Steak like hamburger is an American classic. Given our love of steaks, one of the worst thing you can do is use the wrong pan. While nonstick is a popular choice, it gives you horrible result. It’s simply too light to give a good sear. Not to mention the heat will destroy the nonstick coating. The Best Frying Pan for Steak needs to be heavy so that it can retain heat. Cast iron is a popular choice, but is it good? You might be surprised to learn that a copper frying pan is actually the Best Frying Pan for Steak.
Best Frying Pan for Steak Quick Summary
Lodge Cast Iron Pan (Best Cast Iron Model)
For cast iron, Lodge 10 inch skillet is the best choice. You cannot beat the value/performance that it gives At 20 dollar or less you can get a 10 inch pan and abuse it as much as you want. Some might argue that you should invest hundreds of dollar in a Finex or Field pan. However, the difference in performance in minor to nonexistent. You can get same crust with a Lodge Pan.
Le Creuset Enamel Skillet (Best Enamel Cast Iron Skillet)
Le Creuset skillet is the best in the Enamel Cast Iron Category. Most other manufacturer have a temperature limit of 500 degree Fahrenheit. While Le Creuset has no stated limit. Other things that sets it apart is its low profile construction and color choice.
Matfer Carbon Steel Pan (Best Carbon Steel Pan)
Matfer Bourgeat 10 inch skillet is the best for carbon steel. Compared to Cast Iron, it has half the weight. This make it more manageable and easier to cook in. However, it wont hold as much heat as cast iron. 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 d3 model. Perfect for those who do not want the headaches of cast iron and carbon steel. Plus it wont rust.
Mauviel M250c (Best Copper Skillet)
Mauviel 10 inch Skillet m250c is the best choice in this category. Copper is one of the world best heat conductor. It gets hot fast and sear better than any other pan. Unlike other copper pan, this model has a 2.3mm layer of copper making it one of the heftiest copper pan on the market. You can be sure of a excellent crust when using copper. If I had only one choice, I would go for a copper pan.
What Features are Important for Searing Steak?
Weight and Heat Retention
Weight is a good measure of the quality of a pan. The more weight it has, 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 start flowing. Instead of frying, you are now steaming it. The end result is a grey colored steak.
You can try and wipe down the juices, but who has the patience for that. Its best to get it right the first time.
Weight is the reason why so many choose cast iron for steak. While they take a while to get hot, they will stay hot through cooking.
Out of all the metal, copper is the best at conducting heat. To better understand heat conductivity, grab a metal object and grab a plastic object. In a room, both object should be at room temperature. However, the metal one often feels colder. 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 just 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. Its the difference from a good steak to a poor one.
Despite what most people tell you, Cast Iron and Carbon steel are poor conductor of heat. 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 two layer of aluminum core. While not as good as the copper, 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, the pan is going to stay cold. Copper and aluminum pans can recover much quicker and sear better.
Fond is the brown bits left over in the pan. When sugar is caramelized, it develop new flavor compound that changes the way food taste. Chef usually use the fond with stock and butter to create a steak sauce.
Both the All Clad and Mauviel skillet have a clean visible interior. This lets you monitor the fond and prevent it from burning. With cast iron, the interior is dark making it easy to burn. This ruins the sauce rendering it useless.
Smoke coming from your pan?
Ever notice that your cast iron pan is always smoking. Its due to the “Seasoning” getting hot. Pans that are clean and free of seasoning, wont smoke. This means less mess in your kitchen and easier clean up. Because of this, I like using pans with a clean stainless steel interior for steak.
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 lifetime. Dont spend top dollar on a high end cast iron pan. At steak searing temperature it can easily burn and ruin the seasoning. For this reason, it might be a good ideal to get a cast iron pan for steak and one for regular cooking.
Best Balanced Steak Pan
The all Clad will sear better than either cast iron or carbon steel. It wont set off the smoke alarm and its easier to clean in. Plus, its also lighter. The downside is the price. But if you want the best of both world, then All Clad D5 is the way to go.
Best Frying Pan to Sear Steak
Hands down, copper is the best pan for searing steak. The M250C by Mauviel is the one that I recommend. At 2.5mm thick, its one of the heaviest pan on the market. You combine that with its superior heat conductivity and you have a recipe for perfection.
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 go in believing that it will stay beautiful forever, it wont.
What is my Best Frying Pan for Steak?
I have many pans, but the one that I choose is the Mauviel M250C copper pan. As stated before, it will give you the best result. However, its very pricey. The best buy is a traditional cast iron. Because of its affordability, you dont have to worry about breaking it. But a good middle of the road choice is the All Clad D5. It has the heft of cast iron with the performance of Aluminum.
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 caramel color. In order to get a Maillard Reaction, you need the steak to reach a temperature of 300 degree Fahrenheit. But if it has moisture in it, it will never get past 212 degree fahrenheit. While it can still cook, you are essentially steaming it and turning it gray.
The following steps are tricks that I use to get a maillard reaction each time.
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 for 24 hour. This dries out the skin letting it sear better.
3) Put the steak in a oven or dehydrator. Set the temperature at a temperature of 100 degree and lower. This will dry the steak out without over cooking it. This also gives it a dry age effect to it.
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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