Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Pans: What’s the Difference? (Updated 2024)

Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Pan

Are you curious what is the difference between carbon steel and stainless steel pans? Stick around as we share how they are each used for cooking.

In picking the right cookware, you should consider different aspects, including material.

Today we will pair off: Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Pans. With both of these pans widely used around the globe, each comes with unique differences and benefits.

Having the right cookware in your corner allows you to cook and serve meals with ease.

It also allows you to deliver expertly finished dishes that taste superb and without any chemical trace.

The only problem is choosing the right cookware for your kitchen.

There are various kinds of pans available on the market. If anything, the market is saturated with all kinds of pans, particularly carbon steel and stainless steel pans.

What Is a Carbon Steel Pan?

Carbon Steel Pans

Carbon steel is a type of iron alloy. There is less than two percent carbon inside this material, meaning it is mostly comprised of iron with a bit of carbon.

Other metals, such as copper, manganese, or silicon may also be present in carbon steel, but these will come in smaller quantities.

Considered a rather hardy material, one of the main reasons many kitchens use it is that it’s not prone to rust and corrosion.

These are a mainstay in many professional kitchens throughout the world – and for good reason.

Made just a tad bit heavier than stainless steel pans, they boast seamless and smooth non-stick surfaces.

While carbon steel is more brittle, it can be heated to higher temperatures than stainless.

Apart from its tolerance to high cooking temperatures, carbon steel provides even heating, perfect for searing, sautéing, frying, or even grilling.

What Is a Stainless Steel Pan?

stainless steel pans

A stainless steel pan, on the other hand, bears similarities to carbon steel.

However, this material is made with more chromium. Other elements in stainless steel include molybdenum, nickel, and nitrogen.

The addition of chromium makes this material less likely to stain, oxidize, or even tarnish, thus earning its reputation of being “stainless.”

This also makes it less likely to corrode even when faced with more abrasive or harmful chemicals.

However, this material can react to acidic foods, so give it careful consideration when cooking such dishes.

Similar to carbon steel, stainless steel pans also heat food fairly evenly.

Differences Between Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel Pans

Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Pan

Carbon steel pans have good heat conductivity.

However, stainless steel pans don’t rank in the same league.

To avoid this problem, many stainless steel pans come clad in more conductive metal.

Look for pans coated in copper or aluminum as they will retain heat better.

Stainless steel pans are also quite versatile but bear in mind that unlike carbon steel, they do not come with a well-seasoned surface.

This means that food still has a tendency to stick on the surface of stainless steel pans.

Because of this, they require more maintenance and regular seasoning.

Another thing to consider: carbon steel tends to dull over time.

It requires seasoning ever so often to maintain its shiny appearance.

Meanwhile, stainless steel pans retain their bright and shiny exterior even when used and scratched.

Right Time to Use a Carbon Steel Pan and a Stainless Steel Pan

With their ability to withstand high cooking temperatures, carbon steel pans are great for searing a variety of dishes, including chicken, fish, steak, and many others.

Additionally, with their nonstick surface, they are ideal for cooking eggs, especially omelets and sunny-side-up creations.

On the other hand, stainless steel pans are best geared towards cooking sautéed and braised dishes.

However, to successfully cook your desired dish, bring the pan up to temperature before adding food to prevent sticking.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know the difference between carbon steel and stainless steel pans, choosing between the two will hopefully become easier for you.

With the aforementioned factors up for your consideration, picking the right cookware for your needs and your kitchen will finally be a breeze.

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