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- With Made In‘s Blue Carbon Steel Pan ($69), you don’t have to choose between your favorite stainless steel pan or cast iron skillet because it combines the best properties of both.
- The pan is light and thin, with a smooth cooking surface and sloped sides. It heats quickly but also retains that heat well. You season and maintain it like a cast iron pan, and over time it’ll develop a nonstick surface.
- I generally lean more towards Team Cast Iron, but I have to admit the Blue Carbon Steel Pan has the major advantages of speed, control, and a light weight.
Of all the debates you can bring up to rile up home cooking enthusiasts, one chasm seems to divide them the most: stainless steel or cast iron?
Though you could argue that they’re good for different things, it’s tough to ask someone to choose just one. Stainless steel is light yet durable, heats evenly, doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, can cook acidic foods, and tends to be more affordable.
But cast iron has great heat retention and performs well with high heat, develops a nonstick coating over time, has versatile cooking abilities, and is more rugged than stainless steel.
The only olive branch of cookware that could make both of these camps happy is the carbon steel pan.
Carbon steel is a hybrid of stainless steel and cast iron that combines the best properties of each. It features the light weight, heat control, and cooking speed of stainless steel and the heat retention, seasoning, and nonstick surface of cast iron.
Cookware game-changer Made In (if you need proof of their rise in the industry, Tom Colicchio and Grant Achatz are now advisors for the startup) is just the place to get your hands on a pan this versatile and high-performing.
It sells its made-in-France Blue Carbon Steel Pan (10") for $69 and we tried it out to see whether its marriage of stainless steel and cast iron is really as good as it’s hyped up to be.
Immediately, you’ll notice its unique look and feel. It has a curved handle, a smooth and thin surface, and sloped sides. If you’re a vintage cast iron fan, you’ll appreciate the weight and texture similarities.
Because of the pan’s excellent heat retention, it’s perfect for searing and crisping meats and vegetables. Anything requiring high heat, it handles with ease. At the same time, it heats up faster than a thick, cast iron. I made fajitas in the Blue Carbon Steel Pan in a shorter amount of time, but their char and flavor were comparable to what a basic cast-iron pan would have achieved.
Its sloped sides make it better for actively sautéing and tossing ingredients, compared to a cast iron where the straight sides are better for baking foods like cornbread or stationary cooking. Since the pan isn’t heavy and the handle doesn’t get hot as you cook, holding it is comfortable the whole time you’re cooking.
As with a cast iron, you do have to maintain and season carbon steel properly in order to keep it at its top performance. Made In offers tips on how you can take care of your Carbon Steel Pan. As you cook more and the seasoning develops, the pan will become more nonstick and your food will taste even better, so it pays to be patient and treat your pan well.
Don’t get me wrong, my stainless steel pans and cast iron skillet still have their place in my kitchen. I love that the former is light, reliable, and low-maintenance, while the latter retains heat and imparts a rich flavor to everything I cook.
However, the Blue Carbon Steel Pan is the rare piece of cookware that comes with few compromises and is packed with characteristics that any frequent cook will love. After trying Made In’s carbon steel cookware, it’s easy to see why carbon steel pans are so often used in professional kitchens.
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