Best Frying Pans For Steak – 2021 Buyer’s Guide

steak on a pan

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Have you ever tried cooking steak, only to have it end up sticking onto the pan, or burning it fairly easily? Many of us have had experience with bad cookware, and apart from your cooking technique, the quality of your pan can actually influence the results quite a lot. (As a side note if you are burning your cookware regularly, check out how to clean it in 5 minutes using household items).

Now imagine, a pan that holds sufficient heat so that when you drop the steak onto it, it sears and browns beautifully. When you take it away from the heat, it reacts quickly, preventing the steak from getting burnt. What you get as a result, is a perfect steak cooked exactly to your preferred level of doneness. No more, no less.

searing steak on a pan
A pan that sears well is the best investment for a steak lover.

In this article, we discuss the best type of frying pan for steak cooking, our list of best pans for searing steak, how to choose between them, as well as some tips on how to use them properly for cooking steak.


If you’re looking for the absolute best frying pan for steak searing, our top recommendation is the Mauviel M’Steel 11”.

For something lighter, look into the Le Creuset 12” Tri-Ply, or if you do not mind a non-stick pan (maybe you even prefer one?), the Calphalon Signature is our only recommendation for a non-stick searing pan.

If you’re that cast iron purist, the T-fal 12” is the one to go for if you prefer a heavier construct, or the Lodge if you prefer a lighter one.

Click here to skip straight to our list of top picks. Or if you need help picking, skip here for some tips on choosing the right one for yourself.

Can You Cook A Steak On A Regular Pan?

Now, while I see this question being asked a lot online, there are a few assumptions to be made. For example, what constitutes a ‘regular’ pan?

The common idea of a regular pan is, as I understand it, a non-cast-iron, round frying pan. In the modern world, this almost equates to non-stick fry pans. And the answer to that – whether you can cook a steak on a regular pan – is an absolute yes.

A general consensus of why cast iron is better for searing meat, is because of its poor heat conductivity, which allows it to retain a ton of heat instead of conducting it all away. Compare that with something that conducts heat well, which would respond to temperature changes very quickly and may lose its heat too fast.

In terms of the process of searing, it starts at around 300°F, is optimal between that and 500°F, and anything above will most definitely dry out the food way too quickly. If you understand the temperature range of cookware materials, you would know that most non-stick pans can easily withstand that kind of temperature anyway.

What about heat retainability? While cast iron does retain heat really well, for the purpose of searing meat, non-stick pans are able to do it well too. This does not mean that every non-stick pan is going to do it well though. In fact, we generally recommend non-stick as being the first choice of searing pans, and there are some pointers as to what kind of pan you should look for. In the next section we lay out some of the important features of a pan that sears well.

Shopping Guide: How to Shop For Fry Pan For Steaks

Here are some of the characteristics you should aim for in a pan that is used primarily to cook steak:

Size

The best size of frying pan for steak cooking is around 10” to 12”.

If you’re going for something that is not of these two sizes, aim for a larger one rather than a smaller one. With a smaller pan, the cooking surface is not sufficient for a typical cut of steak, and will not comfortably fit.

That being said there are disadvantages to a large pan as well. Apart from the weight, the heat is also distributed to a larger surface area, which if you’re not fully utilizing, slightly affects the heat going to the cut of steak as well.

Material

Cast iron is an undisputed, widely-recognized material as being one of the best at searing meat, and rightfully so. Although it isn’t as reactive to temperature changes which could mean cooking to a higher doneness level than you initially intended, as long as you control the cooking process well enough, its heat retention ability is hard to beat.

A contemporary alternative to cast iron is steel. Being a good heat conductor and generally able to go up to 500-600°F for the typical stainless steel cookware (even 800°F for carbon steel ones!), it has the capacity to properly sear and brown a cut of meat.

If you’re looking specifically for non-stick pans, there are some out there that will do the job well too. However, do not cheap out here. Although low-priced non-stick pans may seem like a good deal, they lack the material density that is needed to perfectly sear a steak.

steak and some vegetables on a hot pan
Dense materials hold in more heat to allow for good searing.

Bottom thickness

Talking about material density, the thickness and construct of the pan, especially its bottom, is crucial.

Because throwing a cut of steak into the pan sucks out a lot of the heat that was being built up prior, if a pan lacks material, most of the heat will get absorbed away instantly. This leaves you with a pan which temperature falls below the searing point.

For this reason, look for a pan that has a thick and heavy bottom. This ensures enough heat is being stored, before you put in that steak.

Handle Material

Oven-cooking a steak is one of the ways of cooking steak. Some even suggest that you start with a high-heat sear in the pan to start off, then take it away from the heat and continue the cooking process in the oven, for maximum balance between crust and juiciness.

For this reason, look for a pan that has a handle preferably made of metal, if you anticipate using it in the oven. This allows for a higher oven temperature than, say, silicone or plastic handles.

Temperature Tolerance

Speaking of temperature, how hot a pan is able to withstand plays a huge part in a cooking process like searing.

Because searing is foundationally exposing to high heat over a short amount of time, you would want a pan that is able to endure this. The optimal temperature for searing is around 300-500°F, so aim for a pan that is able to go up to that range. Note that most value-friendly non-stick pans are not built for this!

Our Picks for the Best Fry Pans For Steaks

This is our curated list of best frying pans for cooking steak. Be sure to skim through it and if you need more help choosing the right one for you, skip here.

Best Stainless Steel: Le Creuset 12” Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan

With this triple-layer stainless steel pan, the French premium cookware brand has a lot to offer.

Crafted by European artisans, Le Creuset’s line of cookware has always had exceptional workmanship that offers good performance in the kitchen, and this one is no different. Durable yet lightweight, the titanium-infused exterior offers a high aesthetic value as well.

With very even heating with no hot spots, it really is one of the best stainless steel pans for steak, if not the best. Searing meat on this will produce a result that is evenly browned and thoroughly cooked to just the right level.

Pros:

  • Superior heat distribution due to full aluminum core, base to rim
  • Handle stays cool, by design – has air flow cut-out for air circulation
  • Less prone to oxidation and discoloration due to premium stainless steel make
  • Able to withstand metal utensils
  • Induction-compatible and suitable for glass top stoves
  • Oven-safe for up to 500°F
  • Dishwasher-safe

Cons:

  • Pricey option, which is the only real downside to this premium piece

Runner-up Stainless Steel: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 12” Open Skillet

If you’re looking for a more value-friendly option and do not need the top of the line, this Cuisinart piece is also, in our opinion, one of the best stainless steel frying pans for steak searing.

Although not as refined and polished as the Le Creuset, the value and quality this pan offers is hard to beat, especially at this price tag.

Made of 18/10 high grade stainless steel, the mirror finish does not easily discolor. The aluminum base heats quickly – some even complained too quickly – which well achieves the purpose of searing. It has no problems browning your steak at high heat in a short amount of time.

Apart from the basics, it also has features and considerations you wouldn’t find in every pan. With a helper handle, measurement markings, and a drip-free-pour rim, these little additions will make you a satisfied owner.

Pros:

  • Sloped sides squeeze a little more out of the cooking surface you get
  • Aluminum-encapsulated base spreads heat evenly
  • Measurement markings included
  • Comes with a helper handle
  • Oven-safe for up to 500°F
  • Induction-ready
  • Dishwasher-safe

Cons:

  • Bottom of pan is a little domed, so while it works with induction cooktops, might not be ideal
  • Some reports of pitting after months of usage

Best Carbon Steel: Mauviel M’Steel 11” Black Steel Fry Pan

Known for their premium copper cookware, Mauviel proves itself to be a flexible manufacturer, because this carbon steel pan cooks extremely well.

Another French-made piece, the construction is just exceptional on this piece of craft. Made of extra thick black steel, it is able to hold lots of heat and is the ideal pan to cook steak. It is very durable and can even be used with metal utensils.

Note that beeswax is used to prevent the pan from rusting on the shelves, so cleaning with hot water is necessary prior to first use to remove it from the entire pan.

Pros:

  • Extra thick material makes heat retention excellent – made for searing
  • High temperature tolerance allows for longer preheating, for that perfect searing temperature
  • Able to withstand metal utensils
  • Induction-compatible
  • Oven-safe for up to 500°F

Cons:

  • Moderately heavy at 6 pounds, although not as heavy as cast iron
  • Some reports of warping, while others have said it does not warp even after excessive exposure to high temperatures – make of that what you will
  • Not dishwasher-safe

Runner-Up Carbon Steel: de Buyer MINERAL B 11” Carbon Steel Steak Pan

Another French-made piece, while not as well-known as brands such as Le Creuset or Mauviel, is actually really well-built. Founded in the same year as Mauviel in 1830, de Buyer has a history of close to 200 years, and Le Creuset didn’t even exist until 1925!

With its unique shape, it was designed specially for searing steak, and does that excellently. A French-style handle provides an angle at which you hold it, but whether it is for you, or not, boils down to personal preference.

The ridges are designed to increase the performance of its natural non-stick capabilities, and serve to allow the fat and juices to more easily flow throughout the pan when searing. This allows for a searing process that locks in more flavor than usual.

Pros:

  • Holds heat very well due to its thick construct
  • Induction-compatible
  • Oven-safe for up to 400°F

Cons:

  • Not dishwasher-safe
  • Prone to rusting if proper care is not given
  • Has slight warping issues, so unsuitable to be used on a glass top stove

Best Cast Iron: T-fal 12” Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

How can a list of the best pans for steak come without a few honorable mentions of cast iron? Due to its material, cast iron pieces are probably the best pans to cook steak in the oven.

While Lodge is the usual go-to for cast iron with their rich history, our favorite for this list is actually this 12” one from T-fal.

Be warned though, with size comes weight, and this thing is not the slightest bit light. In fact, it weighs 9lbs, heavy even for a cast iron piece! But its weight is exactly what gives it a slight edge, because when combined with its material and the thick construct, this pan is able to hold lots of heat, making it perfect for searing.

If you have trouble lifting heavy objects, we would suggest that you look at pans of other materials, or the next one on the list, a Lodge.

Pros:

  • Long handle with an additional side handle makes for easier control
  • Comes pre-seasoned
  • Includes two pouring spouts
  • Induction-compatible as with any cast iron cookware
  • Oven-safe for up to 600°F

Cons:

  • Very heavy at 9 pounds
  • Comes with slightly rough interior which gets better over time through seasoning and use, which some may not have the patience to go through
  • Not suitable for glass stove tops as it may leave scratches
  • Not dishwasher-safe

Runner-Up Cast Iron: Lodge 12” Pre-Seasoned Iron Skillet

This one from Lodge also comes pre-seasoned, with vegetable oil in this case, so you can get a newly purchased one up and running in no time.

Compared to the T-fal, this is lighter at a little over 7 pounds. Although cast iron lovers often prefer a heavy pan due to the denser material construct, if you have trouble with handling heavy cookware pieces, or simply dislike the extra weight, this would be a better pick.

Pros:

  • Comes with a silicone handle holder included
  • Has a looped helper handle
  • Compatible with induction cooktops
  • Oven-safe for up to 500°F

Cons:

  • Rough surface, seems to be even more so than the T-fal, but again gets smoother over time with use
  • Not suitable for glass-top stoves
  • Not dishwasher-safe

Best Non-Stick: Calphalon Signature 12” Hard-Anodized Non-Stick Fry Pan

If you absolutely must, here’s the best non-stick frying pan for steak that we have found, and the only non-stick that we recommend for searing.

Calphalon, being a reputable brand in the non-stick space, has given us enough confidence to be able to recommend this for the purpose of a high-heat cooking style, which typically is not a strength of non-stick pans.

Being extra durable and able to withstand high temperatures of up to 500°F, this high-quality pan offers good cooking performance, and is sure to last long. Its list of pros along with the almost non-existent list of cons really tempts you!

Pros:

  • Slightly textured cooking surface designed for searing, to preserve flavor
  • Durable heavy-gauge hard-anodized aluminum construction
  • Lightweight at around 3.5 pounds
  • Metal utensil-safe, which isn’t typical of a non-stick pan
  • Comes with a tempered glass cover
  • Oven-safe for up to 500°F
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Suitable for glass cooktops

Cons:

  • Not induction-compatible

So Which One To Pick?

If you’re still confused after reading through our list of top picks, this might help you decide.

First, if you’re using a glass stove top, which includes induction, best to skip the cast iron ones due to fear of scratching the surface. The Calphalon non-stick is also out of the question if you’re using induction.

If you’re using other kinds of stove tops, options are plenty.

The clearest distinction here is, do you have experience with cast iron pan, and if so, do you have a preference for it? Cast iron pieces often provide a more subjective experience, and people can range from loving them to absolutely hating them. If you’re looking for a dense cast iron piece, then T-fal would be our recommendation, otherwise the Lodge is a better fit. That being said, unless you’re looking specifically for cast iron though, we recommend looking elsewhere.

Now between stainless steel, carbon steel, and the Calphalon non-stick, only the Calphalon has a true non-stick guarantee, while the other two materials rely on their mild natural non-stick properties. If non-stick is a must for you, then the durable Calphalon pan is a great pick.

Lastly, if you’re still stuck, how do you choose between stainless steel and carbon steel? If you don’t mind a little more weight, carbon steel is the way to go. Being denser, it does searing better than stainless steel.

How to Cook Steak In A Pan

Those of you who are used to grilling steak might be trying to learn the best way to pan-sear it. The process is surprisingly simple, and often achieves even better results, especially on filet mignon!

The first step actually begins outside of the stove top. First salt the steak, and leave it for at least 30 minutes. Skip any spice or fancy seasoning at this stage, because you’ll lose them anyway during the searing process!

some salt on a cut of steak
Salt is the best pre-sear seasoning.

When you’re ready to get cooking, put your pan over high heat and let it sit, and absorb the heat. What you’re trying to achieve here is for a pan to get so hot, that even when the steak is dropped into the pan, the heat doesn’t just all get conducted away. This is where those heavy pans with thick walls show their strengths.

Resist the urge to turn and flip the steak repeatedly. A good steak only needs searing once on each side. When the meat releases from the pan easily and has a deep-brown color on the bottom – usually around 3 minutes or so – flip it and let it sit for around 3 more minutes.

While the level of doneness depends on many factors, it generally ranges from 6 to a mere 12 minutes. This small difference makes a cut of steak go from a rare, all the way to well-done, so there isn’t much room for you to hesitate when the steak is already on the pan!

During the last minute or two, add 1 tablespoon of butter as well as herbs, to your liking. The secret to the perfect steak!

Wrap Up

There you have it, our list of top recommendations for the best frying pans for steak.

To recap, we find the Mauviel M’Steel to have struck the golden balance between a heavy construct (to hold in enough heat) while being very manageable in the kitchen. It is durable and thick, perfect for searing.

If you’re looking for something lighter though, both stainless steel and non-stick options are good picks. It all depends on your personal preference. If we were to pick between these two, we would go for the stainless steel ones, specifically the Le Creuset, if you have the budget for it. If you must go for a non-stick pan though, the Calphalon is a really good pick, and does not have the slightest hint of inferiority when compared to the other ones on this list.

Finally, if you’re that cast iron purist (we know you’re out there), the choice between the T-fal and the Lodge is simply a preference of weight. If you like heavier cast iron pieces, the T-fal is the one to go for, otherwise, get the Lodge!

Steak is nice, but it’d be even better paired with some good pasta or – if you haven’t tried it before – omelet. Interested? Check out some of the best pasta pots that come with strainers, or the best omelet pans that’s out there.


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