Seasoning and Care Instructions
Seasoning 101: The Guide to Seasoning Carbon Steel Frying Pans and Carbon
What is Seasoning?
Seasoning is the process of treating the surface of your pan with a stick-resistant coating formed from polymerized oil which fills the small pores of the pan’s surface. Seasoning also helps prevent rust, particularly in humid areas, or if your pan goes unused for some time.
To achieve a good polymerized layer of oil and, thus, an effective seasoning, a thin layer of high-smoke-point oil should be applied to the surface of the pan and then heated.
As the pan is heated, the surface color will begin to darken. While the coloring may be uneven at first, over time and with regular use the color will even out (the coloring is also known as the patina).
How to Season your Carbon Steel Wok:
There are several ways to season a carbon steel pan. The most common method and simple method used is listed below:
*Always clean your pan before the first seasoning, using warm soapy water and a sponge. Ensure it is fully dried before beginning your seasoning process.*
Standard Cooktop Seasoning Method
Heat your carbon steel pan over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. You can do this on your stovetop or over live flame. This ensures the pan is heated thoroughly and helps open up the pores. It also helps dry the pan completely after washing. The surface color may already begin to change-this is normal and expected.
After heated thoroughly, use a paper or hand towel to apply a thin layer of high smoke point oil to the entire surface of the pan. Fold over the towel or grab a new one, and wipe away as much of the oil as you can to ensure a thin layer is all that remains.
Let the pan sit on the burner or fire over medium-low heat, rotating the carbon steel as needed to ensure it is heated evenly up the sides as well. The color will continue to change and you may see shades of blue, brown, black, or even orange. These are all normal. After about 5 minutes, you can remove your pan from the heat and let it thoroughly cool. It’s ready for use, or another round of seasoning if you’d like!
The pan will continue to season with each use, and only gets better over time. If you won’t be using your pan for more than a week or two, we recommend applying a thin layer of oil or wax to help protect the pan from moisture, which can cause oxidation (rust) on the surface. See the common questions at the bottom of this article if rust does appear.
Common Seasoning Questions
Q: How do I know the smoke point of my oil?
A: Some oils will have the smoke point listed on the bottle. If yours doesn’t, some of the more common oils are listed below, along with their estimated smoke point. Please note that smoke points can vary depending on the extraction method, source, etc, so these temperatures are estimates.
Canola Oil: 400º-450ºF
Flaxseed Oil (Unrefined): 250º-325ºF
Peanut Oil: 400º-450ºF
Sesame Oil (Unrefined): 350ºF
Sesame Oil (Semi-refined): 450ºF
Sunflower Oil: 425º-450ºF
Grapeseed Oil: 425ºF
Vegetable Oil: 425ºF
Q: I followed the seasoning instructions but my pan isn’t smooth. It’s tacky/sticky. What did I do wrong?
A: Most likely one of two things happened here. Either too much oil was used or the oil used had a higher smoke point than your oven temperature. Too much oil causes a buildup and makes it difficult for the oil to polymerize. To avoid this issue, ensure only a thin layer of oil is used. After applying, you can take a paper towel and wipe the surface to remove any excess. If the oil used has a higher smoke point, you’ll need to adjust the oven temperature when seasoning to 15-20º higher than the smoke point.
If you’d like to start over and remove your seasoning, you can use steel wool, chainmail, or even sandpaper to scrape away as much of the sticky residue as possible. You may see some of the "bare" metal when you do this, which is totally normal. The dark color the surface of the pan has when you receive it isn't a coating, despite how it appears. It is actually just oxidation of the metal, which occurs when the pan goes through an annealing process (it's heated in a special oven to 400ºC that has steam injected, causing the surface to oxidize which helps protect from rust in transit).
Q: There is rust on my pan! Is it ruined?
A: Nope! Rust will naturally occur if the pan isn’t fully dried after washing and/or if the pan isn’t stored with a thin layer of oil on the surface to keep it from drying out. A bit of steel wool will scrub it away without any issues, and then you can apply a bit of oil to ensure the pan doesn’t dry out.
Q: The surface of my carbon steel pan started peeling after I cooked with it. I can see bare metal! What is coming off and how do I fix it?
A: Despite how it appears, there isn’t a coating on the carbon steel pan. It is actually just oxidation of the metal, which occurs when the pan goes through an annealing process (it's heated in a special oven to 400ºC that has steam injected, causing the surface to oxidize which helps protect from rust in transit). What you see peeling is most likely either some food residue or cooked on oil. You can apply another layer of seasoning, or simply continue cooking with it as each time it’s cooked in more seasoning will build on the pan.
Q: How do I clean it?
Easy! You have to be careful when cleaning your carbon steel pan. Water and soap will strip the pan of it's seasoning and its nonstick properties. For that reason, when you finish cooking with your pan, you should gently wipe the pan clean with a paper towel or dish towel.