Carbon-steel pans are slick like nonstick and durable like cast iron, but does a petite version have a place in your kitchen?
Published Nov. 20, 2018.
Carbon-steel skillets, once rarely found outside restaurant kitchens, are being embraced by home cooks for their light weight, versatility, heat retention, and durability. We’re converts, too: In our review of 12-inch carbon-steel pans, we found that carbon steel sears like cast iron, performs like tri-ply, and is as slick as nonstick.
For most home kitchens, we recommend a 12-inch carbon-steel skillet (a size roomy enough for cooking up to six portions of food), but smaller skillets also have their place in the kitchen. We particularly like a small skillet when we’re cooking for one—scrambling a couple of eggs or searing a solitary fish fillet. Smaller skillets are also handy for toasting nuts, browning butter, and other tasks that require just a bit of space.
In our review of full-size carbon-steel skillets, we gave top marks to the Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Frying Pan, 11⅞", praising its nonstick performance, searing capability, and comfortable, long handle. To see if our recommendation would hold true for a smaller size, we tested a smaller version of the Matfer pan (this model is sold as "8⅝ inches" but can be considered comparable to other skillets within the 8-inch realm), using it to toast almonds, brown butter, and cook Perfect Scrambled Eggs for One. (We also tested and recommended the 10-inch version of this pan.)
As with the 12- and 10-inch versions, we loved this skillet’s solid construction, smooth interior, and ergonomically angled handle. Once we’d seasoned the pan using the company’s instructions (which we’ve since adopted as our preferred method for seasoning carbon-steel pans), it performed, for the most part, flawlessly: Scrambled eggs slid right onto a plate, almonds toasted evenly, and butter browned beautifully.
Our one complaint is that the cooking surface is cramped, even for a small pan; it measures about 5.8 inches across, compared to 6.45 inches in our favorite traditional 8-inch cast-iron skillet. This pan also has high sides that made it feel even tinier and failed to protect us from mishaps that arose due to the small cooking surface: When we were browning a whole stick of butter, one slip of the spatula sent butter spilling over the side of the skillet. However, a few tablespoons or a half stick of butter fit just fine.
If you’re looking for a small carbon-steel skillet, we can recommend the Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Frying Pan, 8⅝". While the cooking surface was a bit small, the pan heated and handled effortlessly.
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