Carbon steel cookware has gained popularity in recent years due to its durability, versatility, and affordability, making it a preferred choice among many. The question of whether carbon steel cookware is safe for cooking often arises.
With so many different types of cookware available, it’s important to understand the safety and health implications of using carbon steel in the kitchen.
The good news is, yes, carbon steel cookware is generally considered completely safe for cooking. Made from a combination of iron and carbon, carbon steel is also a non-toxic and safe material that does not contain any harmful chemicals or coatings.
While there are some potential health concerns to be aware of when using carbon steel pans, such as the possibility of leaching iron into food, overall, it is a reliable and safe choice for home cooks and professional chefs alike.
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In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of using a carbon steel pan and provide tips for the proper seasoning process and maintenance to ensure safe and effective use in the kitchen.
What is Carbon Steel Cookware?
Carbon steel cookware is a type of cookware made from a combination of iron and carbon. During manufacture, the cookware is bent into shape and cut from large pieces of carbon steel sheeting.
It is a popular choice among professional chefs and home cooks alike because of its durability, versatility, and affordability. A carbon steel skillet, unlike a cast iron skillet, is lighter and more manageable, making it an excellent option for everyday cooking.
Carbon steel cookware is also known for its ability to heat up quickly and evenly, which makes it ideal for searing meats and vegetables.
It can also be used for baking and roasting in the oven, as long as it is handled with care because it can get exceptionally hot throughout, including the handle. It is important to use oven mitts when handling a carbon steel skillet, or other pieces, in the oven.
One of the unique features of carbon steel cookware is that it can develop a non-stick surface when seasoned properly. Seasoning involves applying a thin layer of oil to the surface of the cookware and heating it until it forms a protective layer.
This layer helps prevent food from sticking to the surface and makes it easier to clean carbon steel cookware.
Is Carbon Steel Cookware Safe for Cooking?
Carbon Steel Composition
Being made of carbon is a popular material choice for cookware because it is strong and durable. Carbon steel cookware is made up of 99% carbon and 1% iron, which are both safe materials for cooking.
Potential Safety Concerns
While carbon steel cookware is generally safe to use, there are a few potential safety concerns to keep in mind.
Carbon steel can get very hot, so it is important to use oven mitts or pot holders when handling it.
Carbon steel cookware does not have a non-stick coating, which means that food may stick to the pan’s surface, if not properly seasoned or if the pan is not well-oiled.
Cons of Carbon Steel
- Carbon steel cookware can be more expensive than other types of cookware.
- It requires seasoning before use and regular maintenance to prevent rusting.
- It is not dishwasher safe and steel wool should be avoided to keep the cooking surface nonstick.
- It may not be suitable for cooking acidic foods as these can react with the metal.
Benefits of Carbon Steel
- You can use carbon steel cookware on the stovetop, in the oven, and even on the grill, making it a versatile option for your cooking needs.
- Carbon steel cookware heats up quickly and evenly, allowing for precise cooking temperatures.
- This cookware has all the benefits of a cast iron pan without weight. Carbon steel skillets (12″ skillet – 8 lbs) weigh approximately half of what a traditional iron skillet weighs (12″ skillet – 4 lbs).
- It is durable and can last for many years with proper care.
How to Use Carbon Steel Cookware
You can cook a wide variety of foods on carbon steel cookware, including steak, bacon, eggs, pasta, stew, vegetables, and more. Carbon steel cookware is versatile and durable, making it an ideal choice for many types of cooking.
You can use it on the stove, under the broiler, over an open flame, or even in a pizza oven, providing you with multiple cooking options.
To cook with carbon steel cookware, it’s important to preheat the pan well and add oil before adding your protein this will give you a great sear.
Over time once it’s built up a seasoned non-stick coating, the possibilities of what you can cook are endless.
How to Care for a Carbon Steel Pan
To care for new carbon steel cookware, it’s important to properly season the pan before use and to clean it after each use. Seasoning helps create a non-stick surface while cleaning should be done with hot water and a brush without soap to avoid damaging the seasoning.
Seasoning Your Carbon Steel
Seasoning is the process of heating oil in the pan to create a non-stick surface. Here are the steps to season a carbon steel pan:
- Wash the pan with hot water and mild soap.
- Rinse the pan and dry it completely.
- Apply a thin layer of oil to the pan with a soft cloth, covering all surfaces.
- Heat the pan on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let the pan cool completely.
- Wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Proper cleaning and maintenance will extend the life of your carbon steel cookware. Here are some tips to clean your carbon steel:
- After cooking, wipe the pan with a clean paper towel to remove any food residue.
- If there is still food stuck in the pan, boil some water in the pan to loosen it, then scrape it off with a metal spatula.
- Avoid using soap to clean the pan, as it can strip off the seasoning. Instead, use hot water and a gentle scrubber.
- If there is any tough residue that is hard to scrub off, use a regular dish-scrubbing sponge to clean the spot.
- After cleaning, dry the pan completely to prevent rusting.
When seasoning new cookware or previously used cookware I use grapeseed oil because of the oil’s smoking point and it is a healthy option. Find out more about the best oils for seasoning in this in-depth article.
Proper storage will prevent your carbon steel cookware from getting damaged. Here are some tips:
- Store your carbon steel cookware in a dry place to prevent rusting.
- Do not stack your pans on top of each other, as this can cause scratches and damage to the seasoning.
- If you need to stack your pans, place a paper towel or cloth between them to prevent scratching.
- If you are storing your pans for a long period of time, apply a thin layer of oil to prevent rusting.
Learn the correct way to store iron cookware to prevent rust and corrosion.
Is Carbon Steel Safe for Cooking?
Carbon steel cookware is a popular choice for many home cooks and professional chefs alike. But is it safe to use for cooking? The answer is yes, carbon steel is safe for cooking.
Is carbon steel cookware toxic? Carbon steel is made from iron and carbon, both of which are non-toxic and safe materials. Unlike Teflon, which can contain harmful chemicals like PFOAs, carbon steel does not pose any health risks when used for cooking.
It’s important to note that carbon steel is reactive to acidic foods, such as tomatoes or lemon juice, or other citrus juices. This means that if you cook acidic foods in carbon steel cookware, it can cause the pan to discolor or even create a metallic taste in the food.
To avoid this, it’s best to use non-reactive cookware, such as stainless steel or enameled cast iron when cooking acidic foods.
Another thing to keep in mind is that carbon steel cookware can get extremely hot, especially in the oven. When handling carbon steel cookware in the oven, be sure to use oven mitts and handle them with care to avoid burns.
Overall, carbon steel cookware is a safe and durable option for cooking. Just be mindful of its limitations and take proper precautions when handling it.
Is Carbon Steel Better Than Cast Iron
Carbon steel and cast iron are both made of iron and carbon, but the percentage of carbon is what sets them apart. Carbon steel has a higher percentage of carbon than cast iron, which makes it stronger and more durable.
Cast iron, on the other hand, has a lower percentage of carbon, which makes it more brittle but also easier to cast. Both materials have their pros and cons, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference and cooking needs.
Carbon Steel Pans vs Cast Iron: Differences
Carbon steel and cast iron are two popular materials used in cookware. Despite having some similarities, there are notable differences between the two. Here are some of the key differences between these two types of cookware;
|Feature||Carbon Steel||Cast Iron|
|Carbon Content||1% – 2%||2% – 3.5%|
|Weight (12″ Skillet)||Lighter @ 4 pounds||Heavier @ 8 pounds|
|Design||Rougher surface, sloping sides, long handle||Smoother surface, straight sides, shorter handle, helper handle|
|Cooktop Compatibility||All stovetops including induction, oven-safe, broiler-safe, grill & campfire||All stovetops including induction, oven-safe, broiler-safe, grill & campfire|
|Heat Conduction||Thinner construction – heats up quicker||Thick construction, slow to heat up|
|Heat Distribution & Retention||Even heating reacts quicker to temperature changes||Even distribution when fully heated retains heat well|
|Reactive||To acidic food||To acidic food|
|Non-Stick Properties||Good food release if the seasoning is maintained||Good food release if the seasoning is maintained|
|Maintenance||Requires seasoning and regular maintenance||Requires seasoning and regular maintenance|
Carbon steel and cast iron have different carbon contents, with cast iron having a higher carbon content than carbon steel. This makes cast iron more brittle than carbon steel, which can affect its durability. However, cast iron is also heavier than carbon steel, which can make it more stable on the stove.
Carbon steel is known for its even heating, which can make it easier to cook delicate foods that require precise temperature control. Cast iron, on the other hand, is slow to heat up but retains heat well, making it ideal for searing and frying.
Both carbon steel and cast iron require seasoning and regular maintenance to keep them in good condition. However, carbon steel is generally easier to maintain than cast iron, as it is less prone to rust and can be cleaned with soap and water.
Which is Better?
When it comes to choosing between carbon steel and cast iron, there is no clear winner. Both materials have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference and cooking needs.
Carbon steel pans are lighter and heat up faster than cast iron pans, making them ideal for dishes that require quick and even heating. They are also more responsive to temperature changes, allowing for greater control over cooking. On the downside, carbon steel pans are typically more expensive than cast iron pans and require more maintenance.
Cast iron pans, on the other hand, are heavier and retain heat better than carbon steel pans. They are also more durable and can last for generations with proper care. A cast iron pan is versatile and can be used on a variety of cooking surfaces, including induction cooktops. However, they can be slow to heat up and may develop hot spots over time.
In summary, both carbon steel and cast iron have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. When choosing between the two, consider your cooking needs and preferences. If you need a pan that heats up quickly and is easy to control, carbon steel may be the better choice. If you want a durable and versatile pan that can last for generations, cast iron may be the better choice.
Conclusion: Cooking with Carbon Steel
Carbon steel cookware is non-toxic and great for cooking,, high-quality carbon steel pots and pans line my kitchen cupboards and are used on a regular basis.
Carbon steel is made up of only two elements – iron and carbon and doesn’t contain any other materials including potentially harmful heavy metals. Both carbon and iron are safe for humans and are already present in our diets. Iron is in fact essential for the healthy operation of our body.
While there is a potential for leaching iron into food and the use of PFOA in some carbon steel pans, these factors can be easily managed by seasoning the pan properly and purchasing PFOA-free carbon steel cookware.
Carbon steel cookware pros: far outway any cons and is a great alternative to nonstick cookware like Teflon cookware, as it does not contain dangerous toxins or plastic coating like Teflon.
Carbon steel cookware also has a characteristic non-stick coating, which can be created by seasoning the pan with lard or vegetable oil, two non-toxic, natural substances. Carbon steel cookware is durable, lightweight, and heats up quickly, making it ideal for cooking a wide range of dishes.
Overall, carbon steel is a safe and reliable option for cooking, and by taking a few simple precautions, such as seasoning the pan properly and purchasing PFOA-free cookware, you can enjoy all the benefits of this versatile material without any safety concerns.
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