A skillet is a do-all pan. A skillet is particularly good for cooking flat foods like omelets. The sloped sidewalls allow one to use a spatula or turner at a shallow angle to get underneath the food. In contrast, the vertical sidewalls of a sauté pan do not allow access at a shallow angle.
Many times skillets and pans are used interchangeably, but now you know the difference! Keep cooking.
While your French carbon steel skillet is still warm, rinse away food debris with water.
Avoid the use of soap as this will break down the protective oil coating and damage your seasoning.
After rinsing, dry immediately with a cloth. This will prevent rust from forming on your pan. Apply a light coat of oil.
If rinsing does not remove all of the food debris, reach for the salt. Salt will not break down the oils in the pan but will act as an abrasive to remove stubborn food. Use a disposable cloth to break up any food.
Follow this step with a thorough rinsing. Dry immediately. Lightly coat your skillet with oil (check Amazon for the price) to prevent rust.
Oven seasoning your carbon steel skillet (check the prices at Amazon) is a bit more time-intensive, though it is also more thorough and less of a smokey mess.
The same principles are present in this process as in smoke seasoning. Essentially we are opening the pores of the steel, introducing a medium-temp oil, and heating that oil beyond its smoke point allowing the oil polymers to bond with the metal.
This method is also the best method for restoring even coloring to the entirety of your pan.
Begin by thoroughly cleaning your skillet; scrub with a light abrasive, remove any carbonized food and try to remove as much oil and shine as possible.
Once clean, place in the oven at about 300 degrees until it is dry and warm.
Remove from the oven and let cool a bit, we want it warm still but not too hot to handle.
Use a medium temp oil, flaxseed, coconut, canola…etc. and coat the entire pan, inside and out. Once it has been liberally oiled wipe the pan down so that the steel is not too greasy but well moisturized.
Turn your oven to its highest heat setting. Once at temp, place your skillet upside down in the oven on the middle shelf. You may want to place some foil on a shelf beneath to prevent oil from dripping and flaring up.
Bake your oiled cookware for about one hour. After an hour, turn the oven off, let your cookware cool in the oven. Once your oven and pan are cool, remove and inspect. Your pan should have a matte sheen and be darker in color than prior to seasoning.
This method may be repeated as many times as you like until the pan is dark and well seasoned.
The Leidenfrost effect is a physical phenomenon in which a liquid, in near contact with a mass significantly hotter than the liquid’s boiling point, produces an insulating vapor layer keeping that liquid from boiling rapidly. Because of this ‘repulsive force’, a droplet hovers over the surface rather than making physical contact with it. This is most commonly seen when cooking: one sprinkles drops of water in a pan to gauge its temperature: if the pan’s temperature is at or above the Leidenfrost point, the water skitters across the pan and takes longer to evaporate than in a pan below the temperature of the Leidenfrost point (but still above boiling temperature).
The effect is also responsible for the ability of liquid nitrogen to skitter across floors.
It has also been used in some potentially dangerous demonstrations, such as dipping a wet finger in molten lead or blowing out a mouthful of liquid nitrogen, both enacted without injury to the demonstrator. The latter is potentially lethal, particularly should one accidentally swallow the liquid nitrogen.
It is named after Johann Gottlob Leidenfrost, who discussed it in A Tract About Some Qualities of Common Water in 1756.
The Maillard reaction (/maɪˈjɑːr/ my-YAR; French pronunciation: [majaʁ]) is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor.
One of the most important flavor-producing reactions in cooking is the Maillard reaction and it is easily achieved when cooking with carbon steel pans (I like this one from Amazon). It is sometimes called the “browning reaction” in discussions of cooking, but that description is incomplete at best. Cooked meats, seafood, and other protein-laden foods that undergo the Maillard reaction do turn brown, but there are other reactions that also cause browning. The Maillard reaction creates brown pigments in cooked meat in a very specific way: by rearranging amino acids and certain simple sugars, which then arrange themselves in rings and collections of rings that reflect light in such a way as to give the meat a brown color.
The important thing about the Maillard reaction isn’t the color, it’s the flavors and aromas. Indeed, it should be called “the flavor reaction,” not the “browning reaction.” The molecules it produces provide the potent aromas responsible for the characteristic smells of roasting, baking, and frying. What begins as a simple reaction between amino acids and sugars quickly becomes very complicated: the molecules produced keep reacting in ever more complex ways that generate literally hundreds of various molecules. Most of these new molecules are produced in incredibly minute quantities, but that doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.
The Maillard reaction occurs in the cooking of almost all kinds of foods, although the simple sugars and amino acids present produce distinctly different aromas. This is why baking bread doesn’t smell like roasting meat or frying fish, even though all these foods depend on Maillard reactions for flavor. The Maillard reaction, or its absence, distinguish the flavors of boiled, poached, or steamed foods from the flavors of the same foods that have been grilled, roasted, or otherwise cooked at temperatures high enough to dehydrate the surface rapidly — in other words, at temperatures above the boiling point of water. These two factors, dryness and temperature, are the key controls for the rate of the Maillard reaction.
High-temperature cooking speeds up the Maillard reaction because heat both increases the rate of chemical reactions and accelerates the evaporation of water. As the food dries, the concentration of reactant compounds increases and the temperature climbs more rapidly.
Temperatures need to be high to bring about the Maillard reaction, but as long as the food is very wet, its temperature won’t climb above the boiling point of water. At atmospheric pressure, only high-heat cooking techniques can dry out the food enough to raise the temperature sufficiently. It’s not the water that stops the reaction, but rather the low boiling point at normal, sea-level pressure. In the sealed environment of a pressure cooker, the Maillard reaction can, and does, occur. This is something we exploit when making soups, like in our Caramelized Carrot Soup, or purees, like the broccoli puree in our Brassicas recipe. Adding baking soda to the pressure cooker raises the food’s pH (making it more alkaline), which also helps. Chinese cooks often marinate meat or seafood in mixtures containing egg white or baking soda just before stir-frying.
So, in boiled, poached, and steamed muscle foods, an entirely different set of aromas dominates the flavor. Drying and browning the surface first will, however, allow the reaction to proceed slowly at temperatures below the boiling point of water. This is why we sear frozen steak before cooking it in a low-temperature oven. Searing food before vacuum sealing and cooking sous vide can add depth to the flavor of sous vide dishes. This step should be avoided for lamb, other meats from grass-fed animals, and a few other foods in which pre-searing can trigger unwanted reactions that cause off-flavors and warmed-over flavors to form when the food is later cooked sous vide. We recommend searing those foods after cooking them sous vide.
One of the challenges to getting the Maillard reaction going is getting the surface hot and dry enough without overcooking the underlying flesh, or at least overcooking it as little as possible. Cooks have developed several strategies to this end, some simple and some fairly baroque.
One strategy that works well is to remove as much water from the surface of the meat as possible before cooking it (via blotting or drying at low temperature). Fast heating using deep fryers, super-hot griddles and grills, and even blowtorches are also helpful tactics, such as when we deep-fry chicken wings.
You might think that raising the temperature even higher would enhance the Maillard reaction. It does up to a point, but above 180 °C / 355 °F a different set of reactions occur pyrolysis, also known as burning. People typically like foods a little charred, but with too much pyrolysis comes bitterness. The black compounds that pyrolysis creates also may be carcinogenic, so go easy on charring your foods for visual appeal.
Adapted from Modernist Cuisine
This method is a favorite of some people, however, it is very smokey. Be sure to have open windows, really good ventilation, or if possible cook outdoors.
Smoke seasoning is a quick and useful method for kick-starting your pan’s seasoning. By bringing oil to its smoke point we are breaking down the oil and allowing it to bond and layer on the steel pan surface.
We recommend using a medium temp oil (flaxseed, coconut, sunflower, canola), avoid olive oil or vegetable oil as they can become sticky after smoking and may also leave a burnt flavor.
Bring your pan to a high heat with a little pool of oil spread evenly in the pan. Allow the oil to coat the whole base and sidewalls.
Let your pan heat until the oil smokes just a bit. Once this happens, use a cloth or paper towel to wipe to oil evenly around the pan.
The oil will begin to separate and break down a bit. Your pan base will darken and discolor. The end goal is to blacken the entire pan base.
Move your pan around the burner to darken your pan base evenly.
Continue applying oil with a cloth or paper towel until your entire pan base is dark and shiny.
After a few applications, your pan’s cooking surface will be well seasoned and on its way towards an egg-sliding nonstick base. You may practice this method of seasoning as often as you wish.
Cooking with fatty foods will benefit your pan’s seasoning. Acidic food will remove some of the polymers that make up the season.
During the cooking, foods stick to the pan before coming off easily. This is the cauterizing and caramelization phase that enables meat to remain tender and juicy by keeping its water inside. Therefore, as long as this cauterizing phase is still going on (as long as meat doesn’t show a browned crust), you should not try to turn your piece of meat over. Sealing your piece of meat this way leads to the Maillard reaction (occurring at about 140°C) that reveals all the flavors of food. Once it is well sealed, the meat will come off the pan easily.
We recommend you not to pierce the piece of meat before cooking it.
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