Is Carbon Steel Cookware Safe?

by R7 eagle | Last Updated:  May 8, 2021
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When I was considering purchasing a carbon steel pan, it was important for me to know if carbon steel cookware was safe. After some preliminary research, I found that other people had the same question. So, decided I would do some extensive research to see if carbon steel cookware was safe compared to other types of cookware.

Is carbon steel cookware safe? Carbon steel cookware is very safe because it only consists of carbon and iron. There are NO harmful non-stick coatings applied to carbon steel cookware. 

To be healthier, we might consider taking responsibility for our own health. There are several aspects to this.

  1. Daily exercise
  2. The foods we eat
  3. The cookware we use to cook on

It is great that modern technology has given us new drugs, more surgery and more lab tests. The problem is that the medical profession today puts our diets and the way we cook on the back burner (no pun intended). They say lets’ make more drugs, more GMO foods, more low-fat foods, and more processed foods. They do, however, tell us to exercise more so I have to credit where credit is deserved.

Along with this, the FDA has approved non-stick coatings for the newer pans you see on TV. It may be years for any problems show up after using these high tech cookware coatings. You have to ask “How long have these coatings been tested?” Have they been tested for 5 years, 2 years, 6 months or just one month?

I have been a physician since 1974 and have seen a lot of bad changes taken place with regard to nutrition. As human beings, we have to get back to more natural ways of dealing with our living and nutritional needs. What we eat and the way we prepare our food is extremely important if we are to remain healthy.

As a physician, you might consider:

  • Using SAFE cookware such as carbon steel cookware.
  • Buying as much organic food as possible.
  • Eliminating ANY foods that are made from GMO seeds.
  • Eating a lot of organic vegetables and fruit.
  • Eating only organic eggs, milk or meat.
  • Eating a lot of fish, staying away from any fish that are farm raised.
  • Do not eat large fish like tuna or swordfish. Large fish live longer than small fish and therefore store more toxins in their fat.
  • Increase the amount of good fat in our diet. Fats like, real butter, cheese, coconut oil, avocados, etc are a few examples.
  • Avoid anything labeled “Low Fat”. Fat foods do not make people fat, carbohydrates do.
  • Food labeled “Low Fat” usually contains a larger amount of carbohydrates to make them taste better. Carbohydrates or sugar is addictive.
  • Avoid foods that contain soy.
  • Avoid any foods that are processed and contain nitrates.

If you are really concerned with your health, use carbon steel cookware and follow the list above.

Serious Thoughts About Safe Cookware

Teflon gas is very toxic and can kill you. A few years ago, I lost dozens of show birds due to Teflon gas. The newer cookware coatings have not been on the market long enough to determine the long-term effects on the human body. Why take the risk?

Since we all have to be on alert for the type of food we eat, why would we have to worry about what we cook it on? If you cook on cast iron or carbon steel, you can safely eliminate one worry related to nutrition, the cooking process.

There is a lot of information about the safety of using carbon steel or cast iron cookware. This knowledge is great but it is also important to know what other non-stick cookware contains.

  • Chemically coated copper cookware-are they really safe?
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) also known as Teflon
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8, is another man-made chemical.

Carbon steel cookware contains about 99% iron and 1% carbon. Cast iron cookware contains about 97-98% iron and 2-3% carbon. Both of these types of cookware contain the same elements. Nothing else is added.

Some of the manufacturers of carbon steel have been in business since 1830 using the same elements to manufacture their carbon steel pans. From a health standpoint, there is nothing safer than carbon steel or cast iron. Stainless steel looks great, but it heats up slowly and does not sear meat or fish to the degree that carbon steel cookware does.

Carbon Steel Cookware is Made Only From:

  • iron
  • carbon

What is Iron?

A typical iron atom has 56 times the mass of a typical hydrogen atom. Iron is the most abundant metal on earth and is believed to be the tenth most abundant element in the universe. The symbol for iron is Fe and atomic number 26. It is unlikely that there will ever be a shortage of iron to make carbon steel or cast iron cookware.

From a biological standpoint, iron is an essential mineral, and its main purpose is to carry oxygen in the hemoglobin of red blood cells throughout the body so cells can produce energy. Iron also helps remove carbon dioxide. When levels of iron are low, fatigue, weakness, and difficulty maintaining body temperature often result.

Iron is an essential mineral. Hemoglobin represents about two-thirds of the body’s iron. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. A lack of red blood cells is called iron deficiency anemia. Without healthy red blood cells, your body can’t get enough oxygen. Now you can see how important iron is to our human body. Not only is iron (and carbon) safe to cook with, we also need the iron that is given off by cooking with carbon steel. It is a win-win situation.

Elements of Stainless Steel Cookware:

  • Nickel (a toxic heavy metal)
  • Chromium (a toxic heavy metal)
  • Molybdenum
  • Vanadium
  • Titanium
  • Aluminum
  • Niobium
  • Copper
  • Nitrogen
  • Sulfur
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium

My research discovered some interesting facts about carbon steel and stainless steel cookware. Since carbon steel cookware and cast iron cookware contain the same elements, I saw no need to provide all the pros and cons comparing carbon steel and cast iron cookware.

Facts about Carbon Steel Cookware:

  • Carbon steel consists of about 1% carbon and 98% to 99% iron.
  • Carbon steel is usually heavier than stainless steel.
  • Carbon steel cookware leaches iron into your food. Iron is a healthy mineral that our body needs this can be a great benefit.
  • Carbon steel needs to be seasoned.
  • Putting your carbon steel pan in your dishwasher is not recommended.
  • If you cook acid or alkaline foods, the seasoning may come off.
  • Re-seasoning a carbon steel pan is easy.
  • Carbon steel cookware is good at retaining heat.
  • Carbon steel pans will last a lifetime if cared for properly.
  • Carbon steel cookware is made with a long handle, which helps when lifting or controlling your pan. Most have a hole in the handle so you can hang it up by the handle.
  • Carbon steel cookware is reasonably priced as compared to other cookware.
  • Carbon steel cookware can be made Non-Stick if seasoned properly.
  • Carbon steel cookware sears meat perfectly.
  • Carbon steel cookware can be put in an oven at high temperatures.
  • Carbon steel cookware can be used on induction stoves
  • Carbon steel cookware have long handles which help to keep them cool

Facts about Stainless Steel Cookware:

  • Stainless steel is a metal alloy consisting of around 10.5% chromium and varying percentages of several other metals, like nickel, molybdenum (Molybdenum increases the corrosion resistance of this chromium-nickel alloy to withstand attack by many industrial chemicals and solvents, and, in particular, inhibits pitting caused by chlorides. Molybdenum is one of the single most useful alloying additives in the fight against corrosion. Chromium enhances durability and protects against rust by forming when exposed to air, a non-toxic, passive film of chromium oxide.
  • The presence of a minimum of 10.5 % chromium in the stainless steel gives it the property of corrosion resistance. When chromium reacts with oxygen it forms chromium oxide automatically.
  • Stainless steel can allow other metals to leach into the foods.
  • Stainless steel does not sear meat well.
  • Generally, stainless cookware does not need to be seasoned.
  • Stainless steel can be seasoned but my understanding is that it must be re-seasoned frequently.
  • Stainless steel can be difficult to make non-stick.
  • Cooking eggs stick with stainless steel.
  • Stainless steel cookware is lighter than carbon steel.
  • Stainless steel can be cleaned in a dishwasher without damage.
  • Some stainless steel is non-magnetic which means you cannot use it on induction cooking stoves.
  • Stainless steel does not conduct heat well, so cookware is usually made with an aluminum or copper core. A sheet of aluminum or copper sandwiched between the stainless steel improves the pot’s heating ability.
  • If the aluminum or copper core becomes scratched, grooved or worn and is exposed then it would be a good idea to replace your cookware. If your pot is rusting (stainless can rust) or if there are signs that the core is wearing through, replace the pot because it’s most likely leaching those metals into your food.
  • Nickle can leach into your food if the stainless pan is scratched.

Related Questions

What is the Safest Cookware for Your Health? The safest cookware for your health is carbon steel or cast iron.

Is Carbon Steel Non-Stick? Carbon steel cookware can be non-stick if it is properly seasoned. For details on how to season your carbon steel cookware click here.

Is Carbon Steel Toxic? No. Carbon Steel Cookware is made only from iron and carbon. Neither of these elements is toxic to humans.