IKEA Vardagen Carbon Steel Pan (Review)

Published Categorized as Kitchen

The IKEA Vardagen pan is high-quality carbon steel cookware that will serve you well for a lifetime… as long as you’re willing to give it the care and attention it deserves.

I’ve been eyeing the IKEA Vardagen carbon steel pan for a while now. My family and I moved house and, as I was shopping for cookware for our new kitchen, I no longer had an excuse not to buy it.

I bought the smallest option, the one with a diameter of 5 inches (for European readers of Home Cook World, that’s 12.7 centimeters). I thought it would be a good pan for sunny-side-up eggs and breakfast sausage in the morning, and why not a pancake on Sunday.

So… Is it?

After cooking with the IKEA Vardagen pan for almost a month, read on below for my take. As usual, let’s start with the long story short, and then we’ll get to the down and dirty details.

The IKEA Vardagen pan is a good carbon steel pan. It’s sold at a reasonable price, it seasons easily, heats evenly, and—with good care—can last you a lifetime.

At the time of writing, the pan cost $19.99 at the IKEA store in the United States and €15 at the IKEA store in Spain. I haven’t checked the prices for this item in the rest of Europe, but I assume they’re either the same or at least similar.

What to Expect From This Pan

Carbon steel is an interesting material for making cookware. Like cast iron, it is susceptible to corrosion and rust, so it must be seasoned. Once seasoned, however, the pan becomes slick, and eggs and fish fillets glide effortlessly over the surface.

Carbon steel is also thinner and lighter than cast iron. So when you opt for a carbon steel pan, you get a cooking vessel that still holds on to heat rather well, but is less bulky and heavy. Handling, carrying, and washing your pan feel like less of a burden.

Alas, this type of cookware is often misunderstood and misused.

People buy them and don’t season them, then complain that the pans are defective because eggs stick to the cooking surface. Or they fill them with water and leave them in the sink overnight, only to find them rusted the next morning.

So if you’re thinking of getting the IKEA Vardagen pan, whether the small one or any of its bigger brothers, remember that:

  • This pan needs to be seasoned on the stove before the first use.
  • It can only be washed by hand and should never go in the dishwasher.
  • The seasoning will erode as you use and wash the pan over time, so you’ll need to reseason it every now and then.

As long as you’re aware of these quirks and you accept them, chances are you will be happy with your purchase (at least I know I was).

Seasoning the Vardagen Pan

To season an IKEA Vardagen pan for the first time, take a paper towel and rub the inside of the pan with a drop or two of cooking oil. Heat the pan over medium heat for 45 to 60 minutes, then repeat the process two more times.

This is what the manual said, and what I ended up doing to season my pan. Of course, you could try to season the pan only once and see if that gives you a sleek enough cooking surface.

The key to properly seasoning the pan is to use only a tiny amount of cooking oil and to be careful not to let any oil build up on the bottom. You want a thin, shiny layer of oil that will carbonize on the pan from the heat of the stovetop.

After seasoning the pan three times, let it cool and store it in your kitchen cabinet. Now it’s ready for use.

Cooking With the Vardagen Pan

Like all other carbon steel pans, IKEA Vardagen pans shouldn’t be used to boil water or cook acidic sauces (think canned tomatoes, wine, vinegar, etc.). This can erode the seasoning and cause the metal to leach into the food, making your home-cooked meal taste metallic.

Among the best things to cook in a Vardagen pan are eggs, a small steak, chicken breast, or fish fillet, and breakfast sausages. The pan heats slowly but evenly, and it yields the crispiest fried eggs and the most appetizing browned meats. Heat gets transferred to the handle and it gets hot mid-cooking; protect your hand by holding the pan with a kitchen towel.

Well seasoned and properly preheated, the IKEA Vardagen skillet provides a cooking surface about as slick as that of a non-stick or ceramic pan.

Some meats, like burger patties or breakfast sausages, will cling to the metal surface at first; let them cook uninterrupted for a minute or two, and they will release themselves from the bottom of the pan.

The rounded edges where the bottom of the cooking surface meets the sides of the pan make it easy to pick up grease, butter, or cooking oil with a spoon and baste your eggs or meat with it. Restaurant-grade meals at home, cooked easily!

I didn’t like the fact that meat juices and food debris kept getting stuck on the rivets of the pan. Higher quality carbon steel pans don’t have rivets on the inside of the cooking surface for this very reason.

Cleaning the Vardagen Pan

Carbon steel pans should never go in the dishwasher.

The hot water, the aggressive detergent, and the long rinses in the dishwasher will remove the seasoning that you worked so hard to build up and maintain—and you’ll have to reseason the pan all over again.

Instead, let your pan cool, but not completely. It should be cooled enough that you can still handle it easily, but also warm enough that the food residue doesn’t yet stick to the interior of the pan.

Rinse under the sink with warm, soapy water. A little soap is fine as long as you don’t use too much of it and put too much elbow grease into scrubbing.

Thoroughly pat dry your Vadragen pan after cleaning and heat it on the stove over medium heat for 5 minutes to evaporate all moisture.

Allow to cool and hang on a wall hook or store in the cabinet.

Who Is This Pan For?

If you want to get high-quality carbon steel cookware without necessarily getting into cookware, IKEA Vardagen pans are potentially a great choice for you. Find them at your local IKEA store or order them online at ikea.com and get them delivered to your door without hassle.

It’s a solid entry into the world of carbon steel cookware and will serve you well regardless of which size you end up going for.

Cookware geeks building up a best-money-can-buy collection will favor the pricier and thicker De Buyer Mineral B Carbon Steel Pan.

Which Size Should You Get?

The Vardagen pan is sold in three sizes:

  • 5 inches (13 centimeters)
  • 9 inches (23 centimeters)
  • 11 inches (28 centimeters)

The one I got—the 5 inches—is small, and suitable mostly for cooking up eggs, small cuts of meat, and compact pancakes for breakfast or bruch.

If you’re cooking for yourself or for two, and you want a carbon steel pan for your daily cooking, go with the 9-inch size. If you’re cooking for a large family or a crowd, you’ll need the cooking surface that only the 11-inch size can provide.

In Conclusion: Is It Worth It?

If you understand what you’re getting into when you buy carbon steel cookware and you are willing to put in the care necessary to get the most out of it, IKEA Vardagen skillets are definitely worth the money.

Stay away from these pans if you’re looking for a maintenance-free cooking vessel. In this case, a ceramic-coated or non-stick pan may be a better choice for you.

By Dim Nikov

Cooking for family and friends, one dish at a time. I love to make food that's delicious, nutritious, and easy to prepare.