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Is Carbon Steel Cookware Safe for Cooking?

George Steckel|Jun 07, 2021

One of the most talked-about topics in cookware is safety. Is my pan made with non-toxic materials? What is on the coating of my pan? Is there a temperature at which it could start to degrade? All of these questions are extremely important, especially when the safety of cookware has been deemed questionable in the past. Whether it’s non stick, carbon steel, or stainless steel cookware, you should know what goes into the production of your cookware.

Is carbon steel cookware toxic?

If you’re wondering, “is carbon steel safe,” the answer is yes. Carbon steel cookware is not toxic and is completely safe for cooking! If you’re wondering, “

what is carbon steel

,” know that it is only made of iron and carbon, which are two perfectly safe materials for cooking. Carbon steel has no coating on it and leeches no substances when heated up.

The seasoning you build up over time is from the oil you used to season it and natural oils from foods, so it is entirely safe if the seasoning ever comes off your carbon steel frying pan. Finding the

best oil for seasoning carbon steel pans

will help maintain your set. Carbon steel is pretty much indestructible, so no matter how much rigor you put it through, you won’t wear it out. That is one of the main reasons it is adored in professional kitchens – it can handle high-heat cooking and constant wear and tear every night. Over the past five years, carbon steel has become more and more prevalent in home kitchens, and rightfully so. 

If you’re looking for a pan that can deliver perfect sears and sauté vegetables with ease, isn’t heavy, and can develop non stick pan characteristics over time, then carbon steel is an ideal choice.

Is carbon steel better than cast iron?

When it comes to

carbon steel cookware pros and cons

, carbon steel is a lot more versatile than cast iron. In terms of heating your pans, carbon steel cookware heats up a lot quicker than cast iron cookware and has fewer hot spots, allowing your food to cook more evenly and efficiently. It also responds to changes in temperature much faster than a cast iron skillet would. You can go from a high heat to medium-low heat in no time, while your cast iron pan will still be smoking after you turn the temperature down.

Another characteristic that sets carbon steel apart from cast iron cookware is its weight and maneuverability on the stovetop. This is a big reason why carbon steel is way more prevalent in professional kitchens than cast iron. Due to the lightweight nature of carbon steel, you can flip and shake it with much more ease than cast iron. It is also easier to move it from the stovetop to the oven.

What is the safest cookware for your health?

There are a bunch of different cookware materials. You have carbon steel,

non stick

, cast iron, stainless clad, and copper cookware. All of these materials are safe as long as you follow proper cooking techniques and instructions. Out of all of these items, carbon steel cookware has the highest maximum heat temperature at 1200°F.

Non stick cookware

has been the focus of many health-safety debates as of late due to the recent rise of non stick coating options and varying coatings. The two primary coatings are “ceramic coating” and PTFE. While both PTFE and ceramic-coated cookware are safe, the safer option is PTFE, as it doesn’t release any substances when heated.

However, if you prefer cookware with no coating, then carbon steel or stainless steel pan options are the best options for you. If you want cookware that can handle extremely high heat and can achieve a non stick cooking surface over time, then a carbon steel pan is the answer. On the other hand, if you aren’t worried about non stick cookware’s tendencies and don’t like the seasoning qualities of carbon steel, then stainless clad would be best for you.

What can you not cook in carbon steel?

You can cook anything in

a carbon steel skillet

. However, there are a few ingredients that will impact the pan’s seasoning. Acidic foods such as tomatoes, vinegar, wine, and citrus can strip the seasoning of a pan. This is a completely normal and natural process of cooking with carbon steel. Your fry pan is not ruined by any means and will just need another layer of seasoning.

You can follow the stovetop or

oven seasoning method

, cook with fattier foods, or fry food! All of these are great ways to build up an additional seasoning to your carbon steel skillet, whether it is dry, needs a little extra love, or you’ve stripped the seasoning.

In fact, if you have a strong enough seasoning on the cooking surface of your carbon steel frying pan, acidic foods may not strip the seasoning.

The Bottom Line

In the end,

carbon steel cookware

is extremely safe and a great way to unlock many dishes. With the ability to handle extremely high heat, achieve non stick tendencies over time, and be light enough to easily maneuver around your stovetop, there is no question why carbon steel is quickly becoming a trusted piece of cookware in kitchens worldwide.

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