In the battle of the pans, people tend to choose from either non-stick cookware or cast-iron cookware. One gives you great ease while making food and easy food release whereas the other gives you superior texture and flavors and also lasts much longer than the other.
But when making this comparison people tend to forget about a lesser-known category of pans that offer the best of both worlds: Carbon Steel pans.
Carbon steel pans are great for searing food and are compatible and safe to use with ovens as well as induction stovetops. They come with the longevity of cast iron pans, so investing in a good carbon steel pan means that you will probably be passing it down to your kids someday!
They are not only lighter and smoother than their cast iron counterparts but also offer a great non-stick surface to play with if seasoned properly.
If you are the owner of a new carbon steel pan or are looking to invest in one soon, you may be wondering how to achieve that perfect non-stick surface by seasoning. Worry not, here is a step by step guide on how to season a carbon steel pan.
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Why Season a Pan?
To understand why seasoning your pan is so important, first you need to understand what seasoning actually means. Seasoning a pan means treating it with oil so as to create a non-stick coating on it.
This process makes the oil fill any microscopic holes in the metal surface. When it dries, it creates a shellac like coating, sealing the surface. This prevents foods from sticking to it.
Seasoning also protects carbon steel pans from rusting over time.
The First Seasoning
The best oils to use for seasoning your carbon steel pan are flaxseed or sunflower oil but if you don’t have either of those on hand, you can use any vegetable oil available. Some carbon steel pans do come pre-seasoned.
If yours isn’t pre-seasoned, the first thing you’ll need to do it remove its wax or grease coating. This coating from most manufacturers is used to protect your pan from rusting when in transit.
To do this, you will have to use a mixture of very hot water and dish soap. Carbon steel is not porous and the water will not harm your pan. You will need to scrub your pan with this mixture using a bristle brush or a coarse scourer.
You can even use a regular double-sided sponge or a nylon scrubber but please do not use steel wool to clean your pan. Steel wool can cause abrasions that will reduce your pan’s ability to become non-stick after seasoning.
When your pan is grease-free, you will need to dry it completely. You should place the dried pan on low heat on the stove and add 1/3 cups of oil mixed with 2/3rd cups of salt and peels from a couple of potatoes.
Cook this mixture on medium heat for around 10 minutes. This helps in removing any remaining wax or grease on your pan’s surface. Make sure you move the potato peels around every few minutes and rub them up the sides of the pan.
After this process, your pan will change color to brown so don’t worry when you see the color changes. Empty the pan and wait for it to cool down before you wipe it clean using paper towels. Your pan should now be ready for use!
If you feel like you have not achieved the level of non-stick surface you wanted, repeat the process once more and it should work flawlessly.
How to Clean a Seasoned Pan
To make sure your seasoning lasts you a while, make sure you rinse your carbon steel pan only with warm water. You can gently scrub the surface after every use with a soft bristled brush or sponge if necessary.
You can alternatively soak your pan in warm water for a while to loosen up food particles stuck to the surface before you start cleaning. Don’t use any dish soap or abrasive scourers to clean the pan as this can strip away any residual seasoning from your pan.
You should dry your skillet on the stove on medium to low heat. If you don’t really use your carbon steel pan on the regular, make sure you apply a very thin coat of oil to the surface after every cleaning to prevent rust from forming on it.
How to Re-Season my Carbon Steel Pan
Depending upon how frequently you cook in your carbon steel pan, your seasoning will start to wear off eventually.
You can tell when it’s time to re-season your pan when the cooking surface starts to feel bumpy or has a tacky residue on it. The residue is actually caused by the partially polymerized oil.
Use a moderately abrasive cleaning material such as a sponge to scrub off the sticky residue. The color of your pan might not be even at this point. Scrub the pan until it feels smooth and even to touch.
If scrubbing with just a sponge does not work, you can use a little bit of dish soap at this point since we are going to re-season the pan anyways.
When the surface is smooth to the touch, apply a couple of teaspoons of oil over the clean pan. You may need to use a bit more oil if you have a larger skillet.
You can wipe away the excess oil with paper towels. This is important because the excess oil can lead to a tacky surface and can do more harm than good.
Heat your pan over medium heat next and watch the surface closely. The oil will form tiny beads on the cooking surface. Use a paper towel to wipe away this oil. Make sure you use tongs for this step or you might burn your hands! Continue wiping off the beaded oil until the pan starts to smoke.
The smoke indicates oil breaking down. Let your pan smoke for a couple of minutes before turning off the heat and letting the pan cool down. Your pan should be perfectly seasoned again.
Repeat this process whenever necessary or like I stated above, just wipe your skillet after every use with a thin layer of oil to keep the seasoning last longer.