What’s the best skillet for browning meat?
Answering this question means taking a particularly close look at the materials used. Those materials, in turn, have a big impact on the way heat is distributed around the pan.
For browning, it’s important to complete the process quickly, so you don’t end up searing the meat instead.
In this guide, I’ll go into greater depth about these crucial considerations. This will help you settle on the right material for your own kitchen.
I’ve then highlighted some of the most popular options in each class. With this information, you can make your buying decision with confidence.
Let’s start with the basics of what to look for in this kind of skillet.
(If you want to explore more of my cookware content, take a look at the home cookware guide I have on the site.)
The trick to browning meat well is to do it quickly and evenly. The more evenly the meat browns, the less time it needs to spend in the skillet
Why does this need to happen quickly?
If your meat spends too much time in the pan, you move beyond the browning stage and into the territory of searing.
That means cooking and caramelizing the outside of the meat. That’s a little too much if you’re planning on a slow cook in the oven afterwards.
This ties into the last point quite neatly. Different material types offer very different heat distribution performance levels.
For really even cooking, you have two options for a good meat browning skillet: stainless steel or cast iron.
Here’s a quick overview of how they perform, as well as some other materials that are commonly used.
Stainless steel is one of the most affordable cookware materials on the market. It lasts a long time too, and is an excellent option when you’re researching a new skillet.
You need to exercise a little patience when you’re working with stainless steel, however.
You can’t just blast it on a high heat, ready-filled with oil and meat. Do that and you’ll end up with food stuck to the surface.
Instead, you need to heat it gently at a low heat, then add the oil. Only when the oil has reached the correct temperature should you add your meat.
This slower approach won’t create a true non-stick surface, but the meat will release from the pan much more freely than it otherwise would.
Stainless steel is also very convenient in terms of cleaning.
Check the product listing carefully, but 9 times out of 10 you’ll be able to add a stainless steel skillet to the dishwasher.
Cast iron is an incredibly effective cookware material. It’ll also last you a lifetime if you give it the care and attention it requires.
That means seasoning the pan regularly to ensure it retains a consistent non-stick cooking surface. You also have to be quite careful with the type and quantity of oil you use, otherwise you end up with a sticky skillet!
Finally, it’s also very important to store your cast iron skillet correctly.
For some, all this is just a little too much like hard work, so just be aware of the extra demand this stuff will make on your time.
There’s one more problem with cast iron though.
This material is notoriously intolerant of acidic ingredients. If you’re planning on making any kind of sauce in your skillet, this can be a real problem.
Don’t get me wrong! For browning meat I think cast iron an excellent option. It just comes with some drawbacks that you really need to be aware of.
Carbon steel is an interesting alternative to cast iron.
Both materials are very similar in terms of performance, but carbon steel is considerably lighter than cast iron.
That makes them much more suitable for the elderly, or anyone who has limited strength or control in their arms and hands.
If you go down the carbon steel route though, look for one that’s thick.
It won’t affect the overall weight of the skillet too much, but this thickness ensures you get excellent heat distribution and overall performance.
A Word On Non-Stick Surfaces
For larger cuts of meat, a Teflon-style non-stick surface can be quite useful. It’s easy to lift and turn a large piece of meat, and it ensures you brown all sides of it quickly.
I’m less of a fan when it comes to working with smaller pieces of meat, or larger pieces that need to be broken up in the skillet.
It’s actually quite a slippery, frustrating thing to do on a “true” non-stick surface.
Given this limitation, I wouldn’t recommend using a Teflon-style skillet for browning meat.
Best Stainless Steel Skillet For Browning Meat
All-Clad makes some of the best cookware on the planet, but the complete sets often sit out of reach of the average home cook’s budget.
Better, in my opinion, to invest in one or two pieces from the brand. You can always add more over time, after all.
- A kitchen staple featuring a flat base and flared, mid-sized sides that allow for easy flipping and...
- Classic tri-ply construction, made with a responsive aluminum core bonded together with 2 layers of...
- Secured with riveted stainless-steel handles to ensure a safe grip and to add a bit of style with...
The D3 pan uses the company’s signature tri-ply construction. This is made of a central aluminum core, wrapped all the way around with two layers of hard-wearing stainless steel.
Aluminum is one of the best materials for conducting heat, but it’s quite fragile. This bonded stainless steel means you get incredible heat distribution but a much more durable skillet.
To help the pan last even longer, the D3 features riveted stainless steel handles.
There’s no risk of a handle screw coming loose over time here, and the full pan is more stable when you’re transferring it around the kitchen.
Once you’ve browned your meat with the D3, you can transfer it straight to the oven along with any other ingredients.
It’s also oven safe to a temperature of 600F / 315C. I’m not aware of any other cookware brand that can take this kind of punishment!
Although it requires a significant upfront investment, this for me is the best stainless steel skillet on the market today.
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Best Cast Iron Skillet For Browning Meat
If you’re not fussed about deglazing or preparing acidic sauces, Lodge is one of the biggest names in cast iron cookware.
For that reason, I recommend the company’s classic cast iron skillet. It’s available in sizes that range from 3.5 to 15 inches.
- One Lodge Pre-Seasoned 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet with Handle Holder
- Assist handle for better control
- Unparalleled heat retention and even heating
As with the De Buyer skillet (see below), I would recommend the 12 inch option to cover all eventualities.
Cast iron is quite a heavy material, and so you’ll appreciate the helper handle that sits opposite the main handle.
When these things are full, this extra stability is very welcome!
This particular skillet is also supplied with a silicone sleeve for the main handle as well. This helps to keep the heat out of the handle when you’re working on the stovetop.
Overall, Lodge cookware offers great heat retention at an affordable price. The company’s pans heat extremely evenly too, making them a great option for browning meat in particular.
Best Carbon Steel Skillet For Browning Meat
If you want the weight-saving benefits of carbon steel cookware, I think De Buyer’s 12.5” pan is going to be your best option.
It’s actually available in a range of sizes from 7.9 to 14.2 inches. The 12.5 inch edition is the sweet spot for larger meal prep work though.
- CARBON STEEL FRY PAN - The MINERAL B Fry Pan is perfect for searing meat, sauteing vegetables, reheating...
- NATURALLY NONSTICK - Lighter than cast iron & more heat conductive than stainless steel, this fry pan...
- HOW TO USE - Follow our instructions on first use to wash off the beeswax & season the pan. Hand wash...
All of the company’s pans are designed and engineered in France, and to the highest manufacturing standards.
Despite the high quality construction, it’s a surprisingly affordable skillet for browning meat.
It provides a natural non-stick surface to work with as well. You will need to season the pan from time to time, however, and so it’s not ideal if you lack the resources to give cookware this kind of TLC.
BONUS! Best Dutch Oven For Browning Meat
It might seem a little odd to include a dutch oven in an article all about skillets!
I wanted to highlight this particular pan though, as it may actually be what you really need to brown your meat to perfection.
- 45% larger handles that provide a sure grip, even with oven mitts
- The superior heat distribution and retention of le creuset enameled cast iron
- An advanced sand-colored interior enamel with even more resistance to wear
Le Creuset is one of the biggest names in high-end cookware, and this dutch oven requires quite a big investment.
It’s a very versatile piece of cookware though. Once you’ve browned your meat, you can add any other ingredients you want for your stew, and transfer it straight into the oven.
All elements – including the composite knob on the lid – can tolerate a whopping 500F / 260C temperature in the oven.
It’s cast iron, but the interior is coated with an enamel layering to provide extra protection. That means you can make acidic sauces with this kind of cookware.
Finally, Le Creuset offers a huge variety of colors, from the traditional to the more outlandish.
If you want to brighten up your kitchen as well as enjoy premium cookware, this is the go-to brand.
That should give you plenty of options to explore!
Start by working out the skillet material that will work best for browning meat in your own kitchen.
From there, think about the size of the skillet you might need.
I strongly recommend going just a little larger than you think you’ll need for everyday use. There’s nothing worse than having a pan that’s not up to the job when you have guests over.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more