Carbon steel cookware is popular for many reasons, its durability and its heat tolerance been just two reasons people opt for this material for their pots and pans. Carbon steel cookware provides a great non-slip surface for cooking, and heats up just as fast as stainless steel.
So, what are the cons of carbon steel? For one, carbon steel rusts. It also reacts to acidic food and doesn’t heat as evenly as stainless steel. In this article we are going to look at the most important pros and cons of carbon steel cookware, leaving you to make the ultimate decision on whether or not you wish to invest in it for your kitchen.
What is Carbon Steel Cookware?
Carbon steel when used in cookware is similar to cast iron, but there are also some important differences between the two materials. Carbon steel is lighter than cast iron, easier to maneuver around, and thinner. It is made from an alloy of carbon (1%) and iron (99%).
The low carbon content of carbon steel ensures that the product is more malleable than cast iron, and therefore also more lightweight. Carbon steel cookware includes pots, woks, and skillets, as well as some type of roaster and pans.
Pros of Carbon Steel
Carbon steel is an excellent choice for your everyday cooking due to its durability and versatility. It is certainly more lightweight and much easier to maneuver than cast iron alternatives. When compared to stainless steel pans, there is very little weight difference, the average pan weighing between two and five pounds.
Carbon steel is very versatile and you can cook almost anything with it. So, if you are short of space or just buying your first home and kitting it out, it’s an excellent choice that will last for years.
It can be used for browning, searing, braising, baking, sautéing, broiling, and more. It can be used on the stove, under the grill, of even in the oven, heating up fast and being able to tolerate heat to the same level cast iron can.
Carbon steel is also very durable, so there is no danger of misshaping your pans should you accidentally drop them on the floor. Naturally non-stick, you also don’t have to worry about the coating peeling off. A good carbon steel frying pan will last you a lifetime, as you can simply season your carbon steel pan, and with a price tag of around only $50, you can’t go wrong.
Carbon steel has excellent tolerance, and for this reason, you can see it in most restaurant kitchens being used on a daily basis. Chefs can leave carbon steel pans on gas burners for hours and not have to worry about them. Handling up to the heat of 600 degrees Fahrenheit, it is easy to see why carbon steel cookware is the choice of many chefs. Stainless steel pans on the other hand will usually only handle the heat of up to 500 degrees.
Compatible with all heat sources, your carbon steel cookware can be used on gas, on vitro-ceramic, and on induction cooing appliances. What this means is that you can switch between cookers and not have to worry about if your pans are compatible or not.
Cons of Carbon Steel Cookware
Like with anything you might purchase for your kitchen, carbon steel cookware does have a few cons. The material can rust and will rust if you don’t re-season your pans when they start to lose their non-stick coating.
Carbon steel is susceptible to both rusting and discoloration. If you own a wok, it is quite likely to be carbon steel, and you should already be used to burning and wiping it after cooking to ensure the material stays sealed and non-stick.
Your carbon steel cookware may become discolored due to adding too much oil, or due to reactions with acidic food. Over time, your pans will develop the black patina that is commonly found in restaurant kitchens.
Carbon steel cookware is not for show; it’s for cooking. It’s made to withstand knocks and accidents, to withstand heat, and to provide you with a versatile type of pan you can use on any type of hob or cooker.
Carbon steel is not good for putting through the dishwasher, so you should be prepared to wash your pots by hand. A dishwasher will react with the seasoning on the carbon steel pan, meaning that it is more likely food will stick to it.
Lastly, panhandles on carbon steel pans are notorious for getting hot. So, unless you are a professional chef who is used to handling piping hot panhandles, use your carbon steel cookware with a good pair of oven mitts.