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Old 09-10-2006, 02:57 PM   #1
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Cast Iron / Steel pans

Another thread reminded me that I wanted to ask you all something... have any of you dealt with black steel cookware? One of the chefs I work with was using what I though was a cast iron pan, but he said it was actually black steel. I had never heard of it before, and they seemed to treat it just as they would a cast iron pan. What are some of the differences? I imagine that the steel might be lighter, but is it less porous and therefore more difficult to season? Anything else I should know?

I'm considering buying a cast iron, or maybe now a black steel pan, in the near future, so that I have a quality, well-seasoned piece of cookware that is not susceptible to hot spots and the like., so I need information regarding these things.

Also, I saw somewhere online a mention of "Blue steel"... is that simply a brand or is it also a different variety of steel?


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Old 09-10-2006, 03:22 PM   #2
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Unlike cast iron, SS steel doesn't "season" as it's not porous; however, I just read several articles on the black steel and they express opposing views. One says it doesn't conduct heat well and has hot spots, the other says it conducts heat very well and doesn't have hot spots. I was hoping I could help, but all I've done is confuse myself too. I can, however, vouch for cast iron, it's great heat conduction, seasoning, and sturdy, long lasting quality. If you don't mind the weight, I'd go with the cast iron until they make up their minds.

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Old 09-10-2006, 03:28 PM   #3
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I cook with cast iron, either Lodge black cast iron or LeCreuset enameled cast iron. I wouldn't use anything else, (except for my one 12 in. Farberware skillet that I love). Cast iron is both inexpensive, versatile, going from burner to oven to table if you wish and the LeCreuset does the same. LeC is much more expensive but does the job. I have 10 pieces of Lodge black and 23 pieces of Le Creuset in various colors. Great stuff.
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Old 09-10-2006, 04:50 PM   #4
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black steel is carbon steel, it is NOT stainless. It heats quickly, sears well, and like cast iron needs to be seasoned and kept from rusting. A French pan is this kind of steel. THe choice of many chefs for searing meat. blue steel white steel, very similar , same properties.
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Old 09-22-2006, 01:10 PM   #5
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Carbon Steel (Black Steel) needs to be seasoned just like Cast Iron. My Woks are Carbon Steel, and are the only "Black Steel" I own. Carbon steel is terrible at heating evenly because of how it conducts heat and it's thickness (they're usually quite thin). I have an out-door high-BTU gas burner that I use my carbon-steel wok with. Since almost all the cooking I do with a wok is over maximum heat, hot spotting really isn't an issue because the pans are always almost borderline glowing when I cook with them. They also cool off really quick when you remove the heat source, which is nice for controlling the intense heat while stir-frying. The carbon/polymer layer that you achieve by seasoning cast iron or carbon steel is much more durable/resistant/replaceable than non-stick cookware. Enameled Cast Iron (like Le Creuset) doesn't allow you to maintain a non-stick surface, so the only enameled cast iron I use are my 8oz crocks for individual soups/braises/casseroles. Personally I'm not a fan of enameled cast iron. The only non-stick I own are an 8" skillet, and my giant griddle. I'd love am 1" thick gas-fired carbon-steel griddle like the restaurants/diners use, but I don't think it would go over well with my land-lord and local fire department...

If I could only have one set of cookware, it would be my cheap Lodge high-sided skillets. Try to buy the un-seasoned ones and then season them yourself rather than buying "pre-seasoned" pans. That pre-season stuff is crap and chips/peels at high heat.

Seasoned cast iron and carbon steel sucks when it comes to building a fond for pan sauces though. For most stovetop cooking and sear/roast dishes I use my All-Clad MC2 gear. Nice and thick aluminum body for quick even heating, and a non-reactive stainless surface. I prefer the MC2 line which lacks an extra outter stainless layer (which is really un-needed, it's mainly for looks). Of course the thick copper bodied mauviel pans with stainless linings are even nicer, but too much money for me!

Oh, and avoid plastic handles. They limit all your pans to stove-top duty only. So many great dishes start on the stove-top and are finished in the oven. Just use a dish-towel or silicone gripper after removing them from the oven. I learned quick after the first time I grabbed a 500ºF handle!

Just my $0.02.

So anyone go old school with the cured animal skin pots or carbonized wooden bowls? How about throwing meats directly on coals?

I saw some Native American descendants cooking with these methods at a fair once. Pretty nifty.
Nick ~ "Egg whites are good for a lot of things; lemon meringue pie, angel food cake, and clogging up radiators." - MacGyver
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Old 09-27-2006, 01:34 PM   #6
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Enameled Cast Iron (like Le Creuset) doesn't allow you to maintain a non-stick surface, so the only enameled cast iron I use are my 8oz crocks for individual soups/braises/casseroles. Personally I'm not a fan of enameled cast iron.

For normal stove-top cooking that calls for high heat, I agree with your and prefer regular cast iron.

But for any type of braising or slow cooking, the enameled cast-iron beats works beautifully. You can use a regular cast-iron dutch oven, but then you need to worry about the chemical reaction with certain foods. The latter was not even a choice here.
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Old 09-28-2006, 08:18 AM   #7
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I've used cast iron my entire life. But I got to thinking about it, and I haven't used anything else, other than cast iron, for pan cooking in about 5 months. I really do love it, and I've got three different sized pans to do everything I need done. All my pans are so old that they're perfectly "seasoned."
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Old 10-01-2006, 11:57 AM   #8
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Yes, keeping them seasoned helps prevent rusting - the major drawback in owning cast iron cookware. Lodge now sells cast iron cookware preseasoned so that you can use it straight from the box.

Carbon steel cookare such as the Chinese woks also have that same problem.
They, also, must be kept seasoned (oiled or greased and baked).

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Old 10-01-2006, 12:20 PM   #9
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I'm continuing my investigation into which type of stove-top skillet I'll be purchasing, and in the meantime I have purchased a carbon steel wok so I can start making some magic happen again. I lost my last wok to rust and the non-stick coating flaking into my food (I bought that wok under bad advice, and soon learned why you can't use non-stick cookware over very high heat). The wok was cheap, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get used to seasoning my cookware... however I've been having a TON of trouble keeping the rust out of it. I've seasoned it about 3 different times already, but I keep having trouble.

So- since the seasoning process is similar for woks/skillets, how do you all go about seasoning your cookware? I have an electric stovetop, and I would bake my wok, but I'm afraif about the wooden handles, could they stand up to the heat? When I do get my iron/steel cookware I don't want to mess it up b/c the pieces i've looked at tend to be pricey.

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