The Best Pans for Searing Your Steak to Perfection

Sirwan Ajman

Author: Sirwan Ajman

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best pan for searing steak

Nothing beats a perfectly seared steak, with a mouth-watering crust on the outside and tender, juicy meat on the inside. But achieving that perfect sear requires the right pan. There’s an overwhelming number of cookware types on the market – which one is best for cooking steak? 

My Favorite Pan for Browning Steak: Lodge Cast Iron

Star Rating4.8 ⭐
MaterialPre-seasoned cast iron
Size15-inch diameter

Lodge is among the top cast iron manufacturers in the US. And this cast iron skillet is my favorite piece of cookware for searing steak. It comes pre-seasoned with natural vegetable oil, so theoretically, you could use it right out of the box. In reality, though, seasoning it yourself before use will give you much better results and prolong your skillet’s lifespan.

I love the generous size of this Lodge skillet, because you can cook steak for the whole family in it without crowding and steaming the meat.


  • Durable
  • Pre-seasoned
  • Big size
  • Compatible with all cooktops


  • A bit pricey
  • Requires maintenance 

Best Stainless Steel Pan: All-Clad BD55110 D5

Star Rating4.7 ⭐
Material5-ply stainless steel
Size10 inches

Stainless steel is the workhorse of many modern kitchens, thanks to its durability and longevity. And All-Clad is an American brand that never disappoints. Its famous name, and top-quality construction makes it among the most expensive brands, though. 

The 5-ply construction makes for the most efficient heat distribution among stainless steel cookware, which is essential in searing steak. It complements functionality with aesthetics with its brushed finish that’s both visually appealing and easy to clean. 


  • Heat-resistant, riveted stainless steel handles
  • Compatible with all cooktops
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Non-stick without harsh chemicals


  • A bit overpriced, which might be a deal-breaker for some
  • There’s a learning curve to ensure it functions as a non-stick pan and won’t burn. 

Best Budget: Cuisinart 722-20 Stainless Steel Fry Pan

Star Rating4.5 ⭐
MaterialStainless Steel
Size8 inches

Looking for a budget searing pan for under $20? This Cuisinart skillet is right up your street, providing great value for money. 

Made of high-quality stainless steel, it’s highly durable; it doesn’t impart metallic flavors, discolor, or react with food. Plus, it has a mirror finish that gives it a sleek look. 

The only thing you should pay attention to is heating it up to the right temperature—which is the case for any stainless steel product. It has aluminum plating only on the bottom, rather than throughout the core of the pan like its All Clad counterparts. This means that the even heat distribution only covers the bottom of the pan, not the sides. However, that’s not a big issue with a searing skillet since you only need the bottom for browning steak. 


  • Low price
  • Even heat distribution
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Oven safe


  • A bit heavy
  • Not 3-ply or 5-ply

Best Quality Material: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Iron Handle Skillet

Star Rating4.8 ⭐
MaterialEnameled cast iron with two handles
Size11.75 inches

Looking for a luxurious combination of quality, functionality, and beauty? This Le Creuset skillet is an exquisite addition to your kitchen decor with its wide range of eye-catching colors. 

Enameled cast iron offers a non-stick surface that’s durable and resistant to high temperatures. Thus, you can have a breezy searing experience, eliminating the need for seasoning. It also has a ring handle in addition to the long handle, making it safer and easier to carry.  


  • Dishwasher safe
  • Tolerating heat up to 500 F
  • Induction stove compatible
  • Rust-free 
  • Easy to clean


  • High price
  • Some concerns about lead and cadmium in enameled cast iron.

Best Stovetop Grill Plate: Lodge Cast Iron Chef Style Square Grill Pan 

Star Rating4.6 ⭐
MaterialCast iron
Size11 inches

If you can’t enjoy steak without the grill marks, this Lodge cast iron grill pan is for you. Like other Lodge cast iron products, this grill plate comes pre-seasoned. It’s compatible with many cooktops, including stovetops, grills, and even open fires. 

And if you think it may be difficult to clean because of the grills – don’t worry too much. Scraping burnt fat off of cast iron is never fun. But I have this grill plate and the space between the grill lines and the edge of the pan makes it easy to rinse away the crud after you’ve scraped off the fat. 

You can also use it for reverse-searing and stove-to-oven cooking as it tolerates high temperatures. 


  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver 
  • Safe 
  • Non-stick


  • Low handles make it difficult to get without oven mitts
  • The walls are low, which can cause splatters

Best Carbon Steel: Made In Cookware – 12″ Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan

Star Rating4.5 ⭐
MaterialCarbon steel
Size12 inches

Carbon steel gives you the intense searing capabilities of cast iron. But since it’s lighter weight, it’s easier to handle and clean. Carbon steel is my favorite cooking material for searing steaks as it’s naturally non-stick and tolerates high heat. It’s also more durable than cast iron since it has a lower carbon content, even though it’s lighter. It’s like the perfect hybrid between cast iron and stainless steel.


  • High heat distribution and retention 
  • Rust-resistant
  • Responsive 


  • Awkward handle
  • Requires seasoning 

What Type of Pan is Best for Searing? A Buyer’s Guide

Heat Conductivity vs. Heat Retention

The metals used in manufacturing cookware must have excellent heat conductivity. This way, the heat is distributed evenly throughout the surface and doesn’t create hot spots. The pan will come to heat quickly and retain it when you add the food.

When searing steak, heat retention is way more important than heat conductivity. Searing steak requires high temperatures of 400 °F to 500 °F, which has to remain unchanged throughout cooking. That’s the temperature that gives you a nice brown crust on your steak. When you add food to the heated pan, it causes a drop in the pan’s temperature. 

The pan’s material must respond to this change and return to the original temperature as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a gray, squishy-yet-tough steak. 

Apart from the material type, its thickness also matters. The thicker the material, the longer it loses heat when removed from the source or after cold food is added. 

The following materials are perfect regarding heat conductivity and retention:

  • Copper. Since copper comes in a wide range of gauges and thicknesses, you should pick your pan with the right thickness to ensure heat retention. Thin copper heats up fast but doesn’t retain heat well. For searing, 2.5-gauge copper fits the bill.  
  • Aluminum. Pick an aluminum pan without a non-stick surface, as it’s unsuitable for searing. The smooth surface doesn’t give you a good browning. Also, it should be thick enough — 3mm or higher— to retain heat.    
  • Cast iron. It’s the best material for searing since it’s durable and thick enough. 
  • Carbon steel. Although it’s lighter and more maneuverable than cast iron, it may not be suitable for searing if it’s thin. Choose a cast iron skillet of the right thickness to ensure heat retention. 

Stainless steel has poor thermal conductivity, but manufacturers compensate for this issue through cladding. They place a layer of high-conductivity metal, such as copper or aluminum, between two sheets of stainless steel. This method gives the pan the best of both worlds. 

Heat Tolerance 

Not every material is suitable for high-heat cooking, like searing. The pan should be tough and durable enough to prevent warping under high temperatures. In this regard, the best materials are:

  • Copper
  • Stainless steel
  • Cast iron
  • Carbon steel  

These metals have high melting points we can’t achieve through home cooking. However, there are some considerations: 

  • Stainless steel is highly durable and resistant. However, it can develop heat tint —rainbow stains on the back of the cookware— if exposed to high temperatures. 
  • Searing with cast iron is perfect, but high temperatures can loosen the seasoning. So, you could keep one pan for searing and season it after every use if you don’t have time to maintain all your cast iron cookware. 
  • Steer clear of tin-lined copper pans. Tin’s melting point is lower (450 °F) than the temperature required for searing.

Why Non-stick Is Not Good for Searing

Non-stick pans are the absolute no-no for searing. High temperatures can release harmful chemicals from Teflon coatings, as well as damage the coating and shorten its lifespan. 

The good news is that you actually don’t need a non-stick surface to get a good sear. With a surface that’s too slippery, you don’t get the nice fond for making those mouth-watering sauces. “Fond” is a fancy word for the bits of food that stick to the pan’s surface and separate from the meat. Deglaze your pan after searing steak to get all the flavor from the fond.

Cooktop Type

The heat source you cook with determines the type of material you can use in a searing pan. There are two points in this regard: compatibility and temperature. 

Virtually all cooktops let you reach your desired temperature for searing meat – even electric, if you wait long enough. However, compatibility is a bit tricky. 


One of the most controversial cooktops for searing steak is induction. Some cooks argue that induction stoves don’t reach high temperatures for safety reasons. However, you won’t have any issues if you have a pan with high heat-retention capabilities. This way, when the pan reaches the temperature —although it takes a long time— it doesn’t lose its heat quickly. 

This video busts the myth that induction doesn’t give a nice, brown crust on your steak.

The only thing you should consider is compatibility. Check the cookware’s manual before purchasing. And if you’re not sure about your current cookware, attach a magnet to the bottom of the pan. If it sticks, it’s compatible. 

It also needs to have a flat bottom to come in full contact with the stove’s surface. Otherwise, you won’t have an even heat distribution. 

Open Fire

Whether you sear the steak on a campfire or in your backyard charcoal grill, you should choose compatible cookware. Using wood and charcoal to make an open fire doesn’t give you control over your cooking temperatures. So, you need cookware with high retention degrees to avoid burning your steak. 

Another consideration is aesthetics. An open fire isn’t the most elegant cooking type when it comes to cleaning. It may leave dark stains on your cookware. So, if your cookware isn’t easy to clean or you want to keep your pans spotless, choose it carefully. 

Cast iron is the best material for open-fire cooking since you don’t need to worry about cleaning it, and it has excellent heat retention qualities. 


You may need to put your steak in the oven or go for reverse searing. Reverse searing involves cooking the meat in the oven to a rare or medium rare interior doneness, and then searing the outside at screaming high temperatures. In such cases, you need oven-compatible pans that can bear high temperatures. 

Cooking a steak in the oven doesn’t require high temperatures. So, as long you use oven-safe materials, you’re good to go. The only thing you should consider is the handles. Cast iron with integrated handles is the best option because it can tolerate high heat. (Just use a heavy duty oven mitt when you pull them out!)

Avoid pans with plastic handles since they get too hot inside the oven beyond their melting spot. And if you use a stainless steel pan, ensure it’s oven-safe. 


You may not have noticed, but the size of your searing pan can mean the difference between a nice steak with a hard brown crust and a gray, soggy piece of meat. The steak should not extend to the edge of the pan, or else moisture cannot escape, leading to a sad steak.

If you only have a small pan for searing steak, you’ll get best results if you cut the steak into small pieces like medallions, or cook steaks one at a time instead of squeezing multiple steaks into the same pan. Of course, this will increase your overall cooking time if you need to do them in batches.

The same goes for searing veggies. Overcrowding the pan with veggies makes them moist and not crunchy. Again, you should go for a bigger pan or divide your ingredients and fry them separately. 

So, if you’re in the market for a new searing pan, aim for 12 inches or larger. This way, you’ll make sure it can handle any food quantity. However, if you always have one or two steaks to sear, an 8 or 10-inch pan will do. 

Ease of Use 

You don’t need to toss a steak searing pan around the way you do for other types of cooking, for instance, stir-frying. However, ease of use is still something to consider. That’s particularly the case with high-heat cookware, which must be thick (read: heavy)  for higher heat retention. 

If you want to avoid a heavy pan, go for stainless steel. It doesn’t need to be very thick because of the aluminum core, and it’s generally lighter than iron.   


Although the materials recommended in this article aren’t truly non-stick, you shouldn’t have a tough time cleaning them. A chain-link scrubber will scrape the crud off your cast iron or stainless steel without damaging the patina. However, high-heat cooking involves burn stains and oil splatters that can cement to your cookware.

If you care about keeping your cookware shiny and spotless, stick with cast iron. Its black color masks these oil and burn stains and doesn’t require scrubbing. Stainless steel probably won’t stay bright and shiny if you use it on super-high heat.

Health, Safety, and Environmental Concerns

Searing steak and other high-heat cooking methods call for materials that are durable, resistant, and healthy. That’s why non-stick pans are never recommended for searing. 

Cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel, and copper are all safe materials that you can use in high-heat cooking. They may react with acidic food, but they don’t release toxic chemicals into your food as Teflon can. 

You can safely deglaze your stainless steel, cast iron, and copper pans with water or chicken broth. However, deglazing with vinegar or wine may be problematic since they’re acidic. For example, stainless steel can react with acid and release chromium or nickel, which may cause health issues like allergic reactions

Cast iron and carbon steel may react with acidic foods. These materials also release iron particles into your food, which isn’t harmful unless you already have too much iron in your system. 

Price Range

Your budget may be the ultimate factor affecting your choice of searing pans. The good news is that you can find quality products at a wide range of prices. So, if your budget is tight, you can even find a decent pan even under $20. 

The material’s quality, durability, and versatility are the most important factors determining the price. The brand is also partly influential. You should avoid shady and obscure brands with bad track records. However, you can find respectable brands that offer the same quality as luxury ones at a fraction of their costs. 

So, do your homework before purchasing a searing pan. And if you have budget and space limitations, look for products that are versatile and can serve different cooking purposes.

Accessories For Searing Steak

While shopping for the best pan for searing steak, you may also want to look for accessories necessary for getting the job done like a pro. Here’s what you need:

Meat Thermometer. Getting the temperature right is essential in searing steak. Steak is way too easy to overcook or undercook! A steak thermometer helps you take the guesswork out of your cooking and cook your steak to the right doneness. 

My favorite is this Alpha Grillers Instant Read Meat Thermometer. It’s easy to use, waterproof, and accurate. 

Pan (Infrared) Thermometer. Heating your pan to the right temperature is also crucial in searing steak. So, having a tool that shows you an exact reading can be a great plus. A pan thermometer is what you need here. 

This Etekcity Infrared Thermometer gives you accurate readings without having to touch the surface of the pan. It’s also versatile, and you can use it around the home for many other purposes. 

Kitchen Tongs. Choose the tongs based on your pan material. If it’s not scratch-resistant, use silicone tongs. And always stay away from plastic (including nylon) ones as they can melt. 

Tips for Searing Steak

Having the right pans and utensils is only part of what you need to get a perfectly brown steak. Some professional tips help you up your ante next time you go for a steak.

  • Pat the meat dry. Wet meat can ruin your steak as water can drop the temperature and give you a gry mass instead of a hard brown crust. 
  •  Let the steak rest. After removing it from the heat, you should let the steak sit for around five minutes. Tent the steak with aluminum foil. This will help the meat to finish cooking and redistribute the juices. 
  • Don’t flip the steak too much. After putting the meat in the pan, let it cook for 2 minutes before flipping it. If you move it too soon, you won’t get the seared crust. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Materials Are Best for Searing Pans?

The best materials for searing pans are cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel, and copper. They have high heat resistance essential for cooking at high temperatures. Plus, they have superior heat retention abilities, which is crucial in searing.  

Are Stainless Steel Pans Good for Searing?

Stainless steel pans are ideal for searing. They’re easy to use, lightweight, and safe. Plus, stainless steel cookware is highly conductive thanks to its aluminum or copper core. And it’s perfect for developing fond since it’s not 100% non-stick. 

Can You Cook Steak on Nonstick Pans?

Non-stick pans aren’t ideal for cooking steak since they’re not suitable for high-heat cooking. Non-stick coatings contain harmful chemicals that release at high temperatures and contaminate your food. They can also release toxic fumes that can be dangerous for pets and humans. 


The best pan for searing steak is Lodge Cast Iron, in my opinion. It’s the right size, made of durable materials, and affordable. You can go for more expensive options, like Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Iron Handle Skillet, if you have the budget. It’s a lifelong investment that gives you a pleasant cooking experience. 

Please feel free to share your comments below and ask questions regarding searing pans.

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Sirwan Ajman
About The Author
Sirwan is a food writer and a proud owner of a health-conscious café. He enjoys experimenting with new flavors. Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines hold a special place in his heart.