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Cast iron and carbon steel cookware: or I'll never trade in convenience for quality (and health) again! (1 Viewer)

Josh Steinberg

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Is 10” or thereabouts your preferred size? Just curious.

I might be an atypical home cook. I like 12” for pans (seems a lot of folks other 10”), while I prefer a 6” knife (and it seems most prefer 8”).
 

Carlo Medina

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Most of my meals are for one or two. If I need bigger I’ll probably use the sauté pan I’ve got my eye on.

Also I may be eating my words about Amazon lol. Either they misscanned it or they put it on a plane from MO back to SoCal because apparently it’s out for delivery. Given that the dot on the map seems to be in the general LAX area I’m thinking it just landed not too long ago lol
 

Carlo Medina

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And we thought cast iron was heavy. I just looked up the specs for the Demeyere 3.5qt saucepan in the Atlantis/proline/silver7 category…8 lbs.

If the dot on the map is correct, I should have my Industry 5 pan before I leave for SLT. If I get it, I’ll bring it along and compare it to the Proline7 pan.

It seems the 7 ply lines of Demeyere has near cast-iron ability to hold heat, but with more even heat distribution thanks to the large number of aluminum core layers. And as is evidenced by this thread, I love me some cast iron heat retention. Just want to be able to cook acidic things in it without fear of stripping the seasoning.
 

Carlo Medina

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Gotta hand it to Demeyere. They know how to "Amazon-proof" their packaging.
IMG_2313.jpg

And let me say chances seem slim I'll trade it in for the Silver7 if the S7 is considerably heavier. This is already a hefty 9.5" pan at 2.66 lbs (measured on my scale). While I'm sure the added layers of the S7 do indeed make it heat more like cast iron, I think at this smaller size, and given the 3.0mm thickness and full cladding of this pan...I think it will hold heat well enough for the single-serving/small portion meals I'll make in this pan. Also don't want to intimate that this is a small pan: it isn't (I have an 8" Emeril that I classify as small). But it's certainly much more manageable than an 11" or 12" for smaller meals. Here it is next to the Smithey 10" and 6".
IMG_2314.jpg

As you can see, it's only slightly smaller than the Smithey 10" (forgive the camera distortion of the Smithey). I'll still bring it along to SLT to compare it to the S7.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy the S7 3.5qt sauté pan though. That will be my heavy (8 lbs!), larger companion piece to this. If I need that cast heat retention, it will be in that one. But I reserve the right to change my mind if the S7 fry pan feels more premium without too much added weight. The Smithey 10 is 4.74lbs. The S7 has to come in under 4lbs, preferably under 3.5lbs to entice me to return the Industry5
 

DaveF

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Is 10” or thereabouts your preferred size? Just curious.

I might be an atypical home cook. I like 12” for pans (seems a lot of folks other 10”), while I prefer a 6” knife (and it seems most prefer 8”).
Same, I go for 12” skillets. And I think that’s very common. But I’m typically cooking for 2, and I want leftovers so cooking a dish that serves 4 very often.

I also have some 8” non-stick skillets for cooking fried eggs where I often just want to do two at a time.

And I’ve seen pretty common recommendation to buy the size skillet for how you cook.
 

Carlo Medina

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That makes a lot of sense. I tend to cook for 1-2, and usually prefer to cook only for what will be eaten that meal (versus putting leftovers away) so for now, 9.5" (which in reality is 10", as Demeyere measures from the inner wall to inner wall, the overall pan width is 10.4" which is the same as my Smithey 10).

And I did splurge for the Silver7 fry pan. It weighs 3.67 lbs so it fit in my "under 4" requirement and almost met my "under 3.5" ideal weight. The added weight, thickness and heat retention wasn't the only reason I went with the Silver7. The edges are flared out more which will make pouring liquids out much easier. I also like the handle on the Silver7 just a smidge more. So overall since I only plan to buy this pan once, I figured I'd go for it. Also brought the sauté pan home too, that will be tested maybe this weekend when I try to make a meatball recipe for spaghetti.

I think the only thing I have left on my wish list is maybe a 1.5 (or 2.0) quart saucepan. Admittedly I don't cook that style often so it can wait for the finances to recharge a bit.
 

Carlo Medina

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Hugely unexciting update, but thought I'd share.

Today I decided to "break in" the Silver7 fry pan by just frying up some diced potatoes. This isn't even for consumption. I thought I'd use this to get used to several factors such as:
  • how quickly does it come up to heat (a few minutes, not as long as cast iron, but not as fast as thinner pans)
  • what's the burner setting at when it gets to the point of "a single water drop forms into only one ball and skitters around the surface" (turns out closer to low than medium, this pan really makes the most out of a little flame)
  • how long does it retain heat (the pan was still lightly sizzling the potatoes several minutes after I turned off the heat
  • how evenly does it cook, are there any hot spots (spoiler alert, there weren't)
  • how easily can I maneuver food in it, can I do the pan-shake to turn over food like wok cooking (I can, but it will get tiring if I do it a lot)
  • does the handle get hot to the touch (nope, not even after frying the potatoes for 10 minutes or so, it was barely warm...the only time I think I'll need to use a pot holder is if I use it in the oven)
  • how easy does it clean up
I didn't want my first real meal to be the first real use of the pan, especially if I'm entertaining a friend or two. Turns out, cooking with this pan is unlike anything I've ever experienced with my cheapo Emeril and Wearever SS pans. It heats so evenly, and the potatoes just seems to progress at the right pace, browned evenly, and at no point did I ever feel like I wasn't fully in control of the process.

Here's the most unexciting pic to accompany this unexciting update. But now when I'm ready to cook my chops in it (maybe tomorrow dinner) I'll feel very comfortable in using it for my first serious meal.
IMG_2323.JPG

And because I followed the best practice of heating the pan up first, then adding the oil only when it was up to temp, basically nothing stuck (just tiny little bits here and there). And after it cooled, just two drops of dish soap on the sponge, hot water, a few swirls, and it looks like I just unboxed it again (my Emeril had already started pitting/spotting after first use).
IMG_2324.jpg
 

BobO'Link

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And because I followed the best practice of heating the pan up first, then adding the oil only when it was up to temp...
That's the one little thing my wife just won't do... drives me crazy! And she *knows* that works better and makes things more non-stick...

I cook scrambled eggs in the stainless and just wipe the pan out with a dry paper towel. Done. She cooks scrambled eggs in the stainless and has a stuck on mess every time... Sigh... I've learned I just can't be in the kitchen when she's cooking...

At least she treats the cast iron properly - and won't let anyone but our kids/grandkids, who've all been taught how to properly handle/use/clean CI, help with cleanup if that's been used in meal prep.
 

Carlo Medina

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I hear ya, Bob. And it is counter to what many (most?) of us were taught/shown growing up. Mostly because it didn't matter since my parents cookware wasn't what I'm using now.

I will say this, to finish out the test potato I sacrificed, I made two more batches, testing out different heat levels. Not only do I feel way more confident when I cook my first real meal on it, but spending well north of an hour using it yesterday made me realize that while top tier chefs can get great results on cookware from Wal-mart to Mauviel, there is something about better cookware that makes things just...easier for us "average Joes".

And I realized I lied (again). I wasn't done buying cookware. Let me explain. As a Pacific Islander, white rice has long been a staple of my diet. I've cut it greatly, especially when a housemate moved out and took their rice cooker with them. I just didn't want to buy another rice cooker because they're almost all using some form of nonstick coating inside. But now with the sauté pan, I want to make a lot more of my homeland's dishes, many of which use braising and sautéing techniques...but all of them go best with white rice. That's when I came across this:

Le Creuset Rice Pot


The great thing is it comes in cerise, which matches (I think) my existing LC enameled cast iron pan
rice-pot-g3.jpeg

The great thing is it's not just for rice, but for small servings of soups, stews, pretty much most of what you'd use a pot and dutch oven for, but in a smaller size which is more conducive to my 1-2 person serving size. Should arrive tomorrow, need to head to my local Asian grocery store to get some rice. This weekend I plan to make some Filipino adobo (not sure if it will be chicken or pork) but I'm very much looking forward to really putting all the new tools to use.
 

Carlo Medina

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I realized I hadn't included a picture of the 3 qt sauté pan, so here are a couple of shots:
IMG_2348.jpg

Also love the rivet-less design, not just on the cooking surface, but also in the double-walled lid.
IMG_2349.jpg

As an added bonus, the lid fits very snugly on the fry pan as well, a nice unanticipated two-fer.

For those curious on the specs: weight is 5.0 lbs for the pan only, 6.46 lbs with the lid. 9.5" interior diameter, measured from inner wall to inner wall.
 

Carlo Medina

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Update on the rice pot (and yes, it's over 2 quarts so you can use it for way more than rice). It arrived and honestly it was easy to cook jasmine rice in. Followed Justin's advice to the T and the only change I would make is slightly less water (1:1 ratio) but otherwise, it came out perfect. One thing to watch out for is once you bring it to boil, you definitely need to stir it to loosen anything up at the bottom that high heat may have made want to stick. On my next batch I'll test bringing it up to a boil using a slightly lower temp (in between medium and medium/high heat) to see if that lessens the chance of sticking.

Once I let it sit for 10 minutes after the 10 minute low simmer, it was indistinguishable from rice made in a rice cooker. My test today will be reheating rice in the pot. It's easy to do it in a rice cooker (just add 1 tbsp or so of water, set it to Keep Warm and come back in an hour). An hour before I'm ready to make dinner, I'll bring the rice pot out of the fridge to let it get to room temp first (don't want to risk shocking it by taking it out of the fridge and then directly to the stove). Then as I start to make dinner (which has a cook time of maybe 50 minutes) I'll put it on low heat and see if it reheats the rice without overcooking it.

Here's some pics, and kudos to Le Creuset for keeping "cerise" in the color scheme. It's a perfect color match despite ~15 years between when I bought the pan and the rice pot.
IMG_2358.jpg

With rinsed jasmine rice and cold water
IMG_2360.jpg

The inner lid, which you are supposed to put in place after reducing to a low simmer
IMG_2359.JPG

Fluffy rice! Slightly less water next time and it will be exactly how I like it.
IMG_2361.jpg

Admittedly it's not as easy as pressing a button and walking away. But I will say the amount of attention I had to pay to it was very little, and if you have a timer handy, you only have to do two things after you've reached a boil: reduce heat and simmer for 10m, then remove from heat for 10m and keep lid on.

I made 3/4 cup of rice and that will last me three meals. You can easily make 2 cups in this, maybe more, which should easily feed a family of 5-6. Maybe at some point in the future I'll get a 5+ quart Dutch oven to match my existing LC pieces. Or perhaps go with one of their shades of blue which darkens like the cerise does. Gotta hand it to LC, they make very visually appealing (as well as high performing) cookware.
 

Nelson Au

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Some interesting posts Carlo! The video about the vintage cast iron waffle maker had me really curious to try to find one. Though I’m sure they are expensive and will take some effort to care for.

And the rice pot was interesting too. I currently use an Instant Pot to make rice, 1:1 ratio too. Works great! Those Le Creuset pots are pricey. But I imagine it’s worth it and can be used for a lifetime or two.
 

Carlo Medina

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And the rice pot was interesting too. I currently use an Instant Pot to make rice, 1:1 ratio too. Works great! Those Le Creuset pots are pricey. But I imagine it’s worth it and can be used for a lifetime or two.
For many years when I had housemates we always just used a very nice Zojirushi cooker (we had a friend who worked there and got us great deals) and yes, the "common wisdom" is that under 450F nonstick should be safe, and rice is normally not cooked at those temps . But I'll be darned if after a few years even the Zoji nonstick vessel was showing signs of wear (and we always used a plastic rice paddle to avoid damaging the interior. That's among the many things I've noticed with regards to nonstick coatings that helped me arrive at the decision to eliminate it from my cooking.

So yes, the LC pots are absolutely pricey (though if you're strategic and wait for a sale you can really save money). But just like the Demeyere and Smithey, unless you abuse them (drop them, shock them by taking them from high heat to cold water under the sink) I have no doubt that they'll not only outlive me, but probably serve most if not all of the lifespan of the next generation or two. I'm not just buying this for me, I'm buying this to save the next of kin money as well (and handing down some handsome pieces as well).

Speaking of saving money, I lied to you all yet again because Le Creuset was having a sale on a new item. So yep, I picked it up. I do occasionally (about once every 2 weeks) host a few friends over for dinner, and so those times I cook larger meals. I had long eyed a 5.5 quart Dutch Oven but blinked at the eye-watering price of $400 for a Le Creuset at that size.

The main difference (other than color selection, which is more extensive for the new 5 1/4 quart line)? 5.5 qt = $400. 5.25 qt = $249.

So I talked to my friends and we pushed the adobo dinner to last night (apologies I didn't take pics as it wasn't really an appropriate time to do so) and then I went with one whose aesthetic taste in cookware I trust (she's got an artist's eye for color) to Williams-Sonoma. Despite owning two cerise pieces, I thought I'd want my larger DO to have a different color which I wanted to be a marked departure from the cerise, but not clash in an ugly way. I am also partial to blues and they had several of that color to choose from. She helped me to choose the one which we both think sits nicely alongside cerise (since often, things that I cook in the 5.25qt will need rice accompaniment)

I present to you, LC's interpretation of the color "agave".
IMG_2369.jpg

I made enough adobo for four, with some leftovers for lunch today. My friends, who are not shy when critiquing my dishes (though in a kind way, of course) all praised the outcome, which I was worried about since it was not only my first time with the pot, but with the recipe in general (many thanks to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt for the recipe and YouTube tutorial!).

The other thing I love about enameled cookware is the pure ease of cleanup. Because of the amount of simmer time with vinegar, soy and brown sugar in the sauce, as I was serving I noticed the brown stains on the sides of the light interior enamel which remained after the sauce had reduced. As soon as I emptied the pot and put the leftovers in a small bowl, simply running hot water on the sides dislodged all of the stains. Barely had to use any soap or sponge effort to getting it looking like new again. I may have to host more often. ;)
 
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KPmusmag

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I love cooking with cast iron and carbon steel.

A few weeks ago I found a sweet little 8-inch cast iron skillet at a thrift shore and I am loving it. Since I usually cook for just one or two, it is the perfect size. It is heavy for its size (as it should be) but it is less to heft around when a larger pan is really not necessary. It is the perfect size for a single griddled sandwich, two salmon filets, two chicken thighs, skillet roasted Brussels sprouts for two, etc. I made a nice small cornbread in it, too.

My favorite pan is a 13-inch blue carbon steel skillet. It is so non-stick that eggs slide right out. Last night I used it to make fried rice for some friends and I love how it gets screaming hot like a wok and holds the heat.

I occasionally use stainless steel, but generally only when there are very acidic ingredients or I need to monitor the darkness of the fond. I do have a non-stick, but use it very rarely.

IMG_20220911_120022.jpg
IMG_20220822_184624.jpg
IMG_20220910_185826.jpg
IMG_20220910_185932.jpg
 

Carlo Medina

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Thanks for sharing your pics and experiences Kevin!

I've found myself settling into a nice rotation for my cookware. And the whole reason I started this thread and acquiring good cookware is already paying itself off in the six weeks since I started this thread. I am eating out maybe 3-4 times a week, which I know still seems like a lot, but considering I used to eat out 14 times a week, I'd say that's a huge improvement.

I do find I like cooking acidic things, tomato sauces are my weakness, and I do like to use lemon and vinegar in quite a few things, so my stainless steel gets a pretty good amount of stove time. But I'm loving how dark the patina is getting on my 3 Smithey pans--yes I acquired another one, a 10" traditional skillet with a larger flat bottom cooking surface and the steeper sides than the 10" chef skillet which was my first Smithey. They're all still nearly glass smooth, but as I use them they're getting considerably darker than my first pics.

The other thing I added was a nectar colored 2.5 quart Le Creuset French Oven. It acts as a Dutch Oven lite when I'm not prepared to make something large like stews and chilis which will last many meals. I use it for making smaller batch pasta sauces (say for 3-4 servings) and it beautifully doubles as a serving vessel.

Speaking of pasta, one of my favorite uses for the 3 quart Demeyere saute pan is to cook small batches of spaghetti/pasta noodles. It lets me use way less water than cooking it in a stock pot (I learned the technique from J Kenji Alt-Lopez's YouTube channel) which, in the drought-stricken West, is something I'm trying to be more mindful of.
 

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