Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pans – 8 Major Pros & Cons

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pans

Last Updated on August 17, 2023 by Emily Anna

When it comes to pans, there are various types made of different materials, including carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, and iron. Carbon steel and stainless steel are the most preferred cookware options due to their different features. Although they may sound similar, there are significant differences between Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Pans.

Carbon steel pans are naturally nonstick when properly seasoned. Additionally, they are super affordable and durable, capable of withstanding years of use. Moreover, carbon steel pans have excellent heat retention properties, making them ideal for high-heat cooking processes. Similarly, they are naturally compatible with induction stoves.

On the other hand, stainless steel pans are lightweight and super durable, lasting for years. Like carbon steel, stainless steel pans also require seasoning to get a nonstick surface. Also, these pans are naturally non-reactive. Further, stainless steel pans are easier to clean and compatible with all stoves. 

Furthermore, both pans are available in various sizes, allowing you to cook almost any dish. However, these are just the pros compared to Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pans. But, at the same time, both of these types have different cons. Keep reading this article to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each.

What is a carbon steel pan?

Pans made or manufactured with iron and carbon are called carbon steel pans. This combination gives unique properties to cookware, including excellent heat conductivity, durability, and a natural nonstick coating through seasoning.

What is a stainless steel pan?

These types of pans are typically made or manufactured using stainless steel. This metal alloy material is excellent in durability, corrosion resistance, and and lightweight and nonreactive properties.

Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Pans – Which one is best?

Natural Nonstick Properties

Both of these pans do not have a natural nonstick surface. And foods stick to their character when they are used for cooking. However, with the help of a proper seasoning process, a nonstick surface of pan can be achieved.

Usually, seasoning involves applying a thin layer of oil on the frying pan’s surface and then heating it on a gas stove. Keep heating it at 400°F until the oil starts to smoke. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times. As a result, it will create a nonstick coating on the pan surface. 

Durable and Long-Lasting

When it comes to durability, both pans are durable and can last a lifetime. However, stainless steel pans are ahead in durability and anti-resistant features. Typically, these features protect the cookware’s surface from rust, scratches, and other potential damages.

But usually, cookware’s durability depends on proper care and maintenance practices. Here are some general tips to extend the lifespan of pans:

  • Season them regularly
  • Avoid using abrasive scrubbers while cleaning
  • Avoid using them on high heat
  • Store them in a secure place
  • Avoid Thermal Shock
  • Use Proper Cooking Techniques


Of Course, lightweight cookware is easier to handle and maneuver. This is especially perfect for tasks that require frequent stirring, flipping, or tossing. Even lightweight pans heat up quickly and do not put extra pressure on the stove.

So when it comes to Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pans, both are light in weight. However, stainless steel utensils are much lighter in weight. 

 Heat Conductivity

Stainless steel material could be a much better performer regarding heady conductivity. As a result, these pans do not heat up quickly and distribute flame evenly. The reason for this is it has a lower heat transfer capability.

However, supplementing it with other materials like metallic alloy can offer better heat conductivity. On the other hand, carbon steel pans are excellent heat conductors. These cookware heat up fast and distribute flame evenly on the entire cooking surface of the frying pan.

Furthermore, stainless steel utensils are best for cooking, requiring precise and quick heating adjustment. Ideally, these fraying pans are best for sautéing and searing where minimum oil is needed.

Compatible with stoves

Both of these pans are versatile in terms of compatibility. And they’re compatible with almost all stoves. This means using carbon and stainless steel frying pans on gas, electric, and induction stoves.  

React with acidic foods

 This is the essential feature to look for in cookware to make your cooning process toxic-free. And when it comes to both of these cookware, carbon steel cookware reacts with acidic foods.

So you should avoid cooking acidic foods like lemons or tomatoes in these utensils. On the other hand, stainless steel pans are safe regarding reactivity with acidic foods. 

Easy to clean

Since steel pans have a nonreactive surface, which makes them less prone to sticking and staining. As a result, it makes it easier to clean the pans than its counterpart. 


Cost is an essential factor when buying new pots and pans. Therefore you should consider the price when comparing Carbon steel and stainless steel. So when it comes to which is cheaper and budget-friendly, you should go with Carbon steel.

Reason for this is carbon material is less expensive to produce cookware. Also, other factors are less costly compared to stainless steel, such as Manufacturing Process. 


Best of these cookware have different pros and cons. It depends on your cooking needs to decide which is perfect for you. Stainless steel pans are best for durability, lightweight, reactivity with foods, and cleaning process.

On the other hand, if you prefer better heat conductivity, and cost, a carbon steel pan is the best choice. However, when it comes to nonstick surfaces and compatibility with stoves, both are in the same line.



Which is better for cooking, carbon steel or stainless steel?

Both of these cookware have different pros and cons. Stainless pans are excellent for durability, weight, and easy cleaning process. At the same time, carbon cookware is perfect if you prefer affordability and excellent heady conductivity. 

Is carbon steel healthier than stainless steel?

No, carbon steel reacts with acidic foods, which does not make it a healthier option. 

What are the disadvantages of carbon steel cookware?

Carbon steel cookware has some disadvantages. Usually, these include heavy react with foods, the seasoning process required, and need more care to prevent rusting. 

Do restaurants use carbon steel or stainless steel?

Both of these cookware are used in restaurants. 

Why use carbon steel instead of stainless steel?

If you prefer affordability and excellent heat conductivity, carbon steel is the perfect choice. 

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