Last Updated on July 15, 2023 by Emily Anna
Regarding the two best cookwares, the first thoughts that come to mind are cast iron and carbon steel. They are both steeped in history and popular among culinary enthusiasts and chefs.
However, cast iron and carbon steel share similar properties, such as excellent heat retention and durability. It is important to understand the differences between the two to make the best choice.
In this article, I will share the differences between carbon steel vs cast iron, including their features, advantages, and disadvantages.
Carbon Steel vs Cast Iron
What is Carbon steel Cookware?
Carbon steel cookware is a type of Cookware made from iron and carbon. However, the carbon content of the mixture is only 2%. This cookware set is crafted with various steel and carbon properties, making it the epitome of excellence.
Pros of Carbon Steel :
Natural and chemical free
Unlike other non-stick coatings, carbon cookware’s coating is free of chemicals and synthetic coatings. So for health-conscious people, using carbon cookware is a healthy option because it does not add harmful substances to the food by cooking in it.
One of the outstanding properties of carbon steel is its exceptional heat conductivity. This type of Cookware not only heats up very quickly but also ensures even cooking of food. If you like cooking quickly, carbon steel cookware is your best ally.
Other types of Cookware may not provide even heat distribution when cooking in a hurry, resulting in improperly cooked food. However, using carbon steel cookware, not only is the food cooked quickly, but it is also cooked thoroughly.
Lightweight and manoeuvrability
Carbon cookware is lighter in weight than cast iron, yet it maintains excellent stability and exhibits remarkable resistance to high temperatures. Additionally, it is highly resistant to warping, making it suitable for various cooking techniques.
Carbon cookware epitomizes versatility in terms of its structure and texture. It can be utilized on various stoves, ovens, gas stoves, and open fires. Especially, these cookware are best for gas stove. Moreover, it suits multiple cooking techniques, including frying, sautéing, stir-frying, searing, and baking.
Carbon steel is long-lasting if this Cookware is seasoned and properly cared for.
Cons of Carbon Steel:
Carbon steel cookware is more reactive than cast iron cookware, which makes it prone to reacting with acidic foods such as eggs, causing them to stick to the surface easily.
Therefore, if you want to maintain a non-stick surface, it is important to continue the process of seasoning. However, several effective and easy methods exist to clean non-stick burnt Cookware.
Proper seasoning is essential for maintaining non-stick properties and durability of this cookware. If you fail to season it properly, the food will begin to stick to the surface, damaging both the surface itself and the food.
Maintenance and care
Carbon steel requires more care and maintenance than cast iron. If you don’t take proper care of it, it rusts quickly, which can easily damage and crack its surface. Therefore, it is mandatory to properly care for and maintain carbon steel to ensure its safe use.
Carbon steel cookware is generally more expensive than other types of Cookware. However, considering their features, the price can be justified and not excessively high.
What is Cast iron cookware?
Cast iron is a cookware used in the kitchen made of cast iron. It is a naturally durable and excellent heat-retaining material. It has been used for centuries and is considered one of the most popular.
Cast iron also holds the distinction of being the most used Cookware among professional chefs and home cooks. The most widely used Cookware in the world has many advantages that I describe in detail.
Pros of Cast Iron
Good Source of Iron
Cooking in cast iron leaches small amounts of iron into the food, making it beneficial for one’s health, particularly for individuals with iron deficiencies. By using cast iron cookware, they can replenish their iron levels effectively.
Superior heat distribution
The structure and texture of cast iron enhance its ability to distribute heat.
Cast iron is superior in versatility. You can make various types of cookware items, including skillets, pans, and Dutch ovens. Its high heat handling capacity makes cast iron suitable for use on the stove and in the oven.
Cast iron cookware is widely regarded as the top choice for durability. Over time and with use, cast iron develops a protective layer that enhances its strength, continuously improving its quality as it ages.
Natural non-stick properties
Cast iron naturally possesses non-stick properties, but its surface becomes even more non-stick when it is seasoned. This seasoning process helps protect the food from sticking to the surface.
Cast iron can absorb flavours. When you cook a dish in the same cast iron pan for the second time, it imparts that flavour to the food. This creates a unique and delicious taste every time you cook different foods.
Cons of Cast Iron
Cast iron cookware is heavier than other types of Cookware, making it challenging to handle and lift during cooking. This can be particularly troublesome for individuals who prefer lightweight Cookware over heavy options.
Slow heating and cooling
Cast iron takes longer to heat and cool compared to carbon steel. Therefore, cast iron may not be suitable for you if you are looking to cook quickly.
Additionally, it’s important to note that even after cooking, you cannot handle cast iron immediately due to its high temperature, which can potentially cause burns to your hands.
Reactivity with acidic foods
Even though cast iron is non-stick, food will immediately stick to the surface if it is not seasoned properly. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure proper seasoning to maintain its non-stick properties.
Not dishwasher safe
You cannot use a harsh scrubber or dishwasher to wash cast iron because they can damage its top layer. Moreover, dishwashers can also affect the seasoned coating. Any harsh scrubber or dishwasher can crack or scratch cast iron cookware.
Requires seasoning and maintenance
Proper seasoning is essential to maintain the non-stick surface of cast iron. Without proper care, it can quickly rust. Similarly, seasoning is necessary for the surface to be protected. Therefore, it is crucial to season and care for it appropriately.
Is steel better than cast iron?
Well, in every case, cast iron is superior to carbon steel. However, when considering temperature tolerance, carbon steel outperforms cast iron. Carbon steel heats up more rapidly and can endure higher temperatures than cast iron.
Is cast iron or steel better for cooking?
Cast iron surpasses carbon steel in heat retention capabilities. Although it may not heat up rapidly, cast iron is highly effective at maintaining heat over an extended period of time.
What is better: carbon steel or cast iron?
Carbon steel is lighter in weight compared to cast iron, making it easier to flip on the stove. As a result, cooking with carbon steel offers greater convenience compared to cast iron.
As we have seen, cast iron and carbon steel have different advantages and disadvantages. Carbon steel is easier to cook with because it heats and cools quickly.
Its lightweight nature also makes it easier to flip while cooking. On the other hand, cast iron surpasses carbon steel regarding food taste and durability.
Therefore, when deciding the difference between carbon steel vs. cast iron, consider your preferences, convenience, and the number of dishes you typically cook.