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Cast Iron and Carbon Steel - what utensils do I use?

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Hello everyone - newbie here. I'm T-R-Y-I-N-G to learn how to cook at age 40 (yeah, I know lol). I mean, I can cook - just limited skills I guess. I've been trolling these discussion boards and wow, talk about vast knowledge. I do have a few specific questions.

So - I'm upgrading from my non-stick that are around 10 years old (BJ's Brand - no visible issues with surface ... amazing right!). Thanks to the posts here, I've decided on:

- Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned Chicken Fryer with Iron Cover, 5-Quart
- Lodge Logic 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet (cover from Fryer will fit this)
- DeBuyer Mineral B Element Country Cheff Iron Pan, 12.6-Inch Round
- DeBuyer Mineral B Element Iron Frypan, 12.6-Inch Round
- DeBuyer Blue steel crepe pan (never made a crepe in my life, apparently they rock for eggs tho)

Of course, I'll be adding to this list (suggestions welcome - especially need help for something to cook acidic foods like tomatoe sauce etc in).

I'm learning alot, but can't find an answer to this burning question - can someone confirm that in the above pans I should only use wood or silicon/plastic utensils vs metal. I'm guessing the metal will scrape off the much earned seasoning.

If so, then can anyone recommend some good quality utensils? I just don't have good luck. I keep breaking the spoons and spatulas (no I'm NOT lifting bricks). Had Kitchen Aid, Tfal, bamboo. Either they eventurally break, or the front of the spatula gets all bunky ( i need to trim the plastic now and then) and they lose their "edge".

Would also like to get a griddle to make pancakes or something (can make more at once than in the pan). I have a crappy rental electric stove for now - assuming I'll need to put the griddle over 2 burners. What material works best - CI / AL in this situation.

That's all for now .... thank you in advance (and thanks for reading my mini novel haha)

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  1. I can't speak for cast iron users, but with my carbon steel I have no problem with using metal spatulas and turners. The seasoning is so non-stick the utensil just slides right under the food, no digging at it. If you want to deglaze your pan, you can get a good multi-clad skillet or saute. Both will work well and won't react to acidic foods and wine. There are many good manufacturers to choose from. I have a 12 inch A/C skillet and a 4 quart A/C sauteuse for that purpose.

    Two burner griddles work well, and again, there are several to choose from.

    Good luck with your cookware!

    1. < can someone confirm that in the above pans I should only use wood or silicon/plastic utensils vs metal.>

      You can use any, but it is slightly better to use metal. The seasoning is an ongoing process. You will constantly add and subtract the seasoning, so scratching a bit seasoning off with the metal utensils is perfectly fine. Now, for absolutely newly seasoned cookware. I would either (a) use a very light hand with the metal utensils, or (b) use wood/bamboo/silicone utensils. Once the seasoning is settled (in a week or two), you should have no problem with using metal utensils in a normal fashion.

      <If so, then can anyone recommend some good quality utensils? I just don't have good luck. I keep breaking the spoons and spatulas>

      If you really want long lasting utensils, you can buy one or two restaurant utensils. They are a bit more expensive, but last for a long time. My previous cheap turner/spatula broke, so I bought a Dexter Russell turner, and it has been great:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/798852

      That being said, I think a cheaper and probably more realistic approach is to buy solid utensils (in your case). Instead of buying utensils with a rubber handle and all, just buy these "single piece utensils". I don't mean these specifically, but something like these:

      http://www.crateandbarrel.com/stainle...

      <What material works best - CI / AL in this situation.>

      It depends what you want. Aluminum will give you better even heating and faster heat response. Though cast iron griddle will give you better heat capacity.

      1. I use a metal turner in my Mineral grill pan without worrying about it, but then I mostly use it for hamburgers, and it's not a smooth, flat surface.

        A silicone spatula can be used everywhere, whether you need it or not. I have the large Pyrex spatula, which I like for it's thin edge. For a crêpe I use no spatula at all — I flip it in the air with the pan.

        A silicone spatula holds up better than an ordinary plastic one, in my experience

        5 Replies
        1. re: GH1618

          Metal turners are actually better for cast iron and carbon steel pans because they scrap off burned food and curd as you cook. The left over seasoning layer is stronger.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            ok - another rookie question - I'm loving your turners ... BUT. What is a good middle of the road size? Let's say I get 2 - one french toast and one for burgers. Can I expect one to do both or should I have 1 or 2 for specific tasks? Also, how does it feel in your hand? I'm used to the residential one with long a*s handles - these handles look more stubby. But it seems like they would provide better leverage at any rate.

            1. re: kimcantcook

              <Let's say I get 2 - one french toast and one for burgers>

              I think for most applications, you can use the same turner for both. Yes, I bought a so called hamburger turner, but I actually use it for everything, including French toast. I just used it to flipp my eggs today. In all fairness, you will be better off buying a slightly smaller one with a longer handle -- so I do agree with you.

              I have used a Chefmate turner, and it broke into pieces one day -- suddenly. Looking closely, the plastic parts just fell apart. In my opinion, as long as you buy a "single piece" metal utensil, it will last you a long time. I actually bought a full stainless steel slotted scoop from Crate and Barrel, and it has show no sign of wearing.

              I think if you get something like these, then you should be fine:

              http://www.crateandbarrel.com/stainle...

              http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Brush...

              http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Brush...

              http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-CTG-0...

              I bet that your last turner broke at the plastic parts and not the metal part.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                you rock - thanks for the leads .... no sleep for me tonight ;)

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I agree with Chem, you need one metal spatula for most needs. Many people prefer the Dexter because it's got a square edge as opposed to a round one, which tends to be handier when deglazing and scraping. I'd add a metal, flexible fish spatula to your list, also a plastic type one if you want to use it in a nonstick pan. I've recently switched to one-piece silicone spatulas for my baking and other needs from the older Rubbermaid style ones because I noticed that the two-piece ones were getting moldy where the handle and business end pushed together. If you expand your pots to include anything like Le Creuset or other enamel coated or nonstick material, even stainless steel, you will need utensils other than metal, which can scratch. I've got an assortment of wooden spatulas & spoons for pans with more delicate finishes, but I don't use them much in my cast iron or steel pans. And I always use a curved wok tool in my steel wok, they last forever. CI and regular steel pans will be quite happy with metal utensils. Stainless steel pans will require a lighter touch, but you'll figure this stuff out as you learn. Enjoy!

          2. From now on, we'll call you kimCANcook:

            For your steel and bare cast iron pans, use anything you want. Metal works just fine.

            But if/when you add pans of other materials into your batterie (i.e., enameled CI, aluminum, tinned copper, next-generation nonstick), you're going to want something softer. At which point the problem becomes knowing which utensil to use where, and spreading that knowledge to all in your household who wield the utensils.

            I have learned through painful experience what damage well-meaning guests can do with metal utensils. IMO, if you start with and stick to high-quality wooden and nylon/poly utensils, you can cross that off the list of things to be concerned about.

            If you want to cook across the whole griddle, get aluminum. You'd have a much cooler spot in between hobs if you choose CI.

            Aloha,
            Kaleo

            1. wow - thanks for the advice. I had NO idea I could use metal on the CI and CS! I will check out the links you offered below. I think I'm going to shy away from any non stick coated cookware from here on out anyway. It seems like everytime I'm reaching for a spatula - they mysteriously disappear. Taking out the garbage one day, I solved that mystery - apparently when they break, "someone" hopes I won't notice haha. Nice try! Thanks again everyone, my pans should be delivering tomorrow .... can't wait to get the seasoning in process. KimISGONNACook lol.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kimcantcook

                <I solved that mystery - apparently when they break, "someone" hopes I won't notice haha>

                Ah, the circle completes.

              2. Separate pans on those 2 burners would be better than one griddle that spans both - unless the griddle is extra thick and heavy. The parts of the griddle that are not over the burners are never going to get as hot. That's just the basics of heat conduction.

                3 Replies
                1. re: paulj

                  I was thinking maybe getting an electric plug in one to address my burner issue. But then that's one more thing I'll need to find a "home" for in my kitchen. I can't say it will be used regularly, but then again, if it's more efficient, maybe it will be.

                  1. re: kimcantcook

                    Actually that is a good idea if you have the space. Usually speaking the electric plug one is less powerful, but a lot better in term of heat evenness. The heating coil run back and forth on these electric griddles.

                    Now, that being said, most of the portable electric griddle is aluminum based coated with nonstick Teflon. I don't know if you mind that.

                    I had one. It worked great for low to medium heating cooking, like eggs, pancake...etc.

                    1. re: kimcantcook

                      I've been looking for an electric plug in one that is cast iron and reasonably priced for years. The only ones I can find are for sandwich shops and in the 500+ dollar range. I tossed my non stick one a lot time ago.

                  2. In your shoes, I'd get a metal spatula for items that need flipping, a bunch of inexpensive wooden spoons and more squared off wooden things (name is??). Also, I'd buy a couple of tongs: Metal and rubber coated. I find I use those constantly with all of my pans.

                    I mainly use my 3 well-loved cast iron skillets and a couple of Sur La Table brand straight sided skillets.

                    1. I have a mix of pans - carbon steel, cast iron, stainless, nonstick, enameled. And an equally diverse set of utensils
                      - silicone spatulas for any stirring where I want a clean sweep
                      - wood spoons of all sorts (though I'm not using those as much as I used to)
                      - nylon spatulas, from small ones from a camping store to the common pancake turner
                      - a long narrow spatula for crepes
                      - melamine spoons, large and small (squared end)
                      - whisks, metal, silicone, bamboo
                      - bamboo rice spoon
                      - 1 metal spatula, a 1.5" wide flat offset. This is best for removing baked goods that have stuck slightly to baking sheet. Occasionally I'll use it to scrape food off a carbon steel pan.
                      - tongs, both metal tip and plastic coated.

                      While it is nice to have a few metal tools, especially when a thin strong edge is needed, I mostly use nonmetal.

                      1. I bought my first carbon steel pan just 3 months ago. I've only used a metal spatula in it. Early on, I'd see a nick or two in the seasoning, but it didn't seem to affect the pan in the least. Within the last month, I've noticed that no longer happens. I'd guess my seasoning has hardened enough to prevent it.

                        For acidic foods, I'd absolutely go with clad stainless. It lasts forever and usually cleans up easily with a hot water/detergent soak. If that doesn't do the trick, there's always Barkeepers Friend (or any stainless steel powder cleanser) or even SOS pads. I've got Calphalon Tri-Ply, but if I were buying new today I'd give serious consideration to Tramontina. It's been discussed a lot here. Here's one thread I found informative:

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/537551

                        Enjoy your new cookware!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: DuffyH

                          thanks Duffy - now I won't panic when I see that eventual "nick" in my seasoning!

                        2. I use metal utensils in mine.

                          as far as a griddle over 2 burners, I've tried cast iron and aluminum and neither of them are evenly hot in the middle where there is no heat source. Now I use an old round griswold cast iron #9 griddle and it works great but obviously it's not nearly as big as a 2 burner.

                          1. I use mostly wood and silicone-tipped cooking untensils. I'd gotten away from metal when I used to own more non-stick, but I've not gone back to metal since I'm used to not using it.

                            Also, it was never about anything other than I HATE the sound of metal scratching metal in the kitchen and often wondered if I was getting microscopic pieces of scraped metal in my food. Not enough to taste, but enough to make it into my body.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Rigmaster

                              <wondered if I was getting microscopic pieces of scraped metal in my food.>

                              I'd think of it as an iron supplement. :)