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What Is Carbon Steel Cookware?

Carbon Steel Cookware is the perfect hybrid between Stainless Steel and Cast Iron. Here’s what else you need to know about it.

By Emily Borst
Jun 7, 2021
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Carbon Steel Cookware combines the best qualities of Stainless Steel and Cast Iron Cookware. Made from a blend of iron and carbon, it has the heat control and cooking speed of Stainless Steel along with the heat retention and non stick properties of Cast Iron.

Known for its French origin and prevalence in professional kitchens around the world, Carbon Steel Cookware is quickly becoming more and more popular with home cooks as well. If you’ve never cooked with, or even heard of, Carbon Steel before, you’ve come to the right place. Find out all about its properties and why Carbon Steel is a must-have in your kitchen.

Why Carbon Steel?

Carbon Steel can withstand temperatures up to 1200F, is lightweight, and responds to changes in temperature extremely quickly. It’s one of the safest and most versatile cooking surfaces, as it can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, on the grill, and even over an open flame.

What Is it Made From?

Much like Cast Iron, Carbon Steel is an alloy, or metal mixture, made up of iron and carbon. One of its main distinguishing features, however, is its weight—the percentage of iron to carbon makes it both lighter and more durable than its Cast Iron counterpart.

Our Carbon Steel Cookware is composed of 99% iron and 1% carbon, while Cast Iron generally has a 2–4% carbon composition. For reference, our 12” Carbon Steel Frying Pan weighs 4.5 pounds, while a Lodge Cast Iron frying pan weighs in at 7.89 pounds.

Where Is it Made?

Our Carbon Steel Cookware is crafted by artisans in France. With decades of craftsmanship, they use only the finest raw materials to craft quality pieces of cookware that will last a lifetime.

What Is the Blue in “Blue Carbon Steel?”

The “blue” on your Blue Carbon Steel Pan is not a color coating. It’s the result of a heating treatment called "annealing" that protects the pan from oxidation during transit. This blue color will change drastically over the first month of cooking, including completely fading away.

Is it Non Stick?

While Carbon Steel does not come out of the box with a non stick coating, over time it will build up a non stick patina. The more you use your pan, the faster it will build up a surface that can handle even the most delicate, flaky fish. After the initial seasoning, we recommend cooking fatty foods, like bacon or steak, to fast-track your way to a non stick surface.

Cooking with Carbon Steel

There’s a reason Carbon Steel is trusted in both professional and home kitchens around the world.  Here are just a few of the advantages of cooking with Carbon Steel.

  • Cooking Surface: Once your Carbon Steel Pan has built up a non stick patina, you have endless options of what you can make in your Pan. We recommend cooking something fatty, like bacon, in your Pan after its first seasoning to build up its non stick surface.

  • Heat Responsiveness: If you’ve ever needed to frantically adjust the heat under a low-quality pan, then you understand the frustration of burnt food. There’s no need to worry about that with Carbon Steel—you can go from searing a steak to lightly browning your butter to baste.

  • Strength: Carbon Steel’s structural steel gives it a strong core and allows it to withstand extreme temperatures, so you can use your Pan over high heat on the stove, directly over a fire, or even in a conventional or brick oven.

  • Versatility:  The strength and durability of Carbon Steel makes it ideal for many different dishes and settings. Plus, because it’s so lightweight, you can move it from the stovetop to the grill with ease.

Are There Any Downsides?

While we haven’t been able to find any downsides of cooking with Carbon Steel, there are two considerations to keep in mind—namely regarding care and what ingredients to avoid.

  • Care: Due to its high iron content, Carbon Steel can rust when exposed to high amounts of moisture (like after a cleaning or being in a humid environment). For this reason, the best way to clean your Pan is to wipe it out with a paper towel or rag to remove any food residue. Just like with Cast Iron Cookware, you should avoid using soap. If it gets really dirty, try these cleaning methods. As with all of our Cookware, Carbon Steel should not be cleaned in the dishwasher.

  • Food to Avoid: Much like Cast Iron, Carbon Steel is not ideal for cooking highly acidic foods. Large quantities of tomatoes, vinegar, wine, and citrus can strip the seasoning from your Pan. If this happens, you’ll just need to reseason it.

Seasoning Carbon Steel

Carbon Steel needs to be seasoned out of the box and before its first use. This provides a layer of oil between the metal surface of the pan and the ingredients your pan comes into contact with, and helps to build up a non stick surface that Carbon Steel is famous for.

Read our guides to learn more about seasoning and when to reseason your Pan.

If you’re torn on whether or not you need to add Carbon Steel Cookware to your kitchen, remember that it’s not just one type of Pan but one of the most versatile materials out there. We think Carbon Steel is an essential addition to every home cook’s arsenal. Whether you’re using a Wok, Pizza Steel, Paella Pan, or Roasting Pan, you’re sure to see the difference after cooking just one meal.