I may have just ruined my carbon steel pan's patina?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by french fries, May 29, 2012.

  1. french fries

    french fries

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    ARGH! I have a carbon steel pan which is about 13" and has a patina I have been working on for a few years now, being careful not to use detergent, only cleaning the pan with hot water, always keeping it dry etc. The pan ended up being pretty much non-stick. 

    Yesterday I tried (for the first time) to braise some brussel sprouts in that pan (is it a bad idea to cook with liquid in a carbon steel pan?). After about 25mn of slowly simmering in chicken stock, I lift the lid, and ... horror: ALL the patina on the sloped sides of the pan stays stuck to the rim of the lid and comes along with it, bubbling up and lifting up effortlessly from the steel of the pan in whole sheets of what looks like thin black brittle plastic. 

    Now the good news is... it's JUST the sloped sides. The bottom of the pan plus about 1/2" up the sides around the bottom are still perfectly stuck to the pan. 

    Is it worth removing all the patina and reseasoning? 

    Should I just reseason the sides? 

    Should I just continue using it the way it is and not worry about the sides? 
     
  2. ordo

    ordo

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    Something's wrong here. The patina went out with the lid?
     
  3. french fries

    french fries

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    Yup, just the part of the patina that was on the sloped sides. Down to about 1/2" from the bottom, and all the way up the slides. It seems like the action of boiling the chicken stock must have started lifting the patina off the sides, and when I lifted the lid, sheets of patina were stuck to its rim and came along with it. The rest was bubbling off the steel in real time in front of my eyes. Kinda like when you torch metal that has paint on it and the paint starts bubbling up and lifting up off the metal. 
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    It sure sounds like you didn't lose patina. You lost plastic.

    Cooking oil is a hydrocarbon--which is why it converts to a functional bio-diesel fairly easily. Patina is pretty much plain carbon bonded with the metal of your pan. Patina forms when you've burned off the O and H out of the oil. At temps and times less than that, you form plastic. As what came off was from the upper cooler parts of the pan, it sounds like you lost incompletely carbonized oil-- plastic.

    Patina will be black. less than fully carbonized oil will be yellow to dark dark brown generally, but black happens too, just less often.

    Cooking with liquid will damage patina. How much damage depends on the quality and depth of the patina as well as how acidic or basic the liquid is. Carbon steel holds a patina much less strongly than cast iron iron. Carbon steel wouldn't have been my choice for a braise at all. You want stainless or an enameled pan for a braise.
     
  5. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Pan seasoning comes from fat, oil and other substances which get caught in the steel's or iron's "pores" (actually surface irregularities, there are no pores), and burns down to pure carbon.

    There's no way you can steam that stuff off the pan, so whatever came off wasn't "patina" in the sense of "seasoning." Just clean off the pan as well as you can, and start season it from scratch.

    You can wash with soap, as long as you don't scour. As long as you renew the seasoning with a little oil every time you wash and dry the pan, you'll continue to build up the season and keep the pan clean.

    BDL
     
  6. french fries

    french fries

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    Thanks a lot guys. In a hurry now but I'll come back to this thread!
     
  7. french fries

    french fries

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    Do you think re-seasoning is absolutely necessary considering the entire bottom of the pan seems fine and the patina won't come off there? 
    So you're saying after each wash, bring it back on the heat, add a little oil and wipe it dry with a paper towel? I used to do that but found that the pan would be sticky when I took it out of the cupboard a few days later. So I stopped doing it. 

    N
     
  8. chefmasterjohn

    chefmasterjohn

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    Agree.. Well at least you learned by trail and error.
     
  9. french fries

    french fries

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    The problem is, I haven't learned much, and don't know how to avoid replicating this issue next time. I can't think of anything I could do differently? I mean I seasoned the pan with lard, in the oven, let it slowly cool down in the closed oven for hours, never used soap or acid, etc....

    Well yeah, one thing I've learned is to not braise in carbon steel. But apparently all this has done is reveal to me that the sides did not have a good patina but instead plastic. How it created plastic and not patina, I don't know - and I don't know how to avoid doing again. 

    PS: How do you recommend removing the seasoning to start again? Should I boil some vinegar, or get some sanding paper? I tried lifting it up with the tip of a knife, but this would take hours. 
     
  10. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm a fan of letting it run a cycle in a self cleaning oven. Burns all the patina right off.
     
  11. french fries

    french fries

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    AH - thanks Phatch - my oven is not self cleaning though.... 
     
  12. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Put it over the burner in a gas grill on high. Close the lid, let the fire do it's thing. Or do the same with a pile of lit charcoal. It's possible on the burner of a gas stove as well, but more difficult, smoky, lots of heat in the house and more trouble than it's worth imho.

    You could have it bead blasted as well. Certainly the fastest.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
  13. french fries

    french fries

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    Thank you Phatch, I'll have to try that! 
     
  14. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I wouldn't start over again.  Cook some bacon, then some home-fried potato, then pan-roast a spatchcocked chicken.  What little you lost will be re-gained soon without starting over again.
     
  15. french fries

    french fries

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    Ok pan is on the grill on high outside. I'm here inside with the A/C. Let the fire do its thing. I'll reseason soon. Thanks for the tip!
     
  16. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Agreed and that's what I do.  In fact, add stir-fry to the re-seasoning menu but just don't add water based stuff like soy sauce.
     
  17. vic cardenas

    vic cardenas

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    You just now got around to it?
     
  18. french fries

    french fries

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    I had a baby in the meantime. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
     
  19. michaelga

    michaelga

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    :) 

    Can't really argue with that excuse!
     
  20. siduri

    siduri

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    Congratulations ff!