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Seasoned Carbon Steel skillets, how do they compare to tri-ply stainless steel or aluminum? [moved from General Chowhounding board]

Hi all,

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. :)

Thanks!

Lodge Logic Chef Skillet:
http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Logic-10-...
carbon steel skillets:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_sca...

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  1. 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.

    Best Regards,

    Sid

    1 Reply
    1. 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!

    2. 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.

      3 Replies
      1. re: GH1618

        >I don't want one type for everything

        Me too. I bought the Lodge chef skillet mainly out of curiosity. I have a heavy-duty non-stick I bought at a restaurant supply store, specifically for omelets, but I don't trust teflon anymore. I think I'll give the carbon steel a try.

        Thanks!

        1. re: austintexican

          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.

      2. 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.

        1 Reply
        1. "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.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Thanks! I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this. My wok stays very hot when I use it on my butane turkey fryer.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              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'.

              1. re: rosetown

                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.

                1. re: rosetown

                  rosetown,

                  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:

                  http://www.debuyer.com/product.php?id...

                  Force Blue series is 2 mm.

                  http://www.debuyer.com/product.php?id...

                  So you are correct.

                  "So, the thinner the lighter, and good for some purposes but not for others."

                  Agree, agree.

                  "For those that want lighter weight, Paderno, World Cuisine, might be the better choice."

                  I also agree.

              2. 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).

                1 Reply
                1. re: toddster63

                  My Mineral skillet is actually heavier than a Griswold CI pan I have.

                2. I own this in a small size. I haven't been using it because I'm in permanent digs with temporary kitchen gear. Most of my real gear is still in a warehouse in my old home city. But, I can tell you that the Lodge Logic is not a carbon steel skillet. The Lodge Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet is of course carbon steel. I don't really recommend the smallest size, because it simply isn't be enough. The finish is textured--not smooth--and I had trouble getting it seasoned.

                  I do like the pan. But I still have work to do on it to make it smooth enough for frying an egg. I found that the pan heated up fast. The long handle doesn't heat up as quickly, but it isn't all that comfy. The pan is built like a tank and is balanced in the hand. I really think it would be wonderful for campfire cooking or outdoor grilling.

                  But I may buy a larger size, heavy as it would be. They aren't very expensive, and they might be worth the extra work to get them seasoned.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: sueatmo

                    Yeah, that texture is a no-go for me... DeBuyer's Mineral pans are heavy, and need to seasoned and don't like holding seasoning too well, HOWEVER, even when brand new and slickity smooth, and not really seasoned at all, they are non-stick (I was really impressed). So persoanlly, they cost more, but I think the Mineral pans are probably a better carbon steel selection than Lodge's...

                    1. re: toddster63

                      I think the Mineral pans are probably a better carbon steel selection than Lodge's...

                      ----------
                      This might well be true. The cost would hold me back on these, I think.

                      1. re: sueatmo

                        Yeah, for inexpensive cookware , the Mineral line is not the right choice.

                        HOWEVER—they are the HEAVIEST carbon steel cookware I have ever seen, and they will last a lifetime, and only get better and better as time goes on and the seasoning increases. No other form of cookware, short of cast iron, can claim this feat...

                        I have had other carbon steel skillets in the past—much thinner than the Mineral line—and they were nice, but I really do think the DeBuyer Mineral line cooks better (non-stick and flavor), probably due to the better heat insulation from the thicker forms...

                        But if costs are your first priority, over performance and track record, by all means these are the wrong choice...! I get a "gourmet" tickle when cooking in them and seeing, "DeBuyer FRANCE" on the handles, but this is rather silly and not too important to most (as penny-pinching is not important to me)...

                        1. re: toddster63

                          Yes, cost is a factor. But I already have so much stuff. Anything I buy must serve a specific need. Not sure if such a pan would do this.

                      2. re: toddster63

                        There are plenty of good French style quality carbon steel pans for commercial use that should be better than Lodge, and cheaper (in the $10-35 range) than DeBuyer. Mafter Bourgeat, Vollrath, Johnson Rose, Paderno, etc.