Carbon Steel Cookware Pros and Cons

If you’re wondering, “what is carbon steel cookware,” you’re not alone. Carbon steel cookware is an extremely popular cookware option and is used in professional kitchens worldwide. If you walk into any professional kitchen, you’ll see a pan with a high handle being slung around the stovetop, in and out of ovens, and used over extremely high heat. Why is this? Because carbon steel cookware is pretty much indestructible. And since home cooks are now starting to catch on to carbon steel cookware, it’s best to examine everything carbon steel has to offer. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of carbon steel cookware. 

carbon steel cookware 

The Pros

Many attributes of carbon steel set it apart from other cookware materials and make it a joy to cook with. 

High-heat cooking:

Carbon steel cookware is safe to use up to 1200°F. Will you ever use it over such a high heat? Probably not, but the fact that it can withstand this high of a temperature means that you don’t have to think twice about throwing it in the oven, over a grill, open-fire, or a brick oven. 

Light-weight:

Carbon steel is almost up to half the weight of cast iron cookware. This allows for more maneuverability and a more comfortable cooking experience. Instead of having to lug your pan from the stovetop to the oven with both hands, you can now do it effortlessly. The lightweight nature of a carbon steel skillet also allows you to flip the pan easily, which is essential to achieve evenly cooked food. 

Seasoning:

Seasoning is the process of treating the surface of your pan with oil to create a solid layer of polymerized oil. This layer of oil fills into the pan’s pores and helps prevent rust, leading to a stick-resistant surface. Make sure you look for the best oil for seasoning carbon steel pans to maintain your pan. Over time, as you continue to cook with carbon steel, your seasoning will begin to develop, and your pan will show more nonstick surface tendencies.

Variety of Shapes and Sizes:

Carbon steel cookware comes in all shapes and sizes, allowing you to harness all of its amazing qualities in a variety of ways. Whether it’s a frying pan, carbon steel wok, pizza steel, roasting pan, paella pan, or grill frying pan, carbon steel lends itself in many different facets of the kitchen. Carbon steel is one of the only types of cookware materials, besides stainless steel cookware, that can be this versatile due to its lightweight and unique composition. 

is carbon steel cookware good

The Cons

Carbon steel doesn’t necessarily have cons, but there are some limitations. However, what’s excellent about carbon steel cookware is that no matter how much you beat it up, destroy it, or use it, it will always be able to be restored. 

Not dishwasher safe:

If you’re asking, “is carbon steel safe, the answer is yes, it’s just not dishwasher safe. Due to carbon steel’s iron and carbon composition, your carbon steel pan will rust similar to a cast iron pan if exposed to water for an extended period of time, unlike glass cookware or a stainless steel pan, for example. Whatever you do, do not place your carbon steel in the dishwasher. You can clean your carbon steel frying pan by using a bit of oil and salt and scrubbing the surface of the pan. 

Avoid acidic foods:

Carbon steel and acidic foods don’t always go hand in hand. The acidity in foods such as tomatoes, citrus, wine, and vinegar can strip the seasoning of your pan. This is not bad at all! If this happens, all you need to do is re-season your pan with the stovetop or oven seasoning method. You can also just cook with naturally fattier foods like bacon or red meat, as the oils from these foods will season the pan. 

Appearance:

A carbon steel fry pan is not necessarily the prettiest-looking pan. If you’re looking for beautiful pots and pans, then copper cookware might be the choice for you. Carbon steel can take on a myriad of colors and patterns, but that’s what makes it unique. Each pan is going to look different. At first, you may see tints of blue, brown, or black, but your pan’s color and appearance will begin to even out over time. In fact, we think you should embrace the patina and color. Some people love the unique look of their pans! 

How to Cook with Carbon Steel

If you’re new to seasoned carbon steel, learning how to cook with it is essential. People tend to think that their pan will show nonstick cookware tendencies right away, even though you need a well-solidified patina to achieve nonstick pan characteristics. The first foods you should cook with carbon steel should be high in fat. Think bacon, pork, and beef. It also doesn’t hurt to season your pan a few extra times at the beginning of its life. 

To cook with carbon steel, bring it to temperature over medium heat. Yes, carbon steel can get ripping hot, but since it’s such a good conductor of heat, cooking over high heat is not always necessary. Once your pan is at medium heat, add your fat of choice, whether butter, olive oil, grapeseed oil, or lard. It is essential to let the fast also come up to temperature. Once the olive is hot, add your food. A good indicator of whether or not your oil is hot is by placing your hand a few inches above the pan’s cooking surface. If you feel the heat, you’re good to go! 

carbon steel wok

The Bottom Line

When it comes to the pros and cons of carbon steel cookware, there are many factors, but the pros outweigh the cons. Carbon steel is one of the most versatile pieces of cookware, and it’s no question why it is adored by professionals and home cooks alike.



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