Stainless Steel vs Carbon Steel Pan – Which Is Better?

Are you new to the kitchen utensil world? Do not know which pan to buy for yourself out of the stainless steel and carbon steel category? It is not uncommon for people to not know the difference between the two. People often end up buying the wrong pan for the wrong job. But with this guide, we are going to tell you the major differences between both and which one is for you.

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Carbon steel is a very durable metal. It is basically iron, with traces of carbon in its composition. Usually, this happens when you heat iron at high temperatures and quench. The sudden change in temperature traps the carbon which alters the structure. This turns the steel really durable which can withstand a lot of punishment and has high heat resistance.

Now steel in itself is plenty durable, which makes it ideal for making pans out of. But carbon steel’s high heat resistance is what makes it so useful in the kitchen. While it heats up very slowly, it retains the heat for longer than any other pan. Also since it can stand high heat, foods that require high heat can be cooked on these pans.

Most professional kitchens use carbon steel pans. Chinese restaurants have carbon steel woks made for fast cooking. These are great to use for stir fry in which you have to use high heat to prepare food quickly. That is the reason why Chinese food is made so fast. Restaurants also use carbon steel pans to sear steaks. The high heat traps the juices of the meat inside while cooking it through.

Now let us look at some of the disadvantages of carbon steel:

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Stainless steel pans are much more efficient for household uses. Just as their name suggests, they do not get rust or corrosion. Stainless steel is composed of an alloy that contains chromium along with iron. There is usually 30% chromium content in stainless steel. The chromium keeps the iron from accumulating rust.

Stainless steel does not tarnish, change color over time, and is dishwasher safe. Since stainless steel does not have proper heat conduction by itself. That is why a layer of copper or aluminum is present between sometimes in a stainless steel pan for even heat distribution. 

But even stainless steel pans are not without disadvantage. Here are the disadvantages of a stainless steel pan:

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The De Buyer Mineral B Round Carbon Steel Pan is a product of fine French cuisine. Everyone knows how much of a perfectionist the French can be when it comes to their food. This pan has no chemical coatings whatsoever to create the nonstick layer that is on carbon steel pans. Instead, it uses all-natural beeswax that after you season the pan creates a non-stick surface that lasts for long.

The pan is attached to the handle by hand installing rivets to it. There is an additional handle adjacent to the primary one to provide extra grip in case of lifting something heavy like a steak. These pans are pretty expensive considering they are carbon steel. Unlike stainless steel, these are supposed to be pretty affordable and cheap.

The pan is oven safe up to 400C for a certain amount of time. It has curved corners inside the pan ideal for flipping foods without any extra utensils. Great for sauteing and stirring as well.

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All-Clad is one of the more known brands, as it has some really good stainless steel cookware. Although, a bit on the expensive side, this stainless steel cookware set contains a marvelous pan with a shiny surface. Made of 5-ply, one of which contains copper for more even heat distribution, these pans are great for professional as well as home use.

These pans come at a premium price but also have a limited lifetime warranty on them. These are oven safe and induction stove compatible. They have high heat resistance and can be put inside an oven with temperatures up to 600F. The best thing about All-Clad stainless steel pans is they are also dishwasher friendly. So no hassle washing these dishes when you are done with them.

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Verdict - Which Is better?

We would love to recommend stainless steel pans for your daily use, but for some special occasions, nothing beats a carbon steel pan. For instance, when you want to stir fry Chinese or have to cook that juicy steak, it can only be done properly on a carbon steel pan that conducts heat and retains it for long.

So it really depends on your budget and requirement. As we said, stainless steel can cost a fortune but is reliable. While carbon steel pans require seasoning but are pretty inexpensive compared to stainless steel ones. Also, foods that require high heat to cook fast are best suited for carbon steel pans. 

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