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How to Season a Carbon Steel Pan

Do not rush to use your carbon steel pan after unboxing. Unlike pans with artificial coatings, it does require a bit of preparation. The goal is to create a natural layer that will prevent sticking. With correct preparation and maintenance, your new cookware will last a lifetime! This guide will show you how to season a carbon steel pan the right way.

These pans and skillets are made to last — they are just as strong as cast iron but more maneuverable and incredibly versatile. After seasoning the carbon steel pan, you will be able to try a rich array of recipes. Saute, deep-fry, boil, sear, bake, or even steam your food the healthy way and with little effort. Here is how to season a carbon steel wok for all of your culinary needs.

Why Season Your Carbon Steel Pan?

This cookware comes without a ready non-stick layer. It must be formed naturally — by polymers emitted by organic oils. When the pan is heated, the polymers penetrate microscopic pores in the surface, so food will not stick to it. Even though some models come pre-seasoned, buyers still need to treat them before use. Learn how to season a wok below. 

How to Season a Carbon Steel Pan

Seasoning has its intricacies, but it is not rocket science. The key is to use the right oil and heat distribution to get an even coating that is not too thick. Incorrect seasoning leaves a sticky surface. Some experts will advise you to have multiple layers of seasoning. With the proper technique, just one or two could suffice. 

Best Oil for Seasoning Carbon Steel Pan

You can use a fairly wide variety of oils for seasoning carbon steel skillets. Basically, any oil suitable for frying is acceptable for seasoning a wok. Most of the popular options will do. However, you need to pay attention to the smoke point, which is unique for each type of oil. Seasoning is done at temperature above this threshold — you should add 25º F to find the optimal heat. Here are some of the most common choices. 

1. Soybean Oil

This oil is not only rich in omega-3; it is also versatile. Use it for cooking and seasoning with confidence. The smoke point is very high — 234ºC. This means the oil is good for any cooking task imaginable, and you should not be afraid to turn up the heat. 

2. Grapeseed Oil

With a smoke point of 216ºC, the runner-up accentuates other flavours. It does not have any distinct taste of its own, which explains its popularity. You cannot find a better oil for a neutral base (e.g., for salad dressings). 

3. Avocado Oil

Rich in antioxidants and fats, this oil has been gaining popularity in recent years. The smoke point is also extremely high — 271ºC. Avocado oil is suitable for any dish, from roast beef to salads. 

4. Peanut Oil

This is a natural choice for Asian cuisine, as the oil has a recognizable flavour. Its use is more limited, though — deep frying is popular due to the smoke point of 232ºC.

5. Lard or Pork Fat

This is the conventional method in China. The wok acquires a special flavour during seasoning. To coat one wok, you need to heat it and fry one kilo of fresh lard for half an hour. Make sure the fat covers the entire surface. Note that the smoke point is relatively low — just 190ºC.

6. Vegetable Oil

This multi-purpose oil is normally a product of blending. It does not have a distinct taste, which makes it universal. However, the smoke point is also low — only 204ºC. If you have no other option, you may season your pan with it. However, a better option is to apply it afterwards — to saute or fry at intense heat. 

7. Canola Oil

Oil pressed from the rapeseed plant has the same smoke point and neutral smell. The range of applications and recipes is also similar. However, this is not a blend. It is best to use canola oil for salad dressings as it does not add any strong flavour of its own. 

8. Flaxseed Oil

If you use this oil for seasoning, pay attention to its grade. Low-quality types may start smoking at just 107ºC. For pure flaxseed oil, the temperature is much higher — 232ºC. Make sure what you are using is not a blend. This oil dries naturally, but its smell is not for everyone.

Oils to Avoid When Seasoning Carbon Steel

As you can see, plenty of commonly used oils may be used to create the patina on your cookware. Still, there are some you should steer clear of. If you make the wrong choice, you will mess up your seasoning. You will have to scrape it off and start again! Experts do not recommend using the following oils:

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This oil is not ideal for cooking at high temperatures, so it is not a good choice for seasoning either. The smoking point is very low — between 109ºC and 162ºC. Save this unique flavour for your dippings and salad dressings. When it comes to pan treatment, this is one of the worst oils. 

2. Coconut Oil

Despite the robust smoke point (232ºC), this oil is not ideal for your pan either. This is because of its strong tropical flavour. You cannot use it for dressings, as it becomes solid at room temperature. On the other hand, if you need to fry shrimp at low to medium heat, go for it.

How to Season a Carbon Steel Wok or Skillet

This process may be perplexing for beginners, but it is easy to master. As oil burns onto the pan, it leaves a coating. This layer works just like the non-stick coatings we know so well, but it is perfectly safe and chemical-free. Even at intense temperatures, the pan will not emit any toxins, as it is made of natural materials and coated with natural oil. Here is how to season a carbon steel wok like a pro.

Season the Carbon Steel Pan: 5 Key Steps

When it comes to curing your ware, the thicker the layer is, the better. However, you should also remember that thick layers are added to via the cooking process, which means that the layer is absorbing anything you cook. As a result, this curing can take on flavors if you cook anything too strong in your pan. For example, you should refrain from using your cookware to sizzle fish if you do not want that which you cook subsequently to retain a fishy taste.

A pan without seasoning is impossible to use, as any food will stick to the surface. With a little effort, you will create the patina to ensure comfortable and versatile cooking. Once a solid polymer layer is formed, your cookware is ready for use. Here is how to season carbon steel wok.

1. Remove the Manufacturer’s Coating

Look at your new pan. Does it have a metallic gray colour? This means it was not pre-seasoned. The metal is covered with a protective layer that prevents rusting in the store. This coating (often beeswax) must be taken off. As the technology varies, refer to your manual and follow the instructions carefully. Once the layer is gone, wash the cookware. 

2. Dry It Thoroughly

Now, you are looking at bare steel that can rust easily. Thus, dry your pan thoroughly immediately after washing. One option is to use a towel and then place the pan on low heat to evaporate any moisture. Heating is the next step anyway. 

3. Subject to Heat

This may be done in the oven (232° C) or on a cooktop. In the first case, make sure the handle is oven-safe. If you apply oil to a cold pan, it may not form the thin layer you need. The seasoning on a burner (preferably gas) is quicker. The heat distribution on a flat-top surface can make even coating more difficult to achieve.

4. Apply (Not Pour) Oil 

This is where many first-time buyers make a mistake. You do not need a lot of oil — just enough to lightly grease a paper towel. Use one of the oils recommended above (remember that virgin olive oil and coconut oil are best avoided!). Rub the interior and the exterior of the pan, and get rid of any excess oil. Be thorough, leaving no visible traces. If it looks dry, you have done everything correctly. Do not worry: The layer is there; it is just too thin to see with the naked eye. 

5. Heat Until It Changes Colour

Whether in the oven or on a cooktop, the pan will change colour as the patina forms. The covered areas will become brown. You will see some heavy smoking that will eventually fade as oil evaporates. This should take several minutes on a cooktop or around half an hour in the oven. On a flat-top stove, the colouring may be uneven. This is not a big problem — just move the pan around to ensure a perfect coating. 

Should I Add More Layers?

Your goal is to make the pan turn dark brown. This may require several layers of the polymer coating formed by heated oil. Repeat the procedure and re-season the carbon steel pan as many times as necessary until the right shade is achieved. Professional chefs can achieve this result with a single layer, but there are no universal rules.

Seasoning a Wok

Woks require a special approach, but the fundamentals are the same — applying oil and heating up. Most Yosukata woks come pre-seasoned, so you only need to wash them using a soft sponge and hot soapy water before completing the seasoning. Non-seasoned woks must first be scrubbed to remove the anti-rust coating from the factory. Note that low-quality metallic scrubbers leave a residue. Watch our basic video tutorial or follow the steps below to create wok patina:

 

 

 

1. Heating up 

Place the wok on the stove and set the burner to high heat. Pour some oil into the wok.  

 

 

2.Evening out the Coating

As soon as the oil starts smoking, turn the heat down. Use kitchen tongs and a paper towel to swirl the oil around the inner surface for 5-10 minutes. You can add more oil in the process. 

 

 

3.Cooling Down

Turn off the heat and let the wok pan cool down for a couple of minutes. Wipe the excess oil with a paper towel.

 

 

4. Washing

Wash the wok using only warm water (no detergents). Use a paper towel to wipe it dry. Now, your wok is ready!

 

 

Professional Methods of Seasoning a Wok

Some chefs create a non-stick surface by stir-frying. After applying the first layer of seasoning, you should wash both sides of the wok with soapy water. Then, use 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and a special selection of chopped ingredients: garlic, chives, and/or ginger. Here is our tutorial:

 

The advanced version of this method requires the same ingredients, but the seasoning time is reduced to 5-10 minutes. Start stir-frying immediately after applying the first layer of oil. Note that you should see only slight smoking with either method.

Cooking After Seasoning Carbon Steel Skillet

Now, your pan is ready for use. Gradually, the protective layer will thicken and turn black on its own — just roast and saute your food. Every time you cook something, the oil will be absorbed by the surface, reinforcing its properties. No sticking, no hassle! You may also repeat the seasoning procedure when necessary. 

If you want to test the quality of the coating, try the “fried egg test”. Just pour some oil (2 teaspoons should suffice) onto a hot pan and crack an egg inside. Wait for the bottom to become crispy. A little sticking in the beginning is normal. As the patina thickens, you will be able to use less and less oil, which means your dishes will be healthier!

Maintaining the pan is a breeze — just remember to wash it without dish soap and dry it thoroughly every time. As you can see, it is not difficult to season skillet or wok — you only need to understand the mechanics of this process. Your cookware will last for decades if you care for it properly and restore the seasoning when necessary. One pan is enough for a rich variety of dishes. Enjoy nutritious, healthy, and comfortable cooking every time!