Why are Eggs Sticking to My Carbon Steel Pan?

My Pan Started to Look Great and Ready for Cooking…Not Really!

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I’m sitting here in my kitchen trying to figure out why my eggs are sticking to my de Buyer carbon steel pan. It took me about an hour or more to season my new pan by applying multiple coats of heated oil. After I finished seasoning I thought I would test the pan by frying an egg. To my surprise, I found out that the egg stuck to the bottom of the pan.

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I did some research into cooking with carbon steel skillets and found four main reasons for eggs sticking.

1. The pan was too cold

2. The pan was too hot

3. No butter or oil was used

4. The pan was not seasoned correctly

Let’s look into the problem a bit deeper to see if we can come up with a positive solution so we don’t have to throw our new pan out the window.

Are Carbon Steel Pans Non-Stick?

When you purchase a new carbon steel pan or skillet, they are NOT non-stick. You have to season them like I have described below. Make sure that you do not put your seasoned pan in the dishwasher or use soap to clean your pan after use. I just use a paper towel and wipe the pan clean, leaving a small amount of oil to protect it. If you use acidic foods like tomatoes in your pan, it will remove some of the seasonings but this is no big deal. All you have to do if some of the seasonings have been removed is to re-season it with one application of the potato process described above. You can use salt in the pan with water if some food gets stuck on the bottom of the pan. I personally have never had to use this method to clean my pans.

Carbon Steel Seasoning Keeps Coming Off….Why?

I noticed that when I originally seasoned my de Buyer pan and my Matfer Bourgeat pan by following the videos from Vollrath at this link that the black seasoning kept flaking off. The seasonings flaked off while cooking eggs and other foods and also when I washed it with water. I followed their instructions to the “t” making sure that I applied very very thin coats of flaxseed oil. I did some research on why this was happening and found out that I was not alone. This made me feel a little better but I still think I was developing an obsessive-compulsive seasoning anxiety disorder, which others evidently have contracted.

The Seasoning Method Described Below Actually Works

If you will follow the instructions on seasoning your carbon steel pans or skillets described below you will find that the this is a method that actually works. If you already seasoned your carbon steel pans with flaxseed oil then you will have to first remove the black seasoning and start from scratch. By the way, lightly scratching the bottom and sides of the steel pans will help in the non-stick properties. All the instructions for stripping the black seasoning off and re-seasoning the pan are described below. If you have any comments or questions on this process leave a  comment below.

How hot does my carbon steel pan need to be in order to fry eggs?

If your carbon steel pan or skillet is too cold your eggs will not even come close to cooking. If your burners are turned all the way counterclockwise to the setting of “low” on a gas stove then it will take forever to cook your eggs. Assuming you are using butter or coconut oil, the temperature of the oil has to be high enough to coat the bottom of the pan. You want your pan temperature just above the “low” temperature setting on a gas stove so that the oil becomes fluid and moves freely around the bottom of the pan.

In order to cook meals in anything other than a nonstick, such as stainless steel, the pan must reach the temperature of 320 degrees Fahrenheit. When you are in a hurry to cook your breakfast I doubt you have time to take the temperature of the pan. Personally, I have never taken the pan temperature. There are better and quicker ways to determine the correct temperature for cooking eggs. While a little practice here is a simple trick to make sure you have the pan hot enough for your eggs. Take a bit of water, drop it in the pan. If it does nothing, it’s too cold. If it bubbles and steams, it’s still too cold. But, if it bubbles and glides along the pan, the temperature is just right. Some people use the above method to determine the correct temperature but with some practice, you will be able to just look at the pan with the oil in it to make sure the temperature is perfect.

I usually set my temperature to the number 2 level on my gas stove. I let the pan heat up for a few minutes and then add my butter or coconut oil. I do not want my oil to smoke or get extremely hot. With carbon steel, it is recommended that you use some form of oil. Either butter, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil or any other organic oil is ok. I never use vegetable oils like Canola. It is an organic thing with me. If I go to the trouble of using a carbon steel pan because they are safe, why would I use a substandard oil to cook with?

Some people, at this point, just crack the egg into the pan. I do not because it seems that every time I do this, part of the eggshell joins the egg and it is a pain in the butt trying to remove the eggshells from the heated pan. I usually crack my eggs into a bowl and then remove any eggshells that have fallen into the bowl. Problem solved!

Once the butter or oils become fluid, but not burned, I pour the egg into the pan and wait until the egg whites start to turn white and become a slightly solid. At this point, you can turn your eggs over and at the same time turn the burner heat OFF because carbon steel cookware really retains heat effectively. Once the eggs are done they can be slid out of the pan with NO Sticking. Yum!

If the eggs still stick to the bottom then I will look into the re-seasoning described process below.

How to Season a de Buyer Carbon Steel Pan

If we still experience eggs sticking to the bottom of our carbon steel skillet then there is really only one final option that we have to look at. That option is the pan seasoning. There are basically only 3 or 4 methods of seasoning or re-seasoning a carbon steel pan. I won’t go into all the methods of seasoning or re-seasoning carbon steel cookware at this time. The only method I found to be most effective is the seasoning with Kosher Salt, Flaxseed Oil, and potato skins. Here is what you will need for this seasoning process.

1) Kosher salt

2) Flaxseed Oil or Grapeseed oil

3) About 8-12 large potatoes

To a hot pan or skillet add about 1 cup of Kosher salt, about 1.5 to 2 cups of oil and the peels of 4-6 large potatoes. Cook this until the potato skins get crispy. Make sure that you use a large metal or wooden spoon to move the solution up to the sides of the pan so that all cooking surfaces areas are coated with this solution. Once the potatoes are crispy, discard the entire solution, let the pan cool a bit and repeat the process. When the second solution is complete you are ready to use your pan.

Saute the combination for a few minutes until the potatoes turn crispy. Make sure that you use your wooden spoon to press the mixture up the sides of the pan so that the sides get seasoned also. I grab the handle of the pan and tilt it slightly so that the solution moves up the top of the edge of the side of the pan. This way I know that the sides will be as seasoned as the bottom of the pan. Be careful in doing this because the solution is very hot. By the way, you could use a metal spoon if you wanted to. I just happened to have a wooden spoon handy, so that is what I used.

Above .. you can see that the potatoes have turned crispy. Empty the contents out and repeat the entire process as shown below.

If you had to remove the old black seasoning, it is a good idea to use 80 grit sandpaper to remove the prior seasoning. I add Bar Keepers Maid to help cleaning the pan with the sandpaper. If you use 80 grit sandpaper carbonsteelcookware.comyour pan will have scratches in it. Do not worry about the scratches. The oil from the potato seasoning will adhere to these scratches and help in the non-stick function of the pan. Some people want to look at a beautiful pan with no scratches. If that is what you are looking for then use a stainless steel pan. I prefer function over beauty. In another post, I will do a comparison of carbon steel pans to stainless steel pans.

Seasoning Cast Iron by the Wagner and Griswold Society

Here is another method of seasoning that I found in my research. I have not tried this oven method but will try it on another carbon steel pan. I will let you know the results when I complete my testing. I am sure that this method of seasoning a cast iron pan will yield the same results for a carbon steel pan.

You know we all have our own ways and methods to season a pan, but the method below has been used by many collectors and cooks alike and it appears to be the BEST for seasoning.

Take the extra time to actually season in the oven as makes a world of difference in the end result.

Once a piece is fully cleaned and dried put it in the oven “naked”; no oil of any kind and heat it to 450°F. Leave it in long enough to just reach that temperature. Be careful and remove the piece from the oven and let it cool to where you can just handle it. This step works great for slightly darkening the pan and giving it a uniform appearance. No one likes a spotted or zebra stripped piece. Use Crisco shortening only and use a cotton rag (t-shirt) to apply a thin/very light coat on the entire piece. If there are tight nooks and crannies to fill in, use a Q-tip.

Once completely and lightly coated (note: we stress a LIGHT coat), put it back in the oven at 400°F for 30 (use a timer) minutes and at that point turn off the oven and leave it in the oven till it cools on its own.

When you remove the piece it will have a nice dark brown uniform patina that shines brightly.

You can repeat with one or more coats of Crisco if you like, but you’ll be happy none the less.

Cooking Scrambled Eggs in My Newly Re-Seasoned Pan

I decided to cook scrambled eggs instead of eggs over easy to show that even scrambled eggs do not stick to the bottom of the pan if seasoned correctly. Since I was using only my cell phone to shoot this video clip it was a bit off center. I am most likely a better cook than a movie maker. The important thing to take away from this video is to keep the heat level low because these pans really hold the heat and follow my method of seasoning. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and gained some useful knowledge that will help you use your carbon steel pan by de Buyer. Since I re-seasoned my pan, I really am liking my de Buyer carbon steel pan. Please leave any comments or questions below and I will attempt to answer them in a timely manner. Thanks for watching.

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