#1

Member
Central Maine
The French made steel pans came to my attention maybe  a year ago. At the time I knew little about them except that folks who should know really liked them. I filed the info' away in the grey matter and decided I'd explore them at a future time.

The pans that I'd been made aware of were the deBuyer line. They weren't inexpensive and for me to pay a lot of money to replace my cast iron was going to take a lot.

The last issue of Cooks Illustrated reviewed a mess of the steel pans, also called black pans. CI loved them for all the reasons I'd been made aware of, and the winner of the review was a more moderately priced steel pan made for restaurant kitchen use. The winning pan was a specific size of the Matfer brand. The actual name is bigger than that, but I shorten it to Matfer for ease.

So I decided it was time to try them out and ordered the tested size as well as the 9" crepe pan. Everything had been backordered, and the large pan is still backordered, but the crepe pan came in yesterday. The short story is that they are better than either Teflon no-stick pans or cast iron.

The long story continues... Using their suggested seasoning information I had the pan seasoned in short order on the stove top. I used 1:2 flax seed oil and salt, with the peels of a potato also in the pan. Season on medium heat for 8-10 minutes and the seasoning was seen to develop on the pan. I seta timer and the timer and the peels both agreed when the pan was fully seasoned. The peels were crispy and dark brown. One doesn't need to stand over the operation, but one should periodically move things around and up onto the edge of the pan to get that seasoned as well. When the pan is seasoned it will have turned from the grey metal to a brown to dark brown. One never wants to use detergent on that surface, but if that's done, it can be re-seasoned by the same method. There are other ways to re-season it as well, but the oil/salt/peels method is pretty foolproof and yields a perfectly seasoned pan.

So to test the pan I had the peeled potato, and I was cooking supper anyway. I decide on a sandwich, no big production last night. So I sliced a roll open and very lightly buttered both halves. Into the hot pan they went. Just an aside, steel pans come up to heat much more rapidly than cast iron. They also transfer heat much better as well, so you'll want to use a lower heat setting or you'll burn things. I figured that out with the roll. It didn't burn, but that's because I was keeping an eye on things. So the roll was done and cooling, the pan was hot so a bit of butter and the sliced potato went in. Now I've done raw potatoes in cast iron before and they sometimes stick. There was absolutely no sticking to the steel pan. Too, there were no hot spots despite the relatively thin material. When the slices were crisp the pan just wiped clean with a paper towel. No elbow grease required at all.

This morning I gave it a much more difficult test. We cook a product know as Taylor Pork Roll (TPR), aka Taylor Ham. Ours is a knock off version since TPR can be difficult to find in quantities we require it in. When it fries it, makes one heck of a sticky mess in a seasoned cast iron griddle. I use a metal spatula and lots of elbow grease to scrape it off so that I can fry my eggs. So today I fried the TPR and was amazed that the sticky residue wasn't sticking. A bit more butter and the egg went in. There was absolutely no sticking even being cooked in the same pan and with no removal of the TPR residue. After my English muffin sandwich had been assembled I put a paper towel to the pan, and with very minor effort if came clean. No water, no metal scraper, no stainless steel mesh required. It passed possibly the most difficult test I could think of, and passed with flying colors.

These pans are keepers in my kitchen. The plan is to simply not replace the current ($140) Teflon pan when it needs replacing, and Teflon always has a finite life span. We'll also retire our cast iron pans and smaller griddle. The smaller griddle has in fact already been replaced.  Our Stainless steel pan will remain in use, I'll get to why in a minute.

Advantages of the steel pans... They heat rapidly, they transfer heat very efficiently (you'll need to rethink the heat you cook things with), they have no hot spots with the better brands, and they are basically the same price as cast iron. Of course they can also be more expensive.

The deBuyer steel pans didn't get as high a review as the Matfer pans and are twice the price. DeBuyer does make a prettier pan. But I'm not about looks but function. Debuyer handles are riveted on, the Matfer are welded. That yields a pan innard with nothing to catch crud. Myself, I'll stick with the  Matfer pans.

There are other brands and I can't compare them. But Cooks Illustrated did. I was very curious as to the Lodge steel pans, and CI did not like them. The steel is too thin and it had hot spots because of that. Unless Lodge rethinks their pans I would steer clear of them. But why shop around and experiment when Matfer has been in business for 300 years and the pans work so nicely and are priced to sell?

Disadvantages... as already mentioned, do NOT use detergent on them or you'll need to re-season the pan. It's no big deal but with a little forethought you can save yourself that hassle. Too, do NOT simmer wet ingredients in them for more than a few minutes. Again, doing so will require re-seasoning. That where the stainless steel pans come in and why they'll remain in my kitchen. SS doesn't require re-seasoning. Simmer wet ingredients all you like in one and there is no harm. Again, just think ahead.

I wish I had known of steel pans many years ago, but I didn't. A steel pan should be as long lived as any cast iron pan, and future generations will be using the pans one buys today.

Here's my 9" crepe pan taken before cooking my breakfast this morning. The color today might be a hair darker and that's good since the seasoning is thicker. That makes it even more non-stick. Before seasoning the pan was approx' the same color as the handle.
[Image: DSC04279_zpsmcmwg4it.jpg]

sinistral likes this post
#2
(This post was last modified: 08-23-2015, 10:03 PM by brucered.)
Great post Brian. A ton of great info and comparisons in there. I didn't know about simmering in Carbon Steel, but now that I do, I'll make sure to use the one Stainless pan we have.

Like you, I wish we had bought Carbon Steel pans years ago and avoided all the Teflon and T-fal we have gone through over the years.

We have 5 DeBuyers from Costco, Mineral B line but no coating on them for shipping like the Mineral B line. Yes, our handles are riveted but I actually prefer rivets over welds as we have had some pots have the welds give up after time. However, our crepe (the most important for us to be smooth) is welded, as is our Paella pan.

Well worth the money we paid and hopefully the last pans we need. We still use our well seasoned and Lodge & Wagner Cast Iron pans and Dutch Oven and won't be getting rid of them, but am sure glad we found out about Carbon Steel when we did.

Here is our Crepe pan, only used once or twice now....but my wife loved it.

We have a new kitchen in the works, so once we get that done and have all the extra drawer space, the pans won't show any more scratches on the seasoning.

[Image: be07f4bb4b38291b472c6f01aab478bd.jpg]
All evidence has been buried. All tapes have been erased.
#3

Member
Central Maine
(This post was last modified: 08-28-2015, 07:00 AM by ShadowsDad.)
I'm not concerned about the handle attachment. If the weld fails, and it's a honkin huge weld so I doubt it, I'll just reweld it and that will never part company after that.

OK, so it's been 5 days and I think I've used the crepe pan twice a day every day. It's just a non stick today as it was on day one and maybe even more non-stick but frankly how would I know? Nothing stuck back then. I should have taken a pic, but I didn't. It's got more seasoning built up and just tonight rather than put a coat of oil on it for protection I heated it up and smoked some flax seed oil onto it. That also seasons it some more. Why flax seed? Rumor has it that it produces the toughest coating of seasoning. FWIW, after I got done wiping the inside of the pan with the lightly oiled paper towel I did the outside to protect it also. Every time that I've treated it that way I've done the outside to make it rust resistant. It only takes a very light film to do it right. Too much oil and it's counter productive and not at all what is desired.

Now I want my 12" (11 3/4" or some such) pan to arrive! After that maybe a 16" paella pan for better storage, 2 small handles rather than the honkin' long one, maybe a small sauté pan, and that's it. We don't make paella, but western stovetops are far more efficient with a flat bottom pan for stir fry than using a wok. Then we can clear out the cabinets of a lot of the cast iron. Of course some must stay; 2 pieces that I know of, the dutch oven and the long 2 burner griddle.

Tomorrow for breakfast I have planned some faux Taylor Pork Roll and French pancakes. (not crepes)
#4
We used both of our last night to fry up the onions and reheat the pork for our sandwiches. I took note of the outside when I also lightly coat every now and then....they are even more nicely seasoned (appearance) then our insides! My insides may not be as pretty as my outsides, but the non-stick properties are there.

It amazes me how these flew under my radar for so long.
#5
I'll have to consider buying some of these eventually. At the moment, we have too many pans for our small kitchen, so I'll have to wait before doing any more buying.

These do sound intriguing, but I already have all my cast-iron stuff, so there's no way I can justify buying more pans at the moment. Sad
- Yohann
#6

Member
Central Maine
(This post was last modified: 08-28-2015, 03:55 PM by ShadowsDad.)
Yohann, as you get older the weight reduction alone is attractive. I'm looking ahead to that day.

Bruce, for years restaurants had them, but they weren't talkin'.

I did the pancakes this morning and again, no stick. Just don't think no oil, every pancake got a pat of butter in the pan first. Maybe I could have done them a bit drier, but pancakes need butter anyway.

Here's the pan after this mornings pancakes. The pan is actually darker to the eye, but I'm not going to correct for that. The brown is the seasoning and is actually polymerized oil (plasticized). That's the surface that needs protection and what makes the no-stick magic happen.
[Image: DSC04287_zpskrijtgp9.jpg]

I had raspberry syrup on mine and a bit of blueberry jam, the wife had pomegranate syrup on hers.

Pancakes are super easy to make from scratch; just slightly more difficult than frying an egg. I bet it didn't take me 3 minutes to put the batter together. If anyone wants the recipe that I use just let me know. They are quite light, but filling, the wife loves them. The yield is 5 pancakes approx' 7-8" in diameter. Of course it can be easily doubled.
#7
(This post was last modified: 08-28-2015, 04:52 PM by brucered.)
Looking good Brian. We seem to have similar tastes and methods. A while back I wanted pancakes for lunch, we didn't have a mix, so I made from scratch.

Super easy to make, everything is usually on hand and I feel better about know that I made them. No more mix for us and we employ the same with Sloppy Joes, Taco Seasoning etc.

My wife will be making homemade crepes with our DeBuyer crepe pan tonight...I'll snap a pic of the pan (and food).

I wouldn't mind seeing and giving your recipe a try.
All evidence has been buried. All tapes have been erased.
#8

Member
Central Maine
(This post was last modified: 08-28-2015, 07:07 PM by ShadowsDad.)
We make most of our food. We purchase very little factory made food. Yes, I like to know what I'm eating too. Plus factory made food is about 10x more costly than actual cooking. Real food just tastes better too.

*3/4 cup fresh ground hard red or white wheat
*1/4 cup soft wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsps. baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup milk
butter for the pan
fruit preserves, powdered sugar

* I never grind wheat for this. Instead I just use the flour I have on hand, bread flour or all purpose is fine.

Combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients. Then combine them all until smooth. Use the butter to fry the pancakes in and top with preserves and powdered sugar. I like fruit syrup too.
#9

Member
California
(This post was last modified: 08-28-2015, 10:18 PM by guildx500.)
Looking at pictures of the Matfer and they look nearly identical to the DeBuyer pans I've used except the handle appears welded on rather than riveted. Why did Cooks prefer them?
#10

Member
Central Maine
(This post was last modified: 08-28-2015, 11:49 PM by ShadowsDad.)
Essentially because Matfer worked better out of the gate. CI rates in stars; the Matfer and a $230 pan both got highly recommended accolades with 3 stars in all 3 catagories. Ease of use is where the deBuyer lost stars because of the odd high angle of the handle. They also didn't like the rivets because they thought that it would collect crud and just got in the way at times (maybe that was part of the ease of use?). Also the seasoning instructions didn't season the sides and that was a problem until the sides caught up with the bottom. On the Primo forum that was pointed out as a problem by one user of the deBuyer pans. He also said that eventually the sides caught up with the non-stick bottom, CI mentioned that also. I don't know that CI directly discussed price in the text, but the deBuyer is 2x the cost of the Matfer. They had no problem with the deBuyer non-stick bottom. They also gave the deBuyer high marks for construction and looks. The deBuyer was 4th from the bottom but was still in the recommended category.

I can verify that the Matfer seasoning instructions work fantastically. Could you use their seasoning method for deBuyer? Of course.

The Matfer is not a good looking pan, but neither is it ugly. It's functional and looks the part. But I don't admire my pans, nor do I put them on display for others to ogle. I use them. So for me the decision regarding which to buy was easy... save money and get the same or better performance... it didn't take me long to decide. But that's why I didn't jump on the bandwagon when everyone on the Primo forum was. I've never jumped off the cliff with the other lemmings. I generally wait for more data if something doesn't feel right to me. Steel is not an expensive material and $80 for a steel pan just didn't feel right to me.


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