We were on a Zoom call, and I watched his face as he flipped through the pictures, clearly trying to make sense of them.
“Whoa,” he said, stopping on the T-fal. “Why is this one so cold?”
The pictures illustrated how quickly and evenly the cast iron and carbon steel pans heat up, but in the T-fal all the heat was concentrated in the center and quickly faded towards the edges, as if someone was glowing a flashlight in the center. from close. I did all the tests on the same burner, and after three minutes of ignition the melt was over 600 degrees Fahrenheit, but the T-fal was only in the 300’s and mid-400’s. I stopped the Cuisinart Large Pan after a minute and a half in height, as it was also approaching 600 degrees. Cast iron and carbon steel were clearly in a group, performing wonderfully, and the T-fal was a disappointing outlier.
However, my wife Elisabeth used the smaller Cuisinart casserole to make a fried egg sandwich later in the afternoon, and she had some issues.
“It sticks,” she said. I cleaned the pan and cooked another egg, intentionally using a little too little butter. Forcing the problem didn’t work at all. Some non-stick pans can cook egg after egg without any cooking oil; but despite claims in the Cuisinart owner’s manual, this is not one of them.
In case I damage the pans during thermal testing, I called a new set.
What I came to understand was 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 as I wanted it to.
There have been other issues that I have encountered with Cuisinart pans including one of the larger pans arrived with a bit of bulge on the cooking surface – where the center is slightly higher than the edges – which means that when the oil heats up, it collects on the edges instead of covering the bottom evenly. It is a problem that pan-dom plagues, especially in the low to mid price range. Finally, after searing a steak, which the Cuisinart did exceptionally well, it developed a few spots on the surface that never went away.
After several weeks with Cuisinart Nonstick Carbon Steel Pans, I have come to some conclusions. Most notably, they are an improvement over my T-fal, but they are not perfect. Nonetheless, these are my new affordable favorites for non-stick cooking on induction burners. They are not the best, but the best that I have found. Recently our friends at Wirecutter found an induction compatible non-stick pan that they recommend; I haven’t tested it, but it might be worth digging into. It is in the same price range as the Cuisinarts.
Can I make a suggestion here? If you’re going to use non-stick pans, pop out the bejeezus. We can have an almost non-stick cast iron skillet that will easily last longer if we take care of it, but we’ve conditioned ourselves to accept the idea of throwing our non-stick pans in the trash every two years – or sooner – when the surface wears out.
Do not cook steak in it. Don’t push their limits. Use them for eggs and maybe some delicate fish, and that’s it. When not in use, hang them where they don’t click in other pans, or stack them with the entire cooking surface protected by a towel.
If you own an induction cooker and want to go the non-stick route, I recommend these pans, although they could be better. The search for the perfect is still ongoing, but so far these are doing a pretty good job.