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What makes a seasoned carbon steel wok nonstick?

 
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muncake
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2009 1:53 am    Post subject: What makes a seasoned carbon steel wok nonstick? Reply with quote

I have searched hard on the internet but cannot find the answer to a question that has baffled me for some time. I hope that may be one of you may know the answer. How is a seasoned wok nonstick? I know there is probably a chemistry based explanation to this and that is what I am trying to find out.
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1024
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2009 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you've seen/read the "how to season" blurbs - you lightly coat the very hot pan/wok with an organic oil or fat.

being organic, the oil / fat is, at it basic level, carbon compounds. the heating drives off the volatile components leaving a thin layer of (nearly pure) carbon - often called a patina - which is the original "non-stick" surface.

same theory applies to cast iron pans -

although vegetable oils can be used, many people prefer to use a animal fat - notably lard or bacon fat. I strong recommend not using anything like an "aerosol non-stick spray" - these frequently contain other compounds which do not burn off easily and can create a sticky layer (even on Teflon coated pans!)
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muncake
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2009 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does that mean that it is the carbon layer that repels other substances thereby making the pan nonstick?
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1024
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2009 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

muncake wrote:
Does that mean that it is the carbon layer that repels other substances thereby making the pan nonstick?


in a simplified nutshell, yes.

"repels" may be a slight over-statement.

again, in an over-simplified statement, when you put "something" in a hot pan, water solutions come out of the meat/eggs/whatever - these aqueous liquids mix with (surface) exuded proteins - which becomes the "goop" that glues aka "sticks" things to the pan.

obviously you can't do anything about "'and 'zactly what is coming out of my fish fillet" - but you can affect "and on what surface it is attempting to glue itself"

a (pure / nearly pure) carbon film / patina does not offer a "highly stickably" surface - and it only has to be a few molecules thick.

"repels" is different from "offers no toe hold to stick to" so to speak, hence my previous caution about "terms"

well seasoned cast iron and carbon steel pans are the pre-Teflon non-stick entities. successful crepes, omelets, eggs over easy, etc., existed way prior to Teflon - so one can debate whether properly seasoned carbon steel / cast iron is [to some degree] "better] or "less better" than Teflon and its generics, but it is a discussion of 'degrees' - not 'absolutes'

I use Teflon/PTFE coated pans where appropriate. I also have three generation passed-down cast iron skillets with 1? mebbe 3 mm thick "carbonized stuff coatings" on them. I can flip an egg in them dang sight as easy at the best PTFE pan - but regrets they don't have the same corner / chine geometry as the "new fangled fry pans" - so deduct some points for "need big spatula"

hmm, actually, flipping _anything_ in a cast iron pan is more wrist exercise than in aluminum+Teflon.....
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muncake
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
a (pure / nearly pure) carbon film / patina does not offer a "highly stickably" surface - and it only has to be a few molecules thick.


Thank you Dilbert. I like the"stickably" theory which seems to perfectly answer my question. Smile
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