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Carbon Steel Pans… anyone?

I always see this big, beaten up (dents, etc), beautiful pans (and woks) in restaurants, used by chefs. Has anyone cooked with them? What do you think?

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  1. They are one of the most discussed items on the cookware board. I have several and adore them. For high heat cooking, I find them unbeaten.

    3 Replies
        1. re: tim irvine

          X3 - I have the cheapest, ugliest, most warped "Cheapy McCheap" pans... And I abuse them... And nothing can touch the pan fried potatoes that come out of my cheap no-names

        2. I have two small ones - crepe and omelette - they are a pain to use unless you use them constantly as they go rusty after awhile even when seasoned or maybe I didn't do good seasoning job.

          1 Reply
          1. re: herby

            I have a large one that I actually seasoned inside and out properly, yet that does the rusting thing, and I have a smaller one which I haven't seasoned the outside of, and only use to make eggs with a bit of butter, yet this one has never rusted. I don't understand why the pan with more seasoning is rusting more!
            But it doesn't really matter as the rust is easily removed and doesn't affect performance at all. I love both pans, and I'm retiring the small one from eggs-only duty, since I've found out that eggs don't stick in the large one even when its "dirty" from cooking other things at the same time/before :)

            Tom P, I definitely suggest you get yourself a carbon steel pan. De Buyer is my favourite brand for these, and they're cheap. You can get the Carbone Plus from west elm or kitchen supply stores (they are silver/grey in colour, the thinner Force Blue and La Lyonnaise are blue-ish) for very low prices so even if you end up not using it, you'll only be out of pocket about $20.

            West Elm's are still on sale:

          2. Thanks to you both! I did not realize there was a cookware board. I will head over, as I imagine this will be moved. Happy New Year!

            1. As tim notes above, there are innumerable threads on the Cookware board regarding all aspects of carbon steel pans from buying choices, through seasoning and using them. Here, for example, are the search results for de Buyer: https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&a...

              I have had three de Buyer Mineral Bs for a little over a year now and I'm kicking myself that I waited so long to buy them.

              1. Yes. I have cooked with them. They are heavily discussed on the Cookward board. I do encourage you to skim a few.

                Without getting to into too deep, I will say that they are not perfect for everything, but neither any cookware material.

                I personally rank carbon steel very high -- extremely high. They can take on very high heat and they is nearly nonstick. They is physically durable and it is relatively inexpensive.

                As far as I am concern, there is no better material for a Chinese wok than carbon steel. As for fry pan, I also think a carbon steel pan or a cast iron skillet is superior to many other material/construction.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Totally agree, CK. Carbon steel is so darn forgiving too, so no matter how one messes up - tango on.

                2. Carbon steel pans are a joy to use. Ninety percent of the time I reach for a pan, it's CS (de Buyer Carbone Plus and ForceBlue). The other ten percent is vintage cast iron.

                  That being said, they aren't without drawbacks. They are significantly heavier than stainless and nonstick pans with flat spindly handles that some might find uncomfortable. They're also finicky with seasoning and might have trouble with sticky foods early on. But if you stick with them, they reward you with better and better performance as time goes by.

                    1. Ok, now that we are on the Cookware board I'll amplify earlier remarks. A heavy steel pan, like a heavy cast iron pan, can be gotten quite hot and retains heat fairly well, making it quite good for searing. I find them much easier than cast iron to season and more resilient to re season when you do things like deglazing. I also find the long, wide Lyon style handles are a lot easier for me to maneuver than the short straight ones on many cast iron pans. As regards rust, I gave never had that problem, but I just wipe my egg only pan, and when I wash the others I dry them on a burner.

                      1. Thanks again, everyone! Well.. I bought De Buyer but I bought mineral. I did a lot of reading today and because there were many people who said the difference was not huge (or no difference) AND because Amazon had this amazing deal of three pans for $99, I figured I would try this. More thoughts appreciated, I can get a carbon steel De Buyer in a year…


                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Tom P

                          <Well.. I bought De Buyer but I bought mineral.>
                          <who said the difference was not huge (or no difference)>
                          < I can get a carbon steel De Buyer in a year>

                          Congratulation for purchasing the DeBuyer Mineral pans. I hope you will like them. The Mineral pans ARE carbon pans.

                          You probably are thinking about the DeBuyer Mineral pans vs the DeBuyer Carbone Plus pans. These are the names for two very similar series. They are both made from carbon steel.

                          If you bought the Mineral pans, then I don't see any reason for you to buy Carbone Plus pans. Again, both series are made from carbon steel.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Oh great! Thanks for clarifying. This is all new to me.

                          2. re: Tom P

                            As Chem already mentioned, the Mineral pans are carbon steel. So are the Force Blue, Lyonnaise, Carbone Plus and Mineral B. The real differences are shape, thickness and recycled/recyclable content. The Mineral pans only differ from the Carbone pans in that they have the little silicone doodad on the handle. The West Elm pans are from the Carbone Plus line and about $25 cheaper for the set.

                            1. re: hardline_42

                              Understood, thanks! I've seen these in restaurants for a long time and love the look. Particularly when they are banged up a little. In Rome last year at this amazing italian restaurant, they served the 6 of us at a table a pasta dish from a huge bowl like one and ended up giving the final serving to me… in the pot! So I ate from it. I've been wanting to get some every since. I imagine if I like these, I will next get one of the big wok ones to try that pasta.

                            2. re: Tom P

                              I have several pans similar to your new ones.

                              As noted, the Mineral line is a thick heavy duty series that works exceptionally well for a lot of things. They cook similar to a classic cast iron option but, I find the smooth cooking surface and better handles to be a real benefit.

                              Now, add a large crepe pan and "country pan" and you will have a very good set to cover a broad range of cooking options.

                              1. re: Sid Post

                                Thanks! Cannot wait to try these!

                            3. Go to restaurant supply stores and buy your cookware there. Don't use aluminum. Get big stamped steel pans. I use one commercial frying pan and one omelet pan that rusted under a camp for 5 years on Martha's Vineyard which I cleaned up with a wire brush on a drill and naval jelly and then reconditioned. They are a bit pitted but cook great. Those commercial steel pan are the best can't bust um!

                              1. I have an 8" De Buyer carbon steel skillet. it's not a terrible pan, but I sort of regret buying it. It can do some tasks average-ly well, but doesn't fulfill a crucial role in my cookware lineup. I have built up a nice dark seasoning layer, but it is much less durable than my cast iron seasoning, and requires constant maintenance. Simmering water or any kind of liquid in it starts flaking the coating off. Eggs stick and bacon burns if I don't pay constant attention. The short, flat metal handle gets very hot very quickly on the stovetop.

                                Almost anything this pan can do, my cast iron can do better. I find the CI to be much more low maintenance and trouble free. The only thing the De Buyer is truly great for is frying single pancakes - they don't stick and the pan is sized just right for one big flapjack.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                  I have the same opinion of De Buyer. It's just too much trouble to maintain compared to cast iron. Fortunately, Lodge makes carbon steel pans of the same design, but with a rough finish very similar to that of cast iron. That makes for a strong mechanical bond, so the pan is every bit as easy to season and maintain as CI without all the weight. Highly recommended. I bought one and now my De Buyer pan is now slowly rusting away, buried in the back of some cabinet.

                                  1. re: Zeldog

                                    "I have the same opinion of De Buyer. It's just too much trouble to maintain compared to cast iron."

                                    I dunno..both pans need the same care/maintenance(keep dry and oiled when not in use) the handle on both pans get hot. The only difference I can see is the Lodge comes "pre-seasoned" a mechanical process, that seems a little unnatural to me..
                                    But to each their own..

                                    1. re: petek

                                      I agree with petek, IME the maintenance is identical.

                                      For me, the difference has been that the rougher finished Lodge CI was much more sticky than the deBuyer. So much so that the Dude stripped and sanded it, then we seasoned it in the grill, as in an oven. It's not as good as my DB, but it's ok. Better than stainless steel, but given the weight, it just never gets used unless I'm cooking hash browns for all 3 of us.

                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                        I am curious to see what happens. So far, these De Buyer pans are much easier to clean than my Cast Iron. I love my cast iron, but they can be a pain in the ass to clean! They take a lot of coarse sea salt (can get expensive), water and TON of elbow grease. With these De Buyer, I've fried meats in the pans, done some veggie sautés and tonight made a big pasta sauce, then warmed/tossed the pasta, in the big deep pan (photo attached, I was given 4 sizes). It all just wipes out so easy!

                                        1. re: Tom P

                                          Tom P -

                                          I posted elsewhere about my new favorite toy, the chain mail scrubber. I use it every day on my SS and carbon steel pans. With hot water, it rips crud right out of the carbon steel and cast iron pans, leaving the seasoning intact. With a squirt of soap, it's better than a sponge on stainless steel. It's also what I use to make a BKF slurry to remove salt/heat stains from SS.

                                          If it weren't for nonstick pans and things like countertops I'd have no more need for a sponge at all. :)

                                          This is mine: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F...

                                          Here's another, since mine is currently not available:

                                          It's really a genius item.

                                            1. re: Tom P

                                              Tom P-

                                              Please leave a quick post here when you get it, I'd love to see if you like it as much as I do. The size seems small at first, but we quickly got used to it. A big plus - crud rinses right out of it, unlike scrunchy scrubbers and brushes.

                                            2. re: DuffyH

                                              So you do use soap? I've never used soap on my Cast iron.. is it ok with Carbon Steel?

                                              1. re: Tom P

                                                People say you can use soap with both carbon steel and cast iron. Personally, I've never had a reason to. But I've only been cooking with both kinds of pans for one year, so take that into consideration. I'm no expert.

                                                My son has been using cast iron for 4-5 years and hasn't used soap yet.

                                                1. re: Tom P

                                                  I use soap on my cast iron, on my Mineral Bs, and on my wok, but only occasionally when they're feeling unusually greasy. And I use just enough dish soap to get rid of the grease, I'm not scrubbing the pans with it. That small amount of soap, used infrequently, has never disturbed the seasoning on any of the pans, all of which are quite well seasoned by now.

                                        2. re: Zeldog

                                          "It's just too much trouble to maintain"

                                          IMO - they can be brought back in such short order that it isn't any real trouble to me at all. When I notice a rust spot on my warped ugly 12" pan I take it as a sign that it's time for me to pull it down and use it!

                                      2. They arrived! Photo attached of the seasoning process.. boiling the potato peels in the pans. (Weird!) I am going to try one out tonight!

                                        2 Replies
                                          1. re: Tom P

                                            Remember to wash them well with soap and scrub to get off any remaining beeswax :)

                                          2. Any secret/helpful cleaning tips ?

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: Tom P

                                              <Any secret/helpful cleaning tips ?>

                                              How to start? Well, the seasoning process is similar to that of cast iron cookware. It is usually quicker for carbon steel cookware.

                                              As for maintenance, tries to be gentle for the first few (3-4) cooking sessions, allows the seasoning layer to develop and to stabilize. Feel free to be a little tough after the seasoning layer has settled.

                                              1. re: Tom P

                                                "Any secret/helpful cleaning tips ?"

                                                Do you mean before your first use or after?
                                                After it's nicely seasoned, just rinse with really hot water and sometimes mild dish soap...works for me.

                                                1. re: petek

                                                  I did the first seasoning with the potato peels, yes. Now I've started cooking… pan roasted some chicken in one tonight and pan roasted potatoes (in duck fat!) in the other. Both dishes were wonderful, I love these pans. I just rinsed them well with hot water, put them over a flame and oiled them. Seemed to go ok!

                                                  1. re: Tom P

                                                    <I did the first seasoning with the potato peels, yes>

                                                    Did you use oil after the potato peel?


                                                    <I just rinsed them well with hot water, put them over a flame and oiled them. Seemed to go ok!>

                                                    Great. Sound good.

                                                      1. re: Tom P

                                                        I found it helps to get them good and hot, then a little oil & then the item to be cooked.

                                                        IMHO, they aren't as non stick as a Teflon pan in good condition. Don't know what is and glad they aren't. They grab, caramelize & then let go. I use water to de-glaze, transfer liquid to SS pan & then add acids.

                                                        Usually just some hot water to clean. Occasionally I put them on a burner w/some oil to help the seasoning.

                                                        Whenever I do a long cook in the oven & there is room I always throw in a carbon or cast iron pan with a coating of oil.

                                                        Occasionally the stars don't line up and burn't particles get stuck to the surface. Light rub in hot water with a cheap stainless steel scrubber (Restaurant supply house or on line), then heat and rub with oil. Cost of doing business, no big deal.

                                                        1. re: Tom34

                                                          <I found it helps to get them good and hot, then a little oil & then the item to be cooked. >

                                                          Yeah, I find that too. Some people call this "hot pan, cold oil" technique. The truth is that you want the oil hot by the time you add the food -- especially meats.

                                                          <IMHO, they aren't as non stick as a Teflon pan in good condition. >

                                                          I agree. Nonstick Teflon pans will be more nonstick than carbon steel pans. They are, however, more nonstick than most other cookware.

                                                          <Light rub in hot water with a cheap stainless steel scrubber >

                                                          I found it helpful to get a plastic scrubber.



                                                          They are tough enough to scrap burn on food, but not too tough to scrap off seasoning.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            The bamboo scraper is a good idea. I have a heavy duty wooden spatula that does pretty well but the type of wood is not as hard & does not hold quite as sharp of an edge.

                                                2. re: Tom P

                                                  I got tired of trying to rinse out my stainless steel scrubbies, so sprang for a chain mail scrubber. Best cleaning investment, ever. It's ideal for cleaning my deBuyer pans. It really rocks stainless steel cookware, too. I use it on everything except nonstick.


                                                  It's currently out of stock, but this one is similar, but smaller: