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 pan to cook a steak can be the difference between a sad gray slab and a golden-brown beauty that would look right at home at your favorite steakhouse. Whether your meat is from the grocery store or a meat delivery service, read on to choose your new favorite pan for mouthwatering steak.
What To Consider When Shopping For The Best Pans To Cook A Steak
- Cast Iron: It’s the heaviest material for pans and does require seasoning, but chefs love how cast iron maintains 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 well-loved cast iron pan should last a lifetime — and beyond. It doesn’t heat as evenly as stainless steel, so we recommend adjusting the pan’s positioning a few times during preheating to avoid hot spots.
- Carbon Steel: Cast iron’s lighter (but more expensive) cousin, carbon steel offers similar heat retention and stovetop-to-oven-to-broiler versatility. While it requires seasoning like cast iron, its metal is more responsive to changes in temperature — heating up faster. It has a smooth surface compared to cast iron’s pebbled finish, giving a more complete sear.
- 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 allows for this good heat conductivity. With that core, a stainless steel pan promises to heat up quicker and more evenly than cast iron, although it doesn’t maintain that heat quite as well. It’s whisk-friendly – a great choice for building a pan sauce – and is extremely durable. Home cooks appreciate that it doesn’t require seasoning and many models are dishwasher safe.
- Nonstick: Okay, sure, you’re not going to get the same crusty sear with nonstick as 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 sears happen at high temperatures and nonstick pans might not be designed to handle them, so it’s always worth looking at the brand’s instructions for use.
The best sized pan depends on the cuts you like to cook and how many people you’re feeding. Larger pans let you add more meat without crowding, which can lead to steaming instead of browning. A pan in the 8- to 10-inch range will work well for one or two steaks (depending on the cut), but a 12-inch or larger model will work better for searing and cooking larger cuts, or several at once.
With all that in mind, it’s time to find the right pan — then sit back, preheat, pour a cold drink, and enjoy the sizzle of a perfectly cooked steak.
1. The Best Cast Iron Skillet
Lodge skillets have been turning out perfectly seared steaks for more than 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 into the oven to evenly cook the inside to your preferred level of doneness. The skillet is made in the U.S. and works on gas, electric, and induction stoves — and campfires. While heavy, it’s a durable pan you’ll be able to pass down to the kids. This pick is hand-wash only but you’ll need to follow the care instructions to maintain that seasoning. If you can’t live without grill marks, the square version has deep bars for picture-perfect sear marks. Lodge even makes a silicone holder for safe handling when things heat up.
Helpful Review: “So this is my first ever cast iron pan [...] I've had the pan about a week now and love everything about it. [...] My first ever meal was steak and cheese - got that nice hard crispy brown "steak shop" crust on the shaved steak, delicious! Next up was attempting a filet and ribeye - again awesome hard brown (not burned!) sear on the exterior and perfect medium / mid rare on both (filet went in first, ribeye shortly after). [...] It's a joy to cook with and I actually like the little niceties of caring for it. Like any other tool, take care of it and it will take care of you!”
Available Sizes: 8 | Material: Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron
2. The Best Stainless Steel Pan
Many chefs rely on stainless steel to get a dark and even crust on their steaks. This heirloom-quality pan features tri-ply construction that won’t warp or tarnish. The aluminum core is sandwiched between layers of durable stainless steel. The pan works with all cooktops (including induction) and is oven- and broiler-safe up to a whopping 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Hand washing is recommended.
Helpful Review: “[...] I had $60 worth of prime steaks ready to grill and the propane malfunctioned. Pan seared the steaks in this pan and they turned out perfectly crusted. You can see your butter, reductions etc change colors better than non-sticks. Cleans up like new with a little Barkeepers Friend. Highly recommend.”
Available Sizes: 8 inches, 10 inches, 12 inches | Material: Stainless Steel
3. The Best Budget Stainless Steel Skillet
This 12-inch skillet relies on a bonded stainless steel base (with aluminum at its core) to heat up quickly and evenly. The cast stainless steel handle makes for easy maneuvering and the helper handle makes it even easier. Plus, you can slide this baby into an oven up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This model is also safe for broiling and works on induction stovetops. It comes with a glass lid — increasing its versatility for those less steak-centric dishes too. The skillet is dishwasher safe and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Helpful Review: “Wow, this is the frying pan of frying pans. Plenty of room for steaks and also meats you want to cook in sauces. Love the higher sides and lid for slower cooking. It’s a heavy pan but I like that. Plenty of room for a meal for 6. This pan will outlive me!”
Available Sizes: 10 inches, 12 inches | Material: Stainless Steel
4. The Best Carbon Steel Pan
This choice is a great 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 sear-ready. Yes, those creases in this carbon steel pan are specially designed for searing 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 wash only and is compatible with gas, electric, and induction stovetops.
Helpful Review: “Best pan ever. Lighter than cast iron, with better performance. I got the larger one first, and out of all of my iron pans and regular mineral b, this is the one I grab first (and it's older brother). It is 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 do have to scrub off whatever seasoning you have built on, you can quickly and easily start over. [...]”
Available Sizes: 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 in the carbon steel category. This roomy skillet can easily handle several steaks, and the pan comes with a snug, removable silicone handle holder that’s heat resistant up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and dishwasher safe. The heavy-duty 12-gauge carbon steel is heat conductive, lightweight, and free of synthetic coatings. The pan works on all cooktops including induction and is hand wash only. The pan does need to be seasoned with oil after washing, creating a natural nonstick coating that only gets better with time.
Helpful Review: “Carbon Steel is so great! It heats to super high heat, and it heats evenly and is much cheaper than a copper pan. It cooks like cast iron but is much easier to clean. Once you season it well, it does not stick. You season it just like a cast iron pan. It turns black and I keep it in my oven. It's light to pick up, but has a great heavy bottom. [...] You can do [anything] from the lightest omelette to cooking the best seared steak in it.”
Available Sizes: 10 inches, 12 inches | Material: Pre-Seasoned Alloy Steel, Silicone (Handle Cover)
6. The Best Nonstick Pan
Love the easy cleanup of a nonstick but still want drool-worthy grill marks? This nonstick pan features a ceramic- and water-based interior that is free of PTFE and PFOA and it’s scratch-resistant, although 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 during cooking. Reviewers were shocked that following Cuisinart’s instructions for low to medium temperatures still created a brown crust on steaks (though this pan is oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit). For keeping this pan in mint condition, you’ll want to hand wash only.
Helpful Review: “Works perfectly. We will often use it to sear steaks and will then transfer it directly to the oven to finish cooking - haven't had any trouble. It's also very easy to clean - it lives up to its non-stick promise.”
Available Sizes: 11 inches | Material: Hard-Anodized Aluminum, Ceramic Nonstick Coating, Stainless Steel
Also Nice: The Best Steak Knives
Your perfectly seared, juicy steak deserves a good steak knife. Reviewers rave about this set that slices steak – and everything else – 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’re dishwasher safe.
Helpful Review: “These are steak knives but I use them for pretty much all cutting tasks in the kitchen (and as steak/butter knives). I have fancier and larger kitchen knives, but I always find myself reaching for these. They are very sharp and the serration remains sharp for years, even with daily use.”
Material: Stainless Steel