Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel – Which One Is Better?

carbon steel casting

Steel is the most common metal alloy used in our daily life. It is also the most vital material for engineering and construction. It is used in cars, buildings, refrigerators, ships, surgical scalpels, and washing machines. The main reason for its wide use is that steel can take action to protect itself from rust.

Steel is a type of metal, which further has its more types. Different steels have different properties depending on the nature of the material used in them. The most common categories of steel are carbon steel and stainless steel.

They share the same elemental composition and properties as any other metal alloy. The fundamental difference between them is the ratio of chromium. Carbon steel has chromium under 10.5%, and stainless steel must have at least 10.5% of chromium in it.

But many other factors help us to distinguish between carbon steel and stainless steel. This blog post is to review a comparison of carbon steel vs. stainless steel. This discussion will clear your thoughts about the question, “Is carbon steel better than stainless steel?”. If you are also confused about the properties of these metals, you can read on to clear your thoughts.

The Detailed Comparison Between Carbon Steel And Stainless Steel

People always try to compare carbon steel vs. stainless steel! But this is not the case because each of them has its characteristics and properties. It is not a good thing to start the debate “carbon steel versus stainless steel.”

3 Characteristics of Carbon Steel

World’s one of the most widely used commercial metals, steel, is carbon. This form of steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, has a more significant carbon content than other varieties, making it stronger and more useful for applications requiring strength.

Carbon content is used to classify and evaluate carbon steels. Each kind is categorized into one of the following groups based on its total carbon percentage:

  1. 25 percent low carbon steel (For instance, AISI 304)
  2. 25 percent to 0.60 percent medium carbon steel (Example: AISI 409)
  3. Steel with a high carbon content of 0.60 percent to 1.25 percent (Example: AISI 440C)

These classifications help break down the physical characteristics of steel and aid steel makers in determining the optimum uses and applications for each kind.

Top 4 Characteristics of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel, like carbon steel, is a metal alloy that is widely used across the world.

  1. Corrosion resistance is the primary benefit of stainless steel.
  2. Stainless steel, made up of chromium and iron, is used to create a wide range of items, including food and pharmaceutical containers, surgical instruments, wire, sinks, patio furniture, water tubing, and cable trays.
  3. The amount of chromium added to the iron varies between 10% and 35%, depending on the grade of stainless steel being manufactured.

Chromium oxide protects stainless steel by forming a protective coating that resists rusting and corrosion.

Stainless steel can also be enhanced with nickel, titanium, and other metals to increase specific properties. There are hundreds of different stainless-steel alloys to choose from.

3 Classification of Steel Alloy:

These alloys can be classified into three groups:

  1. Austenitic Stainless Steel.
  2. Ferritic Stainless Steel.
  3. Martensitic Stainless Steel.

How To Differentiate Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel?

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If you want to distinguish carbon steel from stainless steel, the following tips are just for you. If you know these techniques, you can quickly determine carbon steel vs. stainless steel.

Surface finish and how the two metals reflect light are the visual distinctions between carbon steel and stainless steel. Stainless steel, for example, is more polished and glossier than carbon steel. On the other hand Carbon steel, has a duller, more matte appearance.

Another systematic approach to distinguish between the two is to look for evidence of oxidation (red rust). Carbon steels have a high carbon content and are prone to rust when exposed to moisture, whereas stainless steels do not.

On the steel, place one or two drops of lemon juice and let it sit for a bit if you’re in a hurry and can’t detect the difference. If the lemon juice leaves a black mark on the surface, it’s probably carbon steel.

Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel Strength 

In comparing carbon steel vs. stainless steel carbon steels, stainless steels have better yield and tensile strength. However, we can get exact answers if we know which type of carbon or stainless steel is used, high, medium, or low.

The mechanical parameters to see the power of steel are:

Carbon Steel

  1. Low carbon steel has a tensile strength of 60,000 to 80,000 pounds per square inch.
  2. The tensile strength of Medium carbon steel has 100,000 to 120,000 pounds per square inch.
  3. Alloy steel has a tensile strength of above 150,000 psi.

Stainless Steel

  1. Austenitic stainless steel has a tensile strength of 72,000 to 115,000 pounds per square inch.
  2. Stainless steel of Martensitic has a tensile strength of 72,000 to 160,000 pounds per square inch.
  3. Stainless steel ferritic – tensile strength ranges from 65,000 to 87,000 psi

Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel Knife Comparison 

We chose when it comes to carbon vs. stainless steel knives the one suitable for our work. If you are aware of your requirements, you will not have to debate for stainless vs. carbon steel knives.

Home cooks frequently use stainless knives. Professionals frequently use High-carbon steel.

Why? Stainless knives are easier to keep and are more widely accessible. Cutting edges are usually made of martensitic stainless steel. These stainless steels are more difficult to work with than other grades. They aren’t as brittle as even tougher high-carbon steels, so they can go in the dishwasher or bang against the marble.

This is frequently adequate for the home cook who does not undertake precision knifework. In this case, rust prevention aids in keeping the blade sharp. Wear and iron oxides on the cutting edge will both dull a knife.

When it comes to high carbon steel vs. stainless steel knives, professional cooks prefer high carbon steel. Blades are more durable than stainless steel and can be sharpened to a razor’s edge and are. Even after extensive usage, high-carbon grades maintain a sharper edge.

Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel Price

The pricing differential of carbon steels vs. stainless steels is another essential factor to consider. Stainless steels are usually more expensive than carbon steels, even though prices vary depending on the grade. This is primarily due to alloying elements such as chromium, nickel, manganese, and others to stainless steel. These extra features all add up to a higher cost than carbon steel. Carbon steel, on the other hand, is mainly made up of inexpensive iron and carbon components. Thus, if you have a low budget, you can choose carbon steel by comparing carbon steel vs. stainless steel.


We hope that you now know which steel is better for carbon steel vs. stainless steel. If you are aware of your requirements, you will never have to go through the debate of carbon steel vs. stainless steel. For instance, you will use carbon steel when it comes to the work of strength.

If you are a home chef, you can use stainless steel as rust-free and less sharp. Or you go for the carbon steel if you are a professional chef.

Carbon steel vs. stainless steel is a common confusion in people who are not aware of the properties of the metals.   But, We hope that this article was helpful for you. You may now know the significant differences between carbon steel vs. stainless steel. If you have any queries regarding carbon steel vs. stainless steel, you can leave them in the comment section below.

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