Cuisinart Carbonware Carbon-Steel Frying Pan Review: Affordable Nonstick for Induction Cooktops

Cuisinart Carbonware Carbon-Steel Frying Pan Review: Affordable Nonstick for Induction Cooktops

We were on a Zoom call, and I watched his face as he flipped through the images, clearly trying to make sense of them.

“Whoa,” he said, stopping on the T-fal. “Why’s that one so cold?”

The images illustrated how quickly and evenly the cast-iron and carbon-steel pans heated, but in the T-fal, all the heat was concentrated in the center and faded quickly toward the edges, like someone was shining a flashlight at the very center from close range. I did all of the testing on the same burner, and after three minutes on high, the cast-iron was over 600 degrees Fahrenheit, but the T-fal was only in the high 300s and mid 400s. I stopped the large Cuisinart pan after a minute and a half on high, as it was also approaching 600 degrees. The cast-iron and the carbon-steel were clearly in a group together, performing wonderfully, and the T-fal was a disappointing outlier.

From left to right: cast-iron, T-fal, and Cuisinart after five minutes on a medium induction stove setting.

Photograph: Joe Ray

However, my wife Elisabeth used the smaller Cuisinart pan to make a fried-egg sandwich later that afternoon, and she ran into a bit of trouble.

“It’s sticking,” she said. I cleaned the pan and cooked another egg, intentionally using slightly too little butter. Forcing the issue didn’t work out well at all. Some nonstick pans can cook egg after egg without any cooking oil at all; but despite the claims in the Cuisinart owner’s manual, this isn’t one of them.

In case I damaged the pans in the thermal testing, I called in a new set.

What I’d come to understand is that as long as I had enough oil or butter in the pan—enough to evenly coat the bottom—I’d be in good shape. The pan would act like I wanted it to.

There were other issues I encountered with the Cuisinart pans, most notably that one of the larger pans arrived with a bit of doming to the cooking surface—where the center is slightly higher than the edges—meaning that when the oil heats up, it pools around the edges instead of coating the bottom evenly. This is a problem that plagues pan-dom, especially in the low- to mid-price range. Finally, after searing a steak, which the Cuisinart did exceptionally well, it developed a couple spots on the surface that never went away.

Slick Grace

After several weeks with the Cuisinart nonstick carbon-steel pans, I came to a few conclusions. Most notably, that they are an improvement over my T-fal, but they are not perfect. Nevertheless, they are my new and affordable favorites for nonstick cooking on induction burners. They’re not the best, but the best I’ve found. Recently, our friends at Wirecutter found a nonstick induction-friendly pan that they recommend; I haven’t tested it, but it may be worth further exploration. It’s in the same price range as the Cuisinarts.

Might I make a suggestion here? If you’re going to use nonstick pans, baby the bejeezus out of them. We can have a nearly nonstick cast-iron pan that will easily outlast us if we take care of them, but we’ve conditioned ourselves to be OK with the idea that we toss our nonstick pans in the trash every couple of years—or sooner—when the surface wears out.

Don’t cook steak in them. Don’t push their limits. Use them for eggs and maybe some delicate fish, and that’s it. When they’re not in use, hang them where they don’t clank into other pans, or stack them with the entire cooking surface protected by a towel.

If you’re an induction stove owner and want to go the nonstick route, I do recommend these pans, even though they could be better. The hunt for the perfect one is still on, but until then, these do a very nice job.

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