Best Frying Pan for Steak

Steak like Hamburger is almost an American tradition. What red blooded America do not like steak, vegan need not apply of course. Given our love of steaks, one of the most shocking things that I see time and time again is the improper uses of pans for cooking steak. One of the worse thing that you can do is to use a non stick pan for preparing steak. It is simply too light to retain any heat for cooking steak, not to mention the heat will destroy the coating. The Best Frying Pan for Steak needs to be heavy and retain heat. Cast iron is often a choice of steak aficionado, but is it really? Other options might actually prove to be better than Cast Iron, but that depends on what your goal is. This article will go through the characteristic of different pans and how it affects cooking steak.

Best Frying Pan for Steak Quick Summary

Best Frying Pan for Steak

Cast Iron

For cast iron, Lodge 10 inch skillet is simply the best choice there is. You cannot beat the value that it provides, at 20 dollar or less you can get a 10 inch cash iron pan and abuse it as much as you want. Some might argue that you should invest hundred of dollar in a Finex or Field cast Iron skillet, but at that heat, the delicate seasoning can be burned off. Use a cheap inexpensive pan primarily for cooking steak.

Enamel Cast Iron

Le Creuset skillet wins in this round simply because they have no stated upper temperature limit. Most other manufacturer have a limit of 500. If you go this route, the benefit is that it looks pretty for serving.

Carbon Steel

Matfer Bourgeat 10 inch skillet is the best choice for carbon steel. The amount of heat held by Matfer Carbon steel skillet is around half due to its weight but it also heats up faster and is lighter. The rivet-less design prevents food from getting stuck there. Although, I question the function of it due to the seasoning.

Stainless Steel Cladded Pan

All Clad d5 10 inch skillet is the best choice for searing steak. This pan transfers heat better than cast iron and carbon steel. It will heat up faster and it will store a good amount of heat due to its extra layers and weight, the d3 version only has 3 years. The extra layer and weight means that less heat will be sucked up when you put the steak on the pan.

Copper and Stainless Steel

Mauviel 10 inch Skillet m250c is the best choice in this category. This pan is the best conductor of the lot, meaning that it will rise in temperature and sear better than all of them. In my experience, I always get the best browning out of all the pan. Not only that, this pan has a 2.5 mm thick copper, meaning that it has the extra heft when you sear steaks.

What Features are Important for Searing Steak?

Weight and Heat Retention

Weight is important because it means that there is more amount of heat stored in the pan. Remember when I said that a non stick pan is bad to use. The reason is because most non stick pans are light, typically less than one pound. When you throw a piece of steak on there, all the heat that you developed when preheating will be gone. If you flip the steak to the other side where its cold, all of a sudden you will have a cold pan and it will not sear at all. The end result is a steamed grey steaks. No one wants that. It is for this reason, that cast iron is so prized, people love to crank up the heat and make it smoking hot. The low cost of the pan means that if it breaks, there is no heart loss.

Heat Conductivity

Out of all the pan, the copper pan has the highest heat conductivity. What this means is that its the most efficient at transferring heat from the stove to your food. To better understand heat conductivity, grab a metal object and grab a plastic object. In a room, both object should be at a equal temperature. The reason why metal feels colder is because it conducts heat better than plastic. The metal conducts heat away from your hand, the plastic does it as well but not as efficiently. The reverse is true also, if the metal is hotter than your hand, it will conduct heat to your hand better than the plastic. For this reason, you want a pan with good heat conductivity, the goal is to get that beautiful brown crust on the steak. Which in my opinion, is where the flavor is really at.

Cast Iron and Carbon steel are poor heat conductor, it would be able to transfer or sear as well as the copper pan. The all clad d5 has a aluminum core, although not as good as the copper pan, it is still miles better than cast iron or carbon steel.

Another issue that most people tend to overlook is the ability to recover temperature. Although cast iron is great at retaining temperature, what happens if the temperature drops too low? Unless you remove the food and wait another 5-7 min, its not going to recover the temperature. With pan like a copper one and even aluminum, they can recover their temperature much more rapidly. This is crucial when you want to maintain a temperature range for a large amount of food.

Fond Visibility

Both the All Clad and Mauviel skillet have a clean visible interior. This lets you monitor the fond judge when its about to burn. This is important if you intend to make a sauce after cooking the steak. A burnt fond will impart an acrid flavor that is no desirable. For those who are unaware of what fond is, it is the caramelized sugar that is left on the pan. It contains loads of flavor and professional chef usually combine that with stock, butter, shallot and garlic for a final sauce. It pairs really well with steak.

Smoking coming from your pan?

Ever notice that your cast iron pan always start smoking when it gets hot. That is the smoke from the seasoning or fat. Pans that are clean have less of this issue. Which is why I tend to prefer pans with a stainless steel interior. They wont set off my smoke alarm like the Carbon Steel or Cast iron pan.

Which Pan Should I Buy?

Everyone has their own preference on what pan should be the best. Everyone situation is different, I break it down into three different categories to help you make your decision.

Budget Friendly and Indestructible

Hands down, you cannot beat the value that you can get from lodge. For only 20 dollar, you will get a pan that last a life time. Dont spend top dollar on a high end cast iron pan. At the temperature of which you sear the steak, the seasoning will be ruined. It will loose all its non stick property. Buy those high end cast iron pan to cook other stuff.

Middle of the Road

The all Clad will sear better than either the cast iron or the carbon steel pan. It wont smoke because there is no seasoning and its a lot easier to clean. Cast iron and carbon steel seasoning is very delicate and you often need special method to clean it.

Best Pan to Sear Steak

Hands down, you cannot beat the crust that you get from Mauviel M250C Skillet. It is simply the best pan to sear steak with. The superior heat conductivity and the 2.5 mm thick copper lets it store enough heat to caramelize any steak. The problem with this pan is that its pricey, like wow expensive. But you get what you pay for. Another downside is that copper is really fussy, overtime it will darken and patina. It will lose any and all of its beauty.

What is my Best Frying Pan for Steak?

Me personally, the Best Frying Pan for Steak is my Mauviel M250C copper pan you can read my full review here. My stove top range does not output as much heat as other professional range. If you have a professional stove top range, you can get away with cast iron or carbon steel. A higher btu will make any pan look like nothing. However, since mines is weak, I need the performance of copper to let me sear the steak better.

Bought the Best Frying Pan but still have issues?

Frying pan aside, if you are having issues with your steak, it often comes down to prep work.

Steak is not Browning

When I say browning I mean the nice crispy crust, not a mere change of color. You can get that with steamed steak. If you are not getting that same crust, its probably due to two issue. Your pan is not hot enough and your steak is not dry.

A wet steak will not reach a temperature of 300 degree Fahrenheit and above. At that temperature a Maillard reaction occurs and browning occurs. To circumvent the wet steak, you can do a couple of things.

1) First is to obviously dry it off with a paper towel.

2) Two is to brine it in salt in the fridge for a day or two, this will dry the skin out.

3) Steak the steak in a oven or dehydrator at a temperature of 100 degree and lower. This will dry the steak out without over cooking it.
Once your steak is nice a dry, there will be no water to prevent the steak from reaching 300 degree.

Best Oil for Pan Frying Steak

The best oil to use to pan fry steak is a neutral oil with a high smoke pot. Oil like Peanut or Canola oil has a high smoke point and does not impart any flavor. At searing temperature, lower smoke point oil will start smoking and degrade in quality. Any nutritional value associated with the oil will be gone. What about the butter? It is best to add that near the end to add additional flavor because the milk solid will burn and degrade the flavor. Don’t forget to use it to baste the top of the steak also.

Tips for Cooking Steak

I have some tips for cooking steak.

1) Flip every 30 second, by flipping every 30 second, you get a more even browning of the steak. By doing this, the band around the steak will be more gradual instead of a deep gray one one side and pink on the other.

2) If for some reason, you cannot get a nice crust, a good way to increase the crust is move the steak around the pan. When you are flipping the steak, more than likely it will only be on one area. The other part of the pan will be a lot hotter than the main area. By grabbing the steak and moving it around the pan, you are soaking up all the unused heat from the pan. It will brown the steak a lot faster.

3) Weigh it down. Often time, cuts of meat will be uneven by weighing down, you are increasing the contact point of the steak with the pan. I like to use this Cast Iron Press

I hope you find my article on the Best Frying Pan for Steak to be helpful, please visit our Article page for more!

3 Comments on “Best Frying Pan for Steak

Mustafa qadir
November 15, 2020 at 3:04 pm

Hi, I just read your article and found it so useful and informative . I hope you have seen jamie oliver searing steaks in non stick ( tefal )frying pans. On the other hand , even after watching gorden ramsays so many videos I dont know which type of pan he use. Please can you give your valuable advice on mauviel mstone 28 cm frying pans ( for all purposes specialy for searing steaks. Thanks so much for sharing you knowledge !!!

Curated Cook
November 15, 2020 at 10:03 pm

Hello Mustafa,

Mauviel M’stone Onyx Fry uses a nonstick coating. The construction seems to be a simple Anodized Aluminum body. While it can sear a steak, I do not recommend it.

Nonstick pans simply do not do well at temperature above 500. Which is kind of what you want when you sear a steak. They start to degrade rapidly and you lose any sort of nonstick performance.

The reason why you see so many professional chef uses it is either product placement (advertising). Or they take advantage of the lifetime warranty and replace it when needed. You might not be as lucky as them, as manufacturer can simply claim you abused your pan.

As for the restaurant industry, they do use nonstick pan, however, they buy the cheapest one available. If you truly want a nonstick pan that is similar to what restaurnt chef use, I recommend you get Tramontina Professional Pan. You can see my review at the link below.

I hope this helps.

~Curated Cook

Mustafa qadir
November 17, 2020 at 11:54 am

I read your answer and it is very much satisfying and informative. I agreed may be they promote specific brands. Thanks alot for your clear and detailed answer.


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