What We Like
- Classic frying pan shape makes it approachable and easy to use
- Larger cooking surface than much of the competition
- The removable silicone handle is comfortable and stays cool on the stove
What We don’t
- More expensive than many of the classic French options
- Shallow sides lead to more stovetop splatter
- Lighter than cast iron but still on the heavy side
The Main Takeaway
Misen has taken a pan that has always been a mainstay in professional kitchens and made it more approachable to the home cook. They still require some care and maintenance, but they offer incredible durability and can develop an impressive “non-stick” coating. However, if you’re already a carbon steel aficionado, you may not perceive as much benefit from the updated design.
Carbon steel pans are a mainstay in professional kitchens, but they’re definitely a little less common with home cooks.
I’ve been cooking with this type of pan in restaurant kitchens for years. I love that they can take a beating, handle incredibly high heat, and I can use them for delicate fish and eggs, or to put a hard sear on a steak.
Misen is the new kid on the block competing against French companies that have been making carbon steel pans for over a century. Misen was kind enough to send me one of their pans to season and test in my kitchen.
Today I’ll share my experience and the things you should know about Misen’s carbon steel, especially if you are comparing it against traditional brands.
What Makes Misen Unique?
Every culinary company has its own unique “angle,” and this one is no different. You just have to figure out if the brand’s angle fits into your kitchen preferences. Let me explain.
Misen is a fairly new cookware brand that was founded in 2015. And, since they are a direct-to-consumer company, you won’t see any of the products lining the shelves of your favorite kitchen stores.
The upside to being direct-to-consumer is that you’ll save a bit of money by buying directly from Misen because there are no middlemen markups on the items. The downside is that you can’t get your hands on their products before you buy them, like you might with items offered in a traditional brick-and-mortar store.
Luckily, I’ve been putting the Misen carbon steel pan through its paces. Here are the most important factors to think about when buying a carbon steel frying pan from Misen or anyone else.
Why Choose A Carbon Steel Pan
I like to think of them as the lighter, more nimble cousin to the trusty cast iron pan. They’re excellent multitaskers in the kitchen and can easily last a lifetime.
Like cast iron, carbon steel is raw and uncoated so it will rust if it’s not cared for properly. Also like cast iron, it can handle a lot of abuse as well as very high temperatures.
What sets carbon steel apart is that it’s lighter and less brittle.
Now, I wouldn’t call this a lightweight pan. The 10-inch Misen carbon steel pan still weighs close to 4 pounds. But, that is about a pound and a half lighter than a similar-sized cast iron model from Lodge. And that’s significant when you’re trying to flip and toss ingredients in the pan.
The main reason that carbon steel pans are lighter is that they can be made significantly thinner. And that’s because carbon steel is much less brittle so it can be stamped or hammered without cracking.
This leads to an incredibly smooth cooking surface from the factory. Instead of the rougher interior that you get from pouring molten metal into a sand mold like a cast iron process.
You still have to develop and maintain a seasoning on the pan. But, that smooth surface can become impressively non-stick much faster and easier than with traditional cast iron. Not to mention being easier to clean.
It’s Not A True “Non-Stick” Pan
When talking about carbon steel pans, you’ll always hear about their non-stick cooking abilities. I think I’ve even mentioned it a couple of times already through half of this article.
While being “nonstick” is one of this pan’s best attributes, it will take some work and a little practice before you’re sliding eggs around the pan like you see in the commercials. And, it certainly handles much differently than a Teflon or ceramic coated non-stick pan.
Pans that have a non-stick coating applied are virtually foolproof to cook with and are incredibly easy to clean. But, the major downside to them is that non-stick coatings lack durability.
So, over time traditional nonstick cookware will lose its non-stick properties. They are easily damaged by high temperatures or metal utensils.
With a carbon steel pan, once you develop a good seasoning then an impressive food release will follow. Using it properly does require some practice in heat management and the use of cooking fats and oils.
And while you can damage the protective seasoning layer, it can always be brought back to life. So you get a pan that will last virtually forever and can handle high heat as well as metal utensils.
Design: How Misen Won Me Over
Take a look at most carbon steel frying pans and 90% of them look almost exactly the same. They have a wide, flat bottom with fairly straight sides that angle up and away. Along with a steeply angled flat metal handle.
Almost all of my favorite carbon steel pans share that same design and that’s what you’ll find in most professional kitchens.
The straight, angled sidewalls are good when it comes to holding larger amounts of fat for shallow frying. But, if you’ve never used one before it can feel awkward to flip and toss ingredients in the pan.
The design of Misen’s carbon steel pan is a bit different. It’s designed more like a standard stainless steel or non-stick frying pan, with a flat bottom that gently curves up to short, rounded sides.
Not only does this give you a larger cooking surface, but it makes tossing ingredients feel very natural so you’ll be able to flip things like a pro in no time.
Another benefit is that the smooth transition is easy to evenly season compared to the “corner” that you get on most traditional models.
The downside is the sides are quite short, which can lead to more splatter on your stovetop.
Like most other options, the handle is made from a flat, relatively thin piece of metal that’s not exactly what I would call comfortable. But, they do include a removable silicone handle grip that makes it a bit more comfortable to hold.
You just have to remember that the silicon cover is only oven safe up to 500 F, where the rest of the pan can be used all the way up to 900 F.
Cleaning And Maintenance
Probably the biggest downside to using carbon steel is that it requires a little work. Once you season your pan you’ll have to be careful how you cook, wash, and store it.
Washing your pan with soap can break down and wash away your protective seasoning layer. It won’t ruin your pan altogether, but you’ll lose the non-stick properties and have to go through the seasoning process all over again. That means no dishwasher, ever.
A couple of tablespoons of kosher salt and a paper towel is another effective way to scrub your pan before giving it a good rinse under hot water. And, cleaning your pan before it’s completely cooled off will usually make clean up a bit easier.
Once your pan is clean, dry it thoroughly with a towel, or better yet directly on one of your stovetop burners. Finally, rub in a drop or two of oil as an extra layer of protection before you store your pan.
Moisture is the enemy, and a pan that’s stored wet can easily rust and ruin your hard-earned seasoning.
I’ve thrown the word “seasoning” out a handful of times and if you thought I was talking about adding salt and pepper to the pan, this part is for you.
Seasoning is a protective coating that you create on your pan. It helps to keep rust at bay, plus it’s what gives you the naturally “non-stick” cooking surface.
When you receive most carbon steel pans they’ll have a protective wax coating in place which keeps rust away during transport. This must be removed before you begin the seasoning process and hot soapy water should do the trick (the last soap your pan may ever see).
The most common way of seasoning carbon steel or cast iron is to very lightly coat the entire pan with a high heat cooking oil and then bake it in a hot oven. This essentially cooks the oil onto the pan, creating a very thin protective coating.
The reason I don’t like this method is that it should be repeated several times for the best results, and each time takes about two hours.
My preferred method is to heat the pan on a stove or grill and then wipe it with a VERY thin coat of oil. The thin coating will burn onto the pan fairly quickly at which point you can repeat with another thin coat.
With this method you can add several layers very quickly. It is a little more hands-on, but that allows you to monitor how things are going so you don’t end up with too much oil, which can be a real problem.
You could also go with Misen’s proprietary seasoning wax in place of cooking oil. It’s definitely a little more expensive but I’ve had good results with it. Plus, the beeswax in their mix adds a nice aroma compared to burning plain cooking oil.
I’ve written an in-depth guide on this seasoning process to get you and your pan started on the right foot.
Most carbon steel pans are quite affordable, especially when you consider that they will last a lifetime. For a 10-inch model, you can expect to spend between $30 and $75 for most common brands.
That’s a little more expensive than your typical cast iron skillet, about the same as a solid non-stick option, but significantly less than any high-end stainless steel pan.
The Misen carbon steel pan is on the higher end of the range at a little over $60.
That’s close to $20 more than my personal and industry favorite de Buyer. But, Misen does include the handy silicon grip, plus a very user-friendly design.
For many people, the design may be the difference between using this pan regularly and hanging it up for good. So if this is your first time cooking with carbon steel, the extra $20 may be well worth it.
A carbon steel frying pan is one of my favorite pieces of cookware. And while it does require some maintenance, I love watching how the pan changes and gets better (hopefully) as you use it more and more.
Misen has done a great job making the carbon steel pan more approachable to first-time users. The shape looks like a pan you’ve probably already used, and their excellent marketing has taken the intimidation out of using a new type of material.
If you’re new to carbon steel cookware, this is a good place to start. But, for anyone who already knows and loves the traditional design, you may want to save a few bucks and stick to a classic French model.
You can check out Misen’s carbon steel pan here.