Mark Frauenfelder at 11:24 am Thu, Aug 30, 2012
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I enjoyed Joe Sandor's crepe pan Kickstarter video. He's seeking $6k. I hope he gets it, because it's nice to see a project that doesn't have electronics in it for a change.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His latest book is Made by Hand: My Adventures in the World of DIY
The anxiety of unplugging and why we should disconnect to connect
Suspicionless searches at US border: the next battleground for press freedom
Fantastic. It looks like a wonderful product. I hope he gets the money he’s looking for.
What’s the problem with regular, rimmed pans? I guess you couldn’t use that machete-style spatula, but why couldn’t you flip the crepe with a normal, angled arm spatula? I mean, it works fine for pancakes. You’d just need a pan that was large enough.
Not to knock the project – the design looks lovely – but $95 is still super-expensive for a pan in my book. Wouldn’t something like this work just as well for one-third of the price? http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Logic-Cast-Pizza-Black/dp/B0000E2V3X
Yes, as long as you don’t pour it so big that it flows to the outside rim.
I agree that the price is a deal-killer. As you say, for 1/3 the price (and probably half the weight) you can get a pan that fulfills two useful purposes.
The trick is to pour a set amount of batter in the center of whatever pan you use and then lift the pan by the handle and swirl the batter to the edges.
The price reflects the 5 years that I’ve spent making these on my own along with the factor of high shipping costs since it’s cast iron plus the cost of doing a first production run. I’d like to set a more marketable price point but that’s dependent on the volume I’m able to produce thus I’m on Kickstarter trying to raise the funds for that first run so I have an inventory that I can sell. Ultimately, these prices are Backer awards, not the actual price of the product. Setting a market price is part of this process and such is the nature of Kickstarter. Thanks for the input.
I’m in. Yeah, $95 is a bit steep, but so what. I am supporting a dude to take an idea from inception to completion. That’s a worthy cause in itself. Not to mention that it’s a great idea and needs to exist in the world. I’m looking forward to your charge on my card on October 7th. Thanks for doing it and good luck.
Yes, those things work fine. I use one myself, though with a single stick handle rather than loops. And my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother (and further back I suppose) never seemed to have much trouble using a 12 inch cast iron skillet. Every chef I know tends to use the traditional shallow sided carbon steel pan.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a proper crepe from one of these ‘spread it on a griddle with a stick’ type pans. They tend to be used in high volume commercial settings: food courts, hotels, and street vendors. Usually end up too pancakey. You need to spill batter in the center of a pan then lift it and swirl to spread it. Mom’s family is from Prince Edward Island though, and the French Canadian crepe is a different beast from the Parisian.
I first saw this design in Saint Malo, France which is a town that sent a lot of immigrants to PEI. Interesting connection.
If you’re talking les ployes (buckwheat pancakes), I prefer the standard 12inch cast iron skillet. The high sides keeps my messy but sure Acadian hands from splashing everywhere… But I’ve certainly have known people who’ve preferred a rectangular griddle with short sides (electric or otherwise). Scandalously, my Mémère preferred the electric (likely because it got ungodly hot)… so go figure.
We never made them with buckwheat actually. But as I understand it the crepes from an Acadian tradition are eggier than their continental counterparts. My family recipe is borderline noodle like.
It’s pretty easy to tear a crepe apart that way, especially one as large as the pan he’s looking to produce.
But, yeah, you can certainly make teenie little crepes in a regular cast-iron pan, if you’re careful.
Actually, if you make it right, it’ll be very springy and not tear apart. It does require some practice but it’s quite effective.
try, report back on your findings.
I just use a regular, cheap, cast iron pan and an egg flipper spatula and I make fine crepes. I’ve had the same pan for 20 years. Buy a fancy pan if you like it but realise it’s not necessary for good crepes.
what about BIG crepes? That’s what this thing is for.
OK, I can’t make BIG crepes but I’ve never had the urge to eat one either so it works for me. Really, this pan is fine, great even, for those folks who like specialized (as much as a single piece of cast iron can be called specialized) cooking equipment. I’m happy with my basic pan.
Then this isn’t for you?
For my part, the maker references San Malo, which is where I’ve had the best crepes of my life. And they were indeed awesomely big.
I can definitely see me talking myself into buying one of these in the next couple of days.
EDIT: it only took 30 minutes. Ordered.
I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten a crepe or seen one made. Maybe a long time ago.. Mark, can you answer the question of how does Kickstarter keep larger (less personal companies from pretending they’re small and independent in order to promote their products.? How do I know this crepe maker isn’t sponsored by a bigger company? Does kickstarter have filters to keep things real
Kickstarter encourages us to link our Facebook accounts to show that we’re real humans and not an established company looking to sell inventory. I can assure you that I’m an independent artist in Chicago. Thanks for the support.
Just think of how many professionally-made crepes you could buy for $95…
For the very few times I want a crepe I’d rather pay to have someone who knows what they are doing make it.
They’re really easy to make … you don’t need any fancy equipment. Eggs, milk and flour and lots of butter.
From my experience at a crepe shop, about 10. So not nearly as many as you’d think. I could easily eat more than ten per year. Probably get to 4 or so a month (sittings of crepes, with other people, so much more than 4 individual crepes per month).
Well, I jumped in. 95 bucks for a halfway decent pan with heirloom durability? I’m in.
Why is this called a “crepe pan”? It really is just a griddle and there are already oodles of cast iron griddles available. What distinguishes this one is its size, that is is round (not rectangular), and that it doesn’t have a raised lip. From a little googling I haven’t found an exact match – however if this is the “authentic French style” then it should be importable. Also, unless you have a food stand at a fair and may need the showmanship, a square griddle without raised lip such as this one should work just fine.
In addition his model is shown having a raised design on the bottom that looks like it would channel heat. Cast iron is not all that good a heat conductor which makes it prone to develop hot spots. His particular design looks like it would make hot spots worse.
Cast iron is a wonderful heat conductor and once this is heated up, it’s a very even heat with no hot spots. I call it a crepe pan because it’s specific for crepes and the absence of a lip makes it easier to manipulate. It’s all modeled after french street vendors. I pretty much made this because I wanted a completely flat surface with no edges, unlike griddles that have a raised grill on top. Sometime, also, I would see professional chefs take a cast iron pan and flip it upside down so that they would have that flat surface.
“no hot spots”
Are you just claiming this or have you actually tested for hot spots particularly considering the funky bottom design.
One easy way to test for hot spots is the browning flour test and cast iron (first row in pic) always has more hot spots than more conductive metal (second row).
Or you can use low temp solder as well (obviously non-leaded).
Right, cast iron is a poor conductor of heat, meaning it doesn’t absorb or transfer heat particularly quickly or efficiently. What it does is retain heat very well. Meaning absorb a hell of a lot of heat it and hold onto it very well.
Like you said it will be uneven, and it takes a lot a pre-heating to get things going . But if your going to poor batter into the center and then spread it to the edges you need a hotter center and a cooler edge. So the center cooks and stays in place while excess can be freely moved and spread thinly. I’d be more worried that the design disrupts the gradient, in other words you get the wrong sort of hot spots.
Thank you: I was going to hit ‘Reply’ to the JAS’s post, but you beat me to the punch.
Cast iron has a lot of thermal mass, but it IS a poor conductor.
Basically, I tell people to heat it up on fight for about 7 minutes. Then you can turn it down low and use low heat. I worked with a lot of chef’s in kitchen’s in chicago and that’s the thing they liked about it. Once it’s hot, it stays hot.
I am claiming it. I guess I confused the terminology. I was thinking about how well it retains heat. I have more of a dreamer/artist brain than an engineer. That’s part of this whole exciting process though is that I’ve been using this on my own for years and thinking about it in my own way but putting this out there like this gives me insight into how others will use/perceive it. This is basically my first market research. All this info about how it’s used, and prices will tell me how I can actually take this to market. Thanks for all the good discussion.
Glad you’re getting some useful info out of it.
I found one of these at a second-hand store for like $5. It certainly doesn’t make a very big crepe but is super easy to use. You just turn it over into a shallow plate of your batter and set it hot side up again for tens of seconds. The crepe just about falls off it with a little finagling when it’s done.
Great big crepes are cool though.
Most of the projects that I contribute to are indie pen and paper role playing games. Not everything is electronics.
At least 3/4 of the projects I have backed or seen have no electronics in them. I guess it depends on where you hear about the campaign.
It does look nice, but it also seems extremely similar to my basic Griswald cast-iron round griddle pan, which can be bought from anywhere from about $10 to $50. We make crepes on them often.
Of course, no one is making Griswald anymore, but there do seem to be a bunch of cast-iron round griddles, with very low (1/4″) sloped sides.
Of course, they’re not as flat as this one, so you can’t use the knife. An offset spatula works fine, though.
I’m not knocking on the project — I think far more stuff should be made from cast iron, and this looks really great. But most good cast iron pans can be bought new in the $20-40 price range (one of the many nice things about cast iron), so I feel like it’s going to be hard to sell many at the $100 price point.
Thank you for sharing that link, I ‘ve spent a lot of time digging for crepe pans like that but never could find anything. I do plan on making a design with a detachable handle but that’s for future version. And ideally, based on the success of this, I can get it to a much lower price point but for the sake of the Kickstarter and since this is technically a “project”, the award levels are higher to fund the entire project, which will then allow me to provide an affordable product.
In a similar vein serious eats has been touting these guys for a bit.
In the same vein but I think a bit more practical for most people.
Mark, there’s plenty of fantastic non-electronic stuff on Kickstarter if you keep your eyes open and check regularly. I guess this means that you didn’t see the velocipede (http://kck.st/LESBwn ) before the funding period ended?
Looks nice, but crepieres do exist – you can find some, usually with handle.
Any reason for the pattern on the back of the model in video?
Actually the missing handle part bothers me the most. Alright it doesn’t have to have a permanent handle, but at least give me a way to get it off the stove when I’m done with it. (Perhaps something like those old Corning ware clip on handles).
If only he could sell it without reverting to racial stereotypes.
I don’t think I made any attempts “at racial stereotypes”. My sincere apologies if you took that.
No worries. Just know that not all French people are puppets okay?
I’ve spent much time in France and have many French friends. I lived in Paris for a while and spent a summer in St. Malo.
That’s where that all came from.
You’re a saint for keeping your patience in the face of some of this nitpicky criticism. I’d have blown a gasket 10 comments ago.
And for my part I think $95 (shipped!) is downright cheap for a small production product like this. And a nice bonus is that you get to nurture a worthy small business. And it strikes me that people looking for a good deal might be misunderstanding what Kickstarter is all about? Maybe they’re looking for Etsy?
Anyway, I’m excited to try my pan out.
And for the record my French stereotype is way more offensive than yours.
And don’t worry, every time a handmade product appears here you get 20 people pointing out that they can get something vaguely similar much cheaper at Costco.
Yes, ze stereotypes are very irritating.
So is using the quebec word “tabernac” when talking about the french, who never use that word.
FIY, ze french would typically use a convenient, much lighter and cheaper “crepiere electrique” at home, as opposed to the heavy-duty cast iron pans used in catering (which are usually electric too).
I got a degree in French and spent many years abroad. It’s not so much a stereotype as it is a voice for a character. Think of Lucky Luke coming out of France. I’ve encountered many Francophiles who think of Americans as cowboys and associate a southern accent. And when I tell people, I’m from Chicago, all they think of (from a European point of view) is Al Capone and bang bang machine guns. And when I tell people that I’m really from Northern Wisconsin and a little bit of my “Fargo” accent comes out, then I get to hear it. I’m a performer and doing voices and characters are part of it.
My friend was an exchange student from Mass to southern France. When he first got there, his French was terrible, so the host family asked him just to speak English. Then he said, “What if I talk like zees?” in a super-fake over-the-top Frenglish accent, and guess what… they said they could understand him better!!! LOL.
Someone from France marketing the same product would use stereotypes of Brittany where the crèpe tradition is from (and the reason for the triskell on the back of the pan?). You’d have some old woman with a tall white “coiffe” do all the talking with a Breton accent (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigouden – the place my ancestry comes from)…
So I suppose using stereotypes for marketing is common and not that irritating here!
There was a company in my grandparents village of Pouldreuzic that made this sort of pan, they’ve become high-tech and left… It is called Krampouz (crèpe in Breton).
Some harsh criticism here. I applaud the guy for going out there and making what he wants. All of those consumer-grade cast iron pans have an outer lip. He wants to use the wooden spatula, so needs a commercial-style pan without the lip. Not available at a consumer-level price, so he made it himself. Nice work.
The biggest issue to me is the texture of the pan, how flat is it? If it’s as flat as a well-worn cast iron pan, great. If it’s got the same marble texture of a new pan, not so great.
Also, when I saw the name I couldn’t help but sing it along with the Captain Caveman intro yell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A85xpFFxd9Y.
You’ve always got to season a new cast iron pan first. I imagine this will be no different. brush it with oil and bake it at low heat in the oven for a few hours. Repeat once more if necessary.
Indeed, any cast iron cookware requires seasoning for proper performance. But I also find that seasoning held equal, a smoother pan releases cooked foods better / acts more like a non-stick surface.
Thank you. The pan I’ll be producing in the foundry will be completely flat and sanded down. Once it’s seasoned though, it’ll be even smoother as the oil fills the pores.
Interesting, glad to hear it.
No response to the Captain Caveman? Hmm…
Not intentional but I get the the connection. Probably something buried deep in my memories.
Joseph Andrew Sandor :
Maybe part of the problem here is what’s being produced is basically a low(er) cost commercial crepe cooker, the kind used in food service to produce many crepes quickly with little training. These aren’t traditional so much as the self contained units are pervasive. Traditional would be a thin carbon steel pan heated as high as possible (a friend swears by 1200+ degrees), or the various cast iron approaches being brought up.
If you had a business and wanted to serves lots of crepes quickly this thing could definitely save you the better part of a grand compared to commercial units. And wouldn’t take up much space when not in use. Have you considered targeting the pro market?
Yes, I actually had a review by a chef at Julius Meinl Coffeehouse in Chicago but had to take the video down due to some licensing. Finding my target market is part of this whole Kickstarter project.
Food carts and stands, small restaurants without a full sized griddles, catering. Any place where space is a premium and mobility is needed would be a natural match. What you’ve made is also very similar to a comal.
Without the subtle bowl shape. So it need not be limited to a crepe pan either.
Yeah, it has a lot of uses, but selling it as a crepe pan simplifies it and simple is best when trying to get a product out
Savory crepe batter makes the best egg roll wrappers. It is really hard to get them thin tho.
Not on my pan. You can spread it really thin.
They make an excellent replacement for the noodles in manicotti, at least my family’s recipe does. They’re fairly noodle like to begin with.
wait what there are TONS of projects on Kickstarter that don’t involve electronics. Unless “using computers as part of the creation process” counts. Comic books, board games, bras, , ballet performances, art happenings, and more.
Do you normally only look at Kickstarter when you find a link on a tech site or something? Because that’s the only thing I can think of that would account for the perception of them usually being full of electronics.
Nifty thing, but I think I’ll stick with my grandmother’s old cast iron pan. I’m not sure I need crepes larger than ones with a 12 inch diameter. (My waistline certainly doesn’t). I’ve never seen a crepe made with the little wooden thingy though, so that was interesting. I usually just make the batter a little thin and swirl it around the pan.
Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Mark. And to Joseph, good luck.
When I clicked on the Kickstarter page I immediately recognised what you’re making. I see this sort of cast iron flat pan all over China. It’s used by street vendors to make several very cheap and delicious crepe-like snacks. They are usually part of a push-cart (like a hot dog cart in the US) or at the front of hole-in-the-wall shops. Sometimes the flat pan (I don’t know what word to use to describe it) spins. Also, I note that Chinese use the same kind of wooden implement.
Here is a video showing how the spinning hot plate is used to make a jianbing (a delicious snack I have eaten for years): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOcmUl8c7Sc
You can find many variations on this; just search on YouTube for “China street vendor” or something like that.
Just one last observation: the number of street vendors selling snacks using the hot plate (and there are many variations on the one shown in the video) has diminished significantly over the years as cities prevent them from doing business. In some places it’s hard if not impossible to find them. Perhaps one day it will take someone like you in China to bring back what has become a lost art.
Once again, good luck with your project.
There’s a place next to my school that has this, although they don’t use a spinning plate. You can choose the basic ingredients and add whatever filling you want (sausage, different vegetables etc.) They are excellent in the winter and the use of building materials (paintbrushes and wallpaper scrapers) to make them just adds to the appeal for me (as long as that’s all they’re used for, of course!) I don’t know what I’ll do when I go back to Europe; eating food in China is a fascinating experience, even if the cleanliness is not always great. Having said that, food poisoning isn’t that common where I live, and it often comes from eating western food that was improperly cooked rather than the more common Chinese dishes.
You’re right; the spinning plate is a bit unusual, but I liked it so much that I had to post it. The video you posted is the more common variety for sure.
Here in Bretagne, It already exists for soooo many years !
as an electric maker. I want to offer something like traditional cast iron. I saw one of these in an antique shop in Saint Malo once, that sparked the idea.
Your idea is awesome. If I weren’t cash poor at the moment I would invest. I hope to see your product soon because I am a cook and love gadgets that work. Really, good luck to you!
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