A Carbon Steel Pan Seasoning Method that Actually Works

by R7 eagle | Last Updated:  April 8, 2021
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1 –  How to Season a Carbon Steel Skillet the Correct Way

I thought I chose the best method to season my new carbon steel pan. Originally, I seasoned my Matfer Bourgeat carbon steel pan by using the potato skin, salt, and oil method. I used the pan, with this seasoning method, for several months and then decided to re-season it by another popular method of just using Flaxseed oil.

I cannot remember why I decided to use a different method of seasoning, but it was a learning experience. As it turned out, the decision to re-season my carbon steel pan actually was a benefit, although the results were terrible. I discovered that using just the Flaxseed oil method by itself, was not the best seasoning process for me.

The picture below is what my Matfer Bourgeat pan looked like after I seasoned it the first time with potato skins, oil, and salt. I decided, for some strange reason,  to take this pan down to its original steel surface and re-season it again.

If you look closely you will see the rim of the pan is darkened from use. I did not remove the darkened rim on the pan prior to re-seasoning it. I made sure that the darkened area of the pan was smooth to the touch with no rough edges. The bottom of the pan, as you will see later, was black or dark brown. I did not consider this to be a problem. It was just a result of cooking with the pan for months.

2 – Using Flaxseed Oil for Seasoning Carbon Steel _Big Mistake!

The Flaxseed method of seasoning consists of applying multiple coats of Flaxseed oil.

Once I applied the first thin coat of Flaxseed oil, I heated the pan until the oil started to smoke (smoke point). I let the pan smoke for about a couple of minutes as this allowed the oil to bond with the molecules of the carbon steel. I then removed the pan from the heat to let it cool. This same process was repeated for 10-12 additional applications. I made sure that the coats of oil were very thin.

3 – Here is The Problem I Had with This Method of Seasoning

I read other comments on this seasoning method and many other people had the same problems as I did.  The outcome that I had was that the seasoning came off when cooking.

I made sure that the coats put on the pan were very thin. Putting too much oil on during each application can cause this type of problem or even cause the seasoning to be sticky.  It took hours to complete this seasoning process and I felt my time was wasted.

It seems that Flaxseed when used by itself, creates a very hard coating. This coating can flake off when you cook. Not cool! I know a lot of professional chefs like the Flaxseed-only method but for me, it produced terrible results.

4. – Here is the Bottom line in using Flaxseed Oil Alone…Don’t Use it!

If you are going to use Flaxseed Oil, use it with salt, and potato skins. Do Not use it by itself.

Flaxseed-Only Seasoning Results

After applying about 10 thin coats of Flaxseed oil (with additives) the pan took on a darkened color as shown below.

It took me about 4-5 hours of heating the pan, cooling the pan, reheating the pan a total of 10 times. The finished product of seasoning is shown below.

The piece of paper to the right of the pan is just a reminder to me of how many coats of oil I applied.

I also discovered why you should not season your carbon steel cookware in your kitchen if at all possible.

5 – Where to Season Your Carbon Steel Pan

If you decide to season your carbon steel pan, I would advise that you do it outside on a grill for two reasons. Firstly, the fumes can be overwhelming, and secondly, I ruined my stovetop by the high temperatures that it took to season this pan.

The dark spots on the white enamel are called enamel crazing which is caused by the expansion and contraction of enameled metal surfaces by high heat. Look what I did to my stovetop below.

carbonsteelcookware.com

Many times enamel crazing demonstrates itself by parallel lines but can also appear as spots as you can see above. There is no way to repair this process other than replacing the entire stovetop. Boy, am I in trouble!

I went to Home Depot’s large appliance section to see if the people there could help me with a solution to the crazing I created. They said there was nothing I could do other than ordering an entire new stovetop and that would be expensive IF one were available. The next solution was to replace the entire stove which was out of the question. The point here is to be careful where you season your carbon steel pans so that you do not have the same problems I experienced. I will be living in the garage for a couple of months!

6 – How to Remove the Flax Seasoning from Carbon Steel Pans

I tried using Bar Keepers Maid, soap, and a Brillo pad but it did not work. Instead, I had to use a piece of 80 grit sandpaper along with water and Bar Keepers Maid. This whole process turned out to be a love of labor but it was worth it.

 

In the video below you will see the size of the sandpaper and the elbow grease involved to remove the old seasoning.

Wow. Look at the results. Don’t be too concerned with the scratches that you can see in the video below. If you want you can use 100 grit or greater sandpaper to reduce the scratches. Note that those minor scratches will not affect the final results.

 

7 – Re-Seasoning the Carbon Steel Pan Outside on a Grill Burner

I moved my pan outside and put about 4 potato skins, 3/4 cup of Kosher Salt, and about 1.5 cups or so of Flaxseed oil in the pan. Correction here…in the video, I said olive oil…I should have said Flaxseed oil. The only reason I used Flaxseed oil is that I was mixing it with salt and potato skins.

I use the potato skins from those pictured on the left. I don’t use the small potatoes or the red ones. Use the cheapest ones you can find like those shown. They will work just fine.

I put the flame on medium to high and left the mixture to come to a boil. While this was happening I took a metal spoon and moved the mixture up the sides of the pan so that they would be coated. When the potato skins became crispy, I lowered the heat and threw out the mixture. I then wiped the pan clean with a paper towel and started the process all over again.

 

The video above is the first application of the re-seasoning process. When you watch the video you can see how full the pan is with the mixture of potato skins, salt, and Flaxseed oil. Be careful when you move the mixture up the sides of the pan because the mixture and the pan are very hot.

 

The above video will show you that the potato skins are crispy after the first application of seasoning. Move them up the sides of the pan for a bit and then discard them. You will start to notice that the pan will start to darken. If it darkens unevenly, don’t be too concerned at this point.

The next video is the second application of the mixture. The pan will continue to darken. This will be the last process in the re-seasoning. This whole process is a lot faster than applying 10-12 coats of oil in using the other method of seasoning. When you finish, you will notice in the following video that the pan is slightly brown and not totally black like in the other seasoning method.

 

 

8 – How to Fry an Egg in a Newly Re-Seasoned Pan

What you need is one egg for a test, as in the video below. I like to use organic eggs. They taste better and they do not contain chemicals and pesticides as you find in your non-organic eggs. After all, this is one of the reasons why we use carbon steel pans…they are safer. Next, you will need a spatula. You can use a metal spatula if you wish because you can’t hurt your pan like those chemically coated pans. I never crack my egg into the pan directly because I usually get the eggshells in with the egg. I crack the egg into a small dish and then pour it into the pan.

Before you put the egg(s) into the pan turn your burner on, if you have gas, to low to medium. I set mine on the number 1. Your stove might be a little different. You will find that you do not need a lot of heat in the pan but you do have to get the pan hot before you put the eggs in. I usually put about 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or butter in the pan.

Adding butter seems to make the pan non-stick as you will see in the following video. Lastly, pour your eggs in and watch the magic happen. Yum! I noticed that after I used this pan for several days, I did not need butter. The coconut oil did just fine. Try it and see for yourself.

Updates on the Seasoning Process

It seems a lot of people are getting hung up on the color of the carbon steel pan after it has been seasoned. Do NOT worry about your pan if it does not turn black. The color of the pan does not dictate the non-stick properties of the pan. I have several carbon steel pans and they are not black or even brown in color when I first use thme and they are very non-stick. I use the potato, salt, and oil method to season all my pans and they all are very non-stick and they are not black in the initial stages!

You will find that as you use your pans they will become darker in color and also more non-stick.

For carbon steel pans other than the de Buyer carbon steel pan with the epoxy-colored handle, I would try the method of seasoning described below.

  1. Clean your new pan very well and dry it.
  2. Put your dry pan in the oven for a few minutes at about 150 to 200 degrees just to warm it.
  3. Put a couple of drops of Grapeseed oil on a paper towel.
  4. Remove the warmed pan from the oven.
  5. With the oven empty, turn the heat up to 500 degrees F if you can.
  6. Wipe the entire pan, sides, bottom, handle, and any other parts. Make sure you put only a thin layer on this warm pan.
  7. Take another clean paper towel and wipe the entire pan until you cannot see any oil.
  8. Place your oiled pan in the oven upside down for 2 hours.
  9. Turn the heat off but do not remove the pan.
  10. Let the pan cool in the oven for 2 additional hours and that should complete the process.
  11. Once the pan has finally cooled, test it by frying an egg to see how non-stick it is. Use a low to medium heat setting.
  12. Repeat if necessary.

9 – The Clean-Up Process

While the pan is still hot, I hold it over my trash can and wipe it clean with a paper towel. You never want to use soap or brillo pads in the cleaning process. If for some reason your eggs do stick to the bottom of the pan, use some Kosher salt with water and a paper towel to clean the bottom of the pan or scrape the pan with a used plastic credit card.

I keep this pan just for eggs and use my other carbon steel pans for cooking other kinds of foods. If you cook acidic foods it will, sometimes, remove the patina or seasoning. Don’t panic, just re-season the pan and you will be fine. For some reason, cooking bacon has its own challenges and I will cover that in another video. These pans are very forgiving and it is hard to damage them, so enjoy your new pans. With a little care, they will last a lifetime and then some.

10 – Storing your Carbon Steel Pans

After you have cleaned your pan, apply a very thin coat of oil to your dried pan. I use ghee or a neutral oil like Canola oil. Neutral oils are the best to use after you clean your pan because these oils do not go rancid as quickly as other oils. The purpose of this is to protect the pan from rust. It only takes a small amount of care and your carbon steel pans will last forever. They will become your friend in the kitchen.