Seasoned Carbon Steel skillets, how do they compare to tri-ply stainless steel or aluminum? [moved from General Chowhounding board]
- austintexican Dec 20, 2011 10:58 PM
Along with my other cast iron stuff, I have a cast iron "chef's skillet" that's shaped like a saute pan. The only problem, of course, is that it is heavy as hell and doesn't have the fast cool-down/heat-up you get with aluminum or tri-ply stainless steel, so I tend not to use it for fast cooking, easily burned foods, like eggs.
Anyway, I'm interested in trying carbon steel skillets. I'd like to know if they can get really hot, like cast iron, but have the quick temperature changing properties of aluminum and tri-ply ss. It would be great if this were so, because they're lighter than cast-iron (I think), but also I just like to experiment with different cookware. :)
I cook a lot of eggs in my Lodge cast iron skillet but, as you mentioned they are heavy. With some bacon or sausage, I never have had a problem with things sticking or burning unless I really screwed up badly.
With the "teflon-esque" cheap aluminum skillets, a dash of olive oil and eggs cook easily.
My iron pans are similar to the ones you posted but, are Belgian. I actually use the "crepe" pan a lot for making pancakes. They would work fine for egss too. They heat up and cool down a little slower then the cheap thin aluminum pans but, I'm finding them to be more durable and cost effective in the long run. A little dab of butter, olive oil, or non-stick spray works wonders and doesn't scrap off like the teflon-esque stuff.
My Tri-Ply stainless skillet cooks very similary to my cast iron skillet. While it doesn't weigh as much, it heats and cools slow and is great for things that don't belong in cast iron.
re: Sid Post
Thanks for the info! I should have been more specific: my Lodge is fine for fried or scrambled eggs, but not so good with omelets. They tend to get too brown if I don't time them exactly right. Very little margin of error with the cast iron.
Lodge now has a carbon steel line, I might go ahead and get one. Thanks again!
I have a 10-inch (at the top) deBuyer grilling pan, and it's pretty heavy. I think the plain frying pans are even heavier.
Every pan technology has its advantages and disadvantages. I have all types and like them all. I don't want one type for everything. I use my grilling pan pri arily for cooking a burger. It gets hot enough to sear meat and cools fast enough to finish cooking without a problem. It's not critical.
Eggs, however, are critical. There is such a huge diffetence between a carefully cooked egg and an overcooked egg that a use a small T-Fal frying pan only for eggs (fried or scrambled), because it combines all the characteristics I need for eggs. A small carbon steel crêpe pan might work as well for eggs, but I use my crêpe pan only for crêpes.
Restaurants use one type of pan for most purposes, for reasons of economy, but there is no need for a home cook to do so, in my opinion.
It should work fine, but a large one will be heavy, which will be a factor if you turn your omelet by flipping it back by hand, Julia Child style. The small (20 cm) deBuyer Mineral pan weighs one kg. That should work. A lighter pan of the same size will have poorer heat distribution.
The thermal conductivity of carbon steel is pretty similar to cast iron; especially when comparing it to aluminum -- the relative difference between CI and CS is small.
I personally love my CS skillets. They have replaced my CI as the go-to pan for eggs, pancakes, etc.
You can get them just as hot as a CI skillet too.
"Anyway, I'm interested in trying carbon steel skillets. I'd like to know if they can get really hot"
Yes, you can.
"but have the quick temperature changing properties of aluminum and tri-ply ss"
No, it does not as described by other posters.
"It would be great if this were so, because they're lighter than cast-iron "
They are lighter because carbon steel cookware are usually made thinner than cast iron cookware. They are not lighter in term of density (weight-to-volume ratio).
I have and had a few carbon steel cookware. I like them a lot.
Chem, correct me where I'm wrong, but I believe de Buyer in N. America is between 2 to 3 mm in thickness. My, Paderno, is 1mm much like de Buyers' Lyonaisse line not available in N. America to my knowledge. So, the thinner the lighter, and good for some purposes but not for others. I, by no means, have expertise in these matters.
I believe World Cuisine is the same as Paderno. Paderno purchased their product and added their name, I think but not sure. For those that want lighter weight, Paderno, World Cuisine, might be the better choice. Their finish is not as good as de Buyer, but if you remember an old conversation we had I think it is 'Chinese good enough'.
The DeBuyer Mineral pans are on the thick / heavy side - I have a 10" that's about 5 lb, about as heavy as a #8 cast iron pan (same diameter) that I have. It's nice and solid, but heavy enough to be a little cumbersome. They have a silicone coating on the handle that's been more durable than I expected, however some people may still prefer an uncoated handle.
If you've already got a cast iron skillet, I would suggest getting a thinner carbon steel pan in the interest of having something that's "more different" from cast iron.
In addition to Paderno / World Cuisine, Vollrath, Mafter Bourgeat, Town Food Service, and Johnson-Rose all make affordable carbon steel pans for commercial use.
As with cast iron and alumnium, they're somewhat reactive - you wouldn't want to use a lot of acidic ingredients in them. Carbon steel seasons quickly and re-seasons quickly, but also can get unseasoned more quickly than cast iron, at least that's how it was explained to me.
I have seen several versions of Debuyer pans in North America. Carbone Plus, Mineral, Mineral B are between 2.5 to 3 mm depending on the size of cookware:
Force Blue series is 2 mm.
So you are correct.
"So, the thinner the lighter, and good for some purposes but not for others."
"For those that want lighter weight, Paderno, World Cuisine, might be the better choice."
I also agree.
I have the DeBuyer CS mineral pans, and they are heavy, almost as much as CI. Not for petite women, for sure... But they are GREAT pans, and I prefer them over my much loved Griswold CI. While they take as long to heat up, they do cool down faster when removed from the heat, but I must say, I really think that once seasoned (as in 6 months of regular usage), CS will produce a more tasty dish than CI, due to the seasoning I guess. Seasoning should be seasoning, I know, but with my CS pans and woks (and I have CI woks too!), I really think they have an edge in terms of taste. I'm not sure what's going on here, but I've seen it over and over, particularly with my high heat woks. When they get really HOT, I can almost smell years worth of ginger and garlic and scallions and meat—it's intoxicating and adds so much flavor (or "wok hei") to the food. My CI woks do this too, but not as much as the CS, I really have noticed...
For frying and sautéing, I think CS skillets are a no brainer—the seasoning adds so much, and you can get them so very hot. I have seen them used in SO many professional kitchens on the Cooking channel and the Food Network.
I will say that compared to CI, CS is much tricker to seasoning. You need to baby it a bit more, and be a tad more gentle. It takes a good 6 months to get a decent seasoning established, but once you are there—WOW, great stuff! Everyone raves over my scrambled eggs and the only secrets I have is to scramble them in browning butter in my hot CS skillet, that is removed from the heat when the butter starts to brown (eggs cooked with residual heat only).