Is Carbon Steel Cookware Safe for Cooking?

Safety is always a primary concern for both professional chefs and at-home cooks. When it comes time to choose cookware, you want to ensure it is made from non-toxic materials. Over the years, layers of the pots or pans can start to degrade, especially with certain types of materials. If you wonder whether carbon steel is safe for cooking, here are a few things that you will want to know.

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Is Carbon Steel Made With Toxic Materials?

Before taking home a carbon steel skillet, you want to know if carbon is safe. Theanswer is a resounding yes! Carbon steel is completely safe for cooking, and it doesn't contain toxic materials. Carbon steel is composed of carbon and iron. Both of those materials have been deemed safe for cooking.

Since there is no layer of coating on the carbon steel, you don't have to worry about any toxins leaching into your food as the pan heats up. Carbon steel does contain seasoning. Natural oils and cooking oils build up over time. Yes, that layer of seasoning will wear down, but those oils are completely safe. Seasoning is vital as it helps you maintain your cookware's functionality.

Carbon steel is also almost indestructible. You can put it to the test in your kitchen, and it will never wear out. For that reason, many professional and amateur cooks use this material in their kitchens. It can hold up to constant wear and tear at high heat. Over the past few years, carbon steel has a more prevalent spot in those home kitchens. These pans can saute vegetables and create the perfect sear. Carbon steel is not heavy like cast iron, and it can develop non-stick characteristics with regular use. Carbon steel is an ideal option for many kitchens.

Is Carbon Steel Better Than Cast Iron?

If you are trying to choose between cast iron or carbon steel, there are several pros and cons. Carbon steel is a more versatile option than cast iron. It heats up quicker than cast iron with fewer hot spots, allowing your foods to cook up more evenly. Carbon steel can also handle those temperature changes better than cast iron. You can switch from high heat to low heat in almost no time. With a cast iron pan, it will remain smoking long after you turn down the heat.


Another difference between cast iron and carbon steel is the weight. Carbon steel is lighter in weight, providing you with more maneuverability on the stovetop. For that reason, you will find carbon steel cookware in professional kitchens more than those heavy and bulky cast iron skillets. With its lightweight nature, you can easily shake and flip the pan. In addition to that, you can easily move carbon steel from the stovetop to the oven (and vice versa).

Related: Saute Pan Buying Guide 

Is Carbon Steel Safe for Cookware?

Today, there are a bunch of materials to choose from for your cookware. Stainless clad, copper cookware, cast iron, and carbon steel are some of the most popular options. As long as you follow the care and use instructions for the cookware, they are safe to use. However, if you want a material that can tolerate those highest levels of heat (1200°F), carbon steel cookware is the best option.

Over the years, non-stick cookware has been the center of many health-related debates, especially with the different coating options. There are two types of non-stick coatings: Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and ceramic. While both ceramic and PTFE are deemed safe, PTFE is the better choice. When these pans are heated, they will not release any substance into the air.

One thing to keep in mind is if you want cookware with any type of coating, then stainless steel or carbon steel makes a great option. Carbon steel handles a high level of heat, and it will have a non-stick surface with regular use.   If you are not worried about the non-stick or seasoning qualities of carbon steel, there is an alternative to carbon steel. Stainless clad is an excellent option for those chefs and cooks.

What Can You Cook in Carbon Steel?

You can cook almost anything in a carbon steel pan, however, there are a few limitations. Some ingredients can impact the seasoning of the pan. Vinegar, tomatoes, wine, and citrus are known to strip out the seasoning on the cookware's surface. After use of acids in a carbon steel pan, the seasoning does deteriorate, but that is a natural process of cooking. The pan is not ruined, but you will need to add another layer of seasoning to your cookware.


There are two ways to season a carbon steel pan: oven seasoning or on the stovetop. You will need to add a layer of oil and place the pan over high on the stove or in the oven. If your carbon steel pan looks dry, then it is time to give it a little love with a very thin layer of oil. For those pans with a heavy layer of seasoning, then you might not need to worry about acidic food stripping away that coating.


Related: Stainless Steel VS Copper Cookware

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The Bottom Line

Is carbon steel safe? If you are concerned about the safety of carbon steel cookware, there is no need to worry. Carbon steel is extremely safe, and it is a great way to cook plenty of dishes. They can achieve non-stick tendencies with regular use, have the ability to handle high heat, and can be easily maneuvered on the stove. Carbon steel is quickly becoming one of the most trusted pieces of cookware in all types of kitchens.


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