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I'm the proud owner of two forged iron pans (I'm using them on a regular basis). They kind of work out for everything I do, occasionally, food will stick to the surface, but it can quickly be pushed away mechanically while cooking without burning in or something like that. To season the pan and create the "non-stick" effect, I used instructions from a german webpage on seasoning pans.

However, searching around, it seems to me the only source of information about frying pans and how to season them seems to be oral traditioned knowledge that everybody just passes on. I've seen so many different webblogs / youtube-videos / information-pages on pans and how to treat them, which are in general inconsistent with each other (what oil to use, what temperature, potatoe peels yes / no, salt yes / no, how often to repeat the process .... ). What's even worse, none of the sources I consulted so far has an answer to the questions:

  • What does the anti-stick-layer consist of?
  • How exactly does this layer prevent sticking (linked to the first question)?

Even if I found a webblog that answers this questions, I wouldn't know where this knowledge would stem from, and wether it is trustworthy. Unless somebody had actually done research on this questions. So my question is:

Is there research about the non-stick-layer of seasoned iron pans, especially what it consists of, how it is formed (best) and wether it's detrimental for ones health?

If somebody has an answer, please also provide a link / an adress, or another way to obtain the details of the research. By research I don't necessarily mean a study conducted by a public institute. It could also just be some person who executed some experiments, and shared the results along with the details of the experiments.

Additional information: Since I have forged iron pans, I'm asking about the seasoning of forged iron pans. Since I assume the non-stick layer of cast-iron pans doesn't differ too mutch, the question can be broadened to address any type of iron-pan seasoning.

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  • I am highly interested in the answers too. I think you can improve your question if you split it to several single questions so they can be answered item by item. Also you could shorten it, so you have more readers. Mar 9, 2021 at 19:25

2 Answers 2

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Try this link Is there a difference in the ease of seasoning cast iron, forged iron, and carbon steel?

and the article it links to "that explains the science behind seasoning".

Another https://www.eatthis.com/season-cast-iron-tips/ "Unsaturated oils include canola and vegetable oil. They are chemically structured in a way that helps them polymerize to the metal, which helps create that non-stick surface on a cast-iron skillet."

And more on the science of it: https://www.scienceofcooking.com/science-of-cast-iron-skillet-cooking.html

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'Seasoning' an iron pan, from a physics perspective, is the process of breaking oil/fat molecules (triglycerides etc.) down into monomers at high temperatures until polymerization begins to occur, followed by carbonization.

These polymers and carbonized compounds form bonds with the iron atoms in the pan, either through weak Van der Waals forces or ionic/covalent bonds. Without this layer of polymers and carbonized compounds, iron would bond with the proteins etc. in your food in the same way it bonded with the oils used for seasoning

heat-->breakdown into monomers-->reconstitution into polymers-->carbonization

resulting in the macroscopic phenomenon we call 'sticking'.

The layer of polymers/carbon obtained through seasoning is hydrophobic and stable at temperatures well above the boiling point of water, and this is important in the phenomenon of 'nonstick' cooking. If a substance containing water (meat, eggs, etc.) is dropped on the surface, the hydrophobic properties of this layer will attempt to 'push' the water trapped in that substance away from them.

Now of course this isn't the whole story; there are a diverse array of complex physical and chemical processes that go into the formation/avoidance of Van der Waals forces and ionic/covalent bonds between the proteins (and other molecules) in your food and the iron atoms in your pan. A good place to read about this stuff at a reasonable level of depth is over at scienceofcooking -- they have an article on this subject that covers much of the material covered here with some additional chemistry pointers, and they reference the wikipedia page on this subject which is also pretty comprehensive.

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  • I hope there is no covalent binding between the iron of the pan and the food (or the seasoning). But else +1.
    – rumtscho
    May 7 at 19:53
  • @rumtscho Coming from a physics background I always forget which is which, but after looking at my own references above I agree it would be alarming if my food was literally sharing electrons with the pan.
    – Alec Rhea
    May 7 at 19:56

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