How to Season a Nonstick Pan
In case you haven’t noticed, majority of the pots and pans of seasoned chefs and culinary masters come in a rather blackened appearance. We’re not only talking about the outside surface of the pan that is in contact with the heat source. We’re talking about the inside cooking surface itself. Don’t believe us? Just look at Chinese stir-fry masters and even those in Western kitchens and you’ll see a blackened cooking surface. They call these pots and pans seasoned. And even if you have a nonstick pan in your kitchen, it is often a good idea to have it seasoned.
One of the most important questions people may have about this process is why season a pan in the first place? But before we look into the why, let us first address the what.
Seasoning is the application of a relatively thin layer of vegetable oil or any other appropriate shortening on the inside cooking surface of the pan. The thin layer of oil is subjected to intense heat so that it gets polymerized onto the surface of the pan. This process is often indicated in cast-iron cookware to provide a protective layer so that the cooking surface will not form rust.
It can also be used in carbon steel cookware so that the cooking surface will be slick. As such, even aluminum and stainless steel cookware are seasoned by professional chefs to provide a cooking surface where food will not stick.
Given that the principal reason for seasoning pans is the creation of a slick, nonstick surface so that food will not stick while also allowing you to cook food with less or no oil at all, then it makes no sense to season a nonstick pan. This type of cookware is already designed with a nonstick coating that does the job that seasoned pans can do.
However, one has to understand that the nonstick coating of these pans tend to degrade over time. As such, while it is unnecessary to season a nonstick pan the first time you’re going to use it, re-seasoning it once every 6 months is always a good idea to help re-coat and extend the service life of your nonstick cookware.
So, yes, you need to season a nonstick pan especially if food is already beginning to stick on the surface and you notice you’re beginning to use more oil than you used to.
Seasoning a Nonstick Pan
We now know that nonstick pans can greatly benefit from being seasoned as well. You don’t have to season it right after getting it out of the box, though. But you can always do so anytime you feel like ‘strengthening’ the slick nonstick layer of your pan. Here’s how to season a pan for the first time.
Wash and clean your nonstick pan first. This is to remove any unnecessary oils and debris that may be present on the pan during the packaging and shipping of the item. Make sure to thoroughly dry the pan before you start seasoning. Now, different pan manufacturers may have different recommendations as to how their nonstick pans should be seasoned. It is best to adhere to these instructions from your manual.
If you are going to season your nonstick pan with an oven, make sure that the oven is preheated first to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply a thin coating of either canola oil or vegetable oil onto the cooking surface of the nonstick pan. You can also use other cooking oils with high unsaturated fatty acid content like soy oil, flaxseed oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil. Oxygen in the air and the application of heat can stimulate the fatty acids to undergo chemical change, allowing for polymerization to take place. Put the now-oiled nonstick pan into the oven and get ‘seasoning’ for about 45 to 60 minutes. Allow the pan to cool down before wiping any excess oil. You now have a seasoned nonstick pan.
If you don’t like to use the oven method, you can also use the stovetop method. It follows the same process as in the oven-seasoning method. The only difference is in the source of heat. Once the oil has been applied onto the cooking surface of the pan, you can put the pan on the stove over medium heat. Pay careful attention. As soon as the oil starts to smoke, you need to remove the pan immediately from the heat. You can then cool it down before wiping the excess fat or oil.
Most professional chefs repeat the process – either oven or stovetop – several times in one day to achieve a longer-lasting, slick, and perfect nonstick coating.
Seasoning your nonstick pan may seem like an absolutely unnecessary thing to do. However, given that seasoning can help lengthen the lifespan of your nonstick, it makes perfect sense to learn how to season your favorite nonstick pan.