The makeup of the two metals is nearly identical. Ironically cast iron contains more carbon than “carbon steel”. The main difference is that cast iron is poured from a liquid state into its final shape, while carbon steel skillets are formed from into their shape from a flat sheet of steel. It is these processes that create the two biggest differences between the materials; surface texture and porosity.



Understanding Cast Iron Pans

Cast iron pans are known for their excellent heat retention and durability, making them ideal for searing steaks and cooking dishes that require high heat. They also require seasoning to maintain a nonstick surface and should be cleaned without the use of a dishwasher.

Cooking with Cast Iron Pans

Cooking with cast iron pans is great for searing steaks, baking cornbread, and even roasting vegetables. These pans retain heat well, making them perfect for creating a crispy crust on foods.

You can use them on the stovetop or in the oven, making cast iron cookware highly versatile. They are also tough; with proper care, they last forever.

Maintaining these pans involves seasoning them to create a non-stick surface. After cooking, clean them without soap and dry immediately to prevent rust. To protect their seasoning, it's best not to simmer acidic liquids in them since that can strip the seasoned coating.

Cast iron skillets improve with use over time, becoming more non-stick and easier to cook with.

Maintenance and Care for Cast Iron Pans

Cast iron pans need proper care to keep their non-stick surface. After cooking, wash the pan by hand with soap and water. Make sure you dry it right away to prevent rust. Then, apply a thin coat of neutral oil all over the pan.

This helps maintain its seasoning and protects it from moisture.

Avoid using harsh scrubbers that can remove the seasoning from your cast iron skillet. If food gets stuck, use warm water and a soft brush instead of scouring pads. For tough spots, boil some water in the pan to loosen them up before cleaning.

Always store your cast iron cookware in a dry place after oiling to ensure it's ready for your next meal.


Understanding Carbon Steel Pans

Carbon steel pans are versatile and durable cookware with excellent heat retention properties. They are suitable for various cooking methods and require simple maintenance to keep them in top condition.

Cooking with Carbon Steel Pans

Cooking with carbon steel pans offers a quick and even heating advantage. These pans are perfect for sautéing, simmering acidic dishes, and making scrambled eggs slide off the pan easily.

Due to their unique properties, they have become a favorite in both professional kitchens and among home cooks who value efficiency and versatility.

Caring for carbon steel cookware is simpler than you might think. After each use, a quick wash with water and mild soap keeps them ready for next time. Over time, these pans develop a non-stick surface that makes cooking tasks like flipping pancakes or searing steaks effortless.

With models like the Made In Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan leading the pack, finding a reliable option is easy for anyone looking to upgrade their cooking experience.

Maintenance and Care for Carbon Steel Pans

Carbon steel pans need special attention to keep them in perfect shape. After each use, gently wash the pan with warm water and avoid harsh detergents or scourers that can scrape off the seasoning.

Dry it thoroughly right away to prevent rust. Then, apply a light layer of oil over the entire surface to protect it from moisture.

It's simpler than you might think to maintain carbon steel cookware. Unlike stainless-steel items, these occasionally require re-seasoning to maintain their non-stick qualities. Heat the pan slightly before spreading a thin oil layer across its surface for re-seasoning.

This process helps create a natural non-stick coating that makes cooking eggs or sautéing veggies smooth without sticking.


Carbon Steel vs. Cast Iron: A Comparative Analysis

Comparing carbon steel and cast iron reveals unique features, benefits, and drawbacks that cater to different culinary needs and preferences. The analysis below outlines key differences to guide your choice.


Surface Texture of Cast Iron vs Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is smoother than cast iron and has a surface that is much less porous.

If you have been longing for vintage cast iron due to the thinner build and smoother surface that is harder to find today, then carbon steel may be of interest to you.  When the steel is rolled into a sheet at its final thickness, it is pressed between very smooth rollers which give the finished sheets a very smooth surface and a closed grain structure. This also means that seasoned carbon steel pans will have better non-stick properties than a modern, seasoned cast iron pan

Since cast iron is poured into a mold shaped like the final piece, the iron gets its surface finish from the inside of the mold which is always more textured than the rollers used to finish sheet steel.


How to Clean Cast Iron and Carbon Steel Pans?

To maintain the quality of cast iron and carbon steel pans, it's crucial to follow proper cleaning methods. Here's how to keep them clean:


  1. After using, wash the pan with hot water and a small amount of mild soap. Use a scrub brush if needed, but avoid metallic pads or harsh detergents.
  2. Thoroughly dry the pan with a cloth or paper towel to prevent rust.
  3. Apply a thin layer of oil to the pan's surface, inside and out, using a paper towel before storing.


Remember that maintaining these pans is important for their longevity and performance.



How to Season a Carbon Steel Pan?

Seasoning a carbon steel pan is crucial to create a non-stick surface and protect it from rust.


  1. Clean the pan thoroughly with hot, soapy water to remove any protective coating from manufacturing.
  2. Rinse and dry the pan completely to remove all moisture.
  3. Apply a thin layer of oil (preferably one with a high smoke point like canola or vegetable oil) all over the pan's surface, including the handle and bottom.
  4. Heat the oiled pan on medium - high heat until it begins to smoke lightly.
  5. Let it cool, pour out any excess oil, and wipe the pan with a paper towel.
  6. Repeat this process 2 - 3 times until the pan develops a dark, seasoned patina.
  7. Store your well - seasoned carbon steel pan in a dry place to prevent rust.


These steps will ensure that your carbon steel pan remains non-stick and in pristine condition for years to come.


Do Carbon Steel Pans Rust?

Carbon steel pans can rust, as they are not stainless and lack the additional protection against corrosion. However, with proper care and maintenance, including seasoning and thorough drying after use, rust can be prevented.

It's important to keep carbon steel pans dry and oiled to avoid any chance of rust forming over time. Regular seasoning creates a protective layer on the pan's surface that helps prevent rusting while also enhancing its non-stick properties.

Carbon steel is an alloy that contains iron and carbon but lacks the chromium present in stainless steel which makes it vulnerable to corrosion if not properly cared for. Regular seasoning forms a natural barrier that protects the pan from moisture and prevents rust formation even when cooking acidic foods like tomatoes or cleaning with water.



When comparing carbon steel pans and cast iron, consider their heating speed and evenness. Cast iron is best for searing, baking, grilling, but not acidic liquids. It needs seasoning and careful maintenance.

Carbon steel heats up quickly, suits sautéing and acidic cooking, requires less maintenance than cast iron. Consider what works best for your cooking needs between the two options - it's all about heat conductivity and care routines!

February 07, 2019 — Eric Steckling

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