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Seasoning Carbon Steel Cookware

Mastering the Art: How to Season Carbon Steel Pan

by Helen
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Carbon Steel Cookware Care and Seasoning

Carbon Steel is becoming a favorite material for cookware in kitchens. It is a go-to in professional kitchens and loved by French chefs. It isn't a wonder why, either—Carbon Steel offers the best of both worlds: Cast Iron and Stainless Steel. First, it heats up, cools down quickly, and has excellent heat conductivity, but it is also highly durable and lightweight. Have you ever wondered if you have to season carbon steel pans? The short answer is yes, seasoning carbon steel cookware is required.

Like cast iron, carbon steel has poor heat conduction and relatively good heat retention, making it a solid choice for pan-roasting meats. Since steel pans are usually stamped or spun from metal sheets rather than cast in a form, they typically have sloped sides. They are thinner and lighter than cast iron. They're among the best pans for sautéing searing meats and vegetables.

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Season Carbon Steel Pan

Seasoning Carbon Steel Pans

Carbon steel has another thing in common with cast iron: it must be seasoned. Contrary to what people believe it means, “seasoning” in the context of cookware is not about flavor building up in a pan over time. Instead, seasoning is an accumulation of very thin layers of oil that have been created, via heat, from liquid grease into solid, plastic-like polymer.

When your long-awaited and excellent Carbon Steel Cookware finally arrives at your home, you will probably be anxious to start cooking with it. Yet, like Cast Iron, it will require an initial seasoning to help build up its inherently non-stick surface. We have created this step-by-step guide on how to season your Carbon Steel Cookware; follow this guide.

What Is Seasoning?

Carbon steel has another thing in common with cast iron: it must be seasoned. Contrary to what people believe it means, “seasoning” in the context of cookware is not about flavor building up in a pan over time. Instead, seasoning is an accumulation of very thin layers of oil that have been created, via heat, from liquid grease into solid, plastic-like polymer.

Seasoning is treating your Pan with a high-heat oil to create a seal on your Pan's surface. Heating an oil with a high smoke point produces polymerization—which means the reaction between oil and heat forms a solid layer, filling in the metal's tiny pores. Filling the small pores helps prevent rust and prevents food from sticking while cooking.

While your Pan may come “pre-seasoned,” it is primarily to protect it during transit, and a second round of seasoning is required before you begin cooking with it. We have found that the best and easiest method is in the oven. Depending on the size of your grill pan or wok in particular, you may have to adjust your oven racks to accommodate their size.

How to Season Carbon Steel Pan

1. Preheat Your Oven

Follow Our How To Season Carbon Steel Pan Guide:

Get your oven to as hot as the smoke point of your oil. Made In seasoning expert Steve Barnett prefers to use grapeseed oil since it is the best for seasoning carbon steel and has a smoke point of around 420F, but to be sure, check the label for details.

Next, line a Sheet Pan with some aluminum foil and set it on the bottom rack of your oven.

2. Wash Your Pan

Wash your Pan thoroughly with warm water and a bar of mild soap or liquid soap. Washing your pan removes the initial layer of vegetable oil that is applied to the Pan at the factory for protection during transit. Try to remove as much of this oil residue as possible.
The recommendation is to wash it for 5-10 minutes. Also, be sure you wash the entire pan inside and out.

3. Dry It Off

Before putting your Pan in the oven, ensure it is completely dry. Use a lint-free or a paper towel to avoid leaving pieces of fluff behind, then place it over low heat to ensure no moisture remains.

4. Apply Oil

In a small bowl – pour several tablespoons of your high smoke-point oil. Slightly Raise the heat under your Pan to medium-low, and apply a thin layer of oil to the inside of your Pan with a sustainable paper towel. Ensure you cover the Pan's surface and walls, but don't use too much—as only a thin layer is needed.

Also, oil the outside walls and bottom of your cookware, especially if you intend to cook with it outside over an open flame or live in a highly humid environment. Be cautious when doing this part, as the Pan will be pretty warm.

MadeIn Blue Carbon Steel Pan
image: MadeIn

5. Heat It Up

To remove excess oil, perform one final wipe on your Pan before placing it upside down in your preheated oven. The Sheet Pan on the bottom shelf will capture drips, preventing a grease fire. Finally, leave the Pan inside the oven for an hour.

6. Cool It Down

After an hour, turn your oven off and let the Pan cool while inside. Once your pan is cool to the touch, you're ready to start using your pan.

Having Trouble Seasoning Your Carbon Steel Pans?

You may have applied too much oil if your Pan feels tacky or sticky. Make a paste of coarse salt and a small amount of oil, and use a paper towel to buff out the surface of your Pan. The salt paste will help smooth it out and rub off any sticky residue.

Stay calm if you see rust on your Pan. It is not ruined. You can easily remove the rust with either salt, vinegar, or a scouring sponge. Follow one of the methods outlined here.

We do not recommend using your new Pan to cook more delicate foods that tend to stick, like eggs or light, flaky fish until you have built up more of a patina—use Non Stick instead.

Reseason Carbon Steel Pan

Repeat this process for reseasoning your carbon steel pan for a slicker pan that mimics Non-Stick properties without the washing step. Now, your Pan will perform more like a Cast Iron one; use no soap and water sparingly when cleaning it.

You can also apply a coating of Carbon Steel Seasoning Wax to the inside of your Pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and let your Pan to sit on the burner for about 2-3 minutes. Although it will smoke a little, don't be frightened.

The more you cook in your new Carbon Steel Pan, the more naturally Non-Stick it will get. Cooking fattier foods will speed up the process, so use this pan when making steak or pork chops.

MadeIn Carbon Steel Seasoning Wax
image: MadeIn

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