Carbon Steel 101
Carbon Steel Skillets
Found in restaurants, and kitchens around the world, the carbon steel pan has yet to find its self into most American kitchens. So why isn't this cousin of cast iron as popular? If you are looking for a great alternative to non-stick pans, carbon steel might just be the perfect fit for you.
Cookware can be expensive, so when you are buying a new pan or skillet, You want to make sure you get something that will stand the test of time. Carbon steel skillets are a great alternative to other types of non-stick cookware. Unlike aluminum, they can handle high heat without damaging the pan and unlike ceramic, they will not chip or break if dropped.
I personally use Carbon steel skillets for just about anything I cook on the stovetop. They are great for searing meats and even cooking delicate dishes like crepes or eggs.
One of the biggest benefits of carbon steel is that it is much lighter than cast iron, and has slopped walls which make it perfect for cooking dishes that require tossing like a stir-fry. Because the walls are thinner, carbon steel heats up and cools down quicker than cast iron, which allows you to have better control over your cooking temperature.
Another benefit of carbon steel is that it has a much smoother surface out of the box, meaning you only need a small amount of seasoning to get a great non-stick finish. Most skillets come unseasoned and require that you go through the seasoning process before you start. Our Marquette skillets come pre-seasoned and ready for go right out of the box.
Every once in a while you might need to add a layer of seasoning to keep your food from sticking. This seasoning process is very similar to cast iron but not nearly as time-consuming. Seasoning is simply baking on a thin layer of oil on to cover the raw metal. The difference between cast iron and carbon steel is that cast iron is much more porous, so it soaks up more oil and requires more coats while carbon steel requires thinner coats of oil and fewer of them. Just like cast iron carbon steel will rust if not taken care of, so we want to get a good coating of seasoning on our skillet to keep it protected.
The beginning of any good seasoning process starts with a clean skillet. if you have a new carbon steel skillet, follow the manufactures suggestions for preparing the surface. Most carbon steel skillets are shipped with a protective coating that needs to be removed before seasoning. If you have just cooked in your skillet the best way to get food and particulates loose is to deglaze the pan. Just pour some water in the pan and let it work the burnt food loose.
If you do find food starting to stick while cooking, it is usually because of residue from a previous meal rather than an issue with the seasoning. If you this happens just clean your skillet well and season again. Now that your skillet is clean give it a good rinse and dry it off. The best way to do this is to put on the stove and let the water evaporate or throw it in the oven on low until it's completely dry. Keeping your skillet clean and well seasoned will improve its performance.
The best oil for seasoning your skillet one with a high smoke point oil such as flaxseed oil or grape-seed oil. These oils let you cook with a much higher heat without hurting the seasoning. Pour about a quarter sized spot of oil into the pan. Take a clean lint-free cloth and spread the oil around, coating all sides of the pan.
The best way to season your skillet is on a gas range. But if you don’t happen to have one, don't worry. You can simply use your oven. Place your skillet on the burner over medium heat. Move the skillet around so all the areas are heated evenly. Once you see the skillet getting hot, turn it upside down to heat the inside walls of the pan. Because we are seasoning the entire skillet, you want to make sure to heat the whole surface nut just the bottom. Once the oil starts to smoke, turn the heat down, but keep moving the pan around until all the oil is dried. take the skillet off the heat and let it cool down. Repeat this process until you are happy with the amount of seasoning on your skillet. It shouldn't take more than 2-3 coats.
if you are seasoning in the oven, turn the heat up high to about 475-500º Leave your skillet in the oven for around 45 minutes or until it's fully cured.
If you are looking to replace your non-stick pans, carbon steel is a great option. These skillets last a lifetime and are extremely versatile.