testing, we don’t think this should be considered a purchase consideration. Blue carbon steel has undergone a process that hardens the material, which can help prevent rust; this process can give a blue tint to the brand new pan. But blue and black steel will take on a dark brown or black color with proper seasoning over the life of the pan. We’ve recommended the blue and black steel pans here, as we’ve seen good results for each type.
Our experts believe these factors are worth considering when buying a carbon steel pan:
✔️ Pre-seasoning: This is an important consideration if you are new to seasoning cookware. Pre-seasoned casseroles usually have a light glaze to rinse off before cooking, but are otherwise ready to go. They may look like nonstick cookware to the first cook, then they just require seasoning maintenance (read: you will be need to season a pre-seasoned carbon steel skillet over its lifetime). If it’s not pre-seasoned, you’ll probably need to rub a coating of beeswax on it, then season the pan with layers of oil (see below). It is not a difficult process, but it takes time.
✔️ Lester: There are many lightweight carbon steel pans on the market today, but our pros stress that this is still an important consideration. Some can be quite heavy, which can limit the pan’s versatility. If you are shopping online and cannot feel and lift the pan, check the weight in the product specifications. We like pans around three pounds or less.
✔️ Shape and cooking area: The shape of the pan will affect cooking. A slight slope on the sides makes it easier to shake and mix food, and keeps the pan open so liquids reduce easily. But the slanted sides can eat away at the flat cooking surface at the bottom of the pan. We noted when the skillet on this list had a cooking surface that felt smaller, but some come down to personal preference and the types of foods you cook the most.
✔️ To manage: Comfort with the grip is another factor that comes down to personal preference. Our experts enjoyed a variety of grips during our testing. Those that had a divot in the grip helped with finger placement for comfort. Those with a slight arc or angle helped create balance, which can help improve control. Look for a built-in loop in the handle if you prefer to hang your pans for storage.
✔️ Rivets: Generally speaking, the handles of carbon steel pans are riveted to the pan, so there are dents inside the cooking area. In our tests, we only saw one with flush rivets (the Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Stovewhich was not on our list) and one which had somewhat flat rivets (the Creatives Pro White Skillet, listed above). Flush or flatter rivets make it easier to clean the pan because debris is less likely to get stuck and easier to season because you can access the surface more evenly.