3

I have a set of Caraway ceramic pans which started out fantastic. One of them has completely lost its nonstick coating now and I’m trying to season it to regain some nonstick back.

I cleaned the pan well with soap and warm water and there are no scratches or baked on food residue. I used a tiny amount of avocado oil and put a thin glaze on the pan (just barely enough to see a slight sheen on the surface, not so much that there’s any to roll around) and heated it on medium for I’d say about 20-25 minutes to try and reach the smoke point. I never saw it smoke but it did start to discolor so I took the pan off and let it cool naturally back to room temp.

However, the result was a sticky surface instead of a rejuvenated nonstick pan. The pan now has some mild discoloration due to this even after washing.

I have read avocado oil is good because of its high smoke point. Though I’m not sure I even reached it.should I be using more?

What am I doing wrong?

2
  • 3
    I've not heard of seasoning a ceramic coated pan. The sticky coating is polymerized oil, which is what you are going for on a steel or cast iron pan. I don't think you will get the same result on a ceramic pan.
    – moscafj
    Sep 10, 2022 at 13:18
  • Try cleaning it right down, removing your first attempt, then use lard. I know for certain that gives an almost matt black hard finish to cast iron/mild steel, if you persevere. If it won't take properly, just throw out the pan. I've had a couple of those & both went in the bin after only a couple of months. I didn't have the will to try season them. I do the same with non-stick after a couple of years. Once you can't clean it right back to the original non-stick surface, it's time for a new one.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 10, 2022 at 17:31

3 Answers 3

4

Ceramic coated cookware should not be seasoned. You'll note that on the Caraway site, in the "Before Cooking" section, it reads:

3 SKIP THE SEASONING Ceramic comes naturally non-stick, so no need to season your pan beyond a dash of oil.

While there are food bloggers that, I'm not aware of any manufacturers of pans that provide that advice for ceramic coated pans, like cast iron manufacturers do.

Traditionally, ceramic (or enamel) coating was used on cast iron cookware (like Le Creuset) specially to prevent the need to season the cast iron.

More recently, companies have started selling ceramic coated stainless steel and aluminum pans, as an alternative to Teflon nonstick coating. I believe this is the type of pan you have.

Like Teflon coated pans, the nonstick surface eventually loses it's nonstick properties, and food begins to stick. In my experience with modern ceramic coated nonstick pans, the "stickiness" can be caused by either not being completely clean--such as a thin bit of polymerized oil--or from use/abuse causing putting or imperceptibly small scratches.

I find it to be tricky to maintain perfectly--if you don't wash it well enough, food starts to stick. If you wan too aggressively, you create micro scratches and food starts to stick.

The manufacturer Made In has an article with more info on the pros and cons of ceramic coated cookware.

By trying to add a seasoning coating, you've created or exacerbated the "not clean enough" scenario. You'll need to scrub that coating off to get back to the pristine ceramic. However, getting it back to pristine ceramic will likely require pretty heavy scrubbing or harsh cleaning chemicals--both of which are likely to cause pitting or micro scratches. Your pan may be unsalvageable.

Regardless of the type of coating, nonstick pans eventually degrade over time & need to be replaced. Some folks admit defeat and buy less expensive pans to replace more frequently, and others buy higher quality and longingly care for them, and others simply avoid nonstick pans and go with uncoated pans that last longer in exchange for more cleaning.

I personally keep dedicated nonstick pans for delicate things like omelettes so that they last longer, then use uncoated stainless steel cookware for very high heat (which causes oil polymerization to build up faster), and less delicate, less finicky food.

4
  • I've had a couple of these 'miracle' ceramics. They went in the bin after a couple of months. Waste of money. I'm sure you could eventually build a full seasoning on one, but I never had the patience. You can certainly semi-permanently cleave an egg to one, unlike they show on the adverts. ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 10, 2022 at 17:28
  • My pan is only about 6 months old. We have cared for it pretty well, no metal utensils, soft washing, perhaps some higher heating at times but nothing nuts for sure. There are a ton of sites that state you can and should season your ceramic cookware. Many seem legit and from reputable sources, so I find this comment that we shouldn't, confusing. What is the best way to get the pan as clean as possible to try again? If it's smooth to the touch but still slightly discolored in areas, is this clean enough or do we need to rid the pan of the discoloring as well somehow? Sep 12, 2022 at 19:58
  • @kporangehat Without seeing your cookware, or knowing how it's been treated for the last 6 months, I can't say why yours might not be working up to your expectations. I've updated my answer slightly, including adding a link to & excerpt from the care instructions from the manufacturer of your pan, which explicitly states "skip the seasoning"
    – AMtwo
    Sep 12, 2022 at 22:09
  • 1
    @kporangehat unfortunately, ceramic cookware often remains non-stick for less time than teflon, and teflon often only lasts a year or two. So the pan stopping to be nonstick after about 6 months sounds normal...
    – Esther
    Sep 14, 2022 at 18:50
2

Colour change is normal and expected for oils during seasoning. What happened in your scenario was incomplete polymerisation due to a combination of inadequate time, uncontrolled heat, and still too much oil:

  • Polymerisation rates vary too greatly to measure completion on the presence of smoke or elapsed time. Polymerisation is complete when all the oil transitions from fatty acids, to tacky plastic, to smooth inert plastic. This should be measured by feel.
  • Stovetop heating is wildly inaccurate as you have a single direction heat source with no way to measure if it can sustain a temperature for polymerisation without overshooting and smoking.
  • The ideal layer is a thin film spread evenly, enough to give a matte moistened appearance. The presence of a sheen indicates the oil layer is thick enough for reflectivity and likely too thick.

There is further added difficulty with the design of modern cookware not made of cast iron (CI) and carbon steel (CS). Most will be a majority aluminum with bonded layers of stainless steel and/or copper to achieve good heat transfer and durability; aluminum has almost double the specific heat capacity but only a third of the density of CI and CS, and most aluminum cookware is designed to be much lighter (have less mass) - meaning the pans retain much less heat for thermal stability during seasoning, and lose that heat very quickly as it's transferred from the heated base to the unheated sides.

The residual ceramic coating contributes to difficulty too due to uneven wear and loss of non-stick properties. Where the ceramic is worn down most, oil will more easily spread and form a thin layer; where the ceramic is mostly intact, the oil will more likely collect in small beads.

If after all that difficulty you still wish to season your pan, you should sand the inside evenly for better oil adhesion and thoroughly wash the pan, then follow an oven baking seasoning method for a more even first seasoning layer. The site below has a very detailed process and explanation for most of the technical aspects:

http://www.castironcollector.com/seasoning.php


Ceramic coating is separate from the enameling of cast iron by Le Creuset, Staub, Lodge, etc. Ceramic coatings are typically 'sol-gels' - silica or other minerals with polymerising inorganic carrier components, that are applied and cured on the pan to form very very thin and even glass/ceramic layers.

Enameling is a much older technique where vitreous enamel is heated and fused onto the cookware surface to form a more uneven but significantly thicker and more durable layer of glass.

0

I don't think you are doing anything wrong; you might just not have the conditions to get it done. But there is no reason to think it shouldn't be done (except for it being very difficult) - the seasoning will stick to the pan as well as to iron pans.

Cast iron pans are easier than others to season, because cast iron is able to really pump a lot of energy into the layer of matter right next to itself. I am not a physicist and don't know which property of the metal makes it work this way. But you will notice that nothing browns food like a well-preheated* cast-iron pan. Even forged iron isn't as good.

Your ceramic pan is almost certainly not cast iron, but either steel or aluminum. Which means that you cannot enjoy the cast iron properties, which would crisp your oil into a proper firm polymer. You may try to get it to work nevertheless, by changing the hob setting and/or the time you heat the pan, but it may be that the margin you have between "bad, sticky seasoning" and "burned oil" becomes so thin that you never catch it.

So, if you decide to go for it, just continue deseasoning and reseasoning, testing out different variations of temperature control, until you get it to work. If you decide against it, you can still use the pan - ceramic pans with used-up coating tend to perform much the same in terms of stickiness as uncoated stainless steel.


* this might take much longer than you think, I once had a huge amount of vegetables which I browned side-by-side on all available hobs, and the cast iron pan started visibly outperforming the other pans around 45 min into the process

5
  • 1
    carawayhome.com/faq they don't look like coated cast iron, and the company site does not say what material the actual pan is...but they sure do talk up the coating. The FAQ states "no need to season." I don't see these as being receptive to a seasoning....but maybe you have experience with coated pans that I don't. In my experience when non-stick pans run their course, there is not much you can do to save them.
    – moscafj
    Sep 12, 2022 at 21:33
  • 1
    @moscafj of course, the pan as-bought doesn't have to be seasoned, because it is nonstick. The OP has used it until the nonstick coating failed. At this point, most people throw away the pan, but the OP wants to continue using it, and is trying to get it to the state of a seasoned cast iron pan (which is more nonstick than a failed ceramic coating).
    – rumtscho
    Sep 13, 2022 at 6:25
  • I do understand the original question. I've simply never seen a failed non-stick pan successfully re-seasoned. ...would love to hear someone's direct experience and see pics. I am skeptical, but if it were possible, it would certainly save some folk money...and be an environmental savings as well.
    – moscafj
    Sep 13, 2022 at 10:28
  • @moscafj I think it depends on what you mean by "successfully reseasoned". It won't perform the same way as a new ceramic pan (it will be stickier), or as a seasoned cast iron pan (it won't have the same thermal properties), but it will be usable as a pan, and less prone to sticking than if the OP just continues using it as-is, using up smaller amounts of oil. This can count as success, or as a disappointment, mostly based on expectations.
    – rumtscho
    Sep 13, 2022 at 10:31
  • I didn’t think this would create such a discussion! :) I too am interested to hear if anyone has first hand experience with successfully re-seasoning a ceramic pan. At this point, I too am skeptical and not terribly optimistic, but once I have some time, I plan to give it a solid attempt (attempts) and will report the results. I admit, the marketing was a solid grab of my attention. And the pan did perform amazingly for the first few months (as do the others in the set). I’m stubborn and don’t want to give up until I’m fully convinced it’s hopeless. I am very appreciative of all the comments Sep 13, 2022 at 23:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.