Carbon Steel vs Cast Iron: Which pan is a better?

Carbon steel vs cast ironCarbon steel vs cast iron
Carbon Steel vs Cast Iron

Cast iron pans have always been ole’ reliable when it comes to searing steaks, making breakfast over the campfire, or making a delicious Neapolitan style pizza. Lately carbon steel pans have been popping up on the market and home cooks have been seeing just how great they are, but some of us are still wondering what they are. What are the differences? Which one is better? Carbon steel vs Cast iron. The answer is neither but it boils down to personal preference. Keep on reading to find out what you might prefer.

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  • Weight
    Cast iron pans are usually associated with being clunky and heavy. Carbon steel pans usually weigh in at almost half the weight of cast iron, but they're still heavier than most stainless steel pans. This makes the carbon steel more attractive to many home cooks.
  • Durability
    When it comes to durability the carbon steel takes the cake. Even though both pans have a similar material makeup the cast iron is more brittle. There's a possibility the cast iron will crack from a drop. The carbon steel can survive a drop very easily with no damage.
  • Heat Retention
    Cast iron takes longer to heat up and longer to cool down. Carbon steel heats quickly and cools quickly. Depending on what you're cooking or what type of environment you're in you may want one or the other.
  • Visually
    The look of each is noticeably different. The cast iron is always black whether it's seasoned or not. The carbon steel when in a raw state is a flat grey color. Once the carbon steel is used over time it develops patina. This causes each pan to look different.


  • Maintenance
    Both pans in a raw state are subject to rust but when cared for properly over time will be the best pan in the kitchen.
  • Cleaning
    Both are to be wiped clean after use, avoiding the use of soap or abrasive scouring pads.
  • Seasoning
    Not in reference to spices but to building layers of non stick coating. Some pans come pre seasoned and some do not. Seasoning is when oil is cooked into the pan to create a non stick coating.

Final thoughts: Carbon Steel vs Cast Iron, which do I choose?

When it comes to deciding carbon steel vs cast iron the choice is up to you. I personally prefer the carbon steel when I'm searing a steak or any type of seafood because the pan can cool down quickly which helps prevent over cooking. The light weight also is a huge plus. The cast iron is a great choice when you're trying to develop a delicious caramelized cornbread crust. Ultimately, it's going to take some testing on your part to find which you prefer.

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