How to Clean Carbon Steel Cookware: #1 Best Cleaning Guide

Carbon steel is a type of cookware with benefits. It’s durable, affordable and easy to clean without any fuss. However it can be difficult to keep your carbon steel cookware looking its best as the surface becomes dull over time.

Are you tired of using harsh chemicals on your beloved carbon steel pots? This guide will teach you how to deep clean this beautiful piece at home in just five minutes!

Follow these steps for an in-depth deep clean of your carbon steel cookware.

Are carbon steel pans easy to clean?

carbon steel pans are easy to clean

Many people do not know that carbon steel cookware can be cleaned with a little effort. Carbon steel is seasoned just like cast iron which creates a non-stick coating making it easy to clean.

The key to cleaning a carbon steel pan is to use methods that are not too harsh which will result in the seasoning stripping.

Can you ruin a carbon steel pan by cleaning it?

Can you ruin a carbon steel pan by cleaning it

Carbon steel cookware is easy to clean, but it can be ruined by using certain products on it that you would otherwise be able to use with other cookware. However, with a little know-how and some special tactics, you can get your pan looking like new again without damaging it.

Let’s take a look at which methods will damage your carbon steel pan before moving on to cleaning it properly.

Bar keepers friend can damage the pans surface

When cleaning a carbon steel pan, it is important to be aware that using the wrong type of scrubber can damage the surface.

Bar keepers friend is a common household cleaner that contains oxalic acid. This acid can cause deep scratches in the pan’s surface, which can lead to rusting.

Steel wool will ruin the seasoning

When using steel wool on a carbon steel pan, the seasoning layer will be removed.

This is because steel wool is an extremely harsh abrasive, and should only be used on metal.

Using steel wool on metal cookware with seasoning will strip the seasoning every time, and you will need to re-season your cookware.

Steel wool should not be used on any pans with a coating either, such as enamel, or teflon.

How to clean carbon steel cookware

how to clean carbon steel pans

Cleaning your carbon steel cookware is easy, however you need to use the right method.

Cleaning with salt

I’d highly advise starting with this method as it’s the safest option in terms of preserving your pans seasoning.

Using salt and water is a simple method, and this is used for light cleaning where there may be some food residues stuck to the pan. The salt is just used as an abrasive to give the food a little nudge.

Start by:

  1. Rinsing the pan in warm water to remove any loose food particles.
  2. Using a paper towel or sponge, wipe down the surface of the pan with a little bit of salt and warm water.
  3. Rinse the pan in warm water and wipe off any excess salt with a paper towel or sponge.

If you find that this hasn’t done much, then you may want to move onto the next method which is a deep clean

Cleaning with vinegar

Vinegar is a great cleaning solution, specifically used in scenarios where there’s burnt-on food that’s stubborn and hard to remove, or where there’s rust.

The downside to cleaning with vinegar is it will attack your carbon steel pans seasoning, so you’ll always need to re-season your pan after using this cleaning method. Consider this method a deep clean.

Start by:

  1. Drying your pan completely, then pour in enough vinegar to cover the bottom of the pan
  2. Heat over medium heat until it starts boiling (to remove any food particles that were stuck to the pan)
  3. Let it boil for 5-10 minutes, until you notice a lot of black/brown residue being released from the pan
  4. Turn off heat and let the vinegar sit in pan overnight5. In the morning, use a scouring pad or scrubber to remove any remaining residue
  5. Rinse with water and dry completely
  6. Re-season as needed

Using Barkeepers friend & Steel Wool

If none of the above methods have worked, and you have some really stubbon burnt-on food or rust. Then it’s time to take it to the next level and use Bar keepers friend with steel wool.

If used carefully, this won’t damage your carbon steel pan, and will clean it perfectly. However proceed with caution.

Start by:

  1. Dousing your carbon steel pan in warm water to loosen the burnt on food or rust, then scrub with a sponge.
  2. Next sprinkle bar keepers friend over the area you want to clean, and scrub gently with steel wool. Make sure you don’t scrub too harshly
  3. Rinse thoroughly and dry immediately as you don’t want bar keepers friend powder left on your cookware.

How to care for your carbon steel pans

how to care for carbon steel pans

It is important to follow some basic rules of maintenance to keep your carbon steel cookware in good condition.

Why is food sticking to my carbon steel pan?

The possible reasons food is sticking to your carbon steel pan is because your pan is not seasoned properly.

Seasoning your pan creates a plastic like polymer coating on your carbon steel pan, this coating is completely nonstick, and if you feel it, it will feel completely smooth.

Food sticking to your pan is a sign that your seasoning is not covering the pan thoroughly or it isn’t thick enough.

To fix this, you should clean the pan with a mild sponge and soap, and then re-season the pan properly, and make sure there is no built-up residue on the pan prior to seasoning as this will stop the oil polymerizing into the pores of the pan where the food is sticking too.

Tips for keeping your cookware in top condition

1. Re-season your pans every two to three months or anytime you find the cooking surface chipped or scratched using cooking oil. This will help keep the pan in good condition and prevent rusting.

2. Keep your pans clean by using the right cleaning methods. Wiping them down after each use will help to keep them looking new.

3. Clean carbon steel cookware immediately if you see any built-up residue. Rinse with hot water and a mild dishwashing detergent, then dry with a soft cloth.

4. To maintain your cookware’s seasoning, avoid using harsh detergents or cleaning agents, and don’t soak the pan in water for long periods of time.

How to prevent rust on your carbon steel cookware

Carbon steel cookware is notorious for rusting easily. To prevent your pots and pans from rusting, follow these simple steps:

1. Keep your carbon steel cookware clean. After each use, wash your pots and pans with warm soapy water. If there are any stubborn food residues, use a nylon scrubbing pad to remove them.

2. Dry your carbon steel cookware thoroughly. Moisture is the enemy of metal, so make sure to dry all sides of the pot or pan, including the bottom and the lid. If you have a dish rack, place the wet cookware on the rack to air dry. Otherwise, you can towel dry it.

3. Store your carbon steel cookware in a dry place. If you’re not using it right away, make sure to store it in a cupboard or cabinet where it won’t be exposed to moisture or humidity.

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