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Preseasoned vs. Unseasoned Carbon Steel Pans: Which Is Right for You?

There’s a perfect carbon steel pan out there for everyone.

By Rachel Baron
Apr 19, 2023
bacon in carbon steel
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With the same non stick potential and high heat retention of cast iron, and the lightweight design and improved maneuverability of something much more convenient, we reach for carbon steel daily. It’s perfect for tasks like searing steaks or whipping up stir fries, especially after it’s gotten the chance to build up a few layers of seasoning. And while a number of manufacturers take care of this step for you by offering preseasoned carbon steel, many also leave the seasoning (coating the pan with a thin layer of oil and baking it in a hot oven) to the customer.

While both preseasoned and unseasoned carbon steel pans have their merits, there are a few points to consider before purchasing. From how much time you’re willing to invest in your pan, to how particular you are about the quality of your pan’s seasoning, here’s how to decide which one is right for you.

What Is Preseasoned Carbon Steel?

preseasoned carbon with steak

Just like a classic cast iron skillet, many carbon steel pans will come preseasoned out of the box. This means that the seasoning process has already been taken care of. The seasoning process creates a smooth, near-frictionless surface by filling in the metal’s microscopic pores that catch ingredients and lead to sticking.

One of the biggest advantages of carbon steel is this naturally non stick surface that builds up over time with seasoning layers. Purchasing preseasoned carbon steel cookware makes it possible to start using your pan right away, and reduces some of the stress of that first seasoning. Our Seasoned Carbon Steel Frying Pan comes with two layers of seasoning professionally polymerized to the surface of your cookware, so you can start searing, stir-frying, and grilling right away. With proper care, your pan will become even more non stick as you cook with it—particularly if you avoid acids and prepare a lot of fatty foods.

Advantages of Preseasoned Carbon Steel

While both preseasoned and unseasoned carbon steel have their advantages, here are some of the reasons to opt for pre-seasoned.

  • Preseasoned carbon steel is deal for those who feel intimidated by the prospect of seasoning
  • It’s convenient for eager cooks who want to start searing, stir-frying, and grilling immediately
  • Professional seasoning kick-starts the initial layers needed to get a completely non stick surface on your pan
  • Preseasoned pans offer training wheels as you learn to identify when and how to re-season

What Is Unseasoned Carbon Steel?

carbon frying pan on range

An unseasoned carbon steel pan is exactly that—a pan that comes to you without the aforementioned layers of seasoning. While some manufacturers provide a thin preseasoning layer (also known as annealing) in order to protect pans from rust and damage while in transit, this is not a true seasoning layer. Unseasoned pans will need to be cleaned and seasoned before you can start cooking with them.

Unlike preseasoned carbon steel pans, unseasoned carbon steel won’t be non stick until you season it. Whether or not you go for an unseasoned pan depends on your preferences and comfort level. For example, if you’re a seasoning pro who likes having total control over how your pan is seasoned, then unseasoned carbon steel is probably your best bet.

Advantages of Unseasoned Carbon Steel

  • More control over the seasoning process—not all manufacturers season their carbon steel cookware the same way, and results may vary
  • Cookware is no different from tools—using and maintaining them can be empowering, even therapeutic
  • Unseasoned carbon steel is often more affordable
  • The seasoning processes requires you to become more familiar with the weight and heating properties of your cookware

Which Is Right for You?

carbon frying pan on stove

Now that you know the difference between a preseasoned carbon steel pan and an unseasoned one, you’re better equipped to choose which one to buy for your home kitchen. If you’ve seasoned your own cast iron or carbon steel cookware before, and feel confident enough to do it again, unseasoned carbon steel is probably a great fit.

If, however, the thought of learning to use carbon steel cookware feels like a big enough step as it is, you have plenty of high-quality preseasoned options to choose from.

Ready to Shop?

No matter which option you choose, we think every cook should have a carbon steel pan for daily cooking. No matter if you want pre seasoned or unseasoned, we recommend reaching for our Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan—oven safe up to 1200F and induction compatible, this naturally non stick pan is one of the most versatile pieces of cookware you can buy.

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