Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Carbon Steel Pan

If anyone reads Food Network magazine, or has seen pictures of "famous kitchens," there is always one particular type of pan present in every photograph. For years now, I've seen this pan, but never knew what it was, and honestly never thought much of it. What always did perplex me, however, was how cheap this exalted pan looked! It's just a simple black pan that looks as if the handle cover has been ripped off. In the picture to the right, you can see this mysterious little pan in Julia Child's kitchen, on the second row from the top, second from the left. Finally, however, in watching an old Child episode on the internet, she actually used the pan, and called it a carbon steel fry pan. This was all I needed. That information, coupled with a few quick internet searches, opened up a new cooking frontier that had previously been unknown to me! These carbon steel pans, made from the same steel as woks, though typically much thicker, are supposed to be among the best in the world for searing meat. Most reviews I read say they're much better for steaks and pork chops that cast iron, and they also are supposed to do a find job of quickly pan frying vegetables, keeping them crunchy just like a wok does. I read that they get so hot that they glow blue.

This was enough for me! I did my in-depth research and settled on what I believed to be the best carbon steel pans available. After they arrived (they arrive unfinished and the silver color of steel), I looked up how to season them for cooking. This, it turns out, is a rather involved process, and tricky to do correctly on the smaller pans. Anyway, true to what I read, they do turn blue when they're heated, however, I witnessed something that I never thought I'd get to see in a kitchen. For the first time, I saw a fry pan get SO hot that it actually GLOWED WHITE HOT. Up until tonight, I thought the term "white hot" was just an expression. Can you imagine what a filet mignon would taste like with a proper sprinkling of salt on each side then thrown onto a literal white hot pan? I know, I know, I wouldn't believe me either, so I am attaching a picture of the pan to the left. This picture shows the white-hot center of the pan, a pan I saw go from silver, to golden, to blue, to white.

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