Best Foods to Cook in Carbon Steel Pans

by R7 eagle | Last Updated:  August 10, 2021
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Best Foods to Cook in Your Carbon Steel Pans

You have finally bought a carbon steel pan, and you want to know what to cook with it? We have compiled a list of foods that you can cook in your new carbon steel pan.

If you are yet to buy a carbon steel pan, you should give it a try. The carbon steel pan is a lot more durable than other options in the market today. This fact makes it an attractive option for home cooks and professional chefs. Carbon steel pans are 99% iron and 1% carbon which makes them heat quickly and evenly. With carbon steel pans, chefs and home cooks can get and maintain high temperatures without damage to the pan.

This type of cooking pan is versatile. You can use it on the stovetop and oven without causing any problems. Not only does it hold heat well, but it also creates a nonstick surface similar to that of cast iron.

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Below is a list of the Best Foods You Can Cook with Carbon Steel Pans.

1. Steak

The best steaks are cooked on medium to high heat to achieve a beautiful sear outside and a pink and juicy inside. Carbon steel retains heat, which makes it ideal for getting the perfect seat on your steak.

There are many steak cuts you can choose from. These cuts include fillet, flank skirt, sirloin, thick skirt, rib-eye, thin skirt, and rump. Some of these cuts are cooked differently, and carbon steel pans cook each steak cut well.

You can pan-sear thin cuts like flank and flat iron and any other steak cut that falls under one inch. You will get a crisp crust and juicy center with any thin-cut steak you pan-sear on a carbon steel pan.

Bone-in-steaks and other thick steaks can be pan-sear and finished off in the oven. If you notice that your steak is nice and browned outside but not cooked to your liking inside, slip your carbon steel pan into the oven to finish cooking.

Tip

If you shop at Costco you will find that almost all of their fresh-cut meat is “BLADE TENDERIZED”. BLADE TENDERIZING meat is when a machine punctures the meat with hundreds of small “needle-like blades” to break up the meat fibers to make it more tender. Three issues here:

  1. Why would you want to Blade Tenderize RIBEYE steaks which are already tender?
  2. When you Blade Tenderize meat you are introducing the possibility of that piece of meat BEING exposed to more bacteria no matter how sterile they say the small needle-like blades are.
  3. If a piece of meat is Blade Tenderized then you should cook it “WELL DONE” (145 degrees F) to kill off any bacteria, etc. that may have been introduced into the steak. Here is the dilemma…if you like your RIBEYE rare, medium-rare or medium why would you have to COOK it “WELL DONE” because RIBEYE is already tender? Now when I buy my steaks I go elsewhere to a shop that does not Blade Tenderize their meat. I like my steaks medium-rare. Take a look at the label to the right and look for the words “Blade Tenderized”.

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2. Eggs

There are different methods of cooking an egg. You can boil it, fry it, poach it, and cook it in many ways. To avoid browning, people choose to cook eggs at lower temperatures and for a longer time. If you are busy, you can fry an egg in oil at a high temperature and for a short time.

A carbon steel pan is a perfect pan to cook your egg in whatever way or method you want. This pan distributes heat evenly and has an almost nonstick surface that allows you to cook your eggs to your liking.

If you want to fry your egg, ensure you preheat your pan first. To preheat your pan, put it over a stove and leave it on for 5-10 minutes.

The length of time required is to ensure the pan heats up well since carbon steel pans can take a while to heat. Once pre-heated, you can add your oil or butter and fry your egg to your liking.

I like a lightweight carbon steel pan when cooking eggs because you have to monitor the temperature and be able to quickly move the pan on and off the heat. Eggs are delicate and require that you have a symbiotic relationship with your carbon steel pan if you want to make the perfect egg dish.

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The Vollrath pan below is the pan I use every time I make eggs. I really like this carbon steel pan because the metal is thin, the pan is lightweight, the handle is welded instead of riveted (easier cleaning) and the pan is low in cost. It has all that I need to make my specialty egg dishes and do it well.

3. Chicken

Just like with eggs, you also need to preheat your carbon steel pan before cooking chicken on it. There are many ways to cook chicken. You can use a carbon steel pan to prepare your chicken to your taste.

Some people prefer their chicken with crispy chicken, and we understand why. There is something that feels wrong about rubbery or chewy skin on a cooked chicken breast or thigh. It all depends on your taste, so if you like your chicken skin rubbery, prepare it to be that way.

Crisping adds flavor and texture to chickens. Remember to preheat your pan if you want a chicken with crisp skin. With a carbon steel pan, you will achieve a tender, juicy golden-brown chicken. This method only works if you are preparing cuts of chicken.

To cook a whole chicken on a carbon steel pan add the seasoned chicken to a preheated pan, sear both sides till golden brown, and transfer to the oven to finish cooking. Carbon steel pans will help regulate the cooking temperature for a tender and juicy chicken.

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4. Roasted Vegetables

Roasted vegetables are perfect for any meal. You can use them as either a side or a main dish.

Your roasted vegetables should be well-caramelized on the outside and tender in the center. You can either roast your vegetables with your carbon steel pan on the stove or in the oven.

You can roast any vegetable with your carbon steel pan. You can roast potatoes, onion, carrot, beets, and parsnip on the same pan. Ensure you keep roast time in mind.

Onions and starchier root vegetables take longer to cook through, while lighter vegetables, such as broccoli, bell peppers, cabbage, brussels sprout require less roasting time. Note that cauliflower requires more roast time.

Be mindful of the unique roast times for each vegetable if you want to cook different vegetables. For example, if you want to roast potato and Brussel sprouts, add the Brussel sprouts ten minutes after adding the potatoes. The pan below is my favorite carbon steel pan for cooking vegetables because it has high sides which help to keep the vegetables in the pan.

5. Pasta

The good thing about having a carbon steel pan is that you can cook different things with it. Pasta is one of the best foods you can cook on a carbon steel pan. You don’t need more than one carbon steel pan when making pasta like Chicken Alfredo.

You can use your pan to bake your chicken, simmer your creamy sauce, cook your pasta, and mix all the ingredients.

If your pasta is long, you can break it in half before putting it into your pan. Otherwise, you can place it how it is in your pan and keep an eye on it. Pasta can only lie flat on your pan when it softens. Stir the pasta frequently to keep it submerged.

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6. Salmon

Carbon steel pans are a perfect choice for cooking salmon since they have a smooth cooking surface that retains heat. You can cook salmon in different ways, and there are thousands of salmon recipes on the internet.

Carbon steel pans are nonstick, making them ideal for frying salmon since salmon tend to stick on other pan types. A well-seasoned carbon steel pan is perfect when cooking salmon.

Apart from frying up salmon alone, you can make a full salmon meal on your carbon steel pan. For a basic but delicious salmon meal, preheat your carbon steel pan, then add your salmon and ingredients like freshly cracked pepper, coarse sea salt, and fresh lemon wedges. These ingredients will elevate the simple taste of salmon.

Carbon steel pans maintain high temperature throughout cooking so, ensure you choose an oil with a high smoke point when seasoning the pan.

I recommend only purchasing Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon. I never buy any form of Farmed Salmon or any other farmed fish because they are grown in contained areas, fed antibiotics to control infections. Fish that are farmed raised almost always contain higher levels of toxins Toxins are mostly stored in the fat of fish and animals.

Fat increases the flavor of fish and meat. With Alaskan Salmon, which is Wild Caught and not Farm-Raised, there is less fat, hence fewer toxins. Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon will not have the enhanced flavor that the fat of Farm-Raised Salmon gives because they have less fat. Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon also has more Omega3 fatty acids.

Many times you will see Natural Atlantic Salmon for sale in stores and online. Atlantic Salmon may appear to be the same as Alaskan Salmon BUT it is almost always cheaper than Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon AND IS FARM RAISED! The word “Natural” means nothing…basically, if it says Atlantic then it is almost 100% farmed raised.

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Below, I recommend Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon. You will pay more but it is worth every penny taste-wise and health-wise. Please, for your health, read the labels of the fish you buy.

7. Pizza

The fact that you can prepare pizza on your carbon steel pan may come as a shock to you. There are different types of pizza and two main ways to prepare them. You can either bake a pizza in the oven or prepare it in a pan.

Pizzas prepared on a carbon steel pan are more like the Chicago-style deep dish pizza than the commonly found thin and crisp crust traditional Italian-style pizza.

To prepare pizza on your carbon steel pan, prepare the dough and line the inside of your pan with it. Spread your dough up the sides of your pan and crimp it at the top. Fill your carbon steel pan with pizza sauce or tomato sauce and add whatever toppings you want. Then, either place it on the stovetop or in an oven to cook.

If you want a crisp crust pizza, you should use a dough that uses baking powder instead of yeast. It makes the process faster. Add the dough to your carbon steel pan and cook on both sides until the crust bubbles and rises. You can then add your pizza sauce and toppings.

Ensure you cook over medium/low heat to allow the dough time to cook without burning or browning too fast. Cover the lid of your carbon steel pan to create steam and let your pizza cook thoroughly. Carbon steel pans are great for cooking pizza since they regulate heat well.

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8. Cornbread

To most people in the South, cornbread is comfort food that they cannot do without. There are many methods to cook cornbread, using a pan is one of them.

You can either cook cornbread with your carbon steel pan on the stovetop or in the oven. The truth is that cornbread bakes better and tastes better when cooked in a carbon steel pan.

Before preparing the ingredients, place the carbon steel pan on the stovetop or in the oven for it to preheat. Avoid greasing the pan before placing it on the stovetop or in the oven, or the grease will burn.

You can add your prepared ingredients to your carbon steel pan and place them on the stovetop or oven to cook. Your cornbread is guaranteed to come out crispy at the edges and fluffy in the middle.

You can go the sweet route by enjoying your cornbread soaked in milk and drizzled with syrup or the savory way by eating it with chili.

You can use your carbon steel pan to prepare chili separately or together with the cornbread. To prepare cornbread and chili together, prepare and simmer your chili on the stovetop. Top the simmered chili with cornbread batter and place inside your oven to finish cooking. Enjoy when ready. Below are some of the mixes I use to make cornbread. Try any of them…they are great and I am sure you will love them.

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9. Apple Pie

Yes, you read that right. Few people expect dessert to come from pans, but you can prepare desserts like apple pie on your carbon steel pan.

A carbon steel pan is ideal for cooking apple pie fillings since it is non-stick. Most times, apple filling prepared on other types of pans sticks to the pan as the sugars caramelize.

If you do not have an oven, use dough alternatives like graham crackers, wafers, or any light cookie as the crust, then place your prepared apple fillings into the crust and cook. Voila! You have an apple pie that tastes as good as the ones made with dough.

10. Bacon

Bacon is the perfect food to cook in a new carbon steel pan as it can build up a food seasoning foundation. For bacon, you do not have to preheat your pan.

Place your bacon cuts on a cold carbon steel pan and then cook. Cooking bacon in a pre-heated pan will cause it to seize and become tough to eat.

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11. Shepherd’s Pie

Carbon steel pans regulate heat. They are ideal for making shepherd’s pie as heat from the bottom of the pan will caramelize the base of your pie crust. This caramelization will form a delicious mini crust of sugars and fats.

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12. Okra

Okra is classified as a fruit, it is generally utilized like a vegetable in cooking. Okra is referred to as “lady’s finger,” okra comes in two main colors — red and green. Both varieties will taste the same. It should be noted that the red one turns green when cooked.

Not only is Okra packed with nutritional benefits it is a great supply of vitamins C and K1. Okra can have a slimy texture, which some people find unappealing therefore it might be helpful to prepare it in a way that is appealing and that tastes good.

There are different ways to prepare okra. You can either batter and deep fry it or eat it in its natural state. Preheat your carbon steel pan and place your okra into the pan after the pan is smoking hot. Carbon steel pans are ideal for cooking okra as they can char your okra without overcooking them.

Using a carbon steel pan might be a good place to start! I happen to grow my own okra from seeds. Below are the seeds I buy.

13. Tofu

Carbon steel pans are just as adept at crisping up tofu as they are chicken and steaks.

Tofu is the traditional meat replacement for vegetarians and vegans. To best prepare this meal, ensure you preheat your carbon steel pan. It is a soy-based food that’s made from condensed soy milk and formed into a solid block.

There is some controversy about the nutritional value of soy. By some, soy has been determined not to be the best food for pregnant mothers. Nutritionally, it’s a good source of plant-based protein that can be used in all sorts of ways.

Apart from crisping up your tofu, you can also use your carbon steel pan to boil it and prepare it in different ways.

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14. Hash browns

Most people consider hash browns the ideal breakfast after egg and toast. You can use your carbon steel pan to prepare hash browns.

Making hash browns in a carbon steel pay provides a crispy outside to your hash browns. Of course, this will depend on how long you allow the potatoes to be cooked in your carbon steel pan.

In preparing your hash browns you can roll the finely chopped potatoes into a round hamburger like-patty and then insert them into your carbon steel pan. Another possibility is to just put the chopped potatoes into the pan and cook them until they are done the way you prefer.

Your carbon steel pan will make the hash browns crispier. Squeeze out as much water as you can before putting the hash browns in your pan.

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15. Acidic Foods

Carbon steel pans are reactive to acidic items like vinegar, wine, and citrus. It does not mean that you cannot cook these foods with your carbon steel pan.

Re-season your pan anytime you want to cook acidic foods in your carbon steel pan, and you are good to go.

You can cook a variety of foods with carbon steel pans.

You can cook eggs, potatoes, fish, veggies, and meat on the stovetop using your carbon steel pans.

You can also braise barbecue meats, soups, beef bourguignon, and stews; and sear steaks, salmon, tuna, and scallops on your carbon steel pan.