How long to season carbon steel?
I bought a de Buyer CS crepe pan (Force Blue) last week, cleaned it with potato peels and began seasoning. I heated the pan (med-high, about 7 on my basic GE smoothtop electric) until it was just smoking, then added canola oil, maybe a tablespoon. It immediately began smoking like crazy, so I turned the knob down to 5, pulled the pan off the heat, swirled the oil around, and plunked it back on the range. Smoking ( a LOT!) again, I turned it down to 4, swirled, etc... By the end of 5 minutes, it was on low heat (2) and barely wisping smoke.
I wiped it out, cooled it down, then began again with another layer of oil. I started at 5 the second time, still went for 5 minutes, but kept it mostly just barely smoking the whole time by lifting it from the heat and swirling the oil to coat the pan.
Here's the thing, though. My pan arrived a semi-shiny dark blue. It's now shiny, darker blue, and has 2 smudgy-looking areas that aren't shiny in the middle of the pan.
I've used it 3 or 4 times for over-medium eggs cooked on low heat with excellent results, but don't know if it's even really seasoned at all. After all, I can make great fried eggs in my stainless steel skillet. The CS pan only needs about 1 teaspoon of oil, cooking my eggs one at a time, so it seems better, but I'm just not sure if it's properly seasoned. The two dull-ish spots have begun to take on an amber hue, which I hope means I didn't mess it up.
Is it ok, or do I need to clean it and start over? How long should the oil be held at smoke point? Is canola a decent choice? I've also got peanut and toasted sesame oil on hand.
The Debuyer ForceBlue pan should be relatively blue/black out of the box when it arrived. A few of us bought the deBuyer pans when they were on sale 2 years ago, and I bought myself a Force Blue pan.
<My pan arrived a semi-shiny dark blue. It's now shiny, darker blue>
Normal I would say, see my photos.
<The two dull-ish spots have begun to take on an amber hue>
Amber? Since your pan is black-blue to begin with, how would you able to notice an amber color on top of the black background? Do the dull spots feel rough to you? If so, lightly scrub off the excessive carbon build up. If it simply look dull, then I won't worry. Based on your above photo, your pan is not as dark as I would expect, which may explain why you can notice an amber color -- this most likely is incomplete oil seasoning, nothing to worry about at this point. Can you tell me how it feels? Does it feel very rough, very smooth, or gummy?
<Is it ok, or do I need to clean it and start over?>
Most likely you are fine. Even if you have to scrub these spots off, you won't have to start from scratch.
<Is canola a decent choice? I've also got peanut and toasted sesame oil on hand.>
Canola is fine in my opinion. Peanut oil is certainly fine. Do NOT use toasted sesame oil -- your whole kitchen will smell like hell if you do.
The amber hue only shows in strong light, like my photo. The pan really is a lot darker than the photo shows. It's just a slightly amber-gold tint against the dark blue.
The dull spots are just as smooth as the rest of the pan. Very slick. I have put a couple of small nicks in the finish, from my stainless steel spatula (don't own plastic), but that doesn't worry me as I know they'll fill in with regular use. This pan is a dedicated egg pan for now, and as I said, a scant teaspoon of butter will cook 2 eggs, one after another. Can't do that with my stainless, I've got to add more butter for the 2nd egg. That's what made me think it was likely ok, that it really is quite nonstick, even new and lightly seasoned.
I've bought one for my son for Christmas. How long would you recommend he keep the oil at smoke point?
<It's just a slightly amber-gold tint against the dark blue.>
Most likely, it is incomplete seasoning. As long as it is not too thick, I won't worry about it. It will eventually turn into regular seasoning surface.
<I have put a couple of small nicks in the finish, from my stainless steel spatula>
Like you said, nicks are fine.
<That's what made me think it was likely ok, that it really is quite nonstick, even new and lightly seasoned.>
Like you expect, you will likely use even less oil as the pan develops a more complete seasoned layer.
<How long would you recommend he keep the oil at smoke point?>
There is no magic number, and it kind of depends on the type of cooking oil you use too. For low smoking oils, like extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil, they smoke at very low temperatures, so I don't like to use them. For most refined/filtered cooking oils, they smoke at higher temperatures. I like to recommend people to season slightly below the smoke point when the oil barely smokes because this is practically as high as one can go (safely). Any higher, you risk the oil bursts into flame. I personally sometime go higher, but I won't recommend others to do it due to potential injuries, so I err on the side for safety, especially for internet recommendation which detail explanations can get lost. For stove top seasoning, I suggest to keep the oil right at this barely smoke point for 2-3 minutes at a time, but like you did, I would repeatedly bring the oil to this temperature a few times.
After a lot of practice and study, I've had consistant success at seasoning carbon steel and cast iron. I do it outside over a fire now. Get to the smoke point, I like peanut oil, and swirl to get more even vaporization of the volatile compounds, or whatever hardening reactions are occuring. To be fair, I use industrial, high temperature "Foundry Workers" gloves, like those at the link below. I've used these gloves a lot over many years for all types of outdoor cooking. Sounds like you did well, but smoking is ugly indoors, and high heat is easier over a fire.
Doing it in the oven is OK, but you only get one chance to coat the thing, and it drips, so one can get spots that are too thinly coated, or semi hardened drips, where it's too thick, but not fully hard. Outside, I can "work" the whole process, ensuuring a nice thin hard coating over the maximum area, including the handles and the outer surface. Repeated addition and wipings with oil, dissolves the semi-hardened build ups.
Sometimes I've gotten the heat too high, and all the "season" coating burns off completly leaving bare metal spots. At that point, I just continue, being more careful to avoid hot spots. I just get the metal to the smoke point, keep swirling, and add oil as necessary. Occasionanly wiping with the paper towel. Works on woks, paella pans, cast iron, etc. keep working and you'll get an even black, hard coating. I go for this inside and out.
Once you get enough coating on there, using it (i.e. normal cooking with the pan) creates a "self regulating" situation with the hardedned oil coating. Although sometimes things get "out of equalibrium", so it's good to know how to coat the thing well, if you have to. Again, this works best for me outdoors, over hot coals.
Relative to your specific concern....
...you are overthinking it. Carbon steel can take the fire. Add more oil, smoke it, use mitt and swirl, repeat, harden it on there. Colors are gonna happen. Be careful of fire, although this happens to me all the time. Outside it's not a problem, nor in restaurant kitchens.
It's not black (or colored) enough. Here is some good info:
I can get a new pan blacker than Grace Young's "well seasoned" wok at the link above, in one session of my outdoor fire technique. But it probably doesn't need that much color to be seasoned "enough". I'd switch to higher smoke point peanut oil (as Grace recommends).
Here are some pics of an appropriately blackened crepe pan: