One of the most important things to pay attention to in the kitchen is your cookware. A pan can make or break a meal, and there is nothing worse than a fillet of fish sticking or an omelette burning. Carbon steel and cast iron are both excellent pan options, but there are a few things that you should consider before choosing which to use in a given situation.

Main Differences Between Carbon Steel and Cast Iron

One of the primary differences between carbon steel and cast iron pans is the materials that they are made out of. Carbon steel is comprised of a mixture of iron and carbon, containing only 1.2% carbon. While cast iron is also made of a mixture of iron and carbon, it contains a higher carbon content (between 2% and 3.5%) than carbon steel.

Carbon steel tends to be more expensive than cast iron, whereas cast iron is usually heavier and retains heat for longer. However, the flipside is that carbon steel heats up much quicker and is more durable than cast iron. Both have their respective purposes in the kitchen, and neither of the two is necessarily better than the other.

Cooking With and Caring For a Carbon Steel Pan

Carbon steel pans are perhaps best used for foods that are likely to stick to the pan, such as eggs, pancakes, and fish. Additionally, due to the fact that they are quite lightweight and heat up very quickly, they are great for sautéeing.

You should note that carbon steel pans are quite prone to rusting, so it is very important to dry them thoroughly after washing them. It is also a good idea to apply a coat of oil after washing and drying to maintain the pan’s quality.

Cooking With and Caring For a Cast Iron Pan

Cast iron pans serve very distinct purposes from carbon steel pans. They are an excellent option for searing meats thanks to their long-lasting heat retention, and due to the fact that they are also oven-safe, they’re the pan you’ll want to turn to when making a frittata, a dutch baby, or any dish that must be transferred to the oven. However, you will want to avoid cooking overly acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, in a cast iron pan, as the acid can break down the non-stick seasoning, adding a metallic taste to your food.

The majority of cast iron pans come already seasoned nowadays with a non-stick coating, so you won’t have to constantly be seasoning it. However, it is very important to dry the pan right after washing, as with carbon steel pans, to prevent rusting, later adding a thin coat of oil. Never put your cast iron pan in the dishwasher: they should always be hand washed with soap and water. Also, prevent any excessive scrubbing, as this can potentially remove the pan’s nonstick coating.

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