Carbon Steel Frying Pans
Carbon Steel cookware is used in professional kitchens around the world because of its durability and cooking performance and offers a lighter alternative to cast iron. Carbon Steel frying pans are versatile, but are particularly great for high heat searing and frying.
Like Cast Iron, Carbon Steel pans become naturally non-stick after being initially seasoned. 'Seasoning' adds a coating of oil or fat which bonds to the steel at high heat. That seasoning will develop with use and you should expect the pan to 'mature' in colour from silver grey through to a rich black patina. They are suitable for all stove types including induction and can also be used in the oven.
THE GUIDE: CARBON STEEL
Are Carbon Steel Pans Non-Stick?
Carbon Steel pans become naturally non-stick because of a process known as ‘seasoning’. By ‘seasoning’ the pan, you allow for a thin layer of fat known as a ‘patina’ to bond to the steel cooking surface and it’s this layer of fat that adorns Carbon Steel with its non-stick property. After an initial seasoning, the process of heating oil in the pan (as part of the normal cooking process) will further increase the non-stick properties of the pan. The seasoning process will gradually change the colour of your pan, from grey silver, through brown, until it's eventually blackened across its full surface. Once the pan reaches this blackened state, it's considered to be fully seasoned. Note, however that the cooking of acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes or citrus, will actively remove the seasoning from the pan. For more on seasoning and re-seasoning your Carbon Steel cookware, see the section titled ‘How to Season a Carbon Steel Pan’ below.
Which Carbon Steel Pan is Best?
Carbon steel pans are a great addition to any kitchen but there are many to choose from. The best carbon steel pan is the one that fits best for how you intend to use it, and what you intend to cook. And there are several considerations when it comes to choosing the right Carbon Steel cookware for you. Generally ranging from 1.5mm to 4mm, the thickness of your pan is a key consideration. Thicker pans will generally be more expensive and heavier to work with, but they will be much more resistant to their flat base warping over time. This is particularly true for larger pans upwards of 26cm.
Another consideration is the handle that’s fitted to the pan. Most commonly, the pans will be fitted with a steel handle, but you’ll see some Carbon Steel pans with stainless steel handles, such as the De Buyer Mineral B Pro range. The stainless steel handle accommodates a more ergonomic handle design but more importantly means the Mineral B Pro range can be used in the oven without time or temperature constraints. Note that both handle types are likely to get hot when cooking at high temperatures.
Perhaps the most important consideration is what you plan to cook in your Carbon Steel cookware. Carbon Steel cookware is suitable for all hob types and heat sources, including induction hobs and ceramic hobs, as well as gas and electric. Carbon steel pans that have steel handles with an epoxy coating, meaning that whilst they are suitable for flash cooking in the over, there will be constraints on how long and at what temperature. For example, the Mineral B Carbon Steel pans from De Buyer come with a recommendation of no longer than 10 minutes at 200°C. Pans will also come in a variety of sizes. CLNRY stocks sizes from 20cm up to 32cm in the classic ‘Lyonnaise’ style, as well as the ‘Crepe’ style with it low sides for easy access to the cooking surface and the pans contents.
How to Season a Carbon Steel Pan?
There are many methods when it comes to applying the initial seasoning to your Carbon Steel pan. Whilst this may seem intimidating, it’s really quite simple. Always follow the manufactures instructions when it comes to the initial seasoning, but we’ve outlined our favourite method below:
In some instances, it may be necessary to re-season your Carbon Steel Pan, for example if you’ve used acidic ingredients (acid breaks down the bond between the fat and the steel) or you’ve simply been too aggressive when cleaning with a scouring pad. Should this be the case, you can simply repeat steps 1-5 to re-season the pan and start building the seasoning layer all over again.
Once seasoned, Carbon Steel cookware is great for searing steak, making pancakes or even frying eggs or omelettes. And it’s for this reason that they’re so popular in professional kitchens around the world.
How to Clean a Carbon Steel Pan?
Carbon steel is super easy to clean. After you’ve finished cooking and whilst the pan is still hot, simply add enough water to cover the base of the pan and work away any residue with a wooden spoon or utensil. Rinse the pan with hot water and wipe clean with a cloth or sponge. Do not use soap or any abrasive chemicals or scouring pads as this will erode your pan’s seasoning, reducing its non-stick performance. Once clean, dry thoroughly and buff a very light coating of vegetable oil into the pans surface. Store away in a dry cupboard.
How Does Carbon Steel Compare?
Carbon Steel vs Cast Iron Cookware
Although similar, there are many differences between cast-Iron and carbon steel. Like cast-iron, carbon steel becomes naturally non-stick over time, following a process of seasoning. Both are easy to clean and more than capable of handling high heat cooking. But carbon steel is often seen as a lighter alternative to cast iron and is also more reactive, meaning that the pans will heat up and cool down faster than their cast-iron equivalents giving the cook more control. Conversely, cast-iron cookware generally boasts better heat retention, meaning whilst it takes longer to get up to temperature, it holds on to its heat better than carbon steel. It is therefore seen as a more stable cooking surface than carbon steel and ideal for pan frying, searing and roasting.
Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel
Stainless steel and carbon steel are both great materials for cookware, but both have very different uses. The biggest difference between carbon steel and stainless steel is that whilst carbon steel will become non-stick once seasoned, stainless steel is not a non-stick cooking surface. It’s therefore more suited to sautéing, boiling and reducing sauces. It’s also more suited to cooking more acidic foods like rich tomato sauces. Stainless steel contains around 10.5% chromium which makes it ultra-resistant to corrosion, and therefore it’s an incredibly durable material, but this comes at the cost of conductivity meaning it can take longer to to come up to a balanced temperature. Good quality stainless steel cookware often uses other metals such as copper or aluminium within its core to compensate for its lesser heat conductivity. Carbon steel on the other hand rapidly heats and cools, providing control to the cook. Carbon steel is also often times a more affordable option.
Is Cooking with Carbon Steel Healthy?
Cooking with carbon steel is a very healthy way to enjoy foods that you already love. Carbon steel helps to fortify your food, meaning that trace elements of iron (a vitamin many of us are deficient in) are transferred to the ingredients that you cook in it. Carbon steel is completely non-toxic, and we ensure all the cookware we stock in completely PTFA and PFTE free. Whilst carbon steel has been known to rust if not oiled and maintained, in the vast majority of cases, carbon steel as well as cast iron cookware can be salvaged and renewed following a few simple steps.
In addition to the health benefits of carbon steel cookware, you should also consider that due to it’s natural non-stick quality, it’s possible to drastically reduce the amount of oil required for cooking, with some foods, for example bacon, requiring no added oil at all, instead relying on the fats stored within the foods themselves to cook.
Where to Buy Carbon Steel Frying Pans?
You can purchase a wide range of carbon steel cookware from the worlds leading brands at clnry.co.uk. We stock frying pans, skillets, sauté pans, crêpe pans and more. We offer Free Delivery on all orders over £50 with same day dispatch for all orders placed before 2pm, Mon-Sat. Orders placed after 2pm or on Sundays will be dispatched the next working day. For more information on delivery, click here.