What I do not want to do ever again is running
iptables -L -t naton a core production server with many many connections.
And why?Well because running "iptables -L" auto-loads the table specific iptables kernel module which for the "nat" table is "iptables_nat" which has a dependency on "nf_conntrack". While "iptables_nat" doesn't do anything when there are no configured iptables rules, "nf_conntrack" immediately starts to drop connections as it cannot handle the many many connections the server has. The probably only safe way to check for NAT rules is:
grep -q ^nf_conntrack /proc/modules && iptables -L -t nat