Get cooking with natural non-stick pans

Carbon steel, like cast-iron, is a tried and true material loved by professional chefs and kitchen whizzes alike. Also like cast-iron, carbon steel needs to be seasoned before its surface is non-stick. The processes are similar, but since carbon steel isn’t porous you need to take a little extra care with the patina, or layers of polymerized oil. If you’re ready to upgrade your omelet making skills or perfect seared steaks, you’re in the right place. This article will go through two methods of seasoning your pan, plus we'll share tips on how to keep that seasoning in place. Let’s get cooking!

Things You Should Know

  • Wash the protective coating off your pan according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually with hot, soapy water.
  • Dry the pan entirely and coat it with a very thin layer of oil.
  • Heat the pan on medium high heat until it stops smoking, then re-oil it and repeat this step.
Method 1
Method 1 of 3:

Seasoning the Pan With Oil

  1. Unseasoned carbon steel pans are sold with a thin coating of oil or wax to prevent rusting. To remove it, scrub with a bristled brush while running hot water over it.[1]
    • Different pans (and coatings) can have different methods for removal, so read your manufacturer’s instructions to find out what works best for you.
  2. Much like cast iron, carbon steel pans can rust quickly. Dry the pan off with a towel then heat it on the stove to make sure it’s completely bone dry.[2]
  3. Take a soft dishcloth or rag and put a small amount of neutral (flavorless) oil on it, like flaxseed or canola oil. Rub the cloth all over the pan, including the underside, then buff it with another cloth until you can’t see any oil.[3]
    • You can also use grapeseed oil, vegetable oil, or sunflower seed oil.
  4. The oil needs to be heated until it polymerizes, or bonds together to turn into a plasticky, hard surface. To do that, put your pan on high heat and let it cook until it stops smoking. There will be a lot of smoke, so open all your windows and turn on your range hood’s fan.[4]
    • Alternatively, heat your oven to 400 °F (204 °C) and heat the pan underside-up for 20-30 minutes. Check your manufacturing details first to see if your pan is oven safe.
    • Unlike porous cast iron, this pan doesn’t soak up the season. Instead, the oil layers build up on top of it. Because of that it flakes off more easily.
  5. The patina, or protective surface that seasoning builds, takes awhile to fully form.[5] When you do the first round of seasoning, your pan will start getting brown and a little splotchy. The long-term goal for your pan is to get it black, so jump start that process by seasoning it again.
    • Cooking high fat foods in your pan will help naturally build the patina over time.
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Method 2
Method 2 of 3:

Seasoning the Pan With Oil and Potato Skins

  1. Use hot water and a bristle brush to remove the factory coating, then dry it off immediately. Unseasoned carbon steel rusts easily, so put the pan over heat to be sure it’s totally dry.[6]
    • Different pans have different coatings and may need specific ways to remove them. Read your manufacturer’s instructions to find out what method works best for your pan.
  2. Put ⅔ cups (192 g) of salt, ⅓ cup (79 ml) neutral oil and the skin of 2 potatoes in the pan. The salt helps scrub off any excess coating and the potatoes help keep the temperature nice and even throughout. For the best effect, use short peels, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long.[7]
    • This method produces significantly less smoke than the oil only one.
    • Grapeseed, canola, vegetable oil, and sunflower seed oil all work for seasoning your pan.
    • These amounts are for 10 to 12 in (25 to 30 cm) pans. If you have an 8 in (20 cm) one, half this recipe.
  3. Cook the mixture, stirring every couple of minutes. Make sure the skins touch the sides of the pan or they won’t get seasoned. After 10 minutes, throw everything away.[8]
    • You should see a brown coating over the entire inside of your pan.
  4. To build up the patina, or the protective layer that seasoning forms, you need to season the pan several times.[9] Repeating this step will help jumpstart the process, but your pan will keep being seasoned every time you cook high fat foods.
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Method 3
Method 3 of 3:

Taking Care of Your Carbon Steel Pan

  1. While it’s not a total no-no to use soap on carbon steel (although some would disagree) the best way to clean it is by giving it a light scrub with hot water.[10] Food bits stuck to your pan? Fill the bottom with hot water and boil until the food becomes soft and floats to the surface.
    • Scrubbing too hard or using excessive soap will make the seasoning flake off.
    • After cleaning your pan, heat it on the stove to remove all excess water.[11]
  2. To keep building up that patina, rub a small amount of oil on the pan after each use.[12] This also helps protect the pan from rusting if any of your seasoning flakes off.
  3. Seasoning doesn’t last forever, and that’s okay! You can always reseason your pan if it stops being non stick or the coating flakes off. Just repeat the methods above.[13]
  4. Acidic foods will dissolve the seasoning, so keep those citrus sauces in stainless steel.[14] Small amounts, like tomato sauces, are fine, but if you end up with large amounts of acid in your pan, you’ll have to reseason it.
  5. Steel wool is usually too rough to use on cookware, but carbon steel can take it. If you have rust build up, scrub it off with steel wool and a paste made of baking soda and water.[15]
    • There are other methods you can use for cleaning off rust, just be sure you’re always using natural, food safe products and not industrial solvents.
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About This Article

Marrow Private Chefs
Reviewed by:
Private Chefs
This article was reviewed by Marrow Private Chefs. Marrow Private Chefs are based in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. It is a chefs’ collaborative comprised of an ever-growing number of chefs and culinary professionals. Though regionally influenced primarily by coastal, traditional southern, cajun, and creole styles and flavors, the chefs at Marrow have a solid background in all types of cuisine with over 75 years of combined cooking experience. This article has been viewed 1,762 times.
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Co-authors: 3
Updated: August 10, 2023
Views: 1,762
Categories: Food and Entertaining