Carbon Steel Pan – a Must-Have Kitchen Item

If you are looking for a healthier alternative to Teflon and are not happy with the performance of your cast iron cookware, you may want to consider purchasing a carbon still pan. It can do nearly everything that your heavy cast iron pan can, but for some cooking tasks, a carbon still pan might outperform a cast iron one.

Here are several reasons why you should consider adding carbon steel pans to your cookware arsenal:

  1. The main advantage of using carbon steel for cooking comes from its weight. Being lighter in weight than cast iron, carbon steel cookware is easier to lift, shake, and turn, making it more comfortable to use for older people and individuals with weak hands.
  2. Carbon steel cookware has an amazing temperature response and exceptional heat distribution qualities. It heats up much faster and cools more quickly than cast iron, allowing for more control over the cooking process. When you change heat settings on your stove, this cookware will adopt almost instantly.
  3. Black steel cookware is extremely durable and long-lasting. Carbon steel is 99 percent iron, which makes it less brittle than cast iron. Physical abuse may cause the pan to bend but it will not break. With proper use and care, it will last for decades.
  4. After proper seasoning, the pan will develop a fairly decent nonstick surface. It may take several rounds of seasoning before it becomes fully non-stick, however. Unlike standard non-stick pans, the non-stick properties will improve over time and with regular use.
  5. Unlike standard non-stick pans, a carbon steel pan can withstand very high temperatures which makes it perfect for searing. You can also heat the pan empty without ruining it, and it won’t release chemicals when exposed to high heat (like a Teflon pan).
  6. You can’t permanently destroy the non-stick finish, as this pan doesn’t have a synthetic coating that can peel off. When the seasoning is stripped off, the pan can simply be reseasoned.
  7. A carbon steel skillet is an extremely versatile cookware item and you can use it almost for everything. Black steel cookware is compatible with all heat sources, including induction cooktops.

Drawbacks

  1. The carbon-steel pan is not a non-stick right out of the box; it takes time and a lot of maintenance to achieve an optimal level of seasoning and high-performance non-stick finish.
  2. If you want your cookware looking brand new and perfectly clean, carbon steel is not for you, as its interior surface darkens with aging and regular use.
  3. Thinner and poorer-quality carbon steel cookware is prone to warping.  A warped bottom doesn’t sit flat on glass or induction cooktops. If you have an induction range in your kitchen, look for a high-quality pan from a reputable manufacturer, such as De Buyer.
  4. Blue steel is vulnerable to corrosion. To prevent rust, you must regularly coat the entire surface with oil.
  5. You can’t use carbon steel cookware for preparing acidic foods such as for simmering a tomato sauce, as this kind of food may degrade your seasoning. If this happens, you need to clean and re-season your pan. An additional concern is that iron can leach into your meal because of stripped-off seasoning.

Which Carbon Steel Pan to Choose

MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan (Product from Amazon)

Depending on the design, carbon steel cookware can function as a regular frying pan or can be used for some special cooking tasks.

  1. A standard carbon-steel frying pan is a multipurpose cookware piece suitable for cooking a large assortment of meals. It offers non-stick quality without questionable synthetic materials. You can cook almost anything in it using very little oil. High surface temperatures produce a desirable browning effect on foods and help to create ultra-flavorful dishes.
  2. Crepe pans should offer good temperature control and provide even heat throughout the surface. Carbon steel fulfills these criteria perfectly, enabling you to make very thin and delicious crepes. Being lighter than cast iron, a carbon steel pan is easier to lift up and swirl, allowing you to spread the batter around the inner surface. You can also use it for making pancakes.
  3. A wok pan is a deep curved pan with a small round bottom. The main purpose of these pans is stir-fry cooking. The high sides are ideal for tossing your food around. Stir-fried vegetables retain their color and preserve essential nutrients. If you like authentic-tasting Chinese food, a carbon steel wok is the way to go.
  4. Carbon steel is also the material of choice for paella pans, since it conducts heat quickly, allowing for perfect control over the cooking process. Compared to a wok, a paella pan has lower sides and a larger flat bottom which helps evenly distribute heat across the pan. This frying pan also has two small handles which make it easy to rotate the pan and cook the food evenly.

Tips for Cooking with Carbon Steel

  • To avoid sticking, you must use a little oil in order to lubricate the pan. A seasoning itself doesn’t provide a completely stick-proof surface.
  • To reduce sticking, preheat the pan before you put any food in it. When foods go into a cold pan, they will stick. On the contrary, a preheated pan will sear the food immediately, keeping juices inside and preventing them from being released into the pan. Hot oil also helps to create a nice brown crust.
  • Wet food is more prone to sticking than dry food because moisture tends to cool the pan down. Too much food added all at once has the same effect. Crowding lowers the temperature of the pan and releases a lot of moisture which contributes to sticking.
  • Don’t cook acidic foods in black steel cookware, as such food can strip the seasoning. Damaged seasoning allows the metal to leach into your meal. In addition to ingesting more iron than your body needs, this can also result in unpleasant metallic taste in your mouth when eating such meals.

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