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How to choose a carbon steel pan?

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SeaKoz Apr 18, 2013 01:12 PM

Hi Folks,

I see lots of threads here about specific carbon steel pan brands but I'm wondering what I should look for in choosing one. Why should I pay a lot more for a de buyer over a lodge for example?

Thanks!

SeaKoz

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  1. Chemicalkinetics Apr 18, 2013 01:29 PM

    <what I should look for in choosing one.>

    Carbon steel cookware are straight simple cookware, so there are not a lot of hidden things to look for. You should look for the size and geometry for the cookware (including thickness)

    <Why should I pay a lot more for a de buyer over a lodge for example?>

    Part of it has to do with reputation. Part of it is that the Debuyer has better finish -- supposedly

    1. tim irvine Apr 18, 2013 05:37 PM

      Chem nailed it (surprise). If the dimsensions, thickness, etc. are the same it all comes down to finish. IMHO finish is a negligible point. The outside will blacken. The inside will become seasoned. So why buy one over the other? For me it comes down to what is available at a store I want to support. For some that store may be offering online. I like to talk to the person who sells it and swap ideas and observations, but i also want places like Fantes and DeHillerin to be here or a much longer time. Whatever trips your trigger, as they say. My no name stuff I bought circa 1973 performs, still, the same as my newer DeBuyer stuff.

      1. g
        GH1618 Apr 18, 2013 06:23 PM

        It depends on what pan you want. I have no experience with Lodge, but I have two French steel pans. One is a de Buyer Mineral grilling pan (10"). I like it because it is very heavy, although it was rather expensive. I also have a small, generic crêpe pan which was inexpensive. There is no need to get an expensive crêpe pan.

        French pans do not have to be expensive, although some are.

        http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/k...

        1. Sid Post Apr 19, 2013 08:58 AM

          Lodge cast iron "seems" more porous to me which works well for things that build flavor over time. Gravy is one classic as well as corn bread.

          I find I use my smooth carbon steel a lot more. De Buyer is nicely finished and has more shapes so, I pay once, cry once, and enjoy a lifetime of superior performance. Buying the right pan first is the cheapest way to buy cookware you will love for a lifetime. If I only knew back in college what I know now, I wouldn't have scorched everything I cooked in college in cheap thin stainless, though I did eventually discover Lodge cast iron at Wal-Mart.

          For my crepe pans, I have Vollrath, Paderno, and De Buyer. De Buyer is finished nicest and weighs a little more but, the others cook fine. My De Buyer crepe pan is thickest and heaviest so, it also sees more use with meat though the others are fine for bacon or ham for an omelette.

          After watching a Williams Sonoma demo on pan roasting in a deep LC skillet, I reached my tipping point and finally got off the fence and purchased a De Buyer 32cm "Country Pan". Its taller sides reduces "splatters" and it offers lots of room for sauteing vegetables and browning meats. Why did I wait so long to buy this nice pan????

          5 Replies
          1. re: Sid Post
            Chemicalkinetics Apr 19, 2013 10:59 AM

            Hi Sid,

            Lodge also has a new line of carbon steel cookware. So the original poster may have meant these:

            http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-CRS8-Pre-...

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
              Sid Post Apr 19, 2013 05:48 PM

              Good catch. The pictures I see make it look a little rough for the money. At a little under 3mm in thickness, it should cook fine though. I still spend my money on De Buyer though.

              1. re: Sid Post
                s
                seattle_lee Apr 20, 2013 12:31 AM

                And you can find the De Buyer "Carbone Plus" line for not all that much cash. Build quality is still top notch.

                1. re: Sid Post
                  DuffyH Apr 21, 2013 08:15 AM

                  Sid, I agree about the rough finish, the Amazon review that seamunky posted here bears that out. I think I like the low angle on the handle, though.

                  My Carbone crepe pan is, as seattle_lee mentioned, excellent build quality, and much less expensive than Mineral.

                  1. re: DuffyH
                    Sid Post Apr 21, 2013 09:25 AM

                    Low handle versus high handle ....

                    It is counter intuitive looking at it in a picture but, the high handles on French pans allow them to clear adjacent pans. While it may not be an issue on a large cooktop, most of us don't have that luxury so, pan crowding is a real issue that angled handles solve.

            2. s
              seamunky Apr 19, 2013 11:11 AM

              Here is from a review posted on Amazon regarding the Lodge pans. The reviewer owns both the Lodge carbon steel pan and a few deBuyer Mineral B pans.

              "Pros:
              1. Light weight. 12-gauge steel is significantly lighter than the 3 mm of the De Buyers in the same size.
              2. Simple and durable. There's nothing to break, and no non-stick coating to scratch or flake off.
              3. Allows for high-heat searing, and goes from stove top to oven very naturally.
              4. The Lodge 12-inch glass lid fits perfectly.
              5. It's made in the USA.

              Cons:
              1. The lighter weight relative to DeBuyer or even other Lodge cast iron means less thermal mass. Thermal mass is what makes those heavy pans perform so well. This pan is thin enough that the heat dissipates fairly quickly. If, for example, I prepare my skillet potatoes in a cast iron pan, the pan comes out of the oven at 375 degrees and stays too hot to touch for a good 15 minutes. With this pan, the cooling is much quicker, being "touchable" after only about 7 minutes (give or take). In short, it doesn't have the thermal mass to perform like cast iron or DeBuyer.
              2. The lighter weight seems to allow for warping. I inadvertantly heated my skillet to over 600 degrees for 10 minutes or so. I immediately lowered the heat and let it cool naturally, but the pan no longer sat flat on a glass cooktop. I understand that it wasn't intended to tolerate that kind of abuse, but I would like for it to be more stable. (Lodge was great about exchanging it as defective even knowing that I'd abused the pan.)
              3. The seasoning and pan finish are rough--more like cast iron than like the other carbon steel pans I've used. It seemed to function reasonably well on my first pan (the one I overheated), but it remained a rough surface. On my second one, I sanded it smooth on the inside surface and reseasoned it using the Cantor method (google it). Much better, and improving with every use. I believe the factory seasoning would be adequate, and would also improve with use, but I was impatient."

              http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-CRS8-Pre-...

              1. s
                SeaKoz Apr 20, 2013 11:19 AM

                Thanks everyone for the replies!!

                1. Jay F Apr 20, 2013 01:05 PM

                  If I already have plenty of tri-ply, regular cast iron, enameled cast iron, and non-stick skillets/fry pans, what would I be able to do in a carbon steel pan that I can't already do (other than make crepes)?

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Jay F
                    Sid Post Apr 20, 2013 09:20 PM

                    I don't know if you can do anything new, different, or unique but, I find that I use my De Buyer Mineral pans and Demeyere Atlantis a lot more than any other pan style in kitchen. It's not that I don't love my cast iron, enameled cast iron, or various multiply pot shapes and sizes but, my Demeyere skillets and Du Buyer Mineral pans are the one I'm constantly reaching for when I am cooking. Sure, I grab a ~2 quart pot a lot for brewed tea and noodles but, that "ain't" cooking. ;-)

                    1. re: Jay F
                      DuffyH Apr 21, 2013 08:11 AM

                      Jay, I have to agree with Sid. There's nothing you can't already do. That said, I'm replacing my non-stick with carbon steel. I've got 2 crepe pans (8" & 11") that I use for eggs, crepes, hash browns, grilled cheese and fish.

                      I'll admit the hash browns are tricky in a crepe pan, but the results are worth it. Maybe it's the seasoning, maybe some unknown factor, but eggs taste better than in my non-stick, and hash browns get crispier. Grilled cheese is like no other; the crust is shatteringly crisp and delicate.

                      Before I switch to induction next year, I'll be adding a fry pan or 2 to complete the set. I continue to use my stainless fry pans when I want fond for gravy or a pan sauce, and don't see that changing.

                      1. re: DuffyH
                        Jay F Apr 21, 2013 08:54 AM

                        I make grilled cheese a lot, Duffy and Sid, so maybe a carbon steel pan would be nice. Do you have to season them, a la cast iron?

                        Right now, I make grilled cheese in an All-Clad skillet, which I also use for pan frying, then moving on to make a wine or lemon juice pan sauce avec fond.

                        Is the carbon steel pan lightweight (literally)? Arthritis is just killing me these days. I've all but given up on cast iron of any kind.

                        1. re: Jay F
                          Sid Post Apr 21, 2013 09:33 AM

                          The De Buyer "Mineral" pans are going to be as heavy (or close enough) as the Lodge cast iron equivalent.

                          My Mom and yourself are apparently in the same situation. She bought a Mineral fry pan but, the weight was too much for her arthritis. I gave her two De Buyer "Force Blue" De Buyer pans and she quit using the Mineral pan and both teflon skillets.

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

                          I prefer the 3mm thickness but the 2mm cooked just fine, especially for eggs, pancakes, bacon, ham, etc. The extra heat capacity is nice for a better crust on a steak but, I did plenty of them on the thinner 2mm pans without issue (it just takes a little technique and a better stove).

                          1. re: Sid Post
                            Jay F Apr 21, 2013 11:10 AM

                            Thank you, Sid. Which are the 3mm pans, the Mineral?

                            1. re: Jay F
                              DuffyH Apr 24, 2013 06:16 AM

                              Jay, both Mineral and Carbone are 3mm. Force Blue are 2mm. :)

                            2. re: Sid Post
                              DuffyH Apr 24, 2013 06:12 AM

                              Sid, when you wrote "...(it just takes a little technique and a better stove)" re the Force Blue, what did you mean, specifically? Better stove, how?

                              The only thing preventing me from pulling the trigger on a pair of fry pans is the weight differential between FB and Carbone/Mineral. If weight were not a factor, I'd choose the Carbone Plus, but I do a lot of sautéed veg and I'm used to tossing them.

                              1. re: DuffyH
                                g
                                GH1618 Apr 24, 2013 07:30 AM

                                I just bought an anodized aluminum pan for sautéed vegetables, which works very well for tossing them. I don't dislike steel pans, and have one myself, but in larger sizes the weight is a problem, as you noted.

                                1. re: GH1618
                                  DuffyH Apr 24, 2013 07:59 AM

                                  I'd love to go with the aluminum, but I'm going induction (no gas in home) next year, so while it's cause for a big "Yay, me!" it's also cause for sadness, as it limits my pan choices.

                                  My biggest regret is that I've got to replace my 12-yr-old Calphalon try-ply stainless that still looks and cooks great.

                      2. l
                        laraffinee Apr 21, 2013 08:32 AM

                        I only have the de Buyer carbon steel pans, so I can not comment on the comparison to other brands, but the de Buyer was not expensive and is the high heat workhorse in my kitchen. Just as I love my copper cookware for the beautiful low to mid-temperature cooking, my carbon steel is magnificent for the high heat cooking, with the Demeyere Atlantis handling everything inbetween. It may just be how I defined and implemented it in my kitchen, but it works really well. I don't know how much the Lodge ones cost, but de Buyer has a great track record and those pans will last way longer than most of us will need.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: laraffinee
                          Sid Post Apr 21, 2013 09:39 AM

                          Where do you live? Where do you find "cheap" de Buyer pans? Are you in France?

                          Here in the USA, they are too expensive to be found in most general stores. I don't recall ever seeing them in a shopping mall though, Williams and Sonoma does stock them.

                          1. re: Sid Post
                            g
                            GH1618 Apr 21, 2013 10:05 AM

                            If you follow the link I posted above, you will find de Buyer pans as low as $15. W-S is not the place to find inexpensive pans.

                            1. re: Sid Post
                              l
                              laraffinee Apr 21, 2013 11:51 AM

                              I bought them in the US, on line a couple of years ago - I really don't remember where, but probably Chef's catalog or Cutlery and More or some place like that. My Demeyere Atlantis made my credit card smoke, but the de Buyer was not bad, especially for the hard use I put them through. For me the value of cookware is related to how much I will use it and for how many years.

                          2. s
                            sueatmo Apr 24, 2013 02:54 PM

                            I have a small Lodge carbon stell pan and it works fine. I didn't spend a lot of time or mental energy on seasoning it but I use it from time to time. The handle is quite long, and not the most comfortable. The small size I bought is not useful to me. If I were to do it over, I would have purchased the next larger size.

                            The pan is sturdy, and heavy for its size, but it is balanced and easy to maneuver. The campfire handle is not refined, but I don't know why it wouldn't work in a restaurant kitchen. Storage might be harder with the handle. I think the pan is fine, but because of its small size, I don't use it often.

                            http://tinyurl.com/aj8mvun Lodge Pre-Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet 8"

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