Carbon metal cookware is widespread in Europe and amongst skilled cooks in the US. Along with skillets, it’s used for woks and for omelet, crepe and paella pans. Like forged iron, carbon metal consists of carbon and iron, however, surprisingly, it comprises much less carbon. (Carbon metal is roughly 1 % carbon in comparison with the two to three % present in forged iron.)
This completely different proportion makes carbon metal much less brittle, which permits it for use in thinner configurations for lighter cookware. For instance, the Merten & Storck carbon steel skillet (Food & Wine’s recommendation) is available in a 10-inch dimension and is roughly half the burden of my Lodge forged iron skillet of the identical dimension. The distinction isn’t all the time as massive — the 11 7/8-inch skillet from Matfer Bourgeat (America’s Test Kitchen’s recommendation) is barely a few third lighter than my 12-inch forged iron skillet — however it’s nonetheless important, significantly for individuals who wrestle to raise forged iron.
Whereas maybe not as low-cost as forged iron — although nonetheless inexpensive — carbon metal is a worthy funding. When searching for carbon metal cookware, the very first thing you’ll most likely discover is that some pans come preseasoned and a few don’t. (Like forged iron, carbon metal requires seasoning to attain its nonstick capabilities.) In a comparability take a look at, I used to be shocked by how a lot a fried egg slipped round on a carbon metal skillet with solely an preliminary seasoning (after minimal assist with the preliminary launch). The preseasoned carbon metal skillet was barely extra nonstick in the identical take a look at, however each have been revelations to me as somebody new to the fabric.
Whereas seasoning a skillet your self requires a number of additional steps — Matfer Bourgeat recommends sauteing a mix of oil, potato peels and salt to get the job finished — it’s a easy job that shouldn’t deter you from buying one. (Earlier than seasoning, take care to scrub off the protecting coating with which unseasoned pans are sometimes shipped.) Carbon metal cookware that you simply season your self might look blotchy or streaky for some time, however will prepare dinner splendidly and develop a gorgeous patina over time.
The seasoning on carbon metal pans is way more superficial than that on forged iron cookware, which permeates the fabric extra deeply. Whilst you shouldn’t prepare dinner very acidic issues for lengthy in both sort of pan, you have to be extra cautious with carbon metal or threat stripping the seasoning. (Relatedly, picket and silicone instruments are beneficial when you don’t need to threat scratching the coating.) And you must look after and keep carbon metal simply as you’ll forged iron: Don’t put it within the dishwasher, dry it instantly after hand washing, and re-season it ought to the necessity ever come up.
One other consideration with carbon metal cookware is the handles. When made from the identical materials, they’ll get scorching, however as a result of the handles are pretty lengthy they are going to be a lot cooler the additional away you get from the skillet. (Be careful for pans with unusually lengthy handles at steep angles that make them onerous to retailer.) In case you don’t need to take care of scorching handles, search for carbon metal pans with ones made from chrome steel, which can keep cooler longer.
You may additionally see pans labeled “blue metal” or “black metal,” which refers back to the shade of the fabric after surface-hardening therapies, however that doesn’t actually affect efficiency.
One distinction of word between forged iron and carbon metal skillets is the slope of the edges: The edges of carbon metal skillets are extra angled than these of forged iron skillets, which helps direct moisture away from the underside of the pan for a greater sear and makes them simpler to make use of for sauteing meals. (Carbon metal’s smoother floor additionally contributes to a greater, extra thorough sear.) Nevertheless, I don’t plan to bake cake or cornbread in carbon metal skillets — I’ll want forged iron to attain a good thickness all through.
When it comes to utilization, carbon metal is suitable with all cooktops — together with induction — is oven protected at excessive temperatures and may even be put underneath the broiler or used on a grill. Forged iron is usually praised for its warmth retention, however there’s a value to pay when it comes to responsiveness, which is a pan’s capability to warmth up and funky down with changes to the warmth supply. That is the place carbon metal excels: In case you discover that your pan is simply too scorching and wish to show it down, you’re much less more likely to burn no matter you’re cooking if that pan is made from carbon metal.
Although I’m nonetheless new to carbon metal, I feel I’m in love. Does this imply that I plan to switch my forged iron with it? No, the traditional materials remains to be most well-liked for baking and frying. However if you’re constructing out your cooking arsenal or discover forged iron too heavy, then carbon metal is certainly the best way to go. And after making a batch of scrambled eggs in carbon metal, I’m critically debating whether or not I’ll ever purchase one other nonstick skillet once more.