an idiots guide to seasoning CARBON STEEL pans (2 WAYS)



You all have probably cooked with stainless steel pans and most have probably used a cast iron pan at least once in their lives. But have you ever used a carbon steel pan? It sorta has the best qualities of both. It distributes heat evenly and retains it much like a cast iron pan but it's lighter and more versatile like a stainless steel pan and it heats up fast like stainless steel but holds that heat more like a cast iron. This is the pan of choice for most high-end restaurants and is viewed by many as a kitchen workhorse.

If there is one downside it's probably the fact that it needs to be treated and maintained like a cast iron which is the worst part about cast iron in my opinion. But its really just annoying for a lazy person like me, in reality, the act of seasoning a carbon steel pan, or for that matter and cast iron (both use the same general methods), is actually one the easiest things you can do and today we are going to break it down with 2 methods. A stovetop method that is faster but will produce more smoke, and an oven method that takes longer but yields less smoke and is more hands-off but is more foolproof and seasons the pan more evenly.

When seasoning new pans, always first wash with soap and water...then proceed to your preferred method.

Cooktop method: (Does not work with gas stovetops)

  1. Wash the carbon steel pan with soap

  2. Heat your carbon steel pan over medium heat for 5-10 minutes to dry the pan and to get it preheated and open up the pores in the pan.

  3. Once it's preheated, add a very small amount of your oil of choice. I pour it on a paper towel and then rub it all over the steel, both sides of the pan. Then I take a kitchen rag and wipe the pan as dry as possible. You don’t want to see any shiny oil spots. The pores in the pan are microscopic so only the smallest amount of oil will be necessary, and you run the risk to tacky sticky spots.

  4. On medium to medium-high heat, heat the pan for 5-10 more minutes, ensure that you’re making the sides off the pan hit the heat and the whole pan is heated as evenly as possible. It will produce smoke so make sure you are well ventilated.

  5. After 5-10 minutes, turn the heat off and let the pan cool down.

  6. Your pan is now ready to be used, or you can repeat these steps as many times as you’d like to continue building that seasoning.

Oven method (foolproof method, my preferred method)

  1. Place a foil-lined baking sheet on the bottom rack of your oven, then preheat your oven to 475-500 F. The oven temperature should be at or slightly above the smoke point of your oil, most high-smoke-point oils and waxes fall in the 450-500 F smoke-point range.

  2. Wash your pan with soap and water.

  3. Place the pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes to evaporate any remaining moisture and open up the pores in the pan.

  4. Once it's preheated, turn the burner off and add a very small amount of your oil of choice. I pour it on a paper towel and then rub it all over the steel, both sides of the pan. Then I take a kitchen rag and wipe the pan as dry as possible. You don’t want to see any shiny oil spots. The pores in the pan are microscopic so only the smallest amount of oil will be necessary, and you run the risk of tacky sticky spots.

  5. Transfer the pan to the oven and place it upside down over the foil-lined baking sheet. The idea of the baking sheet is to catch any excess oil but if you did your job right it won’t be needed.

  6. Leave the pan in the oven for an hour.

  7. After one hour turn your oven off and leave the pan in the oven until it’s cooled to the touch

  8. Your pan is now ready to be used, or you can repeat these steps as many times as you’d like to continue building that seasoning.

Troubleshooting

  • Pan is tacky or sticky? You probably used too much oil, didn’t wipe the oil off well enough, or didn’t use high enough heat for the oil you used to create the polymerization needed to season the pan.

  • If this happens, or you accumulate rust over time, simply scour the pan of any sticky or rusty spots, wash with soap and water, and then start the process over again.

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