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The Dfference between Carbon Steel and Cast Iron Cookware

Oct. 12, 2021

If you’re in the market for a new skillet but can’t decide between carbon steel and cast iron, you’ve come to the right place. In this comparison of carbon steel vs. cast iron, you’ll learn how these popular cookware types measure up in terms of cooking performance, ease of use, maintenance, durability, and much more.

Let's explore the differences in depth.


Carbon steel and cast iron frying pans are made primarily of iron. Carbon steel is made from 99% iron and 1% carbon, while cast iron is made from 98% iron and 2% carbon. In some cases, cast iron products can contain up to 3% carbon.

Carbon adds strength to the alloy, but also makes it more brittle. The thick walls of cast iron frying pans counteract the brittleness of the material, making this cookware virtually indestructible.

Due to its lower carbon content, carbon steel is more ductile than cast iron, which means it can be bent without breaking.


Indoor and Outdoor Use/Multifunctional Pot

Thermal insulation

Both carbon steel and cast iron retain heat well, but cast iron is the clear winner in this category. As I mentioned, cast iron frying pans are made with thick walls to counteract brittleness. These thick walls have another advantage; they absorb heat and retain it well.

Cookware with good insulation keeps food warm even after you have turned off the burner. This comes in handy when you are entertaining or preparing a multi-course meal.

In fact, carbon steel also has excellent heat retention. However, due to its thinner construction, it cools more quickly than cast iron.


The responsiveness of a pan or pot is how quickly it responds to changes in temperature. Carbon steel is thinner and therefore heats and cools more quickly. You can adjust the heat frequently without risking over- or undercooking. This is ideal for cooking fish, eggs and other delicate ingredients that tend to overcook when the temperature is too high.

Cast iron is one of the slowest reacting types of cookware. Due to its thick construction, it takes a while to heat up and a long time to cool down when you turn the heat off or off.

Cooking tips

Because carbon steel frying pans are lighter, smoother and have longer handles and flares, they are better suited to stovetop meals that require a lot of handling. This includes scrambled eggs, stir-fries and sautéed vegetables.

With their shorter handles, steeper sides and excellent heat retention, cast iron frying pans are better suited to baking in the oven. For example, pizza, cornbread and pies are better suited to cast iron.

Cast Iron Wok / Cast Iron Pot

Cast Iron Wok / Cast Iron Pot

How to choose from them

If you're a serious cook, buy both. Although there is significant overlap, you can do a lot with one that you can't with the other.

If you don't have the storage space for both or want to simplify your cookware, I recommend cast iron. It is easier to maintain and does not discolour and rust as easily as carbon steel. It's also great for searing, stove to oven recipes and baking.

Can you contact us to find a variety of different looking pans in the GAODING website, there is always something for you.

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