With the heat retention and non stick properties of cast iron paired with the heat control and cooking speed of stainless steel, carbon steel cookware is the perfect hybrid of two beloved cookware materials. Best of all, it’s lighter weight, seasons easier, and can take a near-endless amount of wear and tear in the kitchen.
The key to getting the most out of your carbon steel pans for years to come is to maintain its seasoning layer, which provides a naturally non stick layer that can handle even the most delicate ingredients. When you notice cooking isn't going as smoothly as it has in the past, don’t worry—your pan is likely in need of a reseasoning session. Here’s everything you need to know about reseasoning your carbon steel pans.
Seasoning is the process of purposefully oxidizing layers of oil onto the surface of your pan to provide a protective, non stick layer (also called a "patina") between the metal surface of your pan and the ingredients it comes into contact with. It not only provides a slick cooking surface to work with, but keeps the high iron contents of your pan protected from rust and corrosion.
Once your pan has been used for a wide variety of meals and has built up a thick patina, it’s common for your pan to need a reseasoning session, which involves stripping it back down to that base layer.
While there’s no hard and fast rule to when you should reseason, you'll likely run into one of three common issues: rust, a dirty pan that needs a thorough cleaning, or a patchy first layer of seasoning that has resulted in the development of uneven layers of seasoning.
No matter the reason you're looking to reseason your carbon steel, the process stays functionally the same.
If you stuck your pan in a cabinet or drawer and promptly forgot about it, you may pull out a rusty pan instead of a clean one the next time you reach for it. This can happen to the best of us, and your pan isn’t ruined or past the point of no return. The rust however, is a clear signal that it’s time to reseason.
Since our carbon steel is made of 99% iron, rust is completely natural after being exposed to water for long periods of time. This most commonly happens after it’s been cleaned and wasn’t completely dry before being put away, but it can also occur if you’re living in a humid climate.
Follow along with our video on restoring rusty carbon steel, or read on for step-by-step instructions. We recommend the stove method for reseasoning, but the oven method works just as well.
If you’ve made good use of your pan but have too much stickiness and old food residue on the bottom that you can't remove with a simple cleaning, it's time to wipe the slate clean and restart your reseasoning.
If your seasoning got off to a rocky start and you spend more time scraping up stuck-on food residue than you do cooking, then it's likely time to start over.
This process can follow the same as the above, and be sure that your pan is fully stripped back to the bare metal before seasoning again—if there's any initial seasoning left, then you'll have the same problem later on. If seasoning is proving too much of a headache, we also offer a seasoned option that comes to your door with the initial first layers of seasoning done for you, so you can spend less time stressing over the perfect first seasoning layer, and more time cooking.
We recommend cooking something fatty (like bacon) in your pan after reseasoning or seasoning for the first time to build up that smooth, non stick patina that well-used carbon steel is famous for.
A new seasoning can do for your pan what a new coat of wax does for your car—provides a layer of protection between the surface and the rest of the world. Once it’s been reseasoned and restored, you can cook confidently knowing your pan is well-suited for any task.