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High quality non-stick or carbon steel?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I need to replace my tiniest pan, which was a teflon coated pan (boooooh).

I'm playing with the idea of a high quality non-stick (Anyone knows the Scanpan Professional? Expensive, but very nice shape) OR a quality carbon steel pan.

I've never worked with carbon steel, but I guess the advantage is that I could create some fond if cooking meat. What about cooking eggs - will a carbon steel pan be non-stick enough for sunny-side up?

I'm also worried that even a high-quality non-stick will not last that long, even though it's pretty expensive.

What's a good carbon steel pan (brand/model)?

Also for the stupid question of the day: when you say a 10" pan, is that 10" from edge to edge, or 10" diameter for the flat bottom of the pan?

post #2 of 19
Carbon steel can do a great job with eggs. It will need some oil to do so however. I don't know brands for this purpose. All the carbon steel I own is in no-name woks. And they do cook eggs pretty well for thin crepe type applications or scrambles.

Cast iron can do a great job with eggs. It too does best with some oil. I use this a lot for non-stick type cooking. Lodge, CampChef, are the most common brands and they are of good quality.

Teflon can do a great job with eggs even without oil. Teflon is not a good choice for high heat cooking in my opinion. I like to keep an inexpensive teflon pan around for eggs though. And I replace it as needed, every few years. There are some health concerns for teflon as well, but that's mostly related to high heat useage which is not an issue for cooking eggs.

Scanpan seems to have gone down hill in quality over the years based on various web reports. I've never used them. There certainly are many fans. You might also look into Ameriware. They sell mostly through home shows and occasional big box stores. They've been in my local Costco a couple of times over the past year. Their demo is impressive but I know nothing of the actual quality and durability.

Pan size is measured across the top rim of the pan. So depending on the slope of the sides, the actual cooking surface can vary, but usually not by too much. My preference is for a more curved transition between the sides and the pan than a fairly sudden angle.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 19
having spent lots and littles on non-stick.....

go cheap. even the expensive stuff does not last under "normal" home conditions - dishwashers, etc.

ScanPan "has a different non-stick technology" - okay, but "the web" says it's not better nor does it last longer. same for Diamond thisandthat.
GreenPan(s) - same, in spades.

Ameriware is a MLM extraordinarily priced product - you pay - as best I can guesstimate it - about $16 per real value of $1. it's marked up / marked up / marked up / <etc> through their wiley web of distributors, national, regional, state and local channels. web consumer complaints abound. don't even think about it.

I buy el-cheapo aluminum non-stick with a good shape & handle "fit" - I like to flip schufft - so I'm partial to nicely slanted sides. I shop in my local "close out / over-run / surplus inventory" store. I did once foolish spend bunch-o-bucks on a nice Calphlon. turned from non-stick to super-stick after a fews months; Calphlon didn't want to hear about it.

for $10 I simply toss 'em when they get dull / sticky-ish and get me a new tenbuck pan - somewhere in the area of 18-22 months. name/brand doesn't matter - there is no secret to "how to do teflon" anymore. some weight, nice shape, good handle - that's it. your eyeballs / experience will serve you mucho better that any marketing hype.
post #4 of 19
I have a deBuyer blue steel pan for crepes. That baby has developed a beautifully seasoned surface. I brought it out the other day to make crepes and thought I should just dab on a little butter to make sure nothing stuck...big mistake. It was so well seasoned that as I tried to swirl the batter around the pan for full coverage - it just slid around. I finally poured the whole business out of the pan and wiped the butter out and started over.

I don't think I've ever had a nonstick pan that was so nonstick. I probably won't buy anymore nonstick fry pans - just the blue steel ones.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Alright, thanks a lot for the answers!
post #6 of 19
deBuyer is okay. Matfer Bourgeat and Vollrath are significantly better.

Either will last you forever. If you treat carbon like cast iron it will behave in a very simlar manner. The differences are that carbon is lighter that cast. It's light enough to toss-saute, although compared to aluminum it's pretty heavy. It's also "faster," i.e., more responsive to heat than cast.

Regarding "non-stick," when properly cured and properly treated (heat to temp first, add a little fat or oil), it is as non-stick as anything else you can buy -- yet it is a great surface for searing and fond formation.

In my ideal set of cookware, I'd have a few multiple-ply stainless pans for highly reactive foods, for instance things that include a lot of wine or vinegar; but all the working pieces would be Vollrath and/or Bourgeat carbon. I like it that much; more than stainless over copper even.

It's cheap, too.

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot for chiming in BDL. I decided to look for a carbon steel after you recommended one for searing my steak in an older thread on steaks, fond and sauces.

Funny, some Mafter Bourgeat come with weld spot for the handle, others come with riveted handles. Any preferences? Both seem pretty solid and if anything the weld spots seem easier to clean.

Any idea on that? Or should I stop worrying about it and buy the freaking skillet already? :lol:

PS: I own a big 6Qt Sautee pan and a 10" diameter frying pan both in stainless steel, love them both, use them all the time. What I want to do now is replace all my non-stick stuff with carbon steel and stop buying pans every year.

OK so maybe one day I'll get a Mauviel copper windsor sauce pan. One day.
post #8 of 19
IIRC the weld-spot pans are lighter than the riveted. Are they the "black steel" series? I'd go for the riveted. Another difference may be that the rivited pans have a higher arch. If so, go fo the rivited. Vollrath, made in the US of A, are even better. If maintained, heavy carbon steel should last pretty much forever.

You're probably right about "cleaning" in that weld spots aren't gunk magnets in the same way rivets are. But, carbon steel pans are going to look like pretty grotty anyway. Nature of the beast. Tell you what. Don't think of it as gunk, think of it as culinary mystique. You'll thank me.

post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
culinary mystique... I love it!! :lol:

The Mafter Bourgeat pan I was looking at is indeed black steel. I was under the impression that black steel or blue steel was superior to "plain" carbon steel in that it's less reactive to acidic foods, and a harder surface. I'd love to hear your take on that?

However I can't find those pans anywhere online, and have never seen them in the stores around me. I found ONE store selling the Vollrath, is that the pan you're recommending?

Fry Pan - Carbon Steel - 11" Vollrath 58920

Apparently the handle is welded as well.

What's the advantage of the highly angled handle? Is it to take less space on the counter or in the oven? It seems a little less practical - never used a handle like that.

Thanks for all the help!
post #10 of 19

Here you go on the Matfer Bourgeat frying pans. BTW, this etailer is really good. I think they're the distributor for most of what they sell, but might be wrong.

The high arch is good because they don't seem to heat up as fast, and can clear other pans when the stove gets crowded.

"Black steel" is supposed to be better for something -- I forget which. But once it's cured, it all looks pretty much the same. You just want something that's heavy enough to last and light enough to handle.

BTW, the handles get hot -- you'll need to use a towel.

Also, as I think you already know, that you're going to have to treat them the same way you treat cast iron. Once you've got it cured, you have to clean it without messing up the cure. That can mean less than clean to some people. If you want squeaky, shiney, dishwasher clean, you'll be miserable.

post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Great - thanks so much for the link, it's miserable trying to shop when you don't know where to look.

I knew about the seasoning, and I knew I have to wash the pan, dry it thoroughly right away and coat with oil before storing - basically avoid rusting.

However, I didn't realize I had to make sure not to mess up the seasoning when cleaning. I've also heard that some people just wipe them and never really use water to clean them.

I don't mind a bit of "culinary mystic" at the bottom of the pan, I guess I'll have to get the pan, use it and see how that all works.

Does that mean the pan should be reserved for one type of ingredient? I mean, if I cook fish in it one day, will my steak taste of fish the next day?
post #12 of 19
I'm still hoping for an answer to this too -- hope your thread produces one!
post #13 of 19
Glad you asked the question, because it's so poorly misunderstood. Furthermore "opinions," many of which are ill informed or superstitions, and some of which represent extreme but good practice, are all over the map.

Look, it's all about utility -- about using the pan. If you had a restaurant that did a ton of omelettes every morning it would be worth setting aside a few pans just for the task; and some restaurants do that. But for people like us, a great deal of the value of a pan is in its versatility. You absolutely can clean one of these babies with hot water, dish soap, and a natural bristle or nylon brush. One thing you can do when the pan gets really crummy, is fill it with water and let it sit for awhile to soften the crud. Get the pan clean, and make sure you get it very dry before hanging. If you think you might have hurt the cure -- spread a little oil on the cooking surface, get the pan in a slow oven for awhile, turn off the oven and let the pan cool for a few hours (it's the slow cool down which does the trick, brother). Then hang it up.

Here's the deal. The surface of the pan isn't quite regular. As oil and fat get into the crevices the heat purifies it and it becomes pure carbon, which bonds to the pan. Eventually, the carbon builds up so that it's at (or almost at, the the high points of the metal surface --it's that carbon which is the "non-stick." Once you get it going, it's very hard and strong, and not easy to get off. Especially true, once you've formed it. It's not easy to get out unless you scour the pan with powder, metal pads or other really aggressive cleaning agents. On the other hand, cleaning with soap (which dissolves oil) will slow the curing process.

When the cure is finally and completely set, it's much tougher than the plastic non-stick coatings which are used in commercial "non-stick" cookware. It's almost completely resistant to scratching; and if it is damaged it can be restored by simply using the pan.

As I said, you're not going to get the pan squeaky. But you can and should use it for everything other than things very high in acid -- like wine, tomatoes and vinegar. It's the reactivity which keeps carbon from taking over the world. You'll want to keep you shiny stainless core set, but you'll find yourself reaching for the grotty old carbon most of the time.

Also, the cure, non-stick as it is, does not mean you don't use oil when cooking. You use oil (or other fats) in the same amounts as you would otherwise use to sear, pan fry and saute. When searing, meat will still stick to the pan as the proteins crystallize and fond forms. However the sticking creates the timing, and everything comes loose beautifully at the appropriate moment. Pan Wow! Like magic.

The continual, appropriate (preheat before adding) use of oil, and appropriate treatment (no scouring) of the pan, will keep the surface improving until it's completely cured -- even though you keep it clean.

Let's not overcomplicate. Just try it.

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Awesome. Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

I'm gonna buy the Mafter Bourgeat you linked to and report back in a while after I use it. I can't wait!!
post #15 of 19

I've never had good success in curing a pan. Can you enlighten me further with the proper way to cure a new cast iron baby... type oil? heat setting in the oven?...

post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
So I purchase the Matfer Bourgeat from the link provided. In fact I bought two! Comments and ... more questions!

Question 1: How can I clean the pan BEFORE seasoning?
The label suggests brushing the pan under hot water for a couple of minutes. That worked well for one of them, but the other looks like it has a varnish or something - you can see the "legs" of some of that coating. I have tried to start heating the pan and that "varnish" quickly turns orange/brown while the rest of the pan stays gray.
Is it ok to use a metal scrubber on the unseasoned pan?

Question 2: I can taste the metal - is that normal?
On the pan that didn't give me that problem, I achieved a nice seasoning and used it for quite a few things already: crepes, bacon, steaks, eggs. Last time I cooked a steak in it however, I could swear my steak tasted like metal. I had a bit leftover and ate it cold a few hours later, and still that taste of metal. I didn't detect that taste from the crepes, bacon, eggs and other steaks I made in that same pan before. Any idea why? Is that normal for those pans to impart taste to the foods? I'd rather have my steak taste like steak!

I simply followed the manufacturer's advice: wash the pan under hot water, dry it, heat it, then add a good amount of oil to cover the bottom, and sautee some potato skins sprinkled with a lot of salt for about 10mn. Throw away the skins, wipe the pan, add a little more oil and wipe the pan again.

I haven't washed the pan yet. It seems like wiping it after each use, and wiping again with a little oil, is all that has been required so far.
post #17 of 19
Yes. Scour away. You can use a brillo pad, or a metal scouring pad plus scouring powder. Just get all that guck off.

It's not normal. The taste is imparted partly because you're getting the pan hotter and hotter/longer to cook steak. The other part comes either from the pan seasoning's immaturity or because the pan wasn't truly clean to begin with. I'd scour the pan and start over on the seasoning..

This time, forget the potato skins. After getting the pans really clean, scour them again with a paste made from baking soda and a little water; rinse; dry completely (which you can do on the stove top; wipe the insides generously with oil; and put them in the oven upside down, on the top rack. Use a very light tasting oil with a high smoke point like corn or canoloa, or use lard (very old-style, very good). Bacon grease will also work, and may do something to kill that metallic flavor. Put a sheet pan covered with foil on the rack beneath your skillet(s)to catch any drips, and heat the oven to 300 and let them cook for two hours. Turn the oven off, leave the doors closed, and let the pans cool slowly. The slow cool down will really help the curing process along.

Hope this helps,
post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
Alright! Thanks again. At least now I know what to do next. Sounds like a lot of scrubbing is in order. :look: I'll get some lard or bacon fat and follow your instructions.

I'm not sure I understand that part. Does that mean I was getting the pan too hot? I was hoping one advantage of carbon steel was that I could get the pan real hot. It's not like the oil was fuming or anything. That steak stayed in the pan on high heat 2mn on each side, then I lowered the heat, turned the steak back on the first side and left it 30secs, then flipped it again for another 30secs.
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
I seasoned the pans! I'm not sure it turned out right though?

I scoured them both real well, then scoured them some more with baking soda paste, then wipe the inside bottom and sides with lard, leaving a generous coating, placed them both upside down in a 300 degrees oven for 2 hours, turned off the oven and let them in overnight.

This morning, I looked at the pans: they have a nice very light gold coating, as if you'd spread a thin coat of canola oil. Unfortunately the coating isn't even, and you can see that gravity did its work: parts that were higher have less coating, with many spots with NO coating. Some little 1/2" diameter disc areas have no coating. On the sides, you can see the legs of the coating as the fat was falling down (so the lower parts of the sides have virtually no coating).

I'm wondering if I didn't put enough lard, or if I didn't apply it right, and if I should try again - in which case, should I first scour them again or can I add to what I already have?

Or is it normal and should I just start using the pan?

My concern is that when putting my finger, some areas with a nice coating seem flat and non-stick, while the areas with virtually no coating are sticky and make "holes" in the flat surface of the coating.

Thanks for your help! :(
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