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Do I need Carbon steel pans ?

As I started seasoning my Debuyer mineral pans I started thinking, what do I actually need them for ?
I have a set of Tramontina stainless steel pans and I have a set of DeBuyer non stick pans.
Thinking to myself do I need the extra pans and what would I use them for, what kind of cooking, I like to cook everything from European to Mexican and Asian. Right now I'm hooked on Indian food, but last month I was hooked on pastas :)
I never used cast iron or carbon steel pans before, so not sure what they have to offer.
It's just me and my wife in a little Townhouse, and before I grab the other 12'' Debuyer to season I would like some input.

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  1. I would personally use the carbon steel pans in place of both the stainless and non-stick, as they combine the best properties of both of those. I would keep one stainless pan for when I needed something non-reactive.

    But since you already have the other pans, no you don't really need these too unless you want something for very high-heat searing, in which case cast iron might be a better choice.

    1. i would say "yes" you do need carbon steel or a cast iron pan. The stainless steel pans and the non stick pans are great...but nothing is better than carbon steel or cast iron for searing meat. The others dont come close. Its like trying to stir fry without a wok...its close, but not quite the same.

      It's always nice to have the right tool for the job, and some jobs just scream for cast iron or carbon steel.

      1. "Need" is such a tricky word :)
        I would say yes so you get the experience and can form an opinion of your favorite pan based on empirical data.
        If you don't sample a little of everything how do you really know what your favorite is? :)

        I also agree that a carbon and a stainless pan are a good combination and can cover a lot of culinary ground.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cannibal

          If YOU desirevit, it's a want. If I desire it, it's a need ;)

        2. "Need" would be too strong of a word for anything really, but I do think you will enjoy a carbon steel. I would get one to test.

          1. I think you would enjoy Carbon Steel pan. I have stainless steel, non-stick, and cast iron pans, and I just added a carbon steel pan a month ago. I enjoy using it so much so I ordered another one this week. I like how carbon steel pan become non-stick without chemical coating.

            1. If you can afford these pans--lucky you!--then I'd proceed to season and use. Use them for the stuff you have been using your stainless and non stick for and form your own opinions about their usefulness to you.

              After a year or two, discard the pans that you don't want. I bet you keep the DeBuyer mineral pans though.

              1. I love my carbon still pans from Paderno; I understand they are a bit heavier than the DeBuyer, but less expensive, too. Carbon steel is a better conductor than almost anything else (except, perhaps, copper), and is suitable for low or high heat; the non-stock surface will develop the more they are used. They do take a bit more care, to be sure to prevent rust. I was told to clean them (after seasoning) with a plastic kitchen scrubber with a little dish detergent while they are still hot (cool enough to not burn the plastic, though), then dry with a paper towel, and complete the drying back on the stove on a low flame. If you live in a damp part of the country, it would be helpful to coat them with a light coating of vegetable oil between using. They are really my favorite pans! As was noted before, the word "need", may be a little too strong, unless you're a cooking fanatic, like me! Enjoy them!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Jessiet

                  <Carbon steel is a better conductor than almost anything else (except, perhaps, copper)>

                  Carbon steel is resonably good, but don't forget the most popular cookware material -- aluminum.

                  <If you live in a damp part of the country, it would be helpful to coat them with a light coating of vegetable oil between using.>

                  I think it also depends on the time in between usage. If you are going to use the pan once every week or more frequent, then I don't think it is necessary. If you are going to use the pan less frequent than once a month, then maybe.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Aluminum is good for some things, but not for searing, and of course, not for acid foods. The carbon steel gets hot very quickly, as well; another advantage.

                    1. re: Jessiet

                      I just want to add that they are a fun pan to cook on. I loathe non stick pans, but they excel in certain thing...( like frying eggs). For cooking meat, the only thing that is as good is a cast iron skillet. For cooking foods where you want the Maillard Reaction to take place...that is, browning, carbon steel is about as good as it gets.

                2. I just bought a Debuyer omelet pan. I hadn't had very good luck with carbon steel woks in general and put it off for a long time. Wow. I seasoned it with potato peels and the whole nine yards, thinking I was being a little silly, but I ended up being blown away by the instant slickness of this pan! In fact I have threatened young son and DH with an extreme price for doing something wrong and causing it to stick, so I think they're putting it off until I've tested it out some more. In other words, I absolutely love it and plan to make some crepes in it this weekend. They're not so pricey as to be intimidating, either, at least the 9" pan I got wasn't, and it was pleasantly weighty.

                  1. I'll echo some others and say you don't really NEED them, as long as your deBuyer non-stick is holding up well. I'm a long-time clad stainless owner and love it for pan-roasting and sautéing when I want to develop a nice crusty fond. I used Tramontina heavy aluminum non-stick for stir fry, eggs and delicate fish, in addition to things like quesadillas and grilled sandwiches.

                    Thanks to hints and advice from helpful 'hounds (I'm talking about you, Chem, Kaleo and breadchick) my 3-month experience with deBuyer carbon has really shown me some differences and advantages over non-stick. Eggs are almost equal in both, even scrambled, but they taste better coming from my carbon pan. Delicate fish and grilled sandwiches are better in carbon steel; the fish gets a nice crisp but thin crust that non-stick can't quite equal, grilled sandwiches have a perfect shatteringly crisp, delicate crust that I could never come close to in any other pan.

                    Sautéed veggies are better in carbon steel than in either non-stick or stainless. They brown better than in non-stick, and don't stick at all, as opposed to stainless, where they sometimes need a slight nudge. I can use less oil than I do in my stainless, making for a cleaner taste. Hash browns are far superior to non-stick and similar to stainless, but again, with better release.

                    I think if I had to describe the difference overall, I'd say there's more steaming/simmering in non-stick and more frying/searing in the carbon steel. I'm very good at getting food to release easily in stainless, but carbon steel is superior, being virtually non-stick. I still like stainless for pan-roasting and pan sauces. I don't see that changing.

                    One more thing! I once attempted crepes in a non-stick fry pan and it was a disaster of epic proportions. I chalked it up to "crepes are difficult and better left to pros". Last week I threw caution to the wind and tried again in my deBuyer crepe pan. Easy peasy, perfect, even the very first one. Granted, I was in my 20's and a novice cook the first time. But still, last week's crepes were gorgeous and made me a very happy camper. At 5'9" I'm not as tall as Julia Child, but I felt like I was. :)

                    Bottom line - my non-stick are slowing going away as I'm adding more carbon steel, and I'm only upset I didn't find out about this stuff years ago.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: DuffyH

                      I don't have any carbon steel pans, but I use my bare cast iron the same as you do. I never use non stick skillets anymore, because food is just so much better in the CI. I use triply stainless sauce pans for boiling and heating up things. I use enameled CI for soups, stews, beans, etc. info roasting in bare CI and enameled CI. I even use bare CI loaf pans for breads, meat loaf and roasting small chickens.

                      1. re: DuffyH

                        Aww, thank you, DuffyH! I completely agree with you about the food tasting much better in the carbon steel pans. Especially eggs and crepes!! Which reminds me, I need to make some crepes soon.

                        Happy cooking!

                        1. re: breadchick

                          I was going to make some Bananas Foster crepes last night to cap off our planned dinner of hot dogs and chips (I have an overripe banana, don't judge!) but got invited to our son's for steak instead. Maybe tomorrow night!

                      2. Hi toyopl,

                        I have two of the same Debuyer carbon steel mineral pans, and I've been using them for about 6 months. My carbon steel 10" frying pan is the pan I use the most these days. It is well seasoned, so is essentially non-stick. Since it is a monoblock, I have no hesitation to turn the gas hob on high to get it smoking hot before searing meats. It's not very heat responsive, so I can't do anything delicate with it, but I use it every night to cook dinner. When I'm done cooking, I just run hot water over it and scrub it with a stiff-bristled plastic brush, and the clean up is finished. I store it right there on the range.

                        I keep a commercial grade small 6" heavy aluminum teflon coated fry pan for eggs in the morning.

                        I keep a medium LC enameled cast iron dutch oven handy for stews.

                        While I consider myself a cookware junkie, and even though tinned heavy copper is my absolute favorite type of cookware to use, for the last few months the above 3 pans are all I've needed 95% of the time.

                        With all due respect to the others who disagree with me, I have not found a purpose for any stainless steel cookware. There is no application in my kitchen (or any I can think of at all) where stainless steel would be the cooking surface of choice. If I wasn't so lazy when it comes to washing dishes, I would use my tinned copper daily, since it is apparent to me that in every application I can think of, it is clearly the best cooking surface.


                        5 Replies
                        1. re: alarash

                          < I have not found a purpose for any stainless steel cookware.>

                          With respect, I have to disagree, if for no other reason than copper is beyond the reach of most home cooks. Stainless is affordable, versatile, cleans easily and can last a lifetime. For many applications, it's like Baby Bear's bed, "just right".

                          1. re: DuffyH

                            I think that alarash was saying that between carbon steel and cast iron, it;s hard to justify stainless - copper is nice bonus for those who can afford it - but stainless does little that other materials don't do better, and often for less money. I have to agree - especially when it comes to fry pans. I like my stainless pots well enough.

                            1. re: zhenya00

                              Perhaps, zhenya. I hope so, but don't think that's what alarash said. I'll reserve any further comments in anticipation that alarash will clarify.

                              1. re: DuffyH

                                Hi DuffyH,

                                "I have not found a purpose for any stainless steel cookware. There is no application in my kitchen (or any I can think of at all) where stainless steel would be the cooking surface of choice."

                                IMHO, stainless cookware has several advantages, in that it's affordable, durable, washable in a machine, and is versatile (*usable* in almost any application). I routinely recommend a good stainless starter set to younger friends who are still in school, but want to upgrade beyond the ultra-cheap "dollar store" pots and pans. (Often I recommend something like Kirkland Signature for example).

                                The two comments above, taken together, were meant to express that there is no single application I can think of (browning, searing, caramelizing, stewing, boiling, simmering, etc) where stainless performs the best. Hence, for me, there's no role for it in my kitchen.

                                For example, when frying eggs, a small 6" thick aluminum teflon coated commercial fry pan for $10 at Sam's club is outperforms anything else. Thus, I keep one handy and use it every day.

                                For cooking any meat for dinner (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish) I use my seasoned carbon steel because it outperforms anything else (except for copper, which takes longer to clean, so I don't use it daily, even though I am blessed to have it).

                                For stews, I like the heat retention of iron during the slow cook process, so I keep a medium ECI dutch oven handy for frequent use.

                                Stainless can be used for all of these applications, but given the same cook using the instruments, I would argue the other utensils would have an edge over stainless.

                                That having been said, I readily admit a good cook would cook the pants off me using stainless, despite me using my pans of choice.

                                Finally, a word on copper cookware. I got my first two pans together from a lady on craigslist. I used them, immediately fell in love with the precision and control they offer, and have since made a habit of checking craigslist and ebay regularly for bargains. I recommend anyone who is interested to follow suit, as it really performs the best, in my opinion.

                                I invite those who have not already read them to peruse the related copper links here on CH, and to pay close attention to Kaleokahu's comments, as I have found them to be particularly grounded in science, and less biased than some other frequent posters on CH who have nonetheless gained a substantial following.

                                If you ever decide to try a copper pan, it won't take long to find a 3mm thick iron handled pan with a good tin lining. There are lots of bargains if you look closely. I drive an '05 Corolla, but despite my pay grade, have added a significant copper component at bargain prices. I use them mostly on weekends though, since I get home tired on weeknights and use the other cookware I mentioned due to ease of cleaning.

                                Good luck,


                                1. re: alarash

                                  Thanks for the clarification, alarash. I apologize for my misunderstanding.

                                  - Duffy

                        2. yes. because yes.

                          You wanted it and you have it for a reason - because you wanted it.

                          Now how have they been working out for you?

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