Carbon Steel

A while back, I bought a Matfer Bourgeat carbon steel pan after seeing it featured a few places and touted as a good non-stick, rivaling cast iron but slightly lighter weight. The two are actually very similar in construction. Carbon steel is composed of roughly 99 percent iron to 1 percent carbon, while cast iron normally contains 2 to 3 percent carbon to 97 to 98 percent iron. At only about $45 for the ATK pan of choice, I thought I’d give it a try. 

Unfortunately, unlike my Lodge Cast Iron which is sold pre-seasoned, the carbon steel pan arrived with no seasoning. I don’t really mind seasoning my own pan, but after looking up a few differing videos, I was confused. The Matfer Bourgeat pan comes with a protective coating that must first be washed off. I found almost nothing online about how to do this effectively, and absolutely nothing about how to tell once this coating is gone. So I bit the bullet and scrubbed with some Bon Ami and hot water, till it looked… different. Less shiny. 

Carbon Steel Pan, after washing

There are a bunch of different methods detailed on youtube for seasoning, which again left me totally confused. Sometimes it’s better not to do too much research. I decided to go with the manufacturer’s recommended method, which is also how America’s Test Kitchen seasoned theirs, so I figured it was a good bet even though it sounded weird. They tell you to cook a mixture of salt, oil, and potato peels for 15 minutes and then repeat the process. I just happened to have potatoes for that evening’s dinner, so I set to it.

I used the pan that evening to cook bacon, and then make cheeseburgers in the bacon grease. Yum! There were those little pieces of melty cheese that came off the burgers, and they wiped right up! I’ve been using the pan a lot over the last month and finally, after I felt like it had a really good seasoning layer, I tried the fried egg test. 

It worked like a dream! No sticking at all, egg slid right off the plate. As I’ve used the pan, the finish has become a little bit blotchy – it’s definitely not as “pretty” as cast iron, but the non-stick quality is impressive with just a few weeks of use. It has been getting darker and more even with use, so I think eventually it will look nicer. I also really like that the handle stays cool enough for me to pick up without using a towel. Well, unless I put it in the oven! I can lift it with one hand, where my large cast iron requires two hands. Maybe I need to work on my wrist strength…

Overall, I’m super happy with this pan, and it has become my go-to for non-stick cooking.

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