Carbon steel cookware is a bit undervalued. It is a pity since this shiny black pan with sloped sides has excellent non-stick properties. Plus, it is lighter than cast-iron models, which prevents the food from burning. You can use it for baking in both induction cooktops and ovens for years when seasoning regularly.
The primary question is how to season a carbon steel pan. The specificity of its seasoning is in building up the covering layer on the surface. That way, you will make it non-stick and protect it against rust. Once you finish the job, avoid scrubbing your skillet to prevent stripping the seasoning off.
What Is Seasoning?
After purchasing a carbon steel pan, the first thing to do is to season it. That process includes protective coating of the pan with a thin layer of oil by its burning in the pan.
The oil will fill all the pores, and you will get a slick surface, which will provide even cooking and more flavored food. Plus, you won’t have an issue with sticking the leftovers or corrosion and rusting of the pan surface.
There are two primary reasons to season your carbon steel pan:
- This skillet rusts over time because of exposure to high humidity, so it needs a barrier against water
- The seasoning provides a nonstick pan surface by boosting its performance
When you buy a new pan, it has the color of bare metal. After appropriate seasoning, it will become black like cast iron. When you reach that, you will know that you have done an excellent job.
Unfortunately, the non-stick surface never works like in commercials. Even though you have done seasoning appropriately, you will still need to oil your pan before cooking.
So, when you decide to prepare something in your carbon steel pan, you should add some butter or oil before frying. If you have an excellently seasoned skillet, the food will slide on the surface without sticking.
The type of oil you use for seasoning can be essential for the success of the procedure. You don’t need to go exotic since regular canola oil will be quite a well solution.
In fact, the crucial thing is the smoking point of the oil you want to use since you need to bring it above the burning point to finish the job correctly. Keep in mind that oils with a smoking point below 300 F (149 C) are useless for this purpose since they can’t provide an adequate coating to the surface.
One of the best choices are:
- Avocado oil with a smoking point of 520 F (271 C)
- Safflower oil with a smoking point of 510 F (265.5 C)
- Soybean oil with a smoking point of 453 F (234 C)
- Canola oil with a smoking point of 428 to 446 F (220 – 230 C)
- Corn oil with a smoking point of 446 to 460 F (230 – 238 C)
- Sunflower oil with a smoking point of 441 to 489 F (227 – 254 C)
- Vegetable oil with a smoking point of 428 F (220 C)
- Olive oil with a smoking point of 320 to 470 F (160 – 243 C)
- Grapeseed oil with a smoking point of 421 F (216 C)
- Coconut oil with a smoking point of 350 to 450 F (177 – 232 C)
- Sesame oil with a smoking point of 350 to 450 F (177 – 232 C)
- Peanut oil with a smoking point of 320 to 450 F (160 – 232 C)
There are two ways to season your pan, on the stovetop and in the oven. You can use both methods on your carbon steel pan, but the process will be more comfortable and quicker if you have a gas stove.
On the other hand, it is a better option to season your pan in the oven if you use an electric stovetop.
Necessity of repetition
Once you purchase a carbon steel pan, you need to season it before the first use. Many people repeat the process at least twice a year for a better result.
You can use your cookware without repeating the process, but it is highly recommended to re-seasoning your pan until getting a dark, shiny surface. Also, this process will mitigate the effects of scratching and damage with acid from food.
Seasoning a Carbon Steel Pan
Step 1. Wash the pan and remove the protective coating
New carbon steel pans almost always come with a coating that protects them against rust. The color of such a pan will be metallic grey instead of the desired black. So, you need to remove this layer before starting the process of seasoning.
Since manufacturers use various types of coatings, you should find the instructions that come with your new cookware and follow them carefully. Then, you should wash the carbon steel pan thoroughly with warm soapy water and a sponge or soft cloth.
Step 2. Dry the pan
After removing the protective layer and thoroughly washing the pan, you should dry it immediately to prevent it from rusting. It will be quite shocking for you to see how fast rust can form on wet steel, especially if you have only used a frying pan so far and have had no similar experience.
So, dry your new skillet with a soft cloth or paper towel right away. To get rid of any remaining moisture, you can put it on the stovetop for a few seconds, as well.
Step 3. Heat the pan
In the Oven, You will need
- Chosen oil
- Baking sheet
- A soft cloth or paper towels
- Oven mitts
Start the procedure by heating your new carbon steel pan. Preheat the oven from 400 to 450 F (200 – 230 C), but the heat level will depend on the type of cooking oil used. The rule is that you should reach a temperature of at least 25 degrees higher than the oil smoking point.
As soon as the desired temperature is reached, put the pan inside for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Then, take out your skillet from the oven and apply the chosen oil with a cloth or paper towel on both sides of the pan. You will need about 0.25 tsp of oil for the cookware of 10 to 12 inches (25.5 – 30.5 cm) in diameter.
Use tongs to protect your hands from the hot pan and boiling oil, and don’t forget to wear oven mitts to avoid burns.
Place tinfoil on the bottom oven rack and cover it with the baking sheet. Then, put your cookware upside down above it so that the layer will collect oil dripping from the pan.
The optimum time for seasoning a carbon steel pan in the oven is an hour at a constant temperature of at least 400 F (200 C). After that period, turn off the oven, but let the pan stay inside until cooling down to room temperature.
Be patient since this may last for a few hours. You can use your skillet as soon as you remove it from the oven. The advantage of this method over stovetop seasoning is that both the handle and rest of the pan will have the same color once you finish.
On the stovetop, You will need
- Chosen oil
- A soft cloth or paper towels
- Oven mitts
Seasoning the carbon steel pan on the stovetop is a faster method, but you should be highly careful to prevent possible burns.
First, put your skillet on the burner on medium-high heat until becoming hot and turning brown. Take it off the stove with oven mitts to protect your hands.
Take a cloth or paper towel and coat both pan surfaces with chosen oil. You will need approximately a couple of tablespoons of oil for a skillet of 10 to 12 inches (25.5 – 30.5 cm) in diameter. It is crucial to cover the bottom entirely.
Then, put the pan back on the burner and keep heating. You will need a high flame to achieve that. Once the oil starts smoking, you should wait for 5 to 10 seconds for your pan to turn black. That is the moment to turn off the stove and remove the skillet from the burner.
Wait for a few seconds and return the pan to the flame. Bring the oil up to smoking once again. Wait for another 5 to 10 seconds before removing your skillet from the flame.
Thoroughly wipe excess oil from the surface with tongs and a paper towel right away. Let the pan entirely cool before using it or storing it appropriately for later use.
After this initial seasoning, your pan may not be entirely rich dark black, but you can use it without hesitation. If used regularly, the skillet will develop a dark patina over time.
As you can see, seasoning a carbon steel pan is not top science. There are two basic ways you can finish this job.
It seems that seasoning the pan on the stovetop is a better option for routine maintenance. So, think about the initial seasoning of your new pan in the oven but use a quicker way when deciding to repeat the procedure.
Michael Johnson is the founder of Pan Mastery, Inspired by his blacksmith grandfather’s legacy has a deep appreciation for hand-crafted pots and pans, he provides invaluable guides, reviews, and recipes to enhance your culinary journey.