High end frying pan recommendation

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rickbern

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haha. that same thought occurred to me at several points while reading this thread.
having good cookware is important, but if you don't have a good stove (high end induction or open burner gas), that is also a major limiting factor.
I'm hoping I'm not a horse carriage horse here...

I had a dirt cheap low end coil burner electric stove for 15 years in a loft in soho and cooked some pretty big, ambitious meals there.

Here's the kitchen

Here's an (atypical) meal

Hands down, the best pan I found for that limited stove was a disk bottom stainless pan. If I were still using that, I'd run, not walk, to the nearest Fissler store and just buy those pans, which I happen to think are great pans. I have them now on a better than average gas stove and they perform great on that hob as well.
 

Helicon

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I'm hoping I'm not a horse carriage horse here...

I had a dirt cheap low end coil burner electric stove for 15 years in a loft in soho and cooked some pretty big, ambitious meals there.

Here's the kitchen

Here's an (atypical) meal

Hands down, the best pan I found for that limited stove was a disk bottom stainless pan. If I were still using that, I'd run, not walk, to the nearest Fissler store and just buy those pans, which I happen to think are great pans. I have them now on a better than average gas stove and they perform great on that hob as well.
Absolutely. Great cookware like Fissler Profi can compensate for a poor cooktop or an uneven one. But sometimes even a great cooktop cannot perform well with certain types of cookware. I posted this link in the other thread about skillets for induction cooktops, but it seems relevant to this discussion, as well: Heavy Metal: the Science of Cast Iron Cooking – Cooking Issues
 

rickbern

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Absolutely. Great cookware like Fissler Profi can compensate for a poor cooktop or an uneven one. But sometimes even a great cooktop cannot perform well with certain types of cookware. I posted this link in the other thread about skillets for induction cooktops, but it seems relevant to this discussion, as well: Heavy Metal: the Science of Cast Iron Cooking – Cooking Issues
Yeah, I didn't bother to own a wok in that kitchen. Was one of the best things about the new apartment, getting a wok.
 

Jovidah

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haha. that same thought occurred to me at several points while reading this thread.
having good cookware is important, but if you don't have a good stove (high end induction or open burner gas), that is also a major limiting factor.
IMO it goes even further; on a crap stove you NEED good pans... on a good stove you can get away with using far lesser pans.

Those electric coil burners are a crime against humanity. Had to suffer those for a few years as well and it was the nr 1 reason for me to want to move out of that appartment.
 

daizee

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@daizee, can you expand on that?

I went through a long period of coveting the newer, sexier cast iron. To an extent, i still do. There is no doubt; they have more precise and refined manufacturing.
Indeed!
I find the Lodge stuff absurdly heavy per unit of cooking area. I don't need the physical mass of an engine block in a pan, and I generally find all that thermal mass aggravating as well.

Cast iron pans in general are heavier than their steel (and other) counterparts, so it's not like the Stargazer or vintage Griswold are "thin" or "light" - that's only in comparison to the unfinished Lodge products.

Cheap cast iron is cast.... and shipped. It's simply unfinished, IMO. Vintage stuff was cast with enough extra mass to tolerate being ground smooth, after which it was a reasonable mass. Stargazer duplicates this engineering process. Cast, grind, season, ship.

Lodge and Wagner patterns pulled off of old Griswold molds are SHAPED similar to their parent patterns, but the more expensive labor of finishing the product simply isn't done. The result is a pebbly finish that can never be scraped clean. You don't need a gravel driveway in the bottom of your pan to hold seasoning. That said, a mirror finish is probably the other extreme to be avoided as well.

Steel pans are usually made from sheet metal/steel which has been 'forged' through a hot rolling mill, and starts out smooth. The pressing/stamping process only further refines the surface, so extensive final finishing isn't necessary. However you CAN see finishing marks in many stamped pans. They probably cost more... Cheap ones may cover the rough finish with a coating or enamel. Even expensive brands like Le Creuset do this. And that's not a dig - they're solving the problem in a sensible way! They've decided to solve the finishing problem with an enameling process instead of a grinding process. Point is that there's a finishing step involved.

I think the value in cast iron is the moderate mass, unibody construction (so to speak), thermal conductivity (vs. stainless for sure) and how well it takes seasoning. It won't warp as easily as stamped steel, so it's probably a better grill or campfire choice, but I don't actually do those things and maybe someone else can comment.

A buddy of mine who knows cast iron (and can cook!) does love his smooth cast iron, and has even ground one or two. When an abrasives pro (pipefitter, knifemaker) says it's not worth the effort to post-process it, that should give an idea of the cost of labor/process involved to finish a pan properly. He bought a new carbon steel pan and loves it TOO.

I live in New England and we have a lively flea market scene. Over the years I collected ~10 pieces of usable vintage Griswold at reasonable prices in RI and CT. Kept 7 (across two kitchens), gave away the rest to friends. But the prices got so high that buying new production equipment that is properly finished finally made sense.

Re: costs
I'm in the USA, and Stargazer is in the USA, and I ordered during the Veteran's day sale during a pandemic when people were struggling to stay in business. I feel pretty good about spending stimulus funds that way. But make no mistake, a lot of the price is USA labor cost, not merely "betterness", though their design and execution IS high end, IMO.

It's nice when you don't have to do a bunch of dirty cleanup work to get the thing into service. I'd rather be making knives than cleaning (or grinding) cast iron.
 
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Luftmensch

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Indeed!
I find the Lodge stuff absurdly heavy per unit of cooking area. I don't need the physical mass of an engine block in a pan, and I generally find all that thermal mass aggravating as well.

Cast iron pans in general are heavier than their steel (and other) counterparts, so it's not like the Stargazer or vintage Griswold are "thin" or "light" - that's only in comparison to the unfinished Lodge products.

Cheap cast iron is cast.... and shipped. It's simply unfinished, IMO. Vintage stuff was cast with enough extra mass to tolerate being ground smooth, after which it was a reasonable mass. Stargazer duplicates this engineering process. Cast, grind, season, ship.

Lodge and Wagner patterns pulled off of old Griswold molds are SHAPED similar to their parent patterns, but the more expensive labor of finishing the product simply isn't done. The result is a pebbly finish that can never be scraped clean. You don't need a gravel driveway in the bottom of your pan to hold seasoning. That said, a mirror finish is probably the other extreme to be avoided as well.

Steel pans are usually made from sheet metal/steel which has been 'forged' through a hot rolling mill, and starts out smooth. The pressing/stamping process only further refines the surface, so extensive final finishing isn't necessary. However you CAN see finishing marks in many stamped pans. They probably cost more... Cheap ones may cover the rough finish with a coating or enamel. Even expensive brands like Le Creuset do this. And that's not a dig - they're solving the problem in a sensible way! They've decided to solve the finishing problem with an enameling process instead of a grinding process. Point is that there's a finishing step involved.

I think the value in cast iron is the moderate mass, unibody construction (so to speak), thermal conductivity (vs. stainless for sure) and how well it takes seasoning. It won't warp as easily as stamped steel, so it's probably a better grill or campfire choice, but I don't actually do those things and maybe someone else can comment.

A buddy of mine who knows cast iron (and can cook!) does love his smooth cast iron, and has even ground one or two. When an abrasives pro (pipefitter, knifemaker) says it's not worth the effort to post-process it, that should give an idea of the cost of labor/process involved to finish a pan properly. He bought a new carbon steel pan and loves it TOO.

I live in New England and we have a lively flea market scene. Over the years I collected ~10 pieces of usable vintage Griswold at reasonable prices in RI and CT. Kept 7 (across two kitchens), gave away the rest to friends. But the prices got so high that buying new production equipment that is properly finished finally made sense.

Re: costs
I'm in the USA, and Stargazer is in the USA, and I ordered during the Veteran's day sale during a pandemic when people were struggling to stay in business. I feel pretty good about spending stimulus funds that way. But make no mistake, a lot of the price is USA labor cost, not merely "betterness", though their design and execution IS high end, IMO.

It's nice when you don't have to do a bunch of dirty cleanup work to get the thing into service. I'd rather be making knives than cleaning (or grinding) cast iron.
@daizee! Thanks for taking the time to write a reply!

At the risk of reigniting @tcmx3 and @Helicon 😏😋🤐... I am somewhere in between. I think both points of view are valid. I doubt the high end cast iron would revolutionise my kitchen... but I can see value in the finer points (weight/smoothness/ergonomics). I am just not sure if I am willing to pay for it.

Lodge is a fairly priced, middle of the road product.... Speaking of engine blocks.... With Lodge, since they are a strong brand, I don't worry that their cast iron is melted down scrap metal. Perhaps it is a cynical attitude... but I feel a little wary of cheap, no-name cast iron.

I hear you on manufacturing. Every additional step adds cost. Like Stargazer, Äüs-ïöñ is made 'local'. They have production in Australia and America - so labour costs are going to be relatively expensive. For products that I know I will use for decades... I don't mind. Supporting local industry is a good thing. Australia doesn't really manufacture anything these days!
 
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btbyrd

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For how I use cast iron, lighter weight is a bug (not a feature) and I don't find smooth finished cast iron to be appreciably less nonstick than the bumpier Lodge finish. And I have no problems with the handles on Lodge pans, which. I don't understand the draw of high priced, non-enameled cast iron apart from aesthetically or from the idea that you're supporting a small local-ish business. I feel similarly about high end carbon steel pans like the beautiful ones from Blu Skillet Ironware. From a performance perspective, expensive cast iron does nothing better and in fact performs worse for my purposes. (YMMV) And it sure does cost a lot more. And from a material/thermodynamic point of view, I don't don't consider it to be high end, just expensive.
For what it's worth, Lodge is also produced in a country with high labor costs. They've automated a lot of the process and are operating at a scale that these smaller companies can only dream about (producing almost 2 million pans a month). But their factory is pretty amazing. It'd be cool if they figured out how to automate (or mostly automate) a polishing step so that they could produce smooth pans at scale. Not that I'd buy them, since I don't find them to be any more nonstick than how Lodge already is. But it would shut some people up who like to babble on about the imaginary ways their vintage or expensive modern cast iron is from the cheap stuff. (Just joking there, guys... calm down).

Anyway, back to discussion of actual high end pans!
 

tcmx3

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it's just really hard for me to believe that there is a sane use for cast iron for which a stargazer, griswold, aus-ion etc. is not more than adequate. Ive cooked two ribeyes at once in the 12"er and the crust certainly did not suggest there was inadequate thermal mass despite dropping two fridge cold steaks in there.

slightly related but I would hope I would not have to explain why a test proposed earlier in this thread about throwing a large quantity of cold water in a heated pan is not only completely ridiculous but also unbelievably stupid/unsafe.

eventually you have to actually use your pans and a longer handle/usable helper, well designed lip and lighter weight are, at least IME with these pans, real wins from that perspective. ok you dont care that's fine I cant tell you what will or wont make your life easier only mine. but I find this focus on benchmarks where everything scores "much more than good enough" strange given you have to put up the thermo-gun and actually cook something at some point.

ultimately if you really desire high thermal mass nothing suggested in this thread, Lodge included, is going to beat a Demeyere, All-Clad or similar quality 7 layer pan that weighs as much as a Lodge except it's got functional handles, heats SUPER evenly and costs 12x as much as the last Lodge I bought.

at least @btbyrd I think you're being reasonable about it even though I ultimately still disagree with you.
 

KitchenCommander

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Read the whole thread. Lots of great information. Now I have to be on the lookout for deals on AllClad D3 just to try it out.

I'm a cast iron guy, have a bunch of it. Vintage doesn't have to be expensive, but its considerably more work to find, inspect, and restore a vintage diamond in the rough than buying a new boutique skillet. It depends on how much joy you get in the process, or what your time is worth to you. I've bought many a cracked, warped, and pitted pan with those flaw hidden under decades of grim, only to be revealed after some hours of scrubbing and sanding.

I have found that the Lodge surface is not near as sticky as I thought it was, but I still find value in a smoother surface. One thing that I think helps the Lodge finish, is the texture can keep oil from being displaced by the food. The texture holds oil in the small indentations in the surface instead of the food putting direct contact on a smooth pan surface and displacing all the lubricant away from the food. Though in practice, the smooth skillets still cook great.

Weight appears to be more of a preference than I expected. but in my opinion Lodge goes well past "feels like quality" and into "heavy as heck". Almost impossible to move anything over a #8 (10" diameter) with one hand in the lodge line. Vintage or small batch cast iron has PLENTY of thermal mass for my needs and Vintage pans can be found with just about any thickness you could want, you just have to do some research and go out there in the wild and look. Thin, thick, heavy, light-ish, rough, smooth, shallow, deep, its all out there.

Last point, is that I am purchasing older iron pieces for under Lodge prices. Price varies by location, but I don't live in the north east where many of the foundries once operated either. Only in the larger pieces do prices start to swap due to rarity of large vintage pieces #10 skillets and ovens are a bit pricy and anything larger starts to approach the new production prices. But largely Lodge offers zero cost savings to me on anything #10 size and below, is much heavier, and less refined interior. Honestly 1960's and 1970's LODGE is some of the best value and has about as much thermal mass as the new stuff with a raised heat ring (which I like) and has a slightly smoother interior finish than current production. They seem to be quite availalbe compared to other brands, and they are not "collectible" like some of the well known brands.

Its a hobby of mine, just as knives are, and copper/steel/stainless pans are for others. I enjoy the hunt, the history, the value, and the physical characteristics of the old iron, which gives it more than just practical value. I think the small batch iron companies do classify as "High End". Small batch manufacturing, additional finishing steps, handmade construction, increased attention to aesthetics, all attributes of a high end product.
 

btbyrd

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If people are looking for good deals on All Clad, check out Capital Cookware on eBay and Amazon. They sell a lot of open box and factory seconds at great prices. I got a 12" D7 skillet for like $120. You can also sign up for All Clad's official factory seconds sale at this website.

Speaking of actually cooking with cast iron, all I use mine for is cornbread, high temp searing, and shallow frying. And occasionally to serve fajitas and nachos. For searing and frying, I never have to touch the handle, so it's not an issue. For baking cornbread, the short handles on my vintage and Lodge are just fine. And as a service piece, short handles are preferable as they take up less table space. For everyday cooking, I have a strong preference against using cast iron skillets because they're reactive (I drop a lot of acid in my kitchen) and because I don't like the straight, saute pan-like walls of most cast iron skillets (though these help make it better for shallow frying, cornbread, and pizza). All of my vintage cast iron was inherited and the only Lodge I own was purchased when I was a broke college student. If I had to start over again, I doubt I'd buy any (apart from enameled dutch ovens/cocottes).
 

Jovidah

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The one thing I'm starting to wonder... by the time you make cast iron smooth and thin, is it really any different from simple carbon steel? :p

I know carbon steel has its limitations, and when it comes to spreading the heat on crap stoves they're far from ideal... but I still prefer them for stuff like high searing and non-stick stuff (like pancakes). Yes, non-stick pans might have better conductivity - especially the fat cast aluminium ones - and the non stick might work better out of the box.... but with all the other negatives, like essentially eating teflon, not being able to use high heat, having essentially an insulator as your inner layer, and them basically being disposable with all of them lasting but a few years at most, I rather stick to carbon steel these days.

Yes I know you can do a lot of the 'non-stick' things in stainless steel as well, but some of those things nowhere near as easily. IMO they both have their uses, and I want both in my kitchen.
 

tcmx3

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The one thing I'm starting to wonder... by the time you make cast iron smooth and thin, is it really any different from simple carbon steel? :p

I know carbon steel has its limitations, and when it comes to spreading the heat on crap stoves they're far from ideal... but I still prefer them for stuff like high searing and non-stick stuff (like pancakes). Yes, non-stick pans might have better conductivity - especially the fat cast aluminium ones - and the non stick might work better out of the box.... but with all the other negatives, like essentially eating teflon, not being able to use high heat, having essentially an insulator as your inner layer, and them basically being disposable with all of them lasting but a few years at most, I rather stick to carbon steel these days.

Yes I know you can do a lot of the 'non-stick' things in stainless steel as well, but some of those things nowhere near as easily. IMO they both have their uses, and I want both in my kitchen.
I cannot get my Matfer pans to hold a seasoning anywhere close to Stargazer, and it's still a LOT thinner/lighter.

I actually like carbon a lot other than how hard it has been to keep the seasoning on them stable. That said I have a 9.5" I think is most excellent for tortillas/naan/pancakes/etc. The rest went away.
 

btbyrd

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I threw my Matfer pan away in a fit of rage because it wouldn't hold seasoning. My Dartos keep the seasoning on just fine.
 

Jovidah

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Never really had problems with the seasoning on my deBuyers unless I did silly things with it... like stuff with acid... or leave it standing overnight after using it. When I tried to redo them a while back for an experiment I was actually struggling to get it all off...
 

btbyrd

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I think it's a Matfer thing. I've heard of other people having issues.
 

Jovidah

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Might also be the oil? On my last experiment I tried to follow some internet advice that said 'the type of fat you use doesn't matter'. But I found sunflower oil to be far less effective than what I used last time (think I used flaxseed oil back then).
 

MarcelNL

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high smoke point and good polymerization potential is what it takes IMO, linseed oil...you never use enough to cause any issue digesting it (don't ask me how I know)
 
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Luftmensch

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linseed oil
I tried this. It developed a really nice and uniform seasoning...dark and shiny. It started flaking off after several months! :mad: As some other internet critic joked: flax on... flax off!

... I wonder if tung oil would work....
 

Luftmensch

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The one thing I'm starting to wonder... by the time you make cast iron smooth and thin, is it really any different from simple carbon steel? :p
There is still the thermal mass issue... A thin cast iron skillet will be multiple times thicker than your regular carbon steel pan...

Cast iron has to be... well... cast!!! The high carbon content makes it too brittle to be formed like mild steel. That and the significant risk of cast iron cracking if was only 2-3mm thick. The opposite is true for mild steel... it has a low carbon content which makes it ductile and easy to form.

Like for like... I am sure cast iron and low carbon steel would be near indistinguishable. After all ~98% of the material is the same!




Only low end cookware needs to be seasoned. Let's get back on track.
😏😋

I think the small batch iron companies do classify as "High End". Small batch manufacturing, additional finishing steps, handmade construction, increased attention to aesthetics, all attributes of a high end product.
👆 I agree.

As noted earlier in the thread.... "high end" means different things to different people. I think most people would agree that the new gen cast iron is "high end" - as judged by the standards of cast iron... but whether or not cast iron is considered "high end" in an absolute sense is another discussion.
 

Luftmensch

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Anybody have an opinion on Essteele? (Aussies?)

I am assuming they aren't well known outside parts of Europe and Australasia (they used to have manufacturing in Victoria). They are in a premium(ish) bracket. They are made well and look nice (I think).

They have a heavy bottom design - the sandwich is like All-Clad Copper Core. Unlike All-Clad, only the bottom benefits from the sandwich - the side walls are plain stainless steel.

I like their saucepans and stock pots but am ambivalent about the skillets.
 
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Michi

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I have an Esteele stockpot / dutch oven with about 4.5 l capacity. It's been with me for more than thirty years, and is still going strong.
 

Luftmensch

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I have an Esteele stockpot / dutch oven with about 4.5 l capacity. It's been with me for more than thirty years, and is still going strong.
Similarly! Except the 30 year part 😝

Like I say... I am not particularly passionate about the skillet - I prefer steeper walls. The sauce pans and stockpot are great though - I dont see a huge advantage to having a sandwich construction in the walls of these .
 

coxhaus

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ultimately if you really desire high thermal mass nothing suggested in this thread, Lodge included, is going to beat a Demeyere, All-Clad or similar quality 7 layer pan that weighs as much as a Lodge except it's got functional handles, heats SUPER evenly and costs 12x as much as the last Lodge I bought.
So, if you have high thermal mass does that mean it will brown as well as cast iron? I have never used a 7 layer All Clad.
 

cantdecidewhichone

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This thread is going beyond my level of understandings for pans. If anyone happens to open this looking for pan recs, here's what I'm holding.

  • All-Clad D3 10" fry pan
  • All-Clad D3 12" deep pan
  • Smithey 10" chef skillet
  • Smithey 12" skillet
  • Smithey 12" farmhouse carbon steel skillet
  • Heart And Spade Forge 10" carbon steel skillet (on the way)
  • Heart and Spade Forge 10" carbon steel baker
I'm on an electric Samsung range.
 

rickbern

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So, if you have high thermal mass does that mean it will brown as well as cast iron? I have never used a 7 layer All Clad.
I have two demeyere pro line skillets and equivalent sizes in carbon steel. If I’m looking to cook steak I’ll grab the carbon steel pan every time. I think they sear better . Never really occurred to me to use a proline, I’ll have to try it someday.
 
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