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Why you need carbon steel pans

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Do you need a cast-iron pan? No. Should you try a cast iron pan? Certainly, mostly because they're cheap and will last you forever.
Why you need carbon steel pans

My pans

While carbon steel pans are uncommon in most of America's home kitchens, chefs love them. Arguably the best—and most readily available—are French. I really didn't even know that carbon steel pans existed outside of my beloved crêpe pans. I bought my first carbon steel pans back in the late 90s when I discovered crêpe-making. I wanted crêpes to be my signature dish. Not until years later that I discovered that there are carbon steel versions of all of my stainless steel pans, my cast iron skillets, and my nonstick frying pans. 

Why You Should Consider a Carbon Steel Pan 

Think of (and I will write it out) carbon steel pans as the best features of:

  • A carbon steel wok

  • A nonstick pan

  • A stainless steel pan

  • A cast-iron skillet

  • A griddle

Carbon steel pans are often much lighter than cast iron. Also, they offer a much wider variety of sizes than woks. They both (CI & CS) hold and distribute heat better than clad stainless steel pans (less well, maybe, than copper), but CS releases the heat faster when you change the flame. Carbon steel does pretty badly on induction (warps) and electric (sometimes doesn't heat well) but works with them both. Has nonstick properties when seasoned well. Won't crack when dropped on the floor as a CI might.

Seasoned carbon steep pan seasoning

Generally speaking, compared to clad pans like All-Clad, basic French CS pans are affordable and sometimes cheap, as long as you just buy a basic version and not 3mm versions or PRO versions or specialty versions. But, at the end of the day, they're all just some form of hot metal that can get hot and cook food. So, I guess one can just go to the DIY Center and get a square panel of thick steel and use that to cook, too. I like how light and durable they are but if you are strong enough to use your CI pan every day for everything then no, you don't need a CS pan. 

Why You Don't Want a Carbon Steel Pan

One reason you might not want one is that they're as finicky as carbon steel knives and cast iron pans and will never develop their best magical qualities such as a nonstick surface if you don't season them well, keep them dry and lightly oiled, keep them out of the dishwasher and please don't wash them with dishwashing soap. Believe it or not, try to clean it with water and a rag; and, if the grime is stuck and you need a little help cleaning up, use liberally-applied salt as a scouring powder to remove the bits and bobs. If you really need some assistance, put water into the pan, boil the water on the stove, and then scrape the bits off with a spoon. Remember, this is steel so you can use metal utensils. 

Good luck!