A Carbon Steel Pan Seasoning Method that Actually Works

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 originally seasoned my Matfer Bourgeat carbon steel pan by using the potato, 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 I am glad I did. As it turned out, the decision to re-season my carbon steel pan actually was a benefit. 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. t I decided 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 – Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Seasoning

The procedure for this Flaxseed method of seasoning consists of applying very thin coats of Flaxseed oil. Once the pan has its first thin coat of oil, the pan is then heated until the oil starts to smoke (smoke point). Let the pan smoke for about 2 minutes as this is the oil bonding with the molecules of the carbon steel pan. After it smokes for about 2 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. Continue with this same process for 10-12 additional applications. Make sure that the coats of oil you apply is 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 others had was that the blackened seasoning came off when cooking. I made sure that the coats put on the pan were very thin. I have heard that putting too much oil on during each application can cause this type of problem. The same outcome of the pan seasoning coming off happened to me and I was not happy. It took hours to complete this seasoning process and I felt my time was wasted. One thing I could have done differently would have been to apply only ONE coat of 100% Flaxseed oil. The outcome may have been different.

4 – Best Oil for Seasoning Carbon Steel Pan

From all my reading, it appears that 100% Flaxseed Oil is the best oil for seasoning. Some say that Flaxseed oil bonds well to carbon steel and that it is preferred over other oils for seasoning.

What I did find is that if you are using Flaxseed oil, use 100% Flaxseed oil with NO additives. This form of Flaxseed oil can be expensive. It should be kept in your refrigerator to prevent it from going rancid.

 

Here is another Flaxseed oil that you can use for carbon steel seasoning, even though the label says it is for cast iron. This oil will polymerize with the carbon steel and create a hard coating just as it does with cast iron.

How I Almost Ruined my Carbon Steel Pan Seasoning

After applying about 10 thin coats of Flaxseed oil (with additivess) 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 for 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.

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 stove top 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 stove top 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 stove top. Boy, am I in trouble!

I went to Home Depot 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 stove top 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.

6 – How to Remove the Carbon From Pans

On the following videos, pardon my novice editing as it was my first attempt to show you how to re-season a carbon steel pan.

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 a 100 grit or greater sandpaper to reduce the scratches. Note that I do not think it will make too much difference in 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 100% Flaxseed oil in the pan. Correction here…in the video, I said olive oil…I should have said Flaxseed oil. 

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 come to a boil. While this was happening I took a metal spoon an 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 throughout 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, as in the video below. I like to use organic eggs. They taste better and they are not filled with chemicals and pesticides like 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, 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 a 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil in the pan and let it get fluid in the pan with the heat. I just happen to like the taste and smell of the coconut oil. Then I add some butter and make sure it covers the bottom of the pan when it heats up. Adding butter seems to make the pan non-stick as you will see in the following video. Lastly, pour your eggs in and what the magic happen. Yum! I noticed that after I used this pan for several days, I did not need the butter to coat the bottom of the pan. The coconut oil did just fine. Try it and see for yourself. Something else I noted was the fact that I sanded the pan with a #80 grit sandpaper. This left scratches but I think they were filled in with oil during the re-seasoning process. These scratches seemed to make the pan more non-stick. Yippee!

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 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!

Another method of seasoning is the for pans other than the de Buyer pans. The de Buyer pans have an epoxy handle and a silicone emblem marker in the handle. de Buyer says that the should not be put in the oven beyond 200 degrees C or 390 degrees F or damage to the handle might take place. So, I would only use the potato, salt, and oil method on TOP of your stove when seasoning your de Buyer pan.

For carbon steel pans other than the de Buyer, I would try the method of seasoning described below just to try it out. I will do some more research on his method in the near future and provide some videos of the process. Stay tuned and check back often.

  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 100 % Flaxseed 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 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 heat setting.

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. I have never had to use water to clean it. You never want to use soap or brillo pads in the cleaning process. If for some reason you 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.

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 and 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 any kind of oil like Flaxseed oil, ghee, grapeseed oil, olive oil or even vegetable oil. 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.

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