How to Season Carbon Steel Cookware

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Learn how to properly season your new Carbon Steel Cookware so you can start putting it to use.

By Team Made In
Feb 15, 2022
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Carbon Steel is one of our favorite materials. It is a staple in professional kitchens, loved by French chefs, and is rapidly becoming popular in home kitchens as well. It isn’t hard to see why either—Carbon Steel provides the best of both worlds of Cast Iron and Stainless Steel.

Not only does it heat up and cool down quickly and have excellent heat conductivity, but it is also extremely durable and relatively lightweight.

When your beautiful Carbon Steel Cookware finally arrives in the mail, you will be anxious to cook with it, but like Cast Iron, it will need an initial seasoning to help build up its naturally non-stick surface. Follow this guide for a step-by-step on how to season your Carbon Steel Cookware.

What Is Seasoning, Anyway?

Seasoning is the process of treating your pan with oil to create a seal on your Pan’s surface. Heating an oil with a high smoke-point creates a polymerization—the oil and heat react together to form a solid layer, filling in the metal’s small pores. This helps prevent rust and keeps food from sticking during cooking.

While your Pan does come “pre-seasoned”, this is mainly meant to protect it during transit and another round of seasoning is needed before you begin cooking. We have found that the best method of doing this is in the oven. Note that you may have to adjust your oven racks to accommodate the size of the Wok in particular.

How to Season

Follow Along Here:

1. Preheat Your Oven

You’re going to want your oven to be as hot as the smoke point of your oil. Resident  seasoning expert Steve Barnett prefers grapeseed oil, which has a smoke point of around 450F, but when in doubt, check the label to make sure.

Next, line a Sheet Pan with aluminum foil and place it on the bottom rack of your oven.

2. Wash Your Pan

Give your Pan a good wash with warm water and a mild soap. This removes the initial layer of vegetable oil applied at the factory to protect your Pan during transit. Try to get as much of this oil off as possible.

Steve recommends washing it for 5-10 minutes. Make sure you wash the entire thing inside and out.

3. Dry It Off

Before placing your Pan in the oven, make sure it is bone dry. Start by drying with a paper towel to avoid leaving behind any bits of fluff, then set it over low heat to make sure no dampness remains.

4. Apply Oil

Pour a few tablespoons of your high smoke-point oil into a small bowl. Increase the heat under your Pan slightly to medium-low and begin to apply a thin layer of oil to the inside of your Pan using a paper towel. Make sure you cover the surface of the Pan as well as its walls but don’t overdo it—you only need a thin layer.

Steve recommends also oiling the outside of your cookware as well, especially if you plan to cook with it outside or live in a particularly humid environment. Be careful with this part as the Pan will be warm.

5. Heat It Up

Give your Pan one final wipe to remove any excess oil before placing it upside down in the preheated oven. The Sheet Pan will catch any drips so you don’t start a grease fire. Leave the Pan in the oven for an hour.

6. Cool It Down

After an hour, turn off your oven and let the Pan cool inside. Once it is cool to the touch, you’re ready to start cooking.

Having Trouble?

If your Pan feels tacky or sticky, you may have applied too much oil. Simply make a paste of coarse salt and a little oil, and use a paper towel to buff the surface of your Pan. This will help smooth it out and remove any sticky residue.

If you see rust on your Pan don’t panic, it is not ruined. You can remove it with either salt, vinegar or a scouring sponge. Follow one of the methods outlined here.

We recommend not using your new Pan for more delicate foods that are prone to sticking like eggs or a flaky fish until you have built up more of a patina—use Non-Stick instead.

If you want your pan to be even slicker and mimic Non-Stick properties, you can repeat this process, without the washing step. Now, your Pan will function more like a Cast Iron one, so no soap at all and use water sparingly when you clean it.

You can also apply a layer of our Carbon Steel Seasoning Wax to the inside of your Pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and allow your Pan to sit on the burner for 2-3 minutes. It will smoke a little, but don’t be alarmed.

The more you cook in your new Carbon Steel Pan, the more naturally Non-Stick it will become. Fattier foods will speed up this process, so reach for this Pan when making steak or pork chops.