Sear the perfect roast on the stove before putting it in the oven, grill a lamb chop in the oven before adding a mushroom gravy on the stovetop, or stir fry chicken with veggies and noodles.
To do all this, you don’t need different cookware. All these different cooking styles can be accomplished with a carbon steel pan. There are many good reasons that professional chefs love carbon steel cookware, and the end result is beautiful meals worthy of the best restaurants.
So if you’re considering carbon steel vs. stainless steel, let’s explore the 8 ways that carbon steel cookware is better than stainless steel.
Carbon is made of 99% iron and 1% carbon, an alloy mixture that allows it to heat quickly and evenly. It also allows you to use it to cook to very high temperatures without worrying about damaging the pan. Compared to stainless steel pans, carbon steel can handle much higher temperatures without damage. While you have to be careful with a stainless steel pan, a carbon steel pan can handle temperatures up to 250 degrees Celsius (480 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Carbon Steel Retains That Heat
Carbon is superior to stainless steel in its heat retention properties. In fact, stainless steel can vary greatly, depending on the makeup. Stainless steel pans are made with a heat conductive core made of either aluminum or copper bonded between two steel layers. That can vary between 3-ply or 5-ply, which means the performance also varies when it comes to conducting and retaining heat. Carbon will retain heat and keep your food warm if you have to wait for a side dish or salad to be prepared, or for you to return for a second serving.
- Carbon Steel Is Incredibly Durable
That alloy construction we mentioned also makes carbon tough and durable, which is yet another reason that chefs love carbon steel - it’s almost indestructible. So these pans are perfect for the banging and knocking around they get in restaurant kitchens, and the heavy use they receive day after day. Added to their ability to withstand high heat, carbon steel is built to last, and can give years of use with proper care.
- Carbon Steel is Versatile
Rather than have a bunch of cookware that can be used for only one type of cooking, a carbon steel pan lets you do it all. You can cook eggs, meat, vegetables, fish, poultry and more on the stovetop. You can use it to bake in the oven, including cakes, casseroles, breads, pies, and other desserts.
You can sear or brown steaks and pork chops, seafood and more. Mix up a stir fry or char meat for fajitas. You can mix your cooking, beginning on the stovetop by braising stew or starting soups, and then moving the pan into the oven. And, you can use the high heat grill setting in the oven, which not all cookware can handle.
Carbon is also versatile enough for any type of stovetop or oven. Use it on gas, ceramic and more, and pop it in a gas or electric oven.
- Carbon Steel Is Naturally Non-Stick
Stainless steel pans don’t require seasoning, but they also don’t have a non-stick coating. That means food sticks easily to the surface, making them tricky to use, even for a seasoned cook. Carbon steel pans do require seasoning to retain their non-stick performance, and they do require some TLC. But a little bit of care will go a long way to having a pan that lasts a lifetime.
Carbon’s properties are all natural, without the harmful chemicals used in some non-stick pans, such as the PTFE in Teflon or the PFOA used as a surfactant. Non-stick means less fat needed to cook, while avoiding the nuisance of food sticking to the pan.
- Carbon Steel is Lightweight
Compared to carbon, stainless steel can be heavier, especially if made with a copper core. That makes carbon steel lighter than stainless steel.
Or, if you want to supplement your cast iron cookware with a piece that’s easier for your kids to use, or your grandma to cook with when she visits, then the lighter weight of carbon steel is ideal. You’ll get the same fantastic results of cast iron with a pan that can be up to a kilogram lighter or more - making it easier to lift from stovetop to oven.
- Carbon Steel Does Require Proper Care
Like any quality cookware, carbon does require care to make it last. It needs hand washing and can’t be cleaned in the dishwasher. It needs some basic seasoning maintenance. And, you should be careful when cooking with acidic foods like tomatoes, as they can discolour the pan. But with that basic care, carbon can last a lifetime.
- Carbon Steel is Economical
You can enjoy all the benefits of carbon without breaking the bank. Add one carbon steel pan to your kitchen, or get a set of different sizes to increase your cooking versatility and prepare more than one dish at a time. Carbon will prove to be a good investment over the long run, and much more economical than cheap cookware that needs to be continually replaced.
Fresh Australian Kitchen has introduced two sizes of Carbon:ate carbon steel pans: 30 centimetres (12 inches) or 24 centimetres (9.5 inches). Both come with a free silicone handle cover, making it easy to go from stovetop to oven and back. They can be used on gas, induction, electric and ceramic glass stovetops, and they are oven safe to 250C (480F).
The pans are protected with a natural beeswax coating, to act as a moisture barrier and ensure they arrive in perfect condition. It’s recommended that the wax is washed off and the pans are seasoned before use. Seasoning is easy to do with the included instructions.
Carbon:ate’s pans are also tough and durable, at 3 millimetres thick (many carbon steel pans are 2mm). And they have riveted handles making them extra stable.
All that’s available at a price that makes carbon an easy investment in delicious cooking.
For these 8 reasons and more, carbon steel is a superior cookware product when compared to stainless steel. Carbon pans boast many benefits, whether you’re a new cook or a veteran in the kitchen, and are a better choice than non-stick pans with chemical coatings.
A well-seasoned carbon steel pan will give you years of non-stick use, making it perfect for searing, frying, broiling, browning, stir frying, braising, grilling and more.
Ardith Stephanson has spent over 30 years as a journalist, writer and communications professional, and now focuses exclusively on her freelance writing business. You can follow her personal blog theardizan.com