Carbon Steel Pans vs Non-Stick Pans

by R7 eagle | Last Updated:  April 13, 2021
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Recently, I have been practicing making classic French omelets, and I needed a non-stick pan to compare it to my carbon steel pans when making these omelets. I already bought (and returned) one of those copper-colored non-stick pans that they advertise on TV.

The reason I returned the copper-colored pan was that it was not as non-stick as they demonstrated on TV and the pan showed scratch marks after the first use. It was garbage, and now I see that big box stores have many different styles of these same pans. Oh my!

To get back to my point, I was in this big box store shown above and was looking for a good quality non-stick (if that was possible), and I came across another non-stick pan that they advertise heavily on TV. The pan in question was one of those Blue Diamond coated pans. Most of these pans ran in the $20.00 to #30.00 range.

As I picked up one of those Blue Diamond coated pans, I noticed that one of them had been returned to the store and had a temporary price tag on it. Upon closer examination, I noticed that the rim of the pan started to peel. See the image below.

I took some pictures of this pan and inserted the red arrows to point out the defect in this pan. The area where the coating has come off is probably the reason the buyer returned it.

I did not want to be too harsh on this particular pan, so I started to look at the pans hanging under this defective pan. To my surprise, I noticed that all of the ones I could see had the diamond coating beginning to peel off the edges of these pans. It is ironic that the label states that these pans are TOXIN-FREE!

Below is another pan with the same defect.

There are two potential problems here:

1. Where did the chipped coatings go?

2. If those chips are in my food, what toxic effects could I experience?

The labels on most of the newer types of non-stick pans indicate that there are no harmful coatings or toxic materials in their pans.

What effect would those defective coating chips have on your children if they ate them?

These pans showed defects even before they were left the store. I guess since they were advertised on TV, they must be safe. Really? If these pans started breaking down in the store, how long do you think they will last?

Why I Recommend Carbon Steel Cookware

Carbon steel pans are made of carbon and iron. No other coatings are applied to these pans. Carbon and iron are not toxic to the human body. We need iron in our bodies and carbon steel cookware will leach a small amount of iron into our bodies when using these pans.

Other than cast iron pans in these big box stores, almost all of the pans hanging in display racks have some components other than carbon and iron. They have aluminum, chromium, nickel, Teflon, and other man-made chemical coatings applied to the surface of these pans. Manufacturers want us to buy these cheap, unsafe pieces of cookware that we will have to replace in a month or two of use. Sounds like a plan to me!

To be fair, I took some pictures of my carbon steel pans which are not new but used for months if not for years. I tried to take the same views as I took on the pans above. If you look closely at the edges, you will NOT see any peeling of any type of coating because there are NO coatings on them.

The different shades of brown and black in the pans displayed below are just the results of a lot of use and the build-up of seasoning that is necessary to make these pans non-stick. The build-up of seasoning is not harmful to our bodies.

Here is my de Buyer carbon steel pan. The red arrows will show NO peeling.

The image below is that of my Vollrath pan I use to make omelets. The red arrows will show NO peeling.

The last image is that of my Matfer Bourgeat pan. Again, the red arrows show NO peeling.

All of my pans have been well used and they will last for years without replacing them. Manufacturers I am sure do not like me because my pans last for years and not just a few months. Perhaps this is why European chef’s love carbon steel pans.

Where Can I Obtain Carbon Steel Pans That Don’t Chip or Peel?

Here is a suggestion if you like making scrambled eggs, eggs over easy or omelets. I like the Vollrath pan for this task because it is light in weight, easy to clean, and has no rivets.

The handle on this pan is long enough so that it does not get hot when preparing eggs.

If you look at the bottom portion of this pan, you will see that the sides and bottom are curved perfectly for rolling omelets out of the pan.

The handle of this pan is welded securely to the pan. Since there are no inside rivets, this Vollrath pan is very easy to clean.

I love this pan and enjoy making my omelets in it daily. If you want a serious “go-to” SAFE pan, you might consider looking at the reviews on Amazon. You can find more information on this pan here.

The de Buyer pan below is perfect for searing meat or sauteing.

This is one of the pans that I own, and I use it weekly for searing meat and fish. When I am not searing, I am sauteeing items like onions and peppers. This is one tough skillet.

This pan will outlast any of those big-box-store cheap pans.

Remember that with all carbon steel cookware it needs to be seasoned before use. I have seasoned and reseasoned many carbon steel pans and have perfected the best way to perform this task. Here is a link to the seasoning process that I use and recommend.

You can get more information on this carbon steel pan here at Amazon.

The last pan I recommend is the Matfer Bourgeat pan or skillet.

If you want a pan with low angled sides, this will be the pan to take a closer look at. Many times we need to be able to get underneath food while it is in the frying pan without destroying it with a spatula. The pan-style below is perfect because it allows you to use a spatula to get under your food without creating a mess.

If you to saute, I would recommend the de Buyer pan above because the sides of the pan are more vertical and will contain your food better.

On closer inspection, you will notice that the handle for this classic French carbon steel skillet is welded to the pan itself. This makes it much easier to clean because the inside of the pan is smooth.

Cook’s Illustrated just highly rated this particular pan. Matfer Bourgeat has been in existence, I believe, since 1830 but has been supplying cookware to the United States for the past 25 years. They are not a fly-by-night operation.

Matfer Bourgeat is well known and respected throughout the world for its quality cookware. I am sure that you would not be disappointed if you decided to own one of they’re fine pieces of carbon steel cookware. Go to Amazon here to obtain more information as to the availability and cost of this fine line of carbon steel pans.

How to Season Carbon Steel Cookware?

I have used many methods of seasoning carbon steel cookware but here is the technique I highly recommend.

Are Carbon Steel Pans Made Better in the United States?

Good question. Carbon steel is carbon steel. Some carbon steel cookware is thicker and constructed differently. I own carbon steel cookware made in the US, France, and China (woks) and cannot see any difference in quality. Deciding the country of origin is entirely a personal choice. You can hardly go wrong if the cookware is made of carbon steel.