I Bought the $50 Pan That Bon Appétit’s Top Food Expert Recommends — Here’s What I Like About It
Asking a professional chef what kind of cookware to buy is like asking a construction worker what kind of tools to get. In other words — it’s a really good idea. Who better to clue you in to the best tools for the job than the people who make their living working with them every day?
Of course, had she advised dropping $200 on a copper-core All-Clad I would have hesitated right into the next decade. But carbon steel skillets are cheap, and this 10-inch pre-seasoned Lodge was only $49, but on sale for $35. A small price to pay — assuming she’s right.
Two days later, I had a shiny black carbon steel skillet in my hands and I couldn’t wait to test it out. Could it really be all that different from the many cast iron skillets (vintage and otherwise) that I own? Or the fancy stainless steel pans I got for my wedding? Or the many nonstick pans with various technologically advanced coatings that I’ve tried out over the years?
The short answer is yes. Carla knows her stuff.
It wasn’t love at first sight, though. My first impression of the pan wasn’t entirely good. There was an area at the rim where the factory-sprayed coating was a little messed up and I could see bare metal. And the thin long handle is as un-ergonomic as it gets, the edges cutting into my hands whenever I picked it up.
But I gave it a rinse, set it on the stove, and started cooking with it. It’s now been three weeks and I haven’t stopped. Seriously — this just pan lives on my stovetop now. I use it every day and it’s the only thing I want to cook with.
Here’s what I love it about it.
1. It’s just as nonstick as my cast iron skillets, which is to say it’s pretty dang nonstick but maybe not as slippery as my traditional nonsticks.
2. It heats up far faster than my cast iron skillets. So much so, that several times while preheating the pan, I’ve turned around for less than a minute only to turn back and find it already smoking hot. (I’ve had to change my cooking habits to compensate.)
3. It sears like a dream, evenly and beautifully with no hotspots.
4. Its ouch-y handle is actually amazing because it stays cool no matter how long I’ve had the pan over the heat.
5. It’s definitely lighter than my cast iron pans (although not as light as my nonstick skillets). I’ve actually been able to pick it up with one hand and tilt it to scrape the food out onto a plate — I could never one-hand my 10-inch cast iron.
6. It can be used in the oven as well as on the stove, or even on the grill. It can be used on gas, electric, induction burners.
7. Unlike pans with a traditional nonstick coating, you can’t ruin this carbon steel pan by setting it over really high heat (unless you leave it there for way too long).
8. Its pre-seasoned coating gets better with every use. After using it every day for two weeks, the pan already looked as dark, glossy, and properly seasoned as one 10 times its age.
9. With proper care, its nonstick surface will outlast every other nonstick skillet I own, and even outlast me. That’s pretty good for a $38 pan.
Buy: Lodge 10-Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet, $44.90 (normally $56)