Every cook has certain go-to pieces of kitchen equipment–whether it’s a favorite knife, or a particular pan. One of my particular favorite fry pans (or skillet, if you wish) is a carbon steel fry pan. Mine is a Vollrath, but de Buyer also makes good ones.) It’s been with me for (literally) decades (though I’m not going to tell you the real numbers here).
It is a lot like cast iron–it must be seasoned before use, it doesn’t go in the dishwasher, and you don’t scrub it with a Brillo pad or soap, except maybe every decade or so. It can go into the oven, under the broiler, and be used at very high temperatures.
Why do I like it so much and use it so often? Well, it has the advantages of cast iron without the weight of cast iron. Properly seasoned and treated with reasonable care, it’s nonstick–without the concerns of high temperature use, and it’s suitable for induction cooking, too. It’s not a really pretty thing–it’s discolored by frequent use since it’s usually the first fry pan I reach for, even though I have others–All-Clad and Calphalon–even one that is actually “nonstick”.
Occasionally you may get some stuck on food. To remove that use a salt scrub. The other “trick” to keeping it in good shape is to always dry it by putting it over heat, instead of just drying with a towel.
I have to admit that my carbon steel fry pan (the 9-3/8-inch one) finally reached the point where it was time to do a serious clean-up on it–lots of elbow grease, Brillo pads, and even oven/grill cleaner to take it back to where it started, and re-season it. After curing it again, according to instructions is back in good form as my most used fry pan and ready for another few decades of good service.