Carbon steel cookware has a strong following of fans and for some really good reasons. That doesn’t mean it’s all puppy dogs and rainbows though. We’ll run through the carbon steel cookware pros and cons so you can weigh the benefits and downsides for yourself and make your own decision as to whether or not carbon steel is the right cookware for you. We believe that carbon steel cookware is the best alternative to Teflon coated cookware as a safe non stick solution. You can read more in our article about “What is the best non stick cookware?” Continue reading to learn everything you need to know and more about carbon steel pots and pans.
Carbon Steel Cookware Pros
Naturally Non Stick
Carbon steel cookware is relatively non stick when seasoned. It’s not as non stick as teflon coated pots and pans but it is a viable alternative if you are willing to deal with the downsides that come along with it.
High Temperature Tolerant
Unlike teflon coated cookware, carbon steel can withstand high temperatures. As teflon approaches 500 degrees it begins to break down and emit toxic fumes. Teflon is safe at lower temperatures so there isn’t any need for concern if you stay within its limits. Carbon steel is much safer and you don’t need to worry if your pots or pans get too hot.
One of the great benefits of non stick cookware is the reduced need for unhealthy oils and butter used to prevent the food from sticking to the cookware. The more non stick the cookware the less oils or butter is needed. Carbon steel isn’t the most non stick option but it is one of the more non stick options available once properly seasoned. This means that the amount of oils or butter needed isn’t zero but it is significantly lower than most competing types of cookware currently available.
Lower Typical Cost
Carbon steel pots and pans are relatively inexpensive. It is a very durable material to produce cookware out of and since it can be made naturally non stick through seasoning there isn’t the added expense of applying a process to create the non stick coating. Other types of cookware use materials that aren’t as good at distributing heat. Carbon steel is fairly good at distributing heat and cooks very reasonably evenly. Stainless steel cookware requires that its core be made of aluminum. This makes the manufacturing process much more convoluted than carbon steel.
Carbon Steel Cookware Cons
When you first get your carbon steel cookware it will need to be seasoned to have a proper non stick surface. Seasoning isn’t a difficult process but it obviously isn’t as convenient as purchasing a teflon coated pan and tossing it on your cooktop.
Highly Acidic Foods Must Be Avoided
Foods with a high amount of acid in them such as vinegar will break down the natural non stick seasoning. This doesn’t mean that no acidic foods can be cooked. It just means that heavily acidic foods should be avoided to preserve the non stick coating. You can cook heavily acidic foods if you need but you will need to be prepared to re-season the surface of your cookware.
Not Dishwasher Safe
For the same reason you should avoid acidic foods you should avoid putting your carbon steel cookware in the dishwasher. The non stick coating will break down from the detergents and hot water in your dishwasher. You can run water over you cookware to clean it but you should try to limit it as much as possible. You should also dry it thoroughly when you’re done rinsing it off.
Not The Most Uniform Cooking Cookware Material
Carbon steel is reasonably uniform as a cooking surface but it is far from the best option. It’s better than stainless steel which needs an aluminum core to properly distribute heat across the cooking surface. But carbon steel isn’t as good as stainless steel when it has an aluminum core.
How To Season A Carbon Steel Pan
Seasoning carbon steel cookware is a fairly simple process. There are many approaches people take but it can be distilled down to simply heating an oil in the cookware until it begins to smoke and leaves a bronze like surface on the cookware. A higher smoke point oil is preferred as it will produce a more non stick surface. Flaxseed oil is generally considered the ultimate oil for seasoning carbon steel and cast iron but many other types of oils are frequently used.
How To Maintain Carbon Steel Pans
Maintaining carbon steel cookware is similar to maintaining cast iron cookware. When cleaning you will want to avoid water but rinsing is okay. For scrubbing, use salt as an abrasive and a kitchen rag. This is the best way to remove cooked on bits that are otherwise too stubborn to remove. Never put your carbon steel cookware in a dishwasher. Steel rusts and the detergents and hot water from the dishwasher will break down the seasoned non stick coating. Before putting your cookware away be sure it is completely dry. You may want to put it back on the cooktop briefly to dry it out just to be certain. Also, apply a little cooking out to the surface to help protect the non stick surface.
The Pros and Cons of Carbon Steel Cookware
The carbon steel cookware pros and cons will match up well with some peoples needs and desires more than others. Carbon steel is similar to cast iron cookware in a lot of ways. If you have cast iron cookware and enjoy cooking with it then carbon steel is a great cookware for you. It’s lighter than cast iron which can be a very appealing benefit when compared to cast iron.
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to teflon non stick cookware, carbon steel is a great option for you as well. Ceramic coated cookware can be a great alternative for a few months but the ceramic non stick coating breaks down incredibly quickly which basically makes it worthless.