How to choose a carbon steel pan?
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?
<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
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.
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.
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????
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.
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.
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.
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."