Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pan – What are the Differences?

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pan: Whether you’re renovating your old kitchen or upgrading a new kitchen with pans, you need a full set of cookware to cook meals for your family and yourself. A high-quality cooking pan allows you to prepare your favorite dishes, no matter you’re an amateur or a professional cook.

Carbon Steel VS Stainless Steel Pan

So, the question is which pan is the best for your kitchen, as there are plenty of cooking pans on the market. The most useful and widely used pans among them are carbon steel and stainless steel pans that come with a lot of features and benefits.

What Is the Main Difference Between Carbon Steel Pan and Stainless Steel Pan?

Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Pan - Main Difference
The main difference between carbon steel and stainless steel pan is the material used in their manufacturing. As the name implies, one is composed of carbon steel, and the other is built of stainless steel. In addition, carbon steel transmits heat more readily than stainless steel. As a result, carbon steel pans are ideally suited for stir-frying, whereas stainless steel pans are good for sautéing.

Besides, both cookware pieces are highly durable, nonporous, lightweight, and, most importantly, sturdy enough for heavy usage. Regardless of all these similarities, carbon steel and stainless steel pans are quite different in some common factors.

Are Carbon Steel Pans Better Than Stainless Steel

Now, if you’re looking for choosing either a stainless steel pan or a carbon steel pan, you’ll have to know the differences between these two pans. In this article, we’re going to show you some essential factors in which both pans differentiate from each other.

What is Carbon Steel Pan?

A carbon steel pan is made of a tiny amount (up to 1%) of carbon and 99% iron alloy with some other substances, including copper, silicon, or manganese. Apart from the metal alloy, other substances can hardly affect a carbon steel pan’s overall qualities.

Carbon Steel Pan
Carbon Steel Pan

Typically, a carbon steel pan is heavier than a stainless steel pan. It also features a naturally nonstick surface free from harmful toxic substances. Although the pan’s nonstick coating is natural, you need to season it to make it much better with age.

Besides, this quite durable pan can withstand high cooking temperatures and ensure even heat distribution throughout the cooking surface. Similar to a stainless steel pan, this piece of cookware can be rust and corrosion-resistant.

Most importantly, a carbon steel pan can leach iron into food while cooking, which is really beneficial for your health. A human body needs iron because it’s a healthy mineral. You shouldn’t submerge this pan in detergent water that could damage the coating.


  • Comes with a natural nonstick coating
  • Withstand higher temperatures
  • Requires less oil or fat to cook
  • Suitable for frying and searing plenty of dishes
  • Sustainable for years from generation to generation


  • Not ideal for cooking highly acidic foods
  • Needs regular seasoning to protect the coating
  • Unsuitable for dishwasher cleaning

What is a Stainless Steel Pan?

A stainless steel pan is also made of an iron-based metal alloy consisting of 10% chromium and 30% iron, and some other elements, such as copper, aluminum, silicon, nickel, and a low amount of carbon.

Stainless Steel Pan
Stainless Steel Pan

This highly durable pan is rust and corrosion resistant, similar to a carbon steel pan.

As it can hardly conduct heat, a layer of aluminum or copper is included between the two layers of steel so that it can be a better heat conductor.

Regardless of being a good heat distributor throughout the cooking surface, a stainless steel pan is also versatile and features a lifetime warranty. However, it’s not a nonstick piece of cookware, just like a carbon steel pan.

As the pan is not nonstick, you’ll require a lot of oil or fat to cook any food. Highly acidic foods, like tomatoes, can be perfectly cooked in a stainless steel pan. Once you’ve done cooking, you can put this pan in the dishwasher.


  • Comes with rust and corrosion-resistant materials
  • Lasts for years because the materials are quite durable
  • Allows highly acidic foods to be cooked
  • Safe to use in the oven and dishwasher
  • Doesn’t require seasoning before cooking


  • The cooking surface isn’t coated with a nonstick material
  • Might get scratches or damages if not properly cared for
  • Stainless steel is not a good heat conductor

Are Carbon Steel Pans Better Than Stainless Steel?

The choice between carbon steel and stainless steel pans comes down to your preference. Each type of pan has its benefits and drawbacks, so it’s best to decide which material fits you personally.

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pan

Carbon steel pans are great for achieving an even cooking on food and reaching higher temperatures than stainless steel pans. They are also lightweight and have a non-stick surface when seasoned properly. The downside is that they can rust if not cared for properly, requiring more maintenance.

Stainless steel pans are resistant to rust and corrosion, making them much easier to care for. Additionally, they are relatively light in weight compared to other types of cookware, but they do not heat up as evenly as carbon steel.

Stainless steel pans are also usually more expensive than carbon steel. They may become discolored over time if used with high heat settings or acidic ingredients such as tomatoes or vinegar.

Do Chefs Use Carbon Steel or Stainless Steel?

Chefs generally use both carbon steel and stainless steel in their kitchens. Carbon steel is a type of metal that is lightweight and easy to sharpen, making it great for knives. It can also develop an extremely sharp edge that can be used to slice through food quickly and evenly.

On the other hand, stainless steel is more durable than carbon steel but heavier, making it better suited for certain tasks such as stirring and baking. Generally speaking, chefs will opt for different types of knives depending on the task at hand.

Why Do Chefs Use Carbon Steel Pans?

Carbon steel pans are a popular choice for many chefs for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that carbon steel pans can reach high temperatures and retain heat more effectively than other types of cookware.

This makes them great for tasks like simultaneously cooking and searing multiple ingredients and perfectly finished foods like steaks, eggs, and pancakes. In addition, they’re lightweight compared to other materials, such as cast iron, making them ideal when you need to move the pan around while cooking.

Finally, they’re relatively easy to take care of – as long as you season and maintain your pan properly, and it should last a long time.

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pan: What are the Key Differences?

When it comes to carbon steel vs stainless steel pans, there are a few things to consider. Carbon steel pans are great for cooking at high temperatures and can help to create an even sear on food. However, they require more maintenance than stainless steel pans since they need to be seasoned regularly.

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pan

Stainless steel pans don’t require seasoning and can handle higher heat better than non-stick options, but they can be prone to sticking if you’re not careful. Ultimately it depends on your cooking goals and preferences – do you want the perfect sear or low maintenance?

FactorsCarbon Steel PanStainless Steel Pan
Construction Material1% carbon and 99% iron10% chromium and 30% iron with copper/aluminum layer
Weight and DurabilityHeavyweight; needs more maintenanceDurable; needs less maintenance
Appearance/OutlookDiscolors over timeSustains original outlook
Health and SafetyNatural nonstick; leaches ironRequires more oil/fat; may contain nickel
Heat-ResistanceCan tolerate high heat up to 800°FCan tolerate high heat up to 600°F
Corrosion-ResistingCorrosion occurs; lacks protective layerMore resistant to corrosion; has a protective layer
ReactivityReacts with acidic dishesDoesn’t react with acidic dishes
Heat SourcesCompatible with gas, electric, and ceramic stovetopsCompatible with all stovetops, including induction
MaintenanceRequires seasoning; not dishwasher safeDishwasher safe but tougher to clean
PriceLess expensiveMore expensive

Now that you know all about stainless steel and carbon steel pans, you have to identify the differences between the two if you’re looking for choosing one. To help you out, we’re now going to dive into some essential factors in which these pans differ.

Construction Material

As the name suggests, a carbon steel pan is made of carbon steel that includes 1% carbon and 99% iron. On the other hand, a stainless steel pan is made of stainless steel consisting of 10% chromium and 30% iron with a supportive layer of copper or aluminum.

Weight and Durability

Since a carbon steel pan contains almost a hundred percent iron, it’s obvious that it’s more heavyweight than a stainless steel one. When it comes to durability, both types of pans are quite durable, but carbon steel pans need more maintenance to hold durability for years.

Appearance or Outlook

Carbon steel pans come with an appearance that can change over time because they start to tarnish and become discolored after using several times. In contrast, stainless steel pans have a large amount of chromium that sustains the original outlook after many uses.

Health and Safety

Typically, carbon steel pans feature natural nonstick properties that need less oil or fat to cook. Stainless steel pans, however, don’t have a nonstick coating. So, you will need more oil or fat to cook, which can be quite harmful to your health.

When it comes to safety, carbon steel pans are much safer than stainless steel ones. This is because stainless steel pans may include harmful nickel in their construction. On the contrary, carbon steel may leach a healthy mineral, called iron, which is beneficial for human health.

Heat-Resistance Ability

Stainless steel pans are not excellent heat conductors, and that’s why they require an aluminum or copper layer on the base to conduct, retain, and distribute heat throughout the surface. Most importantly, a quality stainless steel pan can tolerate high heat up to 600°F.

However, when it comes to heat conductivity, carbon steel pans are the opposite of stainless steel pans, retaining heat for a while even after taking them off the cooktops. Consequently, you can heat these pans up to 800°F without any hassle.

Corrosion-Resisting Ability

Both stainless steel and carbon steel pans are corrosion-resistant, but stainless steel pans are more resistant to corrosion because they have a large amount of chromium. This is a protective layer that prevents oxygen from getting attached to iron, reducing corrosion chances.

On the other hand, carbon steel pans don’t have as much chromium as stainless steel pans have. That’s why they cannot prevent oxygen from getting attached to the iron. Consequently, iron oxide, also known as rust, occurs in most carbon steel pans.


Since carbon steel pans come with nonstick properties, they react with highly acidic dishes, such as different types of sauces, soups, and stews. On the contrary, stainless steel pans are not nonstick, and therefore, they don’t react with these ingredients.

Heat Sources

Regardless of being compatible with induction cooktops, carbon steel pans can also be used on gas, electric, and ceramic stovetops. However, stainless steel pans are also compatible with any stovetop. If they have a magnetic base, they’ll be suitable for use on induction cooktops.


Between carbon and stainless steel pans, you need to season your carbon steel pan before cooking. Again, carbon steel pans are not dishwasher safe, but you can put your stainless steel pan in the dishwasher, although it’s a bit tougher to clean stuck-on food residues.


When you’re finally going to market to buy a pan, you’ll see that carbon steel pans are significantly less expensive than their counterparts. This is because stainless steel pans include aluminum, chromium, nickel, and other useful materials that increase the overall price.


Now that you already know almost all about stainless steel and carbon steel pans, and most importantly, the differences between the two, you can easily decide which one you should purchase. Despite that, you have to consider your heat source before buying a pan.

However, it’s time to prefer the right pan according to your requirements. If you’re looking for an all-rounder pan, we recommend you choose a stainless steel pan. But, if you need a pan that withstands for years without any major problem, a carbon steel pan will be the better choice.

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