The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

New From Lodge: Seasoned Carbon Steel Cookware

A New Pan for My Pot Rack

I've always been a huge fan of durable, economical cast iron cookware. It lives in my kitchen among my expensive stainless steel stuff and my fancy anodized aluminum non-stick pans. I have a cast iron skillet that is so well-seasoned nothing sticks to it. I have a cast iron griddle, a cast iron grill pan, and my essential ceramic-coated cast iron Dutch oven. All are made by Lodge and all are older than dirt. I've had my cast iron skillet for more than thirty years. And they're all dirt cheap, as well. My entire cast iron collection costs less than a single All-Clad stainless steel saute pan.

And now the folks in South Pittsburg, Tennessee have gone and done it again. They've developed a new line of cookware constructed of seasoned carbon steel. Made in the USA of 100% 12-gauge carbon steel, these new pans are phenomenal. They are every bit as tough and durable as their cast iron cousins. They can easily withstand the use and abuse of professional kitchens but because they are significantly lighter, they are perfect for the home cook who often complains that cast iron is too heavy.

There is nothing these new steel pans can't do. The unsurpassed cooking performance of steel allows for perfect browning, searing, and braising. It heats more quickly than cast iron, but retains temperature just as well. You can use these pans on all cooking surfaces from induction cooktops to campfires, and they can go right from stovetop to oven or broiler.

These things are chef-tested and the design and construction are superior. A nice smooth cooking surface and low sides make sauteing easy. The ergonomic handles are triple-riveted with steel rivets and they are a bit longer than the handles on traditional cast iron pans. To my touch, the handles don't get as hot as quickly as cast iron handles do, but don't go by me; I have asbestos hands. They sell special silicone sleeves to fit over the handles, or you can just use a pot holder.

The new cookware comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The skillets are available in 8”, 10”, 12”, and 15” sizes. They also have an 11” diameter round griddle pan, a rectangular 10”x18” griddle, and a 12” square grilling pan. I started with the cheapest – the 8” skillet – but I can definitely see some of the other pieces in my future. Like all Lodge products, the quality will not cost you a month's wages. I bought my pan at a Lodge factory store for about $40, but you can find even better deals online. Amazon's got them for $30. Watch out for shipping, though; fees may outweigh savings.

A couple of caveats: The Lodge folks call these products “seasoned” and say they are pre-seasoned at the foundry using soy oil. Okay. But don't expect non-stick performance right off the shelf. I hand washed my new toy as recommended and hit it with a light rub of oil. Then I cooked some bacon. The results were not good. And I wasn't cooking cheap, flimsy supermarket bacon. The manufacturer will tell you right up front that the seasoning will improve as you use the product, but don't expect miraculous results the first couple of times. After the bacon incident, I actually seasoned my new pan the way I would cast iron and the next use was much improved.

And although stainless steel is non-reactive, carbon steel is largely made of iron, so you still have to be careful about cooking acidic foods. A couple of chefs have commented that tomatoes and red wine are problematic in carbon steel.

Overall, two thumbs up for the new Lodge seasoned carbon steel cookware. Whether you're a beginning cook or a “seasoned” pro, I think you'll like it. I know I do.

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