How To Clean a Carbon Steel Pan Without Ruining It

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If you’re wondering how to clean a carbon steel pan without ruining it, then read this short guide.

If you love to roast and sear seafood and meats, it’s highly likely that you already own a carbon steel pan.

Unlike stainless steel, carbon steel is an excellent conductor of heat and boasts the same cooking properties as a nonstick skillet.

However, you need to clean and season a carbon steel pan properly to ensure a long life.

It’s better to avoid using soap and water, as it will strip the seasoning off the pan and negatively affect its nonstick properties.

What’s In This Guide

This guide introduces a hassle-free 5-step method to clean a carbon steel pan without ruining it.

It also provides you with a list of materials you need and answers some of the most commonly asked questions about cleaning a carbon steel pan.

But in case you still have any queries about how to clean a carbon steel pan without ruining it, feel free to leave us a comment below!


The Process

Cleaning a carbon steel pan is not a complicated task and will only take you 5-10 minutes.

If you’ve just used your carbon steel pan, follow these steps to get rid of any food residuals:

  1. Let the pan cool off
  2. Wipe with a paper towel
  3. Scrub off remaining food bits
  4. Dry and heat
  5. Add oil

Get Prepared: What You’ll Need

You don’t need to make any additional purchases for cleaning a carbon steel pan, as you’ll only need:

  • Paper towels
  • Warm water
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Cooking oil

Step 1: Let the Pan Cool Off

How To Clean Carbon Steel Pan

Make sure you don’t put a hot carbon steel pan under running water right after taking it off the stove, as this will result in a thermal shock that might damage your pan’s functionalities.

It’s important to let the pan cool down a bit before starting the cleaning process. However, it should also not be completely cold, as water may damage the pan’s seasoning.

It’s better to take it off the stove and put it aside until the pan is slightly warm. Then, proceed to the next step.  


Step 2: Wipe with Paper Towel

How To Clean Carbon Steel Pan

Use a clean paper towel to wipe the inner surface of the pan. It’s also advisable to clean off any dry food bits and unused grease or oil with a clean dishtowel.


Step 3: Scrub Off Remaining Food Bits

Your carbon steel pan might have some food residue that’s a bit more difficult to clean. Normally, you can just use a dishwashing liquid, but carbon steel rusts when it’s soaked or drenched in water, so you’ll have to use a soft-bristled brush to scrub off the remaining food bits.

Add a bit of warm water and then gently scrub the pan’s surface to achieve the best results.


Step 4: Dry and Heat

How To Clean Carbon Steel Pan

Since it’s better to avoid soaking carbon steel in water, you’ll have to dry your pan right away. Make sure you heat up your carbon steel pan on a low flame immediately after cleaning it.      


Step 5: Add oil

How To Clean Carbon Steel Pan properly

If you don’t use your pan often or live in a humid environment, remember to add a thin coat of oil to the pan’s surface before putting it away. A slick and slightly oiled surface will help prevent rusting on your pan.


Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning a Carbon Steel Pan   

What should you avoid cooking in a carbon steel pan?

It’s better to avoid cooking any acidic foods in your carbon steel pans. Since carbon steel is 99% iron and highly reactive, acidic items like wine, vinegar, and citrus can strip off their seasoning. We recommend cooking acidic foods in a stainless pan instead.

How do you remove burnt food from a carbon steel pan?

Once you’ve removed the pan from heat, add a mixture of 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons salt into the pan. Use a paper towel to rub the mixture across the pan’s interior. After the gunk is removed, rinse the pan with hot water and dry it thoroughly.

Which oil should I use to season my carbon steel pan?

The best oils for seasoning carbon steel pans include flaxseed oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, and sunflower oil. 

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