When purchasing a carbon steel skillet, it is important to understand the difference between a skillet that is manufactured and one that is made by hand. Aside from aesthetics, there are a number of different factors that can affect a skillet’s performance.
When selecting a skillet, it is important to consider the thickness of the cooking surface. Carbon steel skillets are known for thinner bases than those which are cast-iron, which allows them to be significantly lighter. However, it is still important to have a base that is sufficiently thick to provide an even heat across the cooking surface, and to prevent warping over many years of use. Most manufactured carbon steel skillets are made with a thinner base, and for this reason they are less likely to perform as well or hold up to years of abuse.
At Athena Skillets, we forge our skillets out of ten-gauge steel because we believe this delivers an optimal balance of weight, performance and durability. Our skillets are on the thicker end of the spectrum, because we want to create a product that will perform well and last for many generations. Other artisan skillet makers may choose different thicknesses for their base, so it is worth it to check and compare before purchasing.
You also want to look for a skillet with an ergonomic handle that will dissipate heat effectively. Picking up a skillet is much less strenuous when the handle sits comfortably in the hand. When a skillet is slightly larger, it can be helpful to have an extra “loop” handle to assist in picking it up. You also want to find a skillet that will not burn you when you go to pick it up, thus it is important to look for a handle with a thin cross section and a lot of surface area to help dissipate heat. All handles will retain heat to some degree, so don’t be surprised if the handle becomes warm after an hour or more on the stove. However, well-designed handles will take a lot longer for this to become an issue.
Despite their superior durability and cooking properties, the most striking aspect of hand-forged carbon steel skillets is their aesthetic beauty. A well-made artisan skillet is more than just a tool for cooking, but a piece of functional art that will bring a feeling of charm and taste to your kitchen and dining room. Whether your skillet is hanging on the rack, searing meat on the stove, or sitting in the center of your dining room table, it will give the occasion a feeling of elegance.