Cookware for daily use that lasts for generations? Check out carbon steel that will prepare almost any food with elation!
Carbon steel cookware has been a favorite among professional chefs and home cooks alike for centuries, and there are several compelling reasons why we should consider adding it to our kitchen arsenal.
Carbon steel cookware offers excellent heat conduction. It shares many of its properties with cast iron but heats up quicker due to made of less material which allows more precise temperature control.
With proper seasoning and regular use, carbon steel develops a smooth, slick patina that prevents food from sticking to the surface. This natural non-stick surface improves with each use, making cooking and cleaning much easier. Unlike synthetic non-stick coatings, which can deteriorate over time and potentially release harmful chemicals, carbon steel’s seasoning is entirely safe and requires minimal effort to maintain.
When properly cared for, it can last for generations, withstanding high heat, metal utensils, and other demanding cooking conditions. Its sturdy construction and resistance to warping make it a reliable and long-lasting investment in the kitchen.
Carbon steel pans are also incredibly versatile. They can be used on various cooking surfaces, including gas, electric, and induction stovetops, as well as in the oven or over an open flame. This versatility allows cooks to use the same cookware for a wide range of cooking techniques, from stovetop searing to oven roasting and even outdoor cooking during camping trips.
It is relatively affordable compared to some other high-quality cookware materials like copper or certain types of stainless steel. This makes it an attractive option for those looking for excellent cooking performance without breaking the bank.
Disadvantages of Carbon Steel Cookware
Carbon steel is not as rust-resistant as stainless steel, and if it is not properly seasoned and cared for, it can rust. This means you need to be diligent in drying the cookware thoroughly after washing and applying a layer of oil to prevent rust formation.
- Seasoning required
Unlike stainless steel cookware, carbon steel needs regular seasoning to maintain its non-stick properties and prevent rusting. Seasoning involves applying a layer of oil and heating the cookware to create a natural non-stick surface.
Carbon steel, like cast iron, can react with acidic or alkaline foods, causing them to leach iron into the food. While iron is an essential nutrient, excessive amounts can alter the taste of the food and might not be suitable for people with certain health conditions.
- Adds Flavor
Over time, as we cook with carbon steel and build up the seasoning layer, it can add a unique and subtle flavor to the dishes, changing the taste of food.
Carbon steel cookware is generally lighter than cast iron or ply stainless steel but still heavier than some other materials like aluminum. This weight can make it less convenient for some users, especially if they have mobility issues.
- Heat conductivity
While carbon steel has good heat conductivity, it may not be as efficient as some other materials like copper or aluminum. This means it can take longer to heat up and distribute heat unevenly across the cooking surface if not preheated properly.
- Initial maintenance
When you first purchase carbon steel cookware, it requires some initial preparation before use. This includes removing the protective wax or coating that comes with the cookware and then seasoning it to develop a non-stick surface.
- Not Dishwasher Safe
Carbon steel should not be cleaned in a dishwasher, as the harsh detergents and high water temperatures can strip away the seasoning and cause rusting.
Carbon steel cookware can be more expensive than some other materials like aluminum or non-stick coated pans.
In some regions, carbon steel cookware might not be as readily available as other types of cookware, making it harder to find and purchase.
Benefits of Carbon Steel Cookware
- Excellent Heat Conduction
Carbon steel is a great heat conductor, second only to copper. This means that it heats up quickly sometimes too quickly.
Compared to cast iron, carbon steel is lighter, making it easier to handle and maneuver in the kitchen.
Carbon steel cookware is known for its durability and toughness. When properly cared for, it can last for generations, withstanding high heat, use of metal utensils, and other demanding cooking conditions.
Carbon steel cookware can be used on various cooking surfaces, including stovetops (gas, electric, and induction), ovens, and even over an open flame during camping trips.
- Natural Non-Stick Surface
With proper seasoning (a process of oiling and heating), carbon steel develops a natural non-stick surface. As you continue to use and season the cookware, this non-stick property improves, making it easier to cook with and clean.
- High Heat Tolerance
Carbon steel can handle high temperatures without warping, making it suitable for techniques that require searing, browning, and high-heat cooking.
Compared to some other high-quality cookware materials like copper or certain types of stainless steel, carbon steel is relatively more affordable.
- Even Cooking
Due to its excellent heat distribution, carbon steel ensures that your food cooks evenly, reducing the likelihood of hotspots.
- Health Benefits
Cooking in carbon steel can be beneficial for individuals with iron deficiencies since small amounts of iron can leach into the food. However, it’s worth noting that excessive iron consumption may not be suitable for everyone.
- Thin and Responsive
Carbon steel pans are generally thinner and more responsive to changes in heat, which is especially beneficial for dishes that require precise temperature control.
Seasoning Carbon Steel Cookware
The term “seasoning” a pan refers to the process of turning oil molecules into non-stick polymers that bound to the iron atoms. Seasoning cast iron cookware is a crucial step to create a non-stick surface and protect the iron from rusting. Carbon steel cookwares can come factory seasoned so it’s not always need dive right into seasoning but it’s an easy enough process anyway.
- Clean and dry the cookware.
- Apply a thin layer of oil.
- Put the cookware upside down into a 375°F – 450°F / 190°C – 230°C oven for about 60 – 90 minutes.
The heat will allow the oil to polymerize, bind to the iron and create the non-stick coating. Some smoke may be produced during this process, so ensure proper ventilation in the kitchen.
Caring for Carbon Steel Cookware
Proper care and maintenance are essential to keep your carbon steel cookware in excellent condition and ensure it serves you well for many years. Here are some tips on how to care for carbon steel:
Seasoning creates a natural non-stick surface on carbon steel cookware. To season your cookware, wash it with hot, soapy water to remove any protective coating or residue. Dry it thoroughly with a towel or by heating it over low heat. Apply a thin layer of oil (such as vegetable oil or flaxseed oil) to the cooking surface, both inside and out. Heat the cookware over medium to medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, until it starts to smoke. Allow it to cool, and then wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel. Repeat this process a few times before your first use and occasionally thereafter when the surface begins to lose its non-stick properties.
- Cooking and Cleaning
Preheat your carbon steel cookware before adding any food to ensure even cooking. Use low to medium heat to avoid damaging the seasoning or causing food to stick. When cooking, it’s fine to use metal utensils, but avoid cutting directly in the pan as it can damage the seasoning. After cooking, allow the cookware to cool slightly before washing it with hot water and a soft sponge. Avoid using harsh scouring pads or abrasive cleaners that can strip away the seasoning.
- Drying and Storing
After washing, dry the cookware thoroughly to prevent rusting. Place it on the stove over low heat for a few minutes to make sure it’s completely dry. Once dry, rub a thin layer of oil on the cooking surface to prevent rust formation during storage. Stack your carbon steel cookware with paper towels or cloth between each piece to protect the seasoning.
- Handling Acidic Foods
Carbon steel can react with acidic foods, causing them to leach iron and potentially affecting the taste. While some chefs enjoy this, if you prefer to minimize the reaction, avoid cooking highly acidic foods for long periods in carbon steel cookware.
Over time, the seasoning on carbon steel cookware may wear off or become less effective. When you notice food sticking more frequently, it’s time to re-season. Simply clean the cookware, remove any rust if present, and re-season following the steps mentioned above.
- Rust Removal
If rust does appear on a carbon steel cookware, scrub it off with a scouring pad or fine steel wool. Once the rust is gone, re-season the cookware to restore its non-stick properties.
Cooking with Carbon Steel
Cooking with carbon steel cookware is similar to cooking with other types of pans, but there are a few specific steps you can follow to get the best results. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to cook with carbon steel:
- Season the Cookware
If carbon steel cookware is not pre-seasoned or the seasoning has worn off, we’ll need to season it before the first use. Follow the seasoning process mentioned earlier to create a natural non-stick surface.
- Preheat the Pan
Before adding any ingredients, preheat the carbon steel pan over medium heat for a few minutes. This ensures even heat distribution and helps prevent food from sticking.
- Add Cooking Oil
Once the pan is preheated, add a small amount of cooking oil to the cooking surface. Swirl the oil around to coat the bottom evenly.
Place your ingredients in the pan and cook as you would with any other cookware. Carbon steel’s excellent heat conductivity means it heats up quickly and cooks food evenly.
- Adjust Heat as Needed
Carbon steel is responsive to changes in heat, so you may need to adjust the temperature during cooking. Lower the heat if the pan gets too hot or raise it if you need more heat for searing or browning.
- Use Metal Utensils
Unlike non-stick pans, carbon steel can handle metal utensils. You can use spatulas, tongs, and other metal tools without worrying about damaging the cooking surface.
- Avoid Acidic Foods
While some chefs enjoy the flavor enhancement, if you prefer to minimize the reaction with acidic foods, avoid cooking highly acidic ingredients for extended periods in carbon steel cookware.
- Cleaning After Cooking
Once you’ve finished cooking, allow the pan to cool slightly. Then, wash it with hot water and a soft sponge to remove any food residue. Avoid using harsh scrubbers or abrasive cleaners that can damage the seasoning.
- Dry and Store Properly
After washing, dry the pan thoroughly with a towel or by placing it on low heat on the stove. Apply a thin layer of cooking oil on the cooking surface to prevent rusting during storage.
- Re-season as Needed
Over time, the seasoning on carbon steel cookware may wear off. If food starts sticking more frequently, it’s time to re-season the pan to restore its non-stick properties.
- Excellent heat conduction and precise temperature control, comparable to cast iron but with quicker heating times.
- Natural non-stick patina that improves with use
- Highly durable and can last for generations
- Versatility allows it to be used on different cooking surfaces
- Affordable option for high-quality cookware, offering excellent cooking performance without a hefty price tag
- Being prone to rusting if not properly seasoned and requiring regular maintenance to maintain its non-stick properties