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Carbon steel and stainless steel pans are both extensively used across the world and provide several advantages.

They are non-porous, resilient, lightweight, and non-reactive, making them among the finest pans for heavy use.

Despite their similarities, they are not the same.

In this post, we will go over some of the key distinctions between a carbon steel pan and a stainless steel pan so you can decide which is ideal for your kitchen.

Pans Made of Carbon Steel

Carbon steel pans are produced from iron and a very little amount of carbon.

They are somewhat heavier than steel pans and have a natural nonstick surface that is devoid of dangerous pollutants.

They can also withstand high cooking temperatures and heat up evenly over the surface.

They are resistant to corrosion and rust, much like stainless steel pans, and are highly robust.

Carbon steel cookware is known to release iron into the food that you are cooking, which may be highly advantageous to your health.

Related read: How to Season a Carbon Steel Pan?

Let us look at some of the benefits of these pans:

Carbon Steel Pan Benefits

  • Once carbon steel pans have lost their natural non-stick coating due to excessive use, they can easily be made non-stick if they’re seasoned properly.
  • They can be heated to higher temperatures than stainless steel. Since they can retain heat, they’re best used for frying, grilling, or searing fish, steaks, and chicken.
  • They require less fat for cooking and are more economical than most high-end stainless steel pans.
  • A carbon steel pan can be put in the oven at high heat temperatures.

Carbon Steel Pan Disadvantages

  • Carbon steel pans shouldn’t be used to cook foods that are highly acidic, such as tomatoes, as the acid can damage the non-stick coating and give the food a metallic taste.
  • Typically, their heating surface isn’t as uniform as that of a stainless steel pan.
  • You need to wash, dry, and oil them regularly if you want to protect them from rust.
  • They need to be seasoned frequently, especially if they’ve been in use for quite some time, so they can retain their non-stick coating.
  • It’s NOT safe to clean them in the dishwasher.

Cooking Techniques for Carbon Steel Pans

While cooking with carbon steel pans, you should take the same precautions you would with any other kind of cookware:

  • Since they don’t react well to highly acidic foods, it’s recommended that you avoid preparing sauces or using recipes that call for a lot of vinegar, red wine, and tins of tomatoes. They won’t damage the pans, apart from ruining the seasoning, but they can impart unpleasant metallic flavors to all of your favorite foods.
  • If you’re planning to store them for a long period of time without using them, it would be wise to oil them properly before wrapping them up in a tea towel or something similar and keeping them in the driest place in your kitchen.
  • As the natural seasoned surface, they come with is just superficial, high-fat food items like bacon or a pork chop should be some of the first things you cook in them. The fat from these foods will help boost the layers of seasoning.
  • Use a neutral oil to season them and place them upside down on sheet pan before baking them in your oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour.

Pans Made of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pans, often known as stainless steel, are produced from an alloy containing 10 to 30% chromium and iron.

They are distinguished from most other types of steel pans in that they do not rust or corrode.

If you are thinking about purchasing them, keep in mind that although solid stainless steel pans that are not coated with conductive metals are fairly affordable, they should be avoided at all costs.

Clad stainless pans, especially those composed of copper or a mix of copper and aluminum, are much superior.

Since stainless steel does not transfer heat well on its own, a layer of copper or aluminum is placed between the steel to promote heat conductivity.

They can heat evenly and will not burn your food, but they are more expensive.

They are well-known for their strength, durability, and versatility, and they often come with a lifetime guarantee.

The Benefits of a Stainless Steel Pan

  • One of the best things about stainless steel pans, hands down, is that they’re rust-free.
  • All-clad stainless steel pans are much better in appearance than carbon steel, so if you’re in the habit of collecting beautiful cookware, you need to get your hands on these as they have loads of other benefits too.
  • They’re perfectly safe for use in the oven and can also be cleaned in the dishwasher, which means less work for you.
  • Another great thing about them is that they don’t need to be seasoned and can be recycled as well.

Stainless Steel Pan Drawbacks

  • Even though these pans don’t really require seasoning, they don’t come with a non-sticking coating. While using these pans, even professional chefs can have a hard time keeping the food from sticking to the surface.
  • If they’re not maintained properly, any scratches or damages to their surface can lead to metal leaching into your food and altering its taste significantly.
  • They aren’t good heat conductors.
  • They can be quite heavy-weight, especially if they come with a copper core.

Cooking Techniques with Stainless Steel Pans

These are some culinary strategies to bear in mind while working with stainless steel pans:

  • Since tiny bits of meat and vegetables can easily get stuck on their surface, consider deglazing the pan first with chicken stock or a glass of wine. This will also add a really nice flavor to all your dishes.
  • Because of their enhanced heat distribution and retention, they’re best used to prepare sautéed and braised foods.
  • Before tossing in your ingredients, it’s advisable to test the pan first to make sure it’s ready. Drop a tiny piece of meat or vegetable or even a drop of water into the pan. If this results in a ‘tss’ sound, then that means the pan is ready.
  • Cold food works the same way as water when it comes to combatting heat. Make sure all the ingredients are somewhat close to the room temperature before cooking them in stainless steel pans.
  • Avoid cooking eggs in stainless steel pans as they have a natural tendency to stick. Reserve omelets and sunny side up eggs for your non-stick pans.

The Significant Differences Between Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel Pans

Now that you know a little bit about both kinds of cookware, let’s look at some of their key distinctions so you can decide which one best meets your cooking requirements.


Stainless steel and carbon steel pans are both bright and lustrous.

Yet, it has been noted that carbon steel pans need a clear coat soon after they have been polished.

If they are not frequently polished and seasoned, they will tarnish and ultimately corrode.

A stainless steel pan, on the other hand, will keep its gleaming finish even if damaged.

Capability to Resist Heat

Stainless steel pans are poor heat conductors and must have a copper or aluminum layer added to their base to contact heat uniformly throughout the surface.

Carbon steel pans, on the other hand, are popular because to their excellent heat conductivity. They may even hold heat for a few minutes after being removed from the heat source.

Despite the fact that both can sustain high heat temperatures, carbon steel pans are believed to be somewhat more heat tolerant.

Resistant to Corrosion

As previously said, corrosion resistance is an important consideration when shopping for pans that will endure a long time in your kitchen.

Both carbon steel and stainless steel pans are composed of iron, which oxidizes over time when exposed to the elements, resulting in rust on the surface.

Since chromium metal is added to stainless steel pans, they are much more corrosion resistant. Chromium, unlike iron, has the potential to bind itself to oxygen rather rapidly and may build a protective coating that minimizes the risks of corrosion.

Because carbon steel pans often lack sufficient chromium to produce this layer, oxygen becomes linked to the iron, resulting in iron oxide, more popularly known as rust.

To summarize

Now that you know practically everything there is to know about carbon steel and stainless steel pans, it will be much simpler for you to determine which frying pan you will use the most.

Other considerations to consider include your heat source, since flat top stoves need pans that are totally flat on the bottom to enable uniform heat dispersion.

These are also available at radically different price ranges, so while looking for important cookware, keep your budget in mind.

To get the most out of your pans and ensure that they last as long as possible, you must take adequate care of them and use suitable cooking methods to prevent causing excessive harm to the material.

Additional Cooking Pan articles you may be interested in:

  • Copper Pans vs. Stainless Steel Pans
  • Stainless Steel Pans vs. Nonstick Pans
  • Red Copper Pan vs Gotham Steel Pan – What’s the Difference?
  • Dutch Oven vs. Roasting Pan: Which is Right for You?
  • Glass vs. Metal Baking Pans – Which One is Better?
  • Skillet vs Frying Pan – Are They Same or Different?
  • What Can You Cook in Stainless Steel Pans?
  • 8 Reasons Why Pros Use Carbon Steel Pans
  • How to Fix Warped Carbon Steel Pan?