Carbon steel pans are a lighter, more responsive cast iron alternative - The Washington Post

2023-01-13 01:30:15 By : Mr. YALIGHT Tomsen

As much as I love cast iron cookware, I have to admit that it has its downfalls. First, it’s heavy. Second, it’s often wanting in terms of its nonstick capabilities. Lastly, cast iron is slow to heat up and cool down, which can be a plus or a minus depending on what you’re making. Fortunately, there’s an alternative material that addresses all these issues while maintaining cast iron’s durability: The cookware you’ve been missing in your life is made of carbon steel.

The debate between cast-iron haters and loyalists is as enduring as the pan itself Barbeque Grill Plate

Carbon steel pans are a lighter, more responsive cast iron alternative - The Washington Post

Carbon steel cookware is popular in Europe and among professional cooks in the United States. In addition to skillets, it is used for woks and for omelet, crepe and paella pans. Like cast iron, carbon steel is composed of carbon and iron, but, surprisingly, it contains less carbon. (Carbon steel is roughly 1 percent carbon compared with the 2 to 3 percent found in cast iron.)

This different percentage makes carbon steel less brittle, which allows it to be used in thinner configurations for lighter cookware. For example, the Merten & Storck carbon steel skillet (Food & Wine’s recommendation) comes in a 10-inch size and is approximately half the weight of my Lodge cast iron skillet of the same size. The difference isn’t always as large — the 11 7/8-inch skillet from Matfer Bourgeat (America’s Test Kitchen’s recommendation) is only about a third lighter than my 12-inch cast iron skillet — but it is still significant, particularly for those who struggle to lift cast iron.

While perhaps not as cheap as cast iron — though still affordable — carbon steel is a worthy investment. When shopping for carbon steel cookware, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that some pans come preseasoned and some do not. (Like cast iron, carbon steel requires seasoning to achieve its nonstick capabilities.) In a comparison test, I was shocked by how much a fried egg slipped around on a carbon steel skillet with only an initial seasoning (after minimal help with the initial release). The preseasoned carbon steel skillet was slightly more nonstick in the same test, but both were revelations to me as someone new to the material.

How to season your cast-iron skillet — and keep it seasoned

While seasoning a skillet yourself requires a few extra steps — Matfer Bourgeat recommends sauteing a mixture of oil, potato peels and salt to get the job done — it’s a simple task that shouldn’t deter you from purchasing one. (Before seasoning, take care to wash off the protective coating with which unseasoned pans are often shipped.) Carbon steel cookware that you season yourself may look blotchy or streaky for a while, but it will cook wonderfully and develop a beautiful patina over time.

The seasoning on carbon steel pans is much more superficial than that on cast iron cookware, which permeates the material more deeply. While you shouldn’t cook very acidic things for long in either type of pan, you should be more careful with carbon steel or risk stripping the seasoning. (Relatedly, wooden and silicone tools are recommended if you don’t want to risk scratching the coating.) And you should care for and maintain carbon steel just as you would cast iron: Don’t put it in the dishwasher, dry it immediately after hand washing and re-season it should the need ever arise.

Another consideration with carbon steel cookware is the handles. When made of the same material, they can get hot, but because the handles are fairly long they will be much cooler the farther away you get from the skillet. (Watch out for pans with unusually long handles at steep angles that make them hard to store.) If you don’t want to deal with hot handles, look for carbon steel pans with handles made of stainless steel, which will stay cooler longer.

You may also see pans labeled “blue steel” or “black steel,” which refers to the color of the material after surface-hardening treatments, but that doesn’t really impact performance.

How to take care of your cast-iron cookware and make it last forever

One difference of note between cast iron and carbon steel skillets is the slope of the sides: The sides of carbon steel skillets are more angled than those of cast iron skillets, which helps direct moisture away from the bottom of the pan for a better sear and makes them easier to use for sauteing foods. (Carbon steel’s smoother surface also contributes to a better, more thorough sear.) However, I don’t plan to bake cake or cornbread in carbon steel skillets — I’ll need cast iron to achieve an even thickness throughout.

In terms of usage, carbon steel is compatible with all cooktops — including induction — is oven safe at high temperatures, and can even be put under the broiler or used on a grill. Cast iron is often praised for its heat retention, but there’s a price to pay in terms of responsiveness, which is a pan’s ability to heat up and cool down with adjustments to the heat source. This is where carbon steel excels: If you find that your pan is too hot and need to turn it down, you’re less likely to burn whatever you’re cooking if that pan is made of carbon steel.

Carbon steel pans are a lighter, more responsive cast iron alternative - The Washington Post

Griddle Plate For Bbq Though I’m still new to carbon steel, I think I’m in love. Does this mean that I plan to replace my cast iron with it? No, the classic material is still preferred for baking and frying. But if you are building out your cooking arsenal or find cast iron too heavy, then carbon steel is definitely the way to go. And after making a batch of scrambled eggs in carbon steel, I’m seriously debating whether I’ll ever buy another nonstick skillet again.