West Japan Tools Carbon Steel Pan: Hand-made in Japan, perfect for the Canadian chef
February 22, 20194 min read
If you’ve ever been to a Knifewear store, chances are you’ve heard the name “Shibata-san”once or twice. Takayuki Shibata-san is our good friend and the president of Masakage Knives, Kotetsu Knives, Tinker Knives and now West Japan Tools. West Japan Tools was started out of His desire to create the perfect frying pan; and we think he’s nailed it.
The Process, as told by Shibata-san
Long before I created the WJT frying pan, I had doubts about Teflon frying pans, so I was using various steel frying pans from Japan and Europe. I always wanted a frying pan that specializes in searing, but most Japanese steel frying pans are made for tossing so they are lighter and thinner.
I was using a French-made steel frying pan, but they are heavy, and the searing surface too small. To cook for my family of 5, I wanted a bit bigger pan than the French one. I had been hunting for one, but could not find the ideal pan so I decided to make one on my own. If I was going to make one, I would rather collaborate with a local company than one that already manufactured frying pans, as Fukuyama is known for their steel manufacturing.
It took me 2 full years to perfect one.
When I first started, I had no idea how the handle should look, so I asked a local industrial designer to design the handle, and based on the design I created a few sample pans. A steel pan specializes in searing, so 3mm bottom thickness was an essential part and could not be compromised, but it made it very heavy so I ground the side to 1.7mm to lighten it up. I brought the sample pan to Knifewear for a test and collected opinions from Kevin and his staff.
The biggest complaint was the thickness of the handle. That is when I realized how the industrial designer thinks and chefs think are completely different. I abandoned the designer's design and re-started from scratch. I made so many sample pans with different handle designs and had local chefs in town to use those to get opinions.
About 10 months before the completion. I almost had an ideal frying pan design except for the handle. I made several patterns made but none of them was quite convincing. One day, I was looking at my Porsche 911 and admiring how beautiful the curve is. Then I realized I could apply the same beautiful curve into the frying pan's handle. I jumped up, started heating steel and hammering the steel into the handle shape. That is how the shape of the handle came about.
I designed the handle to fit into the hand when you grab with a thick towel. A short handle makes it possible to put into the oven and also you will be less likely to burn yourself with the hot handle when coming out from the oven.
The bottom of the pan has a 3mm thickness for a great sear, and It is big 30cm pan so you can sear 2 steaks at a time. A 30cm pan can be quite heavy so to reduce weight, the side is thinned to 1.7mm. Usually, the steel frying pan takes time for seasoning, but the sandblasted finish has created an even surface so food does not stick as much from the get-go.
I finished this frying pan based on my motto "Art Over Beauty"
Function in the Home Kitchen
When we got our order of skillets, we of course had to get using them — STAT. Mike and Nathan have now both had a chance to cook with one. Here are their thoughts:
First of all, this thing heats differently than stainless steel. It heats at a good speed but doesn’t overheat as quickly a stainless pan. Not only does it heat fast, but it holds it. Often when you dump a ton of meat or veggies to stir-fry in a pan, you lose a ton of heat and stop searing. That isn’t the case here.
Low, angled sides allow for better evaporation. This creates a better sear because the moisture can escape more quickly.
The skillet works like a classic, heavy, 3mm French carbon steel pan, but it’s lighter and fits in the oven due to its tapered sides and short handle. With that said it also works better than a 2mm thick Italian carbon steel pan, which also doesn't fit in an oven.
Did I mention that it fits in the oven?
Finally, the handle. Shibata san was right on the nose about this one. With this style of pan you should always have a rag wrapped around the handle, and with a rag, the curve and length work perfectly.
Before we go, we’d like to leave you with a simple recipe for Chorizo Taco filling that you can make with your new skillet on day 1.
Chorizo Eggplant Taco filling
3 chorizo sausages, casing removed.
1 large eggplant, scorched under the broiler or on a bbq, peeled and minced
1 half onion, scorched the same as the eggplant then minced
4 cloves minced garlic
1.5 tsp cumin seed
1 lime, juiced
Heat the pan over medium-high, lubricating with a few glugs of olive oil. Tear the chorizo into small chunks and brown in the oil until mostly cooked.
Add garlic and cumin, saute for 3 minutes Add minced eggplant & onion, a decent pinch of salt & saute for 3 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with lime juice, serve with corn tortillas and your favourite taco fillings.