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Pans... high heat and easy to clean?

I do a lot of high heat cooking/searing and I've been using...

1. a stainless steel pan. Performs great but often requires some serious elbow grease to get clean.
2. a nonstick pan. Cleans up very easily, but the high heat ends up ruining the nonstick surface.
3. a cast-iron pan. Amazing performance, but its weight makes it cumbersome to handle, it's hard to clean, and it has various cooking limitations (can't use anything acidic).

Are there any alternatives that I'm missing out on?

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  1. Blue Steel, I use it more than my cast iron for non-searing applications.

    1. Carbon steel. Blue steel, suggested by Hmm, is one subset of carbon steel.

      Like cast iron pan, you can season a carbon steel pan. Foods become stick less on a seasoned carbon steel cookware. Unlike cast iron cookware, carbon steel cookware are usually made much thinner. As such, they have faster heat response and lighter in weight. Most professional Chinese woks are made with carbon steel for these reasons.

      2 Replies
      1. Enamelled cast iron, perhaps? Still heavy but very easy to clean and can be used to cook acidic foods. I have a few Le Creusets and I just love how well they sear and how easy clean up is.

        1. Thanks! Any other options?

          I'm going to have to look into carbon steel pans. It sounds like it is easier to handle than cast-iron pans, but I do worry about its maintenance. Unfortunately, I'm one of those guys that will fry something up and let the pan sit there for days unwashed. I'm also worried about rust as my cast iron pan developed rust before I even used it (I guess a few drips of water must have got on it somehow).

          I'm also on the fence about enameled cast iron. I don't mind the heft too much, but I worry about my lady and the fact that we have a flat top stove (never again...). The easy cleanup makes it very tempting but I could swear I read something about how they shouldn't be used with high heat.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Cornstar

            "Unfortunately, I'm one of those guys that will fry something up and let the pan sit there for days unwashed."


            Sounds like the problem isn't with the pans. Sounds like the problem is with you.

            Gotta take better care of your cookware my friend, regardless of their material.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              I never said there was anything wrong with the pans. :) I'm just hoping that there's one that fits my... lifestyle.

            2. re: Cornstar

              A carbon steel pan is easier to wield. However, it requires about the same level of maintenance as a cast iron pan. I have fried and cooked in my cast iron pan without washing my cast iron pan right away. As long as there is not much water, oil from cooking will not harm the pan.

              Best wishes.

              1. re: Cornstar

                Buy a box or bottle of dishwasher detergent. Sprinkle a little in the pan and add water. When you are ready to wash it, the pan should almost clean itself. No elbow grease required.

              2. Anodized aluminum is light, sears beautifully, releases food when the sear is finished, and should be able to handle being unwashed for several days without damage. It won't wind up being the prettiest cookware you own, but it's quite durable. Take a look at Calphalon.

                If leaving any pot uncleaned (that won't rust in water), just keep it wet and that should make eventual cleaning easier.

                But as for cast iron, once you have a good seasoning built up, a little acidity isn't going to do much to the seasoning. Try out cooking some tomatoes in it if it's well-seasoned as a test.

                1. Maybe try a Silit Silargan frying pan? Ceramic-coated stainless steel. Takes high temperatures, easy to clean, pretty much indestructible. The picture shows the 11" Fry N Serve pan.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tanuki soup

                    Silit is a great option- but it's not as economical as the others (carbon steel, CI, or aluminum).

                  2. Carbon steel, hands down. Easy to season, little effort to clean, and not as heavy as cast iron - which for me, personally, is a major issue due to joint problems. I have a lot of carbon steel - different skillets, a grill, and a crepe pan - and use them constantly.

                    They sure can take the heat too.

                    1. I use an inexpensive de buyer carbon steel pan for frying steaks and fish (sole meuniere). They are great in high heat searing, after which you deglaze with a little wine. However, other than that I find carbon steel not of much use for my style of cooking. For all other searing jobs I use my beloved copper Mauviel saute pans. These pans brown meat wonderfully after which you may start a simple deglazing or commence in braising or stewing. I have the Mauviel 2,5 mm with stainless steel.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: damiano

                        Do you know where the de buyer CS pan is made? My AC does a lousy job of browning/deglazing & I need to find something that performs better. I note Amazon also sells Paderno CS pans...my old (made in Italy) paderno pans are The Best...but I wonder if the new ones are made in Italy. Does anyone know?

                        1. re: fauchon

                          De Buyer carbon steel pans should be made in France.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            De Buyer is definitely made in France. I have both the thicker carbone plus line (oval size for frying fish) and the force bleu line (round for steaks). The latter is thinner. Don't know the Paderno pans.

                            1. re: damiano

                              Carbon steel is not a high-tech material, so it shouldn't matter much where it is made. While I just bought a DeBuyer (on sale at Costplus), I also have several Mexican tortilla griddles. They aren't as thick as the DeBuyer, but take seasoning just the same.

                      2. Without being harsh ( or wishing to be) if you are not going to be religious in cleaning immediately after use then stainless steel is the only option for you. It will forgive a day or two on the countertop between cleanings. Cast iron has its limitations, not simply with reactivity but also with responsiveness to temperature changes and will not be 'low' maintenance if your habit is not to clean it immediately after use. I love cast iron (in so far as it's ideal application goes) and carbon steel but in each case you need to spend a minute cleaning after use. Go SS and don't look back if you are looking for a forgiving pan .

                        1. Can the De Buyer go from stovetop to oven?

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: flfoodie2

                            yes...but the handles are long and a little steep and would be hard to get into an oven for the larger sizes. FWIW, I find the carbon steel to be lower maintenance than SS since they stick a lot less. However, I am kind of crazy about cleaning up after myself. My kitchen is not huge and a dirty pan or two gets in the way pretty fast.

                            1. re: flfoodie2

                              Debuyer makes many products, but extremely famous for its carbon steel cookware. Assuming you are asking about the carbon steel cookware, I don't see any reason why you cannot bring them into oven. Debuyer only indciates the Mineral steel cookware is oven-capatible, but I think that is false. I think all the steel cookware can.

                              1. re: flfoodie2

                                Any pan with a metal handle should work in the oven. If a restaurant quality pan has an insulating handle it is removeable. Often on TV you'll see a chef grab the handle with a towel or corner of his apron, as he moves the pan from stovetop to oven

                                1. re: paulj

                                  Just last week, I pan fried a whole turbot (flat fish) in my carbon steel de buyer pan for 3-4 minutes on each side, and then put it in the oven for another 5 minutes or so. Came out perfect. Just make sure that you as the previous poster said use a towel or anything to take the pan out of the oven (which I forgot!). Ouch..

                                  Actually, to get on topic again, it was a very busy night and I was off to Paris the next day. Had no time to clean the pan. After I returned in three days, I cleaned the pan by wiping the oil residue with a paper towel and then washing it with just a little soap. Put some olive oil on the clean pan, wiped it all over and put it away. All in all, 3 minutes work. So, definitely easy to clean.

                                  This pan is becoming my favourite for pan frying meat and fish.

                              2. I put mine (carbon steel) in the oven all the time. If you pan sear stovetop, and roast for a few minutes in the oven, you need something like c.s. I actually don't find the handles an issue at all. I have a GE Profile free standing dual fuel and they fit just fine. I don't find the handles any more of an issue than my All Clad. (Certainly more comfy than AC.)

                                I will admit, I cruised through Lowes not long ago and looked at the ranges they have in the store. Just looking, I don't need a new one. I have to say, most of those ovens are really, really small inside. So it must depend on what oven one has - such as a wall oven. (I had a super small wall oven in my first house. Could barely fit a 23 lb turkey in it!)