Why Use Carbon Steel Cookware?

by R7 eagle | Last Updated:  May 8, 2021
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Carbon Steel Cookware?

I love to cook meals for the family. Because of this, I was intrigued to learn that many chefs prefer to use carbon steel pots and pans. But what makes this material different and why might you want to use it?

De Buyer MINERAL B Round Carbon Steel Fry Pan 12.5-Inch -

Carbon steel conducts heat excellently. This will ensure that the pan is heated evenly. It won’t take long to reach the target temperature. Furthermore, the pan is light, making it easy to maneuver. The cookware is durable and will be able to last for a long time.

There are plenty of benefits that carbon steel cookware will be able to offer. Let’s do a deeper dive on carbon steel to see if it’s worth the money.

What are the Benefits of Using Carbon Steel Cookware?

One of the biggest benefits is that you will be able to cook a huge range of foods. It will be suitable for everything from eggs to steak. The pan is strong enough for you to put it into the oven. This makes it some of the most versatile cookware on the market.

No-one wants to have their food sticking to the pan. This can slow down the cooking process. It won’t take long to develop a patina. Once this happens, it will become non-stick. This makes it easy to keep clean.

Many people often compare carbon steel vs cast iron. But one of the biggest differences is how much they weigh. A cast-iron pan is very heavy. This can make it harder to maneuver around the kitchen.

On the other hand, a carbon steel pan is light. This makes it ideal for cooking with children as they will be able to lift it easily.

The pan to your right is my pan of choice. This is a Matfer Bourgeat carbon steel pan and is lightweight and it has sloped sides with no rivets holding the handle. Check it out at Amazon.

People also admire carbon steel because of how tough it is. It’s very difficult to crack or dent. Because of this, you’ll be able to use a good carbon steel pan for decades. This has led many to joke that a carbon steel pan will last longer than the kitchen will.

Furthermore, carbon steel will get up to temperature quickly. It also conducts heat well. This ensures that the pan will be at a uniform temperature, reducing the chances that you will burn your food.

Finally, you’ll be able to use these pots and pans with all heating sources. As it is made from metal, you will even be able to use it on an induction cooktop. It will even be able to cope with the heat provided by a campfire.

Here is one of the induction cooktops that I recommend.

What are the Downsides of Using Carbon Steel Cookware?

While carbon steel has a lot of benefits, there are still some drawbacks that you should be aware of.

One of the biggest differences when considering carbon steel vs stainless steel is the potential for rust. Before you start using carbon steel, you will need to have developed a strong patina.

Without this, it can start to rust. This can be a major problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. You’ll need to regularly season the pan to keep the patina strong. We’ll discuss how to do this a little later.

Another potential issue is that the pan gets discolored with use. This can occur because of the acids released by the food when you are cooking. This is perfectly normal and shouldn’t affect the way that it performs in the kitchen.

Another concern is that the handles can get very hot when you are cooking. How hot they will get depends on the model that you have purchased.

The best solution is to make sure that you are constantly monitoring the pan. This is especially important if you are cooking with children. Sometimes, you will also need to wear oven mitts.

Unlike other forms of cookware, you won’t be able to put carbon steel pots and pans into the dishwasher. If you do this, it can ruin the patina. This will mean that you will need to re-season them.

The good news is that the non-stick surface means that it should be fairly easy to keep them clean. Often, you’ll just need to wipe them with a damp cloth to remove any excess food. We’ll talk about cleaning them in more depth later.

Finally, the biggest issue is how the pan will react to acidic foods. They might eat through the patina layer. This will cause the pan to lose its non-stick layer.

If you are just using these foods occasionally, it shouldn’t be a problem. However, if they form an integral part of your style, you need to be prepared to re-season the pan more frequently.

How Does Carbon Steel Compare to Other Types of Cookware?

Carbon steel isn’t the only cookware material. Let’s look at how it stacks up against some other popular options.

Carbon Steel Vs Cast Iron

Both of these are very durable options and will last for a long time. But cast-iron steel will be significantly heavier than carbon steel. This can make it more difficult to cook with. Also, the thicker cast iron tends to take longer to get to temperature.

However, a cast-iron pan will often be the more affordable option. While you can get cheap carbon steel, it will be weak and more susceptible to being dented.

The cast-iron pan to the right is my favorite pan for making grilled cheese sandwiches. I love this pan and you will too. You can find it at Amazon.

Carbon Steel Vs Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pans have been designed to retain their color. They will still be shiny even if they are scratched. But the carbon steel will often perform better in the kitchen.

Stainless steel often doesn’t conduct heat evenly across the surface of the pan. Because of this, it will be harder to cook your food evenly. Carbon steel will often be better able to cope with higher temperatures.

When it comes to stainless steel pans, I use them mostly for sauces. Here is one of my most favorite and useful stainless steel pans. This pan has pouring spouts on both sides of the pan along with measurement labels on the inside. Buy it at Amazon

Carbon Steel Vs Non-Stick Coating

Non-stick coating, often referred to as Teflon, is one of the most popular cookware options in the world. People like it because of how easy it is to use. But there are a few potential problems that you will face.

One of the biggest risks is that Teflon can melt at high temperatures. This will occur when heated to over 570 degrees Fahrenheit (300 degrees Celsius). The fumes the melting Teflon produced can harm your health.

Another concern is that the non-stick coating can scratch off when scrubbed with steel wool. Unlike a patina, you won’t be able to re-season a non-stick pan. The only option is to replace it.

So, while a non-stick coating might be the more convenient option, if you want to use the item frequently it’s best to use something made from carbon steel.

What Foods Can You Cook With Carbon Steel Cookware?

One of the benefits of cooking with carbon steel is that it is compatible with a wide range of cuisines. But some foods will benefit more from using carbon steel.

One of the best foods to demonstrate how good carbon steel cookware is steak. The carbon steel will be able to get to the temperature very quickly. This allows you to get a good sear on the meat, locking in the juices.

Another meat that can benefit from a carbon steel pan is chicken. The hot plate will create a crispy skin. This will lock in the flavor.

Eggs can also benefit from this type of pan. In this case, you’ll benefit from a non-stick surface. This makes it easy for you to flip the eggs, so they don’t end up burning. The even heat distribution reduces the chances that you will burn them.

While these are some of the best examples, there are dozens of other options to explore. For example, you can take advantage of the ability to put the pan into the oven. Some people like to use this to make desserts, like cheesecake. Other people like to use them for cooking vegetables, getting the outside crunchy.

If you have just received carbon steel cookware, you’ll want to experiment with it. Try multiple recipes and foods. Start with basic recipes and work your way up to more advanced types of foods.

It might take you a few weeks to get the hang of using the new pan. But once you have mastered carbon steel, you can use it to cook almost any dish.

What Foods Should You Avoid When Cooking With Carbon Steel?

You can cook anything on a carbon steel pan. But there is one food type that you might want to avoid cooking too often. You’ll want to make sure that you are avoiding using too many acidic foods.

These are ingredients like vinegar, wine, and citrus. Sometimes, this can even apply to tomato juice. These will remove the patina around the pan. If you notice this happening, you will need to re-season it.

What Oil Should You Use With Carbon Steel Cookware?

It’s important to choose the right oil to season your pots and pans. This is what you will use to form the patina. To form a strong non-stick surface, you’ll need to use the right type of oil. There are a few options that you can choose from.

It’s important to choose an oil that has a high smoke point. You should avoid seasoning or cooking at a temperature over the smoke point.

There are plenty of oil options that you might want to consider. For example, you might want to try using Avocado oil. Alternatively, you might want to use coconut oil. If you’re planning on doing this, you’ll need to spend a little extra to get a pure blend. This will have a higher smoke point.

Sometimes, you will want an oil that doesn’t have a strong flavor. This ensures that it won’t overpower the meal. If this is the case, you might want to consider using grapeseed oil. Vegetable oil can also provide a neutral flavor for coating your pan between usages.

A great choice is avocado oil. It is very healthy, featuring a lot of antioxidants and this is the oil that I mostly use. It has a pleasant flavor, which blends well with most meats and vegetables. Sometimes, you might even want to drizzle some over the salads.

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It will often take you a few sessions to find what oils pair best with your meals. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors.

How Should You Take Care of Carbon Steel Items?

Carbon steel can last for years. But only if you don’t. If you aren’t putting in the effort to keep it in good condition, it will start to rust and the food will stick to the pan. Thankfully, taking care of your carbon steel doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are some of the tips you can use.

How to Develop a Patina on Your Carbon Steel Cookware?

The first thing that you need to do is make a patina. This is what stops the food from sticking to the pan. It’s also a good way to stop your pan from rusting. The more you cook, the thicker the patina layer will become.

You will be able to get a patina on all your carbon steel cookware. Most commonly, it’s seen on pans. But you can also use it on knives.

To season your pan, you will need to heat it. You should start to see wisps of smoke coming off the pan and it should start to turn brown. If there is any oil in the pan use a paper towel to remove it. These oils are put into the pan during the manufacturing process.

As an alternative to the video above, you might consider using the method below:

Next, you’ll need to spread Avocado oil over the pan. Use a paper towel to make sure that you are spreading it out evenly.

Leave the pan on high heat. You should notice that the lard is starting to turn into a liquify. It might even start to turn black. When you notice this, it’s time to take the pan off the heat.

Wipe off any excess oil using a paper towel. Wait for the pan to cool. You might need to do this a few times to form a good patina.

Another good tip when you are seasoning the pan is to cook with more oil that you require. You should do this for the first few meals with the pot. The excess oil will be absorbed into the pan. Once you have a good non-stick surface, it should last for a long time.

If you scratch it off or cook too many acidic foods, you might need to re-season the pan. To do this, you simply need to repeat the process described above.

How Can You Keep Your Carbon Steel Pan Clean?

It’s also important to make sure that you are cleaning your carbon steel pans properly. With a non-stick surface, this shouldn’t be too difficult. Here are a few tips you can use to keep your pans and pots clean.

First, it’s important to run some warm water over the pan. You can use a damp cloth to wipe down the surface. This should remove most food residue.

If you have something that is stuck to the surface, you can sprinkle a thin layer of salt over the pan. This will draw the excess food out. It can also be an effective way to remove flavors from previous meals.

Once you have applied the salt, you will need to turn on the heat to a medium. Wait until it gets hot. Then, use a paper towel to get rid of the salt. Run the pan under hot water to clean it.

You can also try to use your regular dishwasher scrubber to remove stuck food. Just be careful that using it too vigorously will start to remove the patina. For this reason, you won’t be able to use a ball of steel wool.

After you have cleaned the pot, you’ll need to put it onto low heat for a few minutes. This will evaporate any excess water. This will ensure that it is dry when you put it away.

If you have a new pan, you might want to place a small amount of oil onto a paper towel. Then spread it around the pan until it forms a thin layer. This will help season the cookware. After you have formed a strong patina, this step will no longer be necessary.

There are a few other things to avoid when cleaning your pots. First, you shouldn’t use dish washing liquid. This can remove the patina. It’s also important that you avoid soaking the pan in water. This can cause rusting.

Final Thoughts

Carbon steel is the preferred choice by chefs around the world. Taking a look at the list of pros and cons, it’s not hard to see why. It will be light and versatile. It’s strong and durable, you’ll be able to put it into the oven. Compared to many of the other types of cookware on the market, it will come out on top. The only potential problem is that the patina could get scratched off. But when this happens, you’ll be able to re-season the pan. As a result, carbon steel will be the ideal choice for any serious cook.

My Favorite Carbon Steel Pans

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