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I recently purchased a carbon steel pan (DeBuyer Mineral B Element), and have attempted to perform pre-seasoning on it. I checked out a bunch of videos on the process, and ended up doing the following steps:

  1. Warm up pan
  2. Coat pan in a thin layer of canola oil
  3. Heat pan until oil begins to smoke
  4. Take pan off heat when oil stops smoking
  5. Cool to room temperature

I repeated the process around 6 times, and the flat surface of the pan still felt pretty smooth. Sides of the pan were slightly sticky though. I proceeded to cook bacon, which immediately stuck to the pan (I added about a tablespoon of oil before cooking too).

Any idea what I'm doing wrong, and why no seasoning layer is forming on the carbon steel frying pan? It's getting discolored but not turning black. Sides are turning brown, albeit slightly gummy.

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Induction hobs (cooktops/ranges) use magnetic fields to heat the pan directly, only metal that is directly in contact with the hob gets heated by the hob, the rest gets heated through conduction. On a large gas hob burner the flame goes up the sides, heating them. On my induction hob (not my choice, there when I moved in) I find that the heating area does not range as far as the lines on the hob indicate that they should, so you may not be getting direct heating on the entire bottom of the pan.

My recommendation would be to season it in the oven rather than the cooktop presuming the handle and other parts are oven safe. That way the whole pan gets heat evenly. The answer to this question will be of interest to you as it's about induction and metals.

  • "... I find that the heating area does not range as far as the lines on the hob indicate that they should...": Facing exactly the same problem, and also already installed when moving in. I've only had gas stoves before, but I have to say cooking on an induction stove is nice and flexible, but the heating area is definitely one of the drawbacks, although it probably depends on the quality (this a relatively cheap IKEA-kitchen one). – Willem van Rumpt Mar 2 '16 at 16:09
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    I have a more up-market one in my kitchen but I still loathe it. It's like trying to cook on a giant ipad! Pots and pans slide around because the surface is so smooth, and moving a pan even slightly off center makes it lose a lot of heat. It also doesn't have the power to heat all 4 burners at once. It takes 30 seconds to turn a burner off from full. – GdD Mar 2 '16 at 16:16
  • Hmmm, I don't have the time delay from 0 to full whack, if I say go, it goes. The annoyment of pans acting like a puck, combined with the less than advertised heating range and resulting heat loss however, I can fully sympathize with. Very, VERY annoying. – Willem van Rumpt Mar 2 '16 at 16:30
  • I have no problem turning it on full whack, it's turning it off that's the issue. If it's on full there's no quick way to turn the burner off short of shutting the whole thing off. – GdD Mar 2 '16 at 16:42
  • Luckily, I don't have that problem. That's probably why I didn't find it weird, strange, or unworkable changing from gas to induction: On the stove I have, changes take effect immediately, every change in it's 0-9 scale produces a noticeable difference, whether it's going step by step, or going from 0 - 9 - 0. Maybe I should give my stove more credit ;) Should I (or when I) replace the kitchen, I will most likely switch back to gas though. – Willem van Rumpt Mar 2 '16 at 16:50
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For a short answer, I think that seasoning a pan and having a well seasoned pan are slightly different things. Seasoning a pan is just starting the process of having a well seasoned pan. Think of a well seasoned pan as having multiple layers of seasoning. The more you cook on it the more layers are built up. So it will take some time to build up that nearly non-stick surface you are looking for. Be patient!

Besides you want just a bit of stick in your pan, this is what makes cooking in a carbon/cast iron pan so wonderful and makes for tastier food in my opinion. It's the build up of fond or those lovely pan scrapings of caramelised bits and pieces. Besides, these pans can take a lot more heat than any non-stick pan ever will. And heat is what makes those bits and pieces get caramelised.

I have recently gotten rid of all my non-stick cookware. I have carbon or cast iron pots and pans, and just a few commercial aluminium cookware. And all the new stuff is all induction ready, with the exception of the aluminium stuff. I find that building up a seasoning on induction leads to more even build up, in theory there are no hot spots on an induction cooker.

Here are my steps in seasoning a carbon/cast iron pan.

  1. Very thoroughly wash the pan in hot soapy water. This will get rid of that layer of rust prevention coating from the factory. Some manufacturers say to even use some cleanser and really scrub the pan clean. We want the seasoning to stick to the pan's bare metal not the factory's anti-rust sealant.

  2. Now thoroughly dry the pan off. You don't want any water on the pan, depending on your water, you can leave mineral deposits on the pans surface.

  3. Turn on your exhaust fan/blower, close the doors to the rest of the house and open the windows in your kitchen. Better yet, do this part outside if you can. It will get smokey and smell badly.

  4. Heat up your pan on low-medium heat. We want to slowly burn off any residual coating. This can take a while, and on an induction you most likely cannot get the sides of the pan. I recommend that this be done with a gas burner, just so you can get the entire pan seasoned, sides and all. You don't want too high a heat, as this can cause some thermal shock and warp your pan before you even use it. And if you use induction, you know how annoying it is to have a warped pan.

  5. Let the pan cool off to where you can handle it again. This can take up to 15-20 minutes depending on the weight/mass of your pan. A heavier/thicker pan will have more mass and more heat retention. A lighter/thinner pan will have less and should cool off quicker. Do NOT submerge it in water to cool off, this will again cause thermal shock and can lead to a warped pan.

  6. Repeat steps: 1,2 and 4. When the pan is heated up this time, there should be less or no smoke at all. It should be a bare metal pan, no rust protection coating. Now that the pan is warmed up, we can safely turn up the heat to a much higher setting. We are looking for the pan's metal to actually change color. The pan might be a shiny metallic color at first, but we want it to discolour, to a brown or even blue or black color. This is the start of the seasoning layer. Move the pan to get the heat up the sides of the pan and even heat up the handle area as well.

  7. After the whole cooking surface of the pan has changed color, we cool it down again. Not to the point where you can hold it, but perhaps just for 5 minutes or so. This is where you want to oil season the pan. You want to use an oil that has a high smoking point. Canola, Crisco or best would be a grape seed oil. Do NOT use a low smoking point oil or fat, this will just burn and will not lead to a good coat. Do NOT use: olive oil, butter or lard.

  8. When the pan is cool, use a paper towel with just a drop or two of your oil, rub down the inside of the pan. The thinner the coat the faster and more even the seasoning. Too thick a coat and the oil will pool up burn and get sticky. Thinner is better. Warm up the pre-oiled pan on the medium low heat, this will start to smoke and change the pans color again.

  9. Repeat as many times as you want. The thinner the layers of seasoning the better they stick to the pan. Too thick, and the layer will be sticky and will come off easier. I think the key is to really burn the pan without oil to open up the pores so to speak. This makes for that nice dark patina in the pan itself.

I hope this helps. I know you wanted to do this on an induction burner but they don't do a good job of seasoning the sides of the pan. You really need to do this on a gas range or portable gas burner. After the pan is seasoned, just be patient and just use it.

Tips on cleaning the pan: After cooking, you want the pan to cool down before you wash it. There are some people that say never let soap touch the pan again. I would say as a hard and fast rule, probably ok. But if you really feel the need for soap, by all means do it. Wash throughly and dry thoroughly, you don't want to store a damp pan, this will lead to rust. Heat the cleaned pan on the burner and then wipe down with the oiled paper towel. Let cool and then store. Protective oil coating is good. If you plan on not using your pots/pans for a while, season them and wrap each pan in an oiled paper bag.

Tips on cooking with a carbon/cast iron pan: 1. Preheat the pan first. Low fire at first, to where it's just barely smoking. 30-45 seconds. 2. Adjust heat for recipe. Add oil to the pan, swirl it around to coat the entire surface of the pan.
3. Discard oil into a heat proof container, ceramic/metal bowl/cup.
4. Add new oil and wait just a second or four till the oil shimmers and moves freely around the pan. 5. Now you are ready to cook. If you need more oil use that initial oil again.

I find that this method works very well. We want the pan and the oil to be hot, if the oil or the pan is too cold, then foods will just stick. This is the procedure when cooking in a wok. fyi. Hope this helps.

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