How To Clean A Carbon Steel Pan?

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Cooking is a beautiful, wonderful endeavor that you can do to satisfy yourself and show your love and appreciation for those around you.

Cleaning is an absolute hassle that follows the cooking and takes away a bit of the magic that cooking introduces to our lives. Although cleaning is an annoying job, we all have to do it if we want to keep our house looking nice and to be able to use the various items in our kitchen space.

However, some items require a little more care and dedication than others. For cast iron, this is especially true and often people who own cast iron skillets take great care with them, even while cleaning them.

While this is true for some kitchen items, many people wouldn’t expect it to be true for those you find on the Walmart shelf for $10. One of the pans for this price is a carbon steel pan, though they can be priced a lot higher.

Still, it does beg the question, how do you clean a carbon steel pan? Do you have to take great care with it, like cast iron? In this article, we seek to answer this question and tell you exactly how you should clean your pans. 

What Is Carbon Steel?

When you hear the term “carbon steel”, you might think about what you see in your local hardware store: long sheets of metal or bars that are sold as nails or screws.

These are made from iron ore, coal, and other materials that help create steel. Carbon is added during the manufacturing process to make the material harder and stronger. Carbon steel is actually one of the most common types of stainless steel, which means it’s also strong and durable but won’t rust when exposed to water. It has been used for thousands of years, dating back to ancient China and Egypt.

Today, carbon steel is still widely used for construction and manufacturing, such as tools, furniture, cookware, and machinery. It’s also commonly found in appliances. Carbon steel is composed of two elements — iron and carbon — that combine into a solid compound.

The chemical formula for carbon steel is FEC. This is why carbon steel is sometimes called plain carbon steel. Other names include cast iron and wrought iron, depending on where it was manufactured.

What Makes Carbon Steel Different From Other Kinds Of Steels?

The main difference between carbon steel and other types of steel is its composition. Iron isn’t the only element in carbon steel; there are several other components.

They include chromium, manganese, nickel, molybdenum, copper, titanium, phosphorus, sulfur, and silicon. Each of these ingredients adds certain qualities to carbon steel.

Chromium is a hardening agent that helps steel resist corrosion and wear better. Manganese gives carbon steel additional strength.

Nickel is important because it improves weldability and prevents rust. Molybdenum provides resistance against cracking and fatigue.

Copper is used to improve heat conductivity. Titanium is needed to prevent oxidation. Phosphorus is used to increase hardness. Sulfur improves toughness and durability. Silicon is added to protect against rust.

There are many other differences between carbon steel and other forms of steel, too. For example, carbon steel doesn’t need to be tempered before being hardened, whereas stainless steel must be tempered. Carbon steel requires less maintenance and lasts longer than other metals.

The downside is that carbon steel isn’t nearly as easy to work with as some other metals, meaning it takes more effort to shape and form. It’s also much heavier than stainless steel and aluminum. Carbon steel is often used for its high strength-to-weight ratio. But this can mean that it may not be suitable for all applications.

In addition, carbon steel tends to have a higher melting point than other metals, so it’s difficult to melt down. If you’re interested in learning how to make metal objects at home, carbon steel is a good choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Clean A Carbon Steel Pan?
If you want to learn how to clean a carbon steel skillet, first decide if it needs cleaning. You can use the following guidelines to determine whether it should be cleaned:

1) Is it scratched? Scratches will stain and turn black over time. Some pans look fine until they start getting scratches and then suddenly become unsightly.
2) Does it have any stains? Stains are another sign that your pan needs cleaning.
3) Are there any cracks? Cracks in the pan’s surface indicate that the pan has experienced severe damage and could break apart.
4) Is it rusty? Rust comes from exposure to oxygen, so if your pan is covered in rust, it probably shouldn’t be washed.

After you have determined your pan is in good condition, it is time to clean it.

Before you begin, remove any food residue by wiping the pan with a damp cloth. Then add one cup of water to the bottom of a sink. Add a few drops of dishwashing soap and let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove the soap from the water and rinse off the inside of the pan with warm water.

Repeat this process three times. After rinsing the pan thoroughly, wipe it dry with a paper towel. To clean the outside of the pan, pour a small amount of vegetable oil onto your hands. Rub the oil over the entire surface of the pan. Be sure to get every little spot.

Avoid using abrasive cleaners like scouring pads. These can scratch the pan and cause permanent marks. Once you’ve finished cleaning your pan, allow it to dry completely. This will help to keep it free from moisture when you cook.

How Often Should I Clean My Carbon Steel Pan?

One of the biggest questions people ask about cleaning their pans is how typically they should do it. There really isn’t an answer here because each person has different preferences.

However, most people recommend washing their pans once per week, if you are looking to preserve flavor in cast iron pans, or every time you cook if you just want it clean.

The reason is that cast iron is rumored to make food more flavorful the least vigorously you clean it, and cleaning them after cooking will eliminate any lingering flavor.

For carbon steel, this isn’t really the case or even rumored to be the case. As such, it is best to clean them gently after each cooking session. When you are cleaning the pan, leave the pan overnight to soak up the excess oil, before cleaning. 

For best results, only wash the pan while it’s still warm. Doing this will ensure that you won’t burn yourself on the sides of the pan.

What Type Of Cleaner Should I Use?

Many options are available for cleaning your pan, but they all fall into two categories: non-abrasive and abrasive cleaners.

Non-abrasive cleaners include baking soda, salt, vinegar, lemon juice, and club soda. Baking soda and salt are commonly used as natural cleaners. They work well at removing stubborn spots and stains but don’t contain any chemicals that can harm your pan.

Vinegar is also a common choice. It works great for cleaning baked-on foods but might take longer than other products to remove tough spots. Lemon juice is a great option for those who enjoy the citrus scent. Abrasive cleaners usually come in liquid form and contain chemical detergents that act as solvents to loosen dirt and grime.

You may find these cleaners in spray bottles or cans. If you choose to use an abrasive cleaner, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Also note that some abrasives contain ingredients that could damage your pan, including silica gel. Silica gel is used in many kitchen tools, especially spatulas, soaps, and sponges. If you prefer not to use harsh cleaners, there is another way to clean your pan without damaging it.

All you need is a soft brush. Using a soft-bristled brush, sweep away the dirt and grease along the inside of the pan. Use a wet rag to wipe out the remaining mess.

Once you’re done scrubbing, simply rinse the pan with water and let it air dry until it feels dry to the touch.


Carbon steel is not as fiddly to manage as cast iron to clean, however, if you want to keep your pan in tip-top condition, then you do need to know how to clean it effectively.

As such, being careful and keeping a rhythm to your cleaning can help your pan last longer. 

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