Seasoned Carbon Steel skillets, how do they compare to tri-ply stainless steel or aluminum?

Discussion in 'Cooking Equipment Reviews' started by austintexican, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. austintexican

    austintexican

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    Hi all,

    Along with my other cast iron stuff, I have a cast iron "chef's skillet" that's shaped like a saute pan. The only problem, of course, is that it is heavy as hell and doesn't have the fast cool-down/heat-up you get with aluminum or tri-ply stainless steel, so I tend not to use it for fast cooking, easily burned foods, like eggs.

    Anyway, I'm interested in trying carbon steel skillets. I'd like to know if they can really hot, like cast iron, but have the quick temperature changing properties of aluminum and tri-ply ss. It would be great if this were so, because they're lighter than cast-iron (I think), but also I just like to experiment with different cookware. :)

    Thanks!

    EDIT: Sorry, I should have been more specific: by "eggs" I meant omelets. Fried and scrambled eggs cook just fine in cast iron, of course, but I find with cast iron I seem to have very little margin of error, which is why I've been using a heavy-duty non-stick saute pan I found at a restaurant supply store. However, I want to get away from non-stick, so that's why I'm looking for a replacement.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2011
  2. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    The answers to your questions depend to a great extent on the weight of the respective metals.  Everything else being equal, carbon steel has all of the non-stick (when seasoned correctly) as cast, but the heat retention and even heating depend -- as already said -- on the mass of the pan.

    Not many things cook more evenly than well-made multi-ply, but the fond and release properties tend not to be as good as cast iron or carbon steel -- and heat retention (again) depends on the weight of the pans and the various materials which go into them.

    I have some 2.5mm stainless lined copper which are significantly more even and stable than AllClad tri-ply, but isn't as responsive and takes much longer to reheat (same things, really).  I also have a few carbon steel and a couple of cast iron skillets, all of which is pretty heavy, and tend to go for the carbon, because while it's heavy, it's not as heavy -- which makes it easier to toss-turn.

    My old anodic aluminum cooked things just as well as any of the new stuff.  You have to make a few adjustments depending on what you're using and how you're cooking but the material usually isn't as important as technique and experience. 

    Hope this helps,

    BDL 
     
  3. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    In practical terms, carbon steel is just like cast iron, only at about 2/3 the weight.

    Sure, there are some technical differences, as BDL points out. But odds are, other than the weight, you won't notice any difference between cast iron and carbon steel. The both need to be cured the same way; they cook the same way; they require the same upkeep.

    Something BDl hinted at: If you believe aluminum is better for cooking anything (eggs included) than either carbon or cast, then I suggest you are not using the varous materials correctly. Indeed, even plied stainless's heat up/cool down characteristics are different than straight aluminum.
     
  4. austintexican

    austintexican

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    It does, thank you. I think I might try one of the more light-weight carbons. Please also see my edit in the original post, it clarifies why I'm shopping around. :)

    Sorry, I should have been more specific: by "eggs" I meant omelets. Fried and scrambled eggs cook just fine in cast iron, of course, but I find with cast iron I seem to have very little margin of error for omelets (might be my technique), which is why I've been using a heavy-duty non-stick saute pan I found at a restaurant supply store. However, I want to get away from non-stick, so that's why I'm looking for a replacement. (I added this to my original post, btw.)

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2011
  5. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Caveat:

    Carbon steel pans warp, almost as badly as plain aluminum.

    As others have said, when seasoned properly,,they are a treat for cooking, with especially eggs.

    But the suckers will warp.  Not a big deal if you have a commericial range, but a deal breaker if you have an electric or smooth-top at home. 
     
  6. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Heavier, better carbon steel won't warp as easily as typical commercial grade aluminum, but the lighter stuff certainly will.

    BDL
     
  7. french fries

    french fries

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    I have a couple of black steel matfer bourgeat pans - in fact they were recommended to me by Boar_d_laze on this very forum a few years ago. http://www.culinarycookware.com/bourgeat-black-steel-cookware/bourgeat-round-frying-pan.html

    They are thick enough that they won't warp at all, they offer good heat retention (perfect for searing a big thick steak for example). They are the absolute BEST choice in my house for anything related to eggs: sunny side up, omelets, pancakes, crepes, blinis... all that stuff is a dream to cook on those pans. 

    It wasn't an immediate success for me though: you have to season them right, pre-heat them right, clean them right etc... but once you "get it", which I'm assuming you'll get fast if you're already used to cast iron (I have never used cast iron myself), they are a treat. 

    And they're cheap and last a lifetime.