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For the Creamiest Pasta, Our Test Kitchen Director Swears By *This* Pan

It's also his go-to for a perfectly seared steak, and a silky-crispy gratin.

September 30, 2019

Our Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen knows his way around cookware.

Cohen, who's been cooking professionally for a decade, estimates that he's flipped pancakes, seared steaks, made stock, and more with "about 400" pots and pans.

But there's one he finds himself reaching for more than others, these days: the 12.5-inch carbon steel fry-pan from de Buyer.

Photo by James Ransom
Photo by James Ransom

"My personal style as a chef really tends toward charring and deep caramelization. This skillet has an ability to get hotter than other skillets in the kitchen," he says. "If I need to put a sear on something, this is the most powerful pan." (Carbon steel pans conduct heat extremely evenly, and quickly compared to cast iron skillets.)

And he doesn't stop at steaks. According to Cohen, the same fry-pan also makes an ideal vessel for creamy, cheesy pasta, thanks to its high, sloped walls:

"Giving myself enough room to comfortably operate in the kitchen is really important to me," he says. "A big skillet’s like a luxury apartment." His cacio e pepe technique, shown above, centers on using the extra space to really emulsify cheesy, saucy pasta with minimal effort.

The finished product. Photo by Ella Quittner

De Buyer has been making cookware since 1830, and everything—down to the bee's wax coating sprayed on the exterior—is made in France. Aptly, Cohen also recommends using the fry-pan to get an especially deep crust and creamy center on dishes like gratins.

"I think of cooking as a race sometimes, where you want to get as much color as you can as fast as you can before the ingredient overcooks. If your pan can get hot enough and stay hot, you’re able to sear things so they're crispy-soft."

What's your all-time favorite use for a carbon steel fry-pan? Let us know in the comments!

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.