F&W Game Changers: The Perfect Pan
The power of a good carbon steel pan has been an open secret in restaurant kitchens for years. Thanks to brands like Mauviel, Made In, Lodge, and Proclamation Goods, which have introduced affordable, design-forward carbon steel cookware for consumers, carbon steel is ready to come home.
Like a cross between cast iron and nonstick, carbon steel is much lighter in weight than the former and more versatile than the latter. Chefs love it because it heats up quickly, usually in just three to five minutes, and stays hot. "A carbon steel pan maintains an even distribution of heat, which allows for an even and consistent cook," says pitmaster Matt Horn, owner of Horn Barbecue in Oakland, California. "I love using mine to make burgers."
Carbon steel pans often have sloped sides, unlike the vertical sides of cast-iron skillets, so they work especially well for sautéing vegetables and flipping omelets. Stephanie Izard, chef-owner of Chicago and L.A. restaurants including Girl & the Goat, uses a carbon steel wok for stir-fries and quick deep-frying.
Food writer and cookbook author Andrea Nguyen favors Mauviel M'Steel pans (from $70, amazon.com) because they have relatively wider bottoms-an upside when making one of her go-to recipes, Vietnamese shaking beef. "The cubes of beef need space and ripping heat. Plus, you need to move the pan a lot, and carbon steel is lighter."
Nguyen likes the handle on the pan and the fact that it doesn't get hot. She says, "Everyone needs to find the pan that feels comfortable for them, and Mauviel is mine."