The grill can be magic, but the key to achieving restaurant-quality steak — with its crisp, caramelized crust and juicy, tender center — is the right pan. Choosing the best skillet for cooking a steak can mean the difference between a dull gray slab and a golden brown beauty that would look right at home in your favorite steakhouse. Whether your meat comes from the grocery store or a meat delivery service, read on to choose your new favorite pan for a mouth-watering steak.
What to consider when buying the best pans to cook a steak
- Melting : It’s the heaviest material for pans and requires seasoning, but chefs love how cast iron holds the heat. It sears steaks well for a flavorful crust and can be popped in the oven to finish cooking (perfect for thicker cuts). A solid investment, a beloved cast iron skillet should last a lifetime – and beyond. It does not heat as evenly as stainless steel, so we recommend adjusting the positioning of the pan several times during preheating to avoid hot spots.
- Carbon steel: A lighter (but more expensive) cousin to cast iron, carbon steel offers similar heat retention and versatility from stovetop to oven and broiler. Although it requires seasoning like cast iron, its metal is more sensitive to temperature changes and heats up faster. It has a smooth surface compared to the pebbled finish of cast iron, which gives a fuller grip.
- Stainless steel: Another professional favorite, stainless steel pans are known for their ability to heat up quickly, but it’s actually their aluminum (or copper) core that provides this good thermal conductivity. With this core, a stainless steel skillet promises to heat faster and more evenly than cast iron, although it doesn’t hold that heat as well. It’s easy to whip – a great choice for making casserole sauce – and extremely durable. Home cooks appreciate that it requires no seasoning and many models are dishwasher safe.
- Anti adhesive : Ok, of course, you won’t get the same crispy cooking with nonstick as you do with cast iron, but the new generation of nonstick pans are easy to clean, durable, heat evenly, and are versatile in the kitchen. That said, the best searing happens at high temperatures and non-stick pans may not be designed to handle them, so it’s always worth checking the brand’s usage instructions.
The best size pan depends on the cuts you like to cook and the number of people you’re feeding. Larger pans allow you to add more meat without bulk, which can lead to steaming instead of browning. An 8-10 inch skillet will work well for one or two steaks (depending on the cut), but a 12-inch or larger model will work best for searing and cooking larger cuts, or several at a time.
With all that in mind, it’s time to find the right pan – then sit down, preheat, pour in a cold drink and enjoy the sizzle of a perfectly cooked steak.
1. The Best Cast Iron Skillet
Lodge Stoves have been producing perfectly seared steaks for over 125 years. Generously sized, this pre-seasoned skillet is a workhorse that can cook enough steak for the whole family. After searing, you can move it around the oven to evenly cook the inside to your preferred doneness level. The skillet is made in the USA and works on gas, electric and induction stoves – and campfires. Although heavy, it is a durable pan that you can pass down to children. This pick is hand wash only, but you will need to follow the care instructions to maintain this seasoning. If you can’t live without grill marks, the square version has deep bars for perfect sear marks. Lodge even makes a silicone holder for safe handling when things heat up.
Useful review: “So this is my very first cast iron skillet […] I’ve had the skillet for about a week now and love everything. […] My very first meal was steak and cheese – I had that nice brown crispy “steak shop” crust on the shaved steak, delicious! Next I tried a tenderloin and a rib eye – again a great hard brown scorch (not burnt!) on the outside and perfect medium/medium-rare on both (tenderloin went in first, rib eye -net shortly after). […] It’s a joy to cook with and I really like the little intricacies of caring for it. Like any other tool, take care of it and it will take care of you!
Sizes available: 8 | Material: Pre-seasoned cast iron
2. The Best Stainless Steel Pan
Many chefs rely on stainless steel to achieve a dark, even crust on their steaks. This heirloom quality skillet features a three-ply construction that won’t warp or tarnish. The aluminum core is sandwiched between layers of durable stainless steel. The skillet works with all cooktops (including induction) and is oven and broil safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Hand washing is recommended.
Useful review: “[…] I had $60 worth of prime steaks ready to grill and the propane malfunctioned. Seared the steaks in this skillet and they turned out perfectly crusty. You can see your butter, cuts, etc. change color better than non-stick. Cleans like new with a bartender boyfriend. Highly recommend.”
Sizes available: 8 inches, 10 inches, 12 inches | Material: Stainless steel
3. The Best Budget-Friendly Stainless Steel Skillet
This 12-inch skillet sits on a bonded stainless steel base (with aluminum at its core) to heat quickly and evenly. The cast stainless steel handle makes maneuvering easy and the helper handle makes it even easier. Plus, you can pop this baby in an oven up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This model is also grill safe and works on induction hobs. It comes with a glass lid, which increases its versatility for those less steak-centric dishes too. The pan is dishwasher safe and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Useful review: “Wow, this is the skillet of skillets. Plenty of room for steaks and also meats you want to cook in sauce. Love the higher sides and lid for slower cooking. It’s a pan heavy but I like it Plenty of room for a meal for 6. This skillet will outlast me!
Sizes available: 10 inches, 12 inches | Material: Stainless steel
4. The best carbon steel pan
This choice is an excellent compromise between cast iron and stainless steel. Similar to cast iron, it relies on an oil-based seasoning for its nonstick magic, and like stainless steel, it’s lightweight and ready to sear. Yes, those creases in this carbon steel pan are specially designed to sear steaks to perfection. The durable riveted handle is designed to stay cool on the stovetop and the pan is oven safe up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (for 10 minutes or less) – just enough time to get that perfectly cooked center. This beauty is hand washable only and is compatible with gas, electric and induction cookers.
Useful review: “The best skillet ever. Lighter than cast iron, with better performance. I got the biggest one first, and of all my regular iron pans and minerals, it’s the one I grab first (and it’s my older brother). It’s called a steak pan on their website and I believe the idea is to leave grill marks on the steak with the cross hatching […] Even if you have to discard the seasoning you’ve been working on, you can start over quickly and easily. […]”
Sizes available: 9.5 inches, 11 inches | Material: Carbon steel
5. The Best Budget Carbon Steel Skillet
A carbon steel skillet from Lodge, this is a well-priced entry into the carbon steel category. This spacious skillet can easily handle multiple steaks, and the skillet comes with a removable, comfortable silicone handle holder that’s heat-resistant up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and dishwasher-safe. Heavy-duty 12-gauge carbon steel is heat-conductive, lightweight, and free of synthetic coatings. The pan works on all hobs, including induction, and is hand wash only. The pan should be seasoned with oil after washing, creating a natural non-stick coating that only gets better with time.
Useful review: “Carbon steel is so awesome! It heats so high, and it heats evenly and is much cheaper than a copper pan. It cooks like cast iron but is much easier to clean. Once seasoned properly , it doesn’t stick. You season it like a cast iron skillet. It turns black and I keep it in my oven. It’s light to pick up, but has a very heavy bottom. […] You can do [anything] from the lightest omelet to cooking the best seared steak.
Sizes available: 10 inches, 12 inches | Material: Pre-seasoned alloy steel, silicone (handle cover)
6. The best non-stick pan
Love the easy cleanup of a nonstick, but still want drool-worthy grill marks? This nonstick skillet features a ceramic and water-based interior that’s PTFE and PFOA-free and scratch-resistant, though you’ll still want to use plastic or wooden utensils. The anodized exterior is harder than stainless steel and the 70% recycled stainless steel riveted handle stays cool while cooking. Reviewers were shocked to find that following Cuisinart’s instructions for low to medium temperatures still created a brown crust on steaks (though this skillet is oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit). To keep this skillet in pristine condition, you’ll want to hand wash it only.
Useful review: “Works great. We’ll often use it to sear steaks and then transfer it straight to the oven to finish cooking – we’ve had no issues. It’s also really easy to clean – it delivers on its non-stick promise.
Sizes available: 11 inches | Material: hard anodized Aluminum, ceramic non-stick coating, stainless steel
Also nice: the best steak knives
Your perfectly seared and juicy steak deserves a good steak knife. Reviewers love this set that slices steak – and everything in between – cleanly without tearing. This set of six high-quality knives has ergonomic, weighted handles and sharp serrated European steel blades that can cut through steak with ease. Even better? They go in the dishwasher.
Useful review: “These are steak knives, but I use them for just about every cutting task in the kitchen (and as steak/butter knives). I have fancier, larger kitchen knives, but I You can always find them looking for them.They are very sharp and the teeth stay sharp for years, even with daily use.
Material: Stainless steel