Cast Iron vs Carbon Steel | What’s the Major Difference?

Carbon Steel pan

Cast Iron:

Cast iron cookware is one of the oldest materials for cooking. It was used as far back as 2,000 BC in China and India. In those days it was made from clay or sand molds shaped over a fire pit. The metal melted at high temperatures bonded to the porous ceramic material forming a natural non-stick surface which could be scrubbed clean with water and reused again and again without fear of contamination from previous use.

Today cast iron remains popular because it can withstand high heat, has a long life span, retains heat well and cooks evenly on all stove tops including induction ranges where many other pots will not work adequately due to magnetic properties that affect how they respond to an electromagnetic field. Cast Iron is also safe for oven use.

Pros of Cast Iron:

Cast-Iron skillets are excellent for cooking at high temperatures, and require no special care like seasoning before first use.

The nonstick surface on your traditional cast iron skillet is created naturally with time by cooking, while carbon steel has an actual nonstick coating that is baked into the pan at the factory. Because they retain heat so well, they can be used to sear meat, vegetables or fish on the stovetop then put in the oven to finish cooking without worry of overcooking because of hot spots that can occur during heating.

Cons of Cast Iron:

Cast iron cookware requires regular seasoning with oil to keep it’s naturally non-stick surface, while carbon steel requires no maintenance.

Cast iron has a tendency to be very heavy in weight. A traditional cast-iron skillet can weigh up to 3 pounds which makes it difficult for some people to handle or store in their kitchen.

If you are not careful when picking up your cast-iron pan off the stovetop or out of the oven, you can drop them and cause damage because they are so heavy compared to other materials used in cookware. Cast iron does not work well with electric stoves if there is a gap between the counter top and stove top.

Carbon Steel:

Carbon steel is a metal that can be found in many everyday items. It has been used for centuries and continues to be a popular choice today.

Carbon steel is made of iron combined with carbon, which makes it stronger than pure iron or stainless steel. Carbon steel can withstand very high temperatures without being damaged by them, so it’s perfect for cooking utensils such as pots and pans. The most commonly used type of carbon steel is made from cast-iron materials mixed with pigments or alloys to create the right color and properties desired for the finished product.

The different types of carbon steels have varying degrees of corrosion resistance, wear resistance, ductility, tensile strength and hardness depending on what alloy was added during manufacturing and what type of application it needs to be used for.

Carbon steel has many uses, but one of the most common is in cookware such as frying pans, woks and pots. Carbon steel is an excellent conductor of heat and can easily withstand high temperatures without splitting or becoming damaged. It also isn’t brittle like stainless steel so it’s more durable.

The metal retains heat very well which makes it perfect for cooking dishes that require a lot of time over a hot flame and because it doesn’t react with acidic food at high temperatures there’s no risk of contaminating any foods if you happen to marinate them in carbon steel containers before use.

Pros of Carbon Steel:

Carbon steel is less likely to warp than cast iron. It can be used on induction stove tops and over campfires which makes it more versatile than cast-iron cookware.

Carbon steel has an excellent non-stick surface that requires no special care or seasoning like your traditional cast iron skillet.  Because carbon steel is made with alloys, the product is often free of PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid), lead, cadmium and other harmful metals like your traditional cast iron cookware.

Cons of Carbon Steel:

Carbon steel does not heat as evenly as cast-iron pans due to hot spots that happen when heating up over high heat. Because carbon steel heats quickly it cools down almost as quickly which makes it easier to burn food than cast iron if you aren’t careful.

What is the difference between cast iron and carbon steel?

The cast iron cookware is the original non-stick cookware. The carbon steel cooking utensils have been around for a shorter time and are an updated, improved version of the old cast iron skillets and pots.

Both materials have a high heat tolerance which makes them suitable for cooking on a stovetop, in an oven or over a campfire so they can be used interchangeably.

Carbon steel is lighter weight than cast iron while being just as durable due to its hardness and corrosion resistance. There’s really no such thing as “seasoning” carbon steel like you do with your cast iron skillet because it’s non stick from manufacturing unlike traditional cast iron that needs to be seasoned before use by coating with oil and baking in the oven to form a protective layer which will aid with food release.

Carbon steel is more responsive to differences in temperature adjustments than cast iron so carbon steel takes less time to heat up, but it also cools down faster once you turn off your stove or take your pan off the fire. Carbon steel has “hot spots” because of how responsive it is which can create hotspots due to uneven heating.

The main difference between cast iron and carbon steel cooking utensils is that cast iron has been around for much longer and is one of the oldest materials used for cookware while carbon steel was created as an improved version of cast-iron cooking utensils. Cast-iron skillets have a non-stick surface that is seasoned over time by cooking, while carbon steel cookware has a naturally non-stick surface. Both materials are extremely durable and can be used interchangeably on any type of stovetop, oven or grill.

Carbon steel does not need any special care or maintenance like cast iron so it makes it more user friendly.

Carbon steel is safe for all types of stovetops including induction ranges where cast iron may not be compatible with magnetic properties that affect the way they respond to an electromagnetic field..

Cast Iron: Cast Iron Skillets/Pots can last several generations if taken care of properly. Carbon Steel: Carbon Steel Cooking Utensils do not require any special care but may rust if incorrectly handled.


Carbon steel cookware can be used on all stovetops including induction ranges while cast iron may not be compatible with magnetic properties that affect the way they respond to an electromagnetic field. Carbon steel is extremely durable and will last for years if handled properly while cast iron should only be seasoned before use by coating with oil and baking in the oven to form a protective layer. Both materials are completely safe for cooking food over an open fire.

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