Carbon steel Guide: Questions and Answers (FAQ)

Carbon steel Guide: Questions and Answers (FAQ)

Although many professional chefs swear by carbon steel pans, they are still less common among home cooks. If you ask us, this type of pan is absolutely fantastic - and everyone should have at least one in their kitchen.

To make it easy for you, we have gathered all the typical questions we receive about our carbon steel pans.

We will cover everything from how to choose your new frying pan, how to maintain it, and most importantly, how to get the most out of the pan's fantastic properties during cooking.

So what is a carbon steel frying pan?

Carbon steel consists of 99% iron and 1% carbon. The mineral composition makes the pans incredibly strong and versatile, and carbon steel pans have absolutely fantastic heat properties. At the same time, the high iron content means that the pans are reactive, which means that the pan can rust if not treated properly. Fortunately, it is not so difficult to give your carbon steel pan a good seasoning, which both protects against corrosion and oxidation, while the pan builds up a fantastic natural nonstick surface.

How do I season my carbon steel pan?

When treating your new carbon steel frying pan, it is done through a process called "seasoning" - it is the process where you burn the pan with oil, so it achieves a protective layer and a natural nonstick surface. You should use a little oil with a high smoke point (we recommend grapeseed oil), which should be spread on the pan to fill the small pores in the surface of the iron.

When the pan is heated at high temperatures, a so-called polymerization of the oil occurs, which means that it hardens and binds to the surface of the pan like a coating. If done correctly, your seasoning will both protect the pan from rust and give a fantastic natural nonstick surface, making it possible to fry almost anything.

Make sure your pan is completely clean and dry before seasoning it. It's better to use a little too little oil than too much - about a teaspoon is perfect. Too much oil on the pan can make your seasoning sticky, uneven, and at risk of easily coming off again.

When you're ready to season your new pan for the first time, check out our guide to treating cast iron pans (seasoning) here on the page. We have written an article on the subject with a detailed video that shows you our preferred method in easy steps - namely the oven method.

If you have a gas stove, you can also use it to season the pan and make your seasoning.

 

How do I clean my carbon steel pan?

We have written a guide here on the page on how to clean your carbon steel frying pan. Here's a brief overview of how you should approach cleaning. Never use a dishwasher!

  • Method 1: If your pan has received a good seasoning and therefore has a smooth surface, you rarely need to do anything other than wipe the pan with a piece of kitchen paper. If there are still food residues on the pan, proceed to "method 2".
  • Method 2: Add two tablespoons of coarse salt to the pan and scrub with a piece of kitchen paper to loosen any food residues. Coarse salt is good enough to remove what may be stuck without damaging the seasoning of the pan. When everything is gone, dry the pan with a new piece of kitchen paper so there is no salt left in the pan. Consider whether the pan needs a quick seasoning, where you rub it with oil and burn it in briefly. If there is still food stuck in the pan at this point, proceed to "method 3".
  • Method 3: Cover the frying pan with about 1-2 cm of water and let it slowly boil up on the stove. This should loosen any food residues that may have stuck. Use a wooden spatula or palette to scrape the pan free of food residues. It is important to avoid scraping with metal utensils, as you risk scratching the seasoning layer of the pan. Let the pan cool down, pour out the contents of the pan, and wipe it off with a piece of kitchen paper. Rub the pan with a little oil before putting it back in place - and consider whether the pan needs a new seasoning if it tends to stick and has just been through a tough cleaning with water.

Is "this" normal?

Dark areas / spots / varying colors: When your frying pan is treated correctly, it will develop a nonstick surface that protects it from rust and corrosion. The more you use your cast iron pan, the better it gets - and over time, it becomes darker as the pan interacts with heat, different foods, and the environment around the pan. This is completely normal, and the pan will change appearance over time as you use it.

Rust: Due to the high iron content of the pans (99%), they may tend to rust, especially in humid environments, or if they have not been used for a long time. Fortunately, it is easy to make the pan as good as new again.

Peeling: If you cook acidic foods in the pan, the built-up oil layer (seasoning) may peel off. This can often be fixed by giving your pan a light seasoning or possibly a completely new seasoning, where you first remove all the loose bits with steel wool, hot water, and mild soap.

How do I cook on a carbon steel frying pan?

Cast iron pans or carbon steel pans can withstand temperatures up to 650 C, which means you can also use the pans at high frying temperatures and thus achieve perfect searing on any piece of meat. You can even throw your cast iron pan directly on the grill or over an open fire if you love a good grilled flavor but still want to keep the meat juices in the pan.

Although there isn't really anything you can't cook in a carbon steel pan, there are still some foods where you should choose a different type of pan (e.g., enameled cast iron). Just like raw cast iron, your carbon steel pan is "reactive," which means the surface of the pan will chemically react with certain foods. If you choose to cook very acidic foods in the iron pan, you will likely need to give the pan a new seasoning afterward.

Acidic foods like citrus, tomatoes, vinegar, or wine can remove the coating of hardened oil on your cast iron pan and/or give the food a slight metallic taste. A quick sauté of tomatoes is okay, but avoid long simmer times with tomato sauce and wine. Our recommendation is that you choose a stainless steel frying pan or enameled cast iron when cooking something with high acid content.

What color should the pan be?

Carbon steel frying pans (not to be confused with cast iron pans) are silver-colored when you receive them. The color changes drastically as you use the pan, as more layers of seasoning are built up on the pan. It is very normal for your carbon steel pan to go from a silver appearance to a more brownish, bluish, or almost black one. The color changes over time depending on the type of food you cook, the temperature, and the environment around the pan - it's completely natural and something that makes your cast iron pan unique.

Can carbon steel pans be used on induction?

Yes, your carbon steel pan or cast iron pan can be used on an induction cooker. You can use all Gastrotools' cookware on both induction and ceramic hobs. Additionally, you can use cast iron pans/carbon steel pans on both a grill and over a campfire.

However, there are some things to be aware of when using your cast iron pan on induction:

  • When seasoning your carbon steel pan for the first time, you should use the oven method
  • Always avoid heating your pan up too quickly, as it can warp and become skewed. Instead, you should always slowly heat the cast iron pan for 3-4 minutes over low heat, after which you can turn it up to 5-7 on your induction cooker. Never use the Power function.
  • Choose the size of the pan that fits your hobs - we have both 26, 28, and 30 cm.

How do I avoid my pan warping and becoming skewed?

All pans can warp if heated up too quickly - or if they are subjected to rapid temperature changes. This can be, for example, a cold steak on a hot pan. Therefore, always make sure to let your ingredients temper as close to room temperature as possible before putting them on the pan. And never pour cold water on the pan when it is hot.

If the accident happens, unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the pan will become completely straight again - but it also rarely has functional significance. However, it can be annoying if you have an induction cooker, so you can try hitting the pan hard with, for example, a rolling pin or similar. Then you may be lucky that the pan straightens out.

How do carbon steel frying pans differ from cast iron and stainless steel?

Cast Iron: Cast iron is heavier than carbon steel/cast iron pans. Carbon steel heats up faster but also cools down faster - this means that it is incredibly easy to adjust the temperature of your cast iron pans, while cast iron retains heat longer and takes longer to heat up. The surface of our carbon steel pans is smoother than cast iron - this means that you quickly build up a natural nonstick surface and therefore need less oil when cooking. If you want a supplement to your carbon steel pan, we highly recommend our enameled cast iron pan, which both has fantastic heat properties but can also withstand acidic foods and simmered dishes.

Stainless Steel: Cast iron pans require routine treatment with oil (seasoning) so that the pan can build up natural nonstick. Stainless steel requires no treatment but also cannot build up natural nonstick, so more fat is often needed when frying in stainless steel. Like enameled cast iron, you can use stainless steel for acidic foods - or if you need to cook something with a lot of liquid (e.g., tomato sauce).

Advantages and disadvantages of carbon steel frying pans

Advantages: Carbon steel pans are incredibly durable and strong. Like cast iron, this pan is almost impossible to "ruin." Professional and home cooks love the good heat control and easy handling - and not least because it is much harder to burn the food. Carbon steel pans can withstand incredibly high temperatures without problems, making the pan perfect for those who love cooking outside on the grill or over a campfire.

Considerations: Although cast iron pans are often preferred among professional chefs because of their versatility and fantastic heat properties, the pans also require a bit of extra attention. All cast iron pans must be seasoned with oil before use (seasoning), and you should avoid acidic foods. Additionally, it is important that you always heat the pan slowly over low heat - and never turn it all the way up if you have induction, as it can warp and become skewed.

But with the right treatment, your carbon steel pans will last forever.

Is carbon steel nonstick?

Your new carbon steel frying pan comes completely without any nonstick coating. When you have given the pan a good seasoning treatment, where you burn oil into the pan, you will over time achieve a natural nonstick surface - and if you take good care of it, you will be able to fry almost anything in the pan.

When you receive a brand new cast iron pan, it is important that you wash it thoroughly and then season it with oil, as described in our guide.

Are carbon steel pans good for the environment and my health?

Carbon steel pans and cast iron pans contain no harmful substances. In fact, our cast iron pans consist solely of 99% iron and 1% carbon - and then we coat it with a protective layer of vegetable oil to protect the pan from rust during transport. That layer of oil just needs to be washed away when you receive it.

Unfortunately, many Teflon coatings contain substances that have been shown to be harmful to health and harsh on the environment.
That is why we are also extremely happy with both carbon steel / cast iron pans and cast iron pans, which do not contain these substances.

The only thing you should be aware of is that if there is rust on your frying pan, you should not use it until you have cleaned it with steel wool and seasoned the pan with oil (see our guide to treating cast iron pans).

How heavy are carbon steel pans?

Our carbon steel pans actually weigh less than cast iron. Due to the thickness of the material, you may experience the pans as heavy - but it is precisely the weight and thickness that gives the pans their unique heat properties.

No kitchen should be without a good carbon steel pan.
And as soon as you have built up a good natural nonstick surface, you can look forward to crispier, juicier, and more flavorful cooking.

Check out our selection of pots and pans here

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