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How to Season Your New Carbon Steel Frying Pan

Once you get your new Carbon Steel Pan, here's how to get it perfectly seasoned.

Team Made In|Mar 03, 2021

Carbon Steel

is one of our favorite materials to cook with. Like

Stainless Steel

, Carbon Steel is easy to maneuver and sensitive to heat changes. And, like a cast iron pan or a cast iron skillet, Carbon Steel will build up a layer of seasoning the more you use it, making it practically non stick and

easy to clean

, too.

When you first get your

Carbon Steel Frying Pan

in the mail, you should season it. While it already comes pre seasoned, this is more of a protective coating for transit. Seasoning is the process of treating the surface of your pan with a high-smoke point oil to create a solid layer of polymerized oil. Polymerization is a chemical reaction caused by heating the oil. Seasoning fills the small pores of the cooking surface, which helps prevent rust and creates a stick-resistant surface. There are a few ways to season your Carbon Steel Pan, but we have found that the oven method is the best for your first time.

Step One: Preheat Your Oven

The first step is to preheat your oven to 450 degrees—or whatever temperature matches the smoke point of your oil—and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place your baking sheet on the bottom rack of your oven.

Step Two: The Wash

If you are starting with a brand new pan, wash it with soap and water. This is the only time you will ever use soap and water to wash your pan. You are washing away a layer of vegetable oil, which is applied to the pan to help prevent rust during transit. Don’t worry if you can’t get all the vegetable oil off, as any leftover oil will aid in the seasoning process.

Step Three: Get It Dry

Once you have washed your pan, you need to dry it well. Using a paper towel to wipe out the pan and then place it on your stove over a burner turned to low heat. This will evaporate any excess moisture.

Step Four: Oil it Up

It’s now time to apply the oil. Place a few tablespoons of canola oil in a small bowl. This is our favorite oil for treating your pan, however, any neutral oil with a smoke point between 400-475F will work, too. Increase the temperature of the burner to medium-low heat, heating the pan, and, using a paper towel, dip it in the bowl containing your oil. Apply a very thin layer of the oil to the entire surface of your pan. A thin layer is important because if you add too much, it will cake on and create splotching. It is not necessary to wipe the outside of the pan. If you plan on using it to cook outside over an open fire or live in a very humid environment, then we recommend doing so. Keep your pan on medium high heat for two minutes, and feel free to move the pan around the burner so it is evenly heated.

Step Five: Oven Time

Then, place your pan upside down in the oven. The foil-lined baking sheet will catch any oil drippings. Leave the pan in the oven for an hour.

Step Six: Let it Cool

After an hour, turn the oven off and allow your pan to cool on its own in the oven. Once it is cool to the touch, it is ready to cook with.

Step Seven: Get Cooking

We recommend not cooking with delicate foods such as fish or eggs until you have a well-formed patina on your pan. This can take some time. To make your pan slicker, you can do any of the following. First, you can always repeat the above process, but we don’t recommend doing this more than twice. Follow the exact same steps, besides washing it with soap and water. Second, you can repeat the same process, but skip placing it in the oven. Instead, after you apply a thin layer of oil to the surface of your pan, gradually increase the temperature to medium-high and allow the pan to sit on the burner for 2 to 3 minutes. Expect some smoke with this method, just like in the oven. And lastly, cooking with fattier foods will always help season the pan, whether that’s a steak, pork chop, or if you’re frying foods. The more you cook with it, the better the seasoning will get, so we always recommend getting started after your first seasoning.

Check out this video to see the process from start to finish:

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. We recommend seasoning with oils that range from 400-450 degrees.

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: You most likely added too much oil when seasoning, but have no worries. The way to get rid of the stickiness and splotchy areas is to add coarse salt to the surface of your pan and a little bit of oil. Use a paper towel to scrub the surface. This will smooth out the pan and get rid of any residue.

Q: How do I know I seasoned correctly?

A: Your pan should feel smooth, not sticky and tacky, after seasoning. The appearance of your carbon steel will vary and change as you use it. Changes can include colors like brown, black, and blue, as well as ‘uneven’ appearance. The best sign of your seasoning’s success is always how it cooks and how slick the surface is, so know that a well-seasoned surface will usually not be the most uniform!

Q: There is rust on my pan! Is it ruined?

A: Nope! Rust will naturally occur if the pan isn’t fully dried. If you notice rust on your pan, scrub it away with soap and water. If that doesn’t work, steel wool can easily remove any remaining rust. After you get rid of the rust, thoroughly dry your pan and then reseason your pan using the method outlined above.

Q: How do I clean it?

It is quite easy to clean carbon steel. We've put together

this guide

to help you out.

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