Steak like hamburger is an American classic. 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 is using the wrong pan for steaks. One of the worse thing that you can do is to use a non stick pan for searing steak. Yet, this is the go to choice for most people. They are simply too light to retain heat and sear a steak. Not to mention the heat will destroy the nonstick 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 good? You might be surprised to learn that copper will actually a better choice.
Best Frying Pan for Steak Quick Summary
Lodge Cast Iron Pan (Best 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. However, the difference between those brands are minor. Using a cheap cast iron pan will get you similar result.
Le Creuset Enamel Skillet (Best Enamel Cast Iron Skillet)
Le Creuset skillet wins in this round simply because they have no upper temperature limit. Most other manufacturer have a limit of 500 degree Fahrenheit. Other benefit includes the wide range of color it has.
Matfer Carbon Steel Pan (Best Carbon Steel Pan)
Matfer Bourgeat 10 inch skillet is the best choice for carbon steel. Compared to Cast Iron, it has half of its heat retention. That is primarily due to its weight. However, its still plenty if you want to sear a steak. The great thing about this pan is that it has no rivets.
All Clad D5 (Best Stainless Steel Pan)
All Clad d5 10 inch skillet is the best choice for Stainless Steel. This pan transfers heat better than either cast iron or carbon steel. Thanks to its extra layer, it will hold more heat than the standard model. Perfect for those who do not want to deal with cleaning cast iron.
Mauviel M250c (Best Copper Skillet)
Mauviel 10 inch Skillet m250c is the best choice in this category. This pan is the best conductor of the lot. It gets hot fast and sear better than any other pan. In my experience, I always get the best crust on my steak. The 2.5 mm thick pan also mean it has a lot of heft to it. It wont get cold like other pans.
What Features are Important for Searing Steak?
Weight and Heat Retention
Weight is a good measure of the quality of your pan. The more weight to it, the more heat it can store. 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 will be sucked out. When this happens, juices will start flowing and you will be steaming the steak. Flipping it to the other side wont do you any good either. Since the pan is now cold, that side will start leaking juice as well. The end result is a grey colored steak. No one wants that. This is the reason why Cast Iron is the preferred choice for steak. While they do take a while to get hot, they will stay hot through cooking.
Out of all the metal, copper has the highest heat conductivity. What this means is that its the most efficient at transferring heat. 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. You want a pan with good heat conductivity for a good sear. After all, the goal is to get that beautiful brown crust on the steak. Which in my opinion, is where the flavor is really at.
Despite what most people tell you, Cast Iron and Carbon steel are poor heat conductor. They will never be able to sear as well as pure copper. Thick aluminum pans also outperform cast iron. The All Clad d5 series uses 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. Copper and aluminum pans can recover their optimal cooking temperature much more rapidly.
Fond is the brown bits left over in the pan. It is carmelized sugar that is packed with flavor compound. Chef usually use the fond with stock and butter to create a steak sauce. However, if you are not careful, you can burn the fond, rendering it useless.
Both the All Clad and Mauviel skillet have a clean visible interior. This lets you monitor the fond and prevent it from burning. Cast Iron pans interior is dark so its hard to judge what color the fond is.
Smoke coming from your pan?
Ever notice that your cast iron pan always start smoking when it gets hot. Its due to the “Seasoning or Fat” getting hot. Pans that are clean have less of this issue. Which is why I tend to prefer preparing steak with a stainless steel interior. They wont set off my smoke alarm like Carbon Steel or Cast iron.
Which Pan Should I Buy?
Everyone situation is different. You should pick one that best suits your cooking style. The section below is broken down into three different categories. Find the category that best suit you.
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. Steak searing temperature can burn and ruin the seasoning. It will loose all its non stick property. It makes no sense to spend hundreds of dollar for a high end cast iron pan.
Best Balanced Steak Pan
The all Clad will sear better than either the cast iron or the carbon steel. It wont set off the smoke alarm and its easier to clean in. Plus, its also lighter than either of those pan. The downside is that its a bit pricier.
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. Be aware that copper patina. The beautiful glossy look is lost very quickly. A lot of buyers give these pans negative rating because of that.
What is my Best Frying Pan for Steak?
My Best Pan for Frying Steak is the Mauviel M250C copper pan. It conducts heat so well that you will get a golden crust each time. Even if your stove top btu is weak, thanks to its heat conductivity, it will sear any steak. It also heats up faster than any of my other pans.
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 getting a maillard reaction. Visually, its a dark carmel color. A color that you cant get if your steak is steaming. If your steak is steaming, its probably due to two issue. Your pan is not hot enough and/or your steak is not dry.
To get a nice crust on the steak, try these tricks to dry a steak out.
1) First is to obviously dry it off with a paper towel.
2) Two is to dry brine it in salt. Sprinkle salt on the steak and let it sit in the fridge uncovered this will dry the skin out.
3) Put 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. 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
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