If you're a fan of cast iron, then you'll want to try carbon steel. They're actually remarkably similar: Although they aren't great conductors of heat, once they are heated they retain it well. You can use cast iron and carbon steel pans on the stovetop or in the oven. Plus, the more you use them, the slicker the surface gets.
The difference between the two (and the main benefit of carbon steel) is that carbon steel pans tend to be thinner and lighter than their cast iron cousins. They can also be cheaper than cast iron pans to buy — especially if you know where to look.
Restaurant supply stores are a hidden secret for home cooks. You can get everything you need to feel just like a chef in a restaurant, including carbon steel pans.
In fact, since carbon steel is the go-to for professional kitchens, these supply stores are arguably the best place to find carbon steel pans. There are a wide range of sizes available to choose from, so you can buy the size best for what you're cooking. (A 10- to 12-inch is usually the most versatile.) Plus, since restaurant supply store products are relatively inexpensive, they're a great starting point for people who want to get familiar with the pans before they make a bigger investment.
Buy a pan or two and use them the next few times you cook to see if they're your new go-to pan. Once you've decided carbon steel pans have a permanent home in your kitchen, you can explore other options.
Personally, we have our eye on this gorgeous carbon steel cassoulet pan.