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I just bought two carbon steel old pans, numbers 43 and either 6 or 9 (orientation?), at a flea market. One of the skillets has a lot of burned on flaky black very hard something - outside, mostly, on sides and bottom, and some around the top edge of the inside sides. I need to clean them, but they appear to be seasoned okay. The super hard stuff on the outside and inside has me worried. How can I clean that off and start out well?

Also, I bought them to use over a campfire, on a grill grate, so they won't rest on coals or wood. Is this acceptable for carbon steel, and if so, are there any parameters for heat or closeness to the fire?

At home, I cook almost completely on cast iron and coated cast iron. Are cast iron and carbon steel skillets the same basically in regards to seasoning and cooking on electric, or should I use them more like stainless steel?

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    The hard black part might actually be good seasoning (years of building up polymerized oil). – Joe Jun 1 '16 at 15:29
  • This looks like it will do better as two questions. Someone may be able to answer only half of this question, which makes it difficult to vote on. Please consider separating the two questions. – Catija Jun 1 '16 at 22:28
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    I use both cast iron and carbon steel. Yes, they're treated exactly the same as far as seasoning, washing, and cooking goes. I use mine with gas stoves and induction cookers. They're perfect for camping, and there wouldn't be a problem even if you put them on the coals or wood except for possible hot spots developing. – LMAshton Jun 20 '16 at 6:40
  • @LMAshton - why aren't you answering instead of commenting? You seem to have exactly what the OP is looking for. – PoloHoleSet Sep 13 '16 at 14:25
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Good (?) carbon steel pans can be cleaned in a self-cleaning oven, just as cast iron. I use both A LOT (read, exclusively). My steel French crepe pan needs cleaning occasionally but I season it as I do cast iron. The flaky stuff may be soot, fat, or nearly anything in between. Clean'em, season 'em, and take care of 'em. They should provide good service. Rust forms fast on carbon steel.

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You can season these pans by heating with salt in the pan until it is extremely hot. The salt is abrasive and will remove any particles when you rub it around the pan with a dry cloth. Be very careful as the salt is very hot! This opens up the pores in the steel. Remove the hot salt and ad some veg oil, olive oil or what ever you have and let it season the pan. The pan should now be non stick and the heat has sanitized the pan. Remove the oil and wipe with a paper towel.

  • Be careful when working with oil around a potentially well overheated pan. There can be smoke, or even a fire. Do what is described outside if possible, and with oil containers or other flammables well out of the way. Filling a smaller container with only as much oil as you need, and only taking that container near your pan, is a good precaution. – rackandboneman Oct 13 '16 at 15:01

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