5 Best Foods to Cook in a Carbon Steel Pan

published Oct 12, 2016
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

You’ve made the leap and bought a carbon steel pan. (If you haven’t, you should definitely give them a try.) They’re a versatile kitchen pan that can go from stovetop to oven without problems. They hold their heat well and over time you can create a nonstick surface much like cast iron. Plus, they’re relatively inexpensive. Now it’s time to get into the kitchen and get familiar with what this pan can do. Start with these five ideas and you’ll find yourself reaching for this workhorse more than you ever expected.

(Image credit: Joshua Resnick)

1. Steak

Steaks cook quickly on medium-high to high heats to get the best browned sear on the outside, while the inside stays pink and juicy. Once you’ve preheated the pan well, carbon steel will retain the heat, which is perfect for the sear you want on your steak. Plus, if it’s a thick steak and the center isn’t done to your liking by the time the outside is nice and browned, you can slip the whole pan in the oven to finish it.

(Image credit: Martin Turzak)

2. Eggs

In culinary school, we learned to cook eggs on lower temperatures for longer to avoid browning. More recently one of my favorite ways to fry an egg is in oil at a high temperature. The crispy browned bits, especially around the edges, are the best part. No matter how you choose to cook your eggs, this is the perfect pan. Its evenly distributed heat and almost nonstick surface allow you to cook them to your liking every time.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

3. Chicken

If you’re cooking chicken with skin, you want that skin to be crispy. There’s nothing worse than chewy or rubbery skin on a thigh or breast that would have otherwise made a great meal. Crisping adds not only texture, but also more flavor. The best way to achieve crispy skin is to preheat the carbon steel pan well. The high heat and nonstick surface allow you to have tender, juicy golden-brown chicken.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

4. Roasted Vegetables

Much like the steak, the same concept applies for vegetables. For delicious roasted vegetables, you want a well-caramelized outside and tender center. Whether you start them on the stove or in a preheated pan from the oven, this simple technique will become a weekly standby during the fall and winter for an easy and elegant side.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

5. Stir-Fries

Carbon steel is the same material they use to make woks, so it only makes sense that you could use a pan for stir-fries as well. For me, the blistered vegetables are the best part of a stir-fry., and a very well-heated carbon steel pan will not disappoint.