Uncle Scott provides an in-depth review of an eight inch Lodge carbon steel skillet. How does it compare to French carbon steel pans like those from Matfer, De Buyer and Mauviel?
Upon opening the box, the first thing I notice about the pan is that the surface has a texture to it. It's not rough like sandpaper, but it isn't smooth like the surfaces of my Mauviel, Matfer and De Buyer carbon steel pans either.
This worries me a little at this point, because if the surface is too rough then food might stick. In particular, I always perform the fried egg test on new pans to test their cooking surfaces. I recently had trouble with a rough-feeling Amazon Basics pan, and I'm hoping the Lodge won't be the same. We'll find out when we get to the cooking tests.
I like the fact that the instruction booklet talks about "how to keep this pan for 100 years." That's a good indication that the Lodge company is pretty confident in the quality of its pans.
And it's made in the USA. We've got a trade war going on, so I'm rooting for the home team here. USA USA USA!
The metal of the pan also seems to be a little thinner and lighter, relatively, than the heft of competing French pans.
The pan comes pre-seasoned. All I did was give it a good wash and then start cooking. I was up and running in five minutes. This is significantly different than the French pans. They come sealed in a coating of wax, which takes hours to remove. Then they need an initial seasoning, which gives some people lots of headaches. So from a "box to stove" perspective, the pre-seasoning on the Lodge pan makes it very easy to use at first.
Further, the directions say that when the pan is new, to expect food to stick a little and for that reason to use a little extra oil when you cook. Fair enough. As a corollary, my French carbon steel pans all say to use fat when you cook. So right off the bat, I'm not expecting a Teflon-like nonstick surface. But I do expect this pan to be as non-stick as a cast iron or competing French pan.
Lodge makes this pan in several sizes. I chose to go with an eight inch pan, mainly because I already have other frying pans that are larger. It's definitely a small pan, noticeably smaller than my 9.5" De Buyer. The smaller cooking surface makes the long handle seem extra long proportionately, but thankfully this didn't produce any shakiness or unbalanced feeling. Even when trying to tip the pan, it rights itself.
Unlike a Lodge cast iron pan, in which the handle and pan are all one piece of cast metal, the handle on this pan is attached with rivets. It's a separate piece, but thankfully the same metal as the rest of the pan. This means that it can be used in the oven. Some of the French pans have coated handles, which prevents them from being used at high heat in an oven for more than a few minutes.
Along those lines, the handle gets hot. It's not a big deal when cooking an egg or something that only takes a few minutes, but for anything longer you will need to use a towel or one of the Lodge pan handle holders to touch the handle.
The rivets don't see to affect cooking performance at all... no big deal. There is a slight channel or gap between the rim of the pan and the handle, which might occasionally need some extra attention in cleanup, but really is a first-world problem and also not a big deal.
Nice Flat Bottom
A common complaint about carbon steel pans is that the tend to warp, or even arrive with a curved bottom that prevents them from sitting flat. On a gas stove, this isn't too big of a problem, as the heat from the gas flame spreads all around. On a flattop stove, either induction or electric, a pan with non-flat bottom might not make good contact, leading to hotspots or uneven cooking.
Thankfully, the Lodge pan was flat. I gave it a good wiggle jiggle test and it was nice and flat. I've cooked with it now over a dozen times, and I checked it again... still flat. A good piece of advice is to allow the pan to cool after cooking but before cleaning. And then use hot water to clean it. That way you don't put cold water into a hot pan and cause any warping.
Fried Egg Test
I started with the proverbial Fried Egg Test. This is where you fry an egg to test the non-stick ability of a pan's surface. If the pan is seasoned properly, the egg should slide around like a hockey puck.
Well, in this pan the first egg didn't. Then the second egg didn't slide either. Neither did the third. At this point I was worried, because the cooking surface had a texture and I was worried that eggs would never slide around.
High Heat Sear
I moved on to a High Heat Sear Test, which is a fancy way of saying I browned some burgers. I used 85/15 ground beef. I put the pan on an eye, cranked it up to high, put in some oil, then put in a burger. It seared really well. Slight crunch and chew on the outside and soft in the middle. I repeated this with another burger and it turned out well. And I did it a third time, only this time without any oil. This burger turned out really well too. I didn't notice much difference cooking burgers with some oil in the pan or without.
My wife tried one of them and described it as "sur[risingly yummy." To which I replied, "What do you mean, surprisingly?" The Lodge pan performed very well with high heat, something cast iron and carbon steel are supposed to do well.
In a fit of temporary insanity, I cooked a Beyond Meat hamburger patty. Similar to cooking the burgers, I cooked at a relatively high heat with some oil in the pan. It cooked up very nicely, with no sticking at all. In fact, I just wiped out the pan with paper towels to clean it. No soap or water.
I sliced up, breaded and fried some zucchini slices. This is a good way to test for hot spots. If the zucchini brown at different rates, then the pan might not cook evenly and might have hotspots. Now, with this eight inch pan, it's almost too small to have any hotspots to begin with, as the flame on my stove burner covers a good portion of the pan. But I wanted to test it anyway.
I'm happy to say there were no hotspots. However, the pan seems a little thinner and lighter than my French carbon steel pans and I noticed that it cooked pretty hot pretty quickly. It was very responsive to changes in heat.
What I learned is that the lighter nature of this Lodge pan means that you really need to keep an eye on it, so that it doesn't get too hot too quickly and scorch your food.
The zucchini turned out nicely, and my wife also described these as yummy. We immediately at them all.
Fried Egg Test Revisited
After initial hiccups and three failed eggs with the Fried Egg Test, I decided to try again. I'm happy to say that the fourth fried egg slid around nicely. I did a fifth as well, and it slid around. I'm now using this pan as my go-to fried egg pan for breakfast, and have cooked more eggs in it. It seems to get better the more I use it, and now does very well with fried eggs. It still seems a half-step behind my slick French pans, but does a solidly good job.
Cleanup is easy. The messiest things I have cooked so far were the hamburger patties seared at high heat. They left some sticky bits that, if I were cooking a steak, might be turned into a pan sauce. Instead, after I removed the burgers, I just poured in a quarter cup or so of hot water and deglazed the pan with a wooden spoon/spatula. All of the sticky bits came right up, and then I rinsed the pan with hot water and wiped it with paper towels. It was very clean in under thirty seconds... I didn't even need any soap. Cleanup performance was exceptional.
Final Thoughts and Verdict
All in all, this is a solidly good pan, especially for the money. The thinness of the metal and textured surface put it maybe a step behind some of the competing fancy French pans, but at the same time it costs about 40% less, so it's a good value for the money. It also is pre-seasoned, making it a good entry point for people who have heard about the carbon steel craze but have been scared away by seasoning problems. With this pan, you can be up and cooking in five minutes, whereas a French pan will take a few hours of headaches to get going.
The Lodge brand is solid, and I own many other Lodge products. I like their camp dutch ovens, enameled cast iron dutch ovens, and their cast iron pans, of course. I think this Lodge seasoned steel pan fits nicely in that lineup. Uncle Scott's Kitchen gives it a Thumbs Up.