Many often ask, why use carbon steel cookware? How is it different from cast iron, and is it something I should incorporate into my cooking?
Both carbon steel and cast iron are natural non-stick surfaces, meaning they derive their non-stick quality from a layer of seasoning that must be built up on the cooking surface and maintained over time. Both metals have a nearly identical chemical formula, however the difference lies in their structure. Carbon steel is significantly more malleable and conductive, causing it to have superior cooking properties and better long-term durability.
So why does this matter? Well, have you ever noticed that your cast iron skillet takes a long time to heat up? Have you ever gotten it too hot, and been frustrated when it stays hot even though you turned the burner down? Have you noticed that one part of the skillet tends to get hotter than the rest? This happens because cast iron skillets are thick and conduct heat relatively poorly, and tend to take longer to respond to changes in temperature. Carbon steel is far superior in this regard, and is perfect if you want to raise the temperature quickly to sear, but then lower the temperature quickly so things don’t burn. You will notice a vastly improved level of control and a much more even heat when cooking with carbon steel than with cast iron.
So what about durability? Cast iron tends to be much harder and less malleable, and therefore more brittle and prone to cracking. This means that cast iron skillets must be made very thick in order to be durable, which is why they are often so heavy and unwieldy. Carbon steel skillets are far less brittle, and therefore can be made out of less material and still achieve superior durability. Our handmade carbon steel skillets are designed to last for many generations.
Carbon steel is also a lot smoother on the surface, and when properly seasoned will tend to be more non-stick than a cast iron skillet. This can make a big difference when cooking eggs or fish, which are notorious for sticking to the pan.
So why aren’t all skillets made of carbon steel? The reason is simple: cost. Cast iron is much cheaper to produce, because a lot less energy is required to melt and cast iron than to forge steel. However, after you spend decades cooking on a carbon steel skillet and then pass that experience on to your children, the cost is not the part you are likely to remember.