Carbon steel pans are one of the newer cookware options, quickly becoming a staple in commercial and home kitchens alike.
But with so many different options for cookware out there, how does carbon steel compare against other contenders?
And more importantly, is carbon steel safe for your health?
Here we answer these questions and help you find the best cookware for your kitchen.
What Is Carbon Steel Cookware Made of?
Carbon steel and cast iron are both alloys made up of iron with a small amount of carbon added to improve their strength.
Unlike cast iron pans which contain 2% to 3.5% carbon, carbon steel pans contain only 1% carbon.
Although this might not seem like much difference, 1% to 2% of extra carbon transforms many features of cast iron pans.
Carbon steel is more lightweight and can easily be made into non-stick pans thanks to its smooth surface.
Is Carbon Steel Toxic to Humans?
When talking about the safety of cookware, most people are concerned with toxicity. And toxicity is a real issue in the kitchen!
As we heat pots and pans, metals or chemicals used for non-stick coatings can leach from the cookware into whatever we are cooking.
This is most often the case when cooking acidic foods such as tomato-based recipes and can lead to poor health.
There are a few prominent examples of this. Old Teflon pans contain PFOA in their non-stick coating which is released into food when cooking. PFOA is a toxic compound known to cause many adverse health issues including links to cancer.
Likewise, aluminium and copper cookware are both known to leach metal ions into food. This can have adverse health effects when levels reach amounts that aren’t safe to be consumed.
But thankfully, toxicity is not a concern with carbon steel pans. This is because these pans are made mostly from iron, which is a safe, non-toxic metal.
Carbon steel pans can leach a small amount of iron, but many people are deficient in iron and thus this leaching could be beneficial to health.
Carbon steel pans are also PFOA-free thanks to their natural non-stick qualities. Therefore, they are a great safe alternative to Teflon cookware.
Carbon Steel Cookware Health Benefits
Carbon steel cookware is safe for humans to use in the kitchen. But did you know that cooking with these pans could even carry health benefits?
Here are just some of the health perks you will receive by switching to carbon steel cookware:
1. Increased dietary iron
As the main metal used for carbon steel cookware is iron, this can leach into your food during cooking.
However, rather than adding toxic metal ions, iron carries nutritional benefits. It is the major component of haemoglobin and is essential for carrying oxygen around the body.
Therefore, getting a healthy dose of iron can reduce fatigue and boost energy. Cooking with carbon steel can be an easy way to increase your dietary iron intake and reap these rewards.
2. Less oil required for cooking
Carbon steel cookware has a natural non-stick coating. It is this beneficial property that means it is free from non-stick chemicals such as PFOA.
However, this natural feature of the metal also means these you won’t need to use as much oil when cooking.
The final result is more delicious, less greasy food, but this reduction in oil is also beneficial for human health.
Consuming an excess amount of certain oil carries several health consequences. Fats can be difficult for the body to digest, causing feelings of nausea, sickness, bloating, and stomach pain.
Oil is also a calorific ingredient. Over time, using more oil in your cooking can lead to weight gain.
Being overweight or obese is a well-known risk factor for many diseases. Oily foods are also detrimental to heart health, can cause acne, and increase the risk of diabetes.
Carbon Steel Cookware Pros and Cons
There are clearly health benefits of using carbon steel cookware. But these are far from the only perks of this innovative cooking material. Other advantages include the following:
- Lightweight and easy to move
- Durable and won’t lose their non-stick coating
- Affordable compared to high-quality cast iron cookware
- Heats up quickly for efficient cooking
- Compatible with all types of kitchen hobs
With that being said, no cookware is perfect! There are also some negatives of carbon steel cookware you should be aware of before making a purchase.
A big disadvantage to any busy home cook is that these pans are not dishwasher safe.
Carbon steel pans are also prone to rust and discolouration over time and so have to be stored in dry environments.
Chef’s Pick is your guide to the best kitchen equipment and appliances in the UK.
We help you understand the confusing world of cookers, ovens and cookware so you can get the most out of your kitchen.