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Old 07-06-2011, 03:06 PM   #1
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Stainless steel vs. carbon steel

For some reason I just heard about carbon steel pans today. I did some google searching but that's showing up a large amount of worthless information. So, what is carbon steel and what is the difference between stainless and carbon?

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Old 07-06-2011, 03:27 PM   #2
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Carbon steel will rust and stain. It has to be seasoned similar to cast iron. Carbon steel is standard wok material. It heats rapidly because it's so thin.

Plain, single layer stainless suffers from neither staining or rusting. It also heats unevenly, creating hot spots. SS multi-layer pans eliminate the hot spots.
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Old 07-06-2011, 04:10 PM   #3
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once upon a time, Teflon did not exist.

the need for non-stick pans did however exist.

well seasoned cast iron and well seasoned steel pans were "the answer" - and, yes, they work quite well when properly cared for.

carbon steel has come back into popular vogue with the "Teflon will kill you!" crowd - mostly because it is lighter and easier to handle than cast iron. in the professional kitchen, carbon steel pans never left vogue.

there's cheap carbon steel and good carbon steel cookware. buy the good stuff if you want to go there.

it gets seasoned, it gets cooked in, it gets wiped out and put away. it never gets washed / scrubbed / dishwashered. people who understand that heating things to a couple hundred degrees is likely to kill bugs and germs don't have issues with that approach. not everyone understands how bugs die however, so you might want to check with those for whom you cook.
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Old 07-07-2011, 07:50 AM   #4
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Ah, so I'm behind the times. Well, good to know. I think I'll stick with my stainless.
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Old 08-04-2011, 11:14 AM   #5
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Just out of interest, what is the life expectancy of a carbon-steel pan provided it is "dry cleaned" as it were and never washed. Would it be worth investing in a more expensive one in the hope it is better quality or is it more a case of replacing every few years regardless?
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stellar View Post
Just out of interest, what is the life expectancy of a carbon-steel pan provided it is "dry cleaned" as it were and never washed. Would it be worth investing in a more expensive one in the hope it is better quality or is it more a case of replacing every few years regardless?
Properly cured carbon steel pans should last a lifetime and can be washed in very hot water. For centuries, people also did fine with carbon steel cutlery and were not put off by the black patina that such cutlery acquires.
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:58 PM   #7
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I have a carbon steel wok that I have been using for fifteen or more years. It's as good a pan as the day I purchased it. Good quality carbon steel, when properly cared for is as durable as cast iron.

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Old 08-04-2011, 03:44 PM   #8
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they'll last two, mebbe three human lifetimes. commercially they "die" from physical abuse - dents, etc.

deBuyer is a leading brand - might be a couple bucks more but you don't get left wondering if you bought a half quality pan.....
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Old 10-05-2011, 03:54 AM   #9
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I use carbon steel fry and saute pans. Cure them like a wok...heat and oil. I use coconut oil to cure and to cook. Clean-up is simple...hot water scrub, no soap, dry over a flame and wipe with a cloth and a bit of oil while still hot, hang 'til next time.
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Old 10-05-2011, 01:18 PM   #10
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My cast iron pans have never seen water. I cook nothing in them that has a high water content and use oil and salt to scrub them.

It takes a bit of time, but when finished, the pan is as clean as can be and as dcSaute said, it's decontaminated by heat before the next use.

Just before using it, I heat it to "just starting to smoke" and then wipe it clean with fresh oil and paper towels.

Only thermophiles could live through that and they're all busy around the vents in the oceans.
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Old 10-05-2011, 02:14 PM   #11
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The best qualities of carbon steal are that they are stick free, once seasoned, super durable (will be handed down to your kids, and possible, their kids), can cook any type of food, including acidic,, starchy, watery (woks are often used as steaming vessels), etc. Seasoning is easily done on the stove top, or in the oven, but will produce some smoke and so should be done with vents blowing and windows open. Once seasoned, there should be no more smoking. Carbon steel is great for searing meats, or for high-heat applications such as stir fry's, but can be used with low heat for simmering, stewing, poaching, etc. Carbon steel is very versatile, more so than stainless steel, IMHO. Except for Griswold Cast Iron, it's my favorite cooking implement.

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Old 10-05-2011, 04:23 PM   #12
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We purchased 11 7/8", 12 5/8" and 14 1/8"x2 1/2" Matfer Bourgeat black steel pans at the beginning of September. They are far from lightweight, although lighter than most cast iron. On a stovetop, their long handles make them easier to handle than the typical cast iron pan. But I doubt the 14 1/8 incher will fit in our oven.
The larger two of the pans have come in handy in cutting down on the total frying time for larger batches of sliced eggplant.
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Old 10-05-2011, 06:42 PM   #13
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Link to a post detailing DeBuyer Mineral (carbon) steel pans. I've been using them for daily for almost a year. Indestructible, great searing performance.

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