When you receive your Arteflame Grill, Griddle Insert or Burger Puck, they are not seasoned yet.
What is seasoning? When cooking oil is subjected to high heat, the long chains of fat molecules break down into short-chain polymers that bond with the cooktop and form a glaze. This is seasoning. It is smooth and non-stick, similar to Teflon. It also forms a natural barrier between air and the steel, acting as the first line of defense against rust. Looking at the Arteflame carbon steel cooktop under a microscope, the surface is actually porous and these pores open when the cooktop heats up. Seasoning bakes right into these pores, filling them in and smoothing them out. This is what produces the even, slick, seasoned surface. Over time, as layer after layer of seasoning builds up, the cooktop becomes completely seasoned as the seasoning securely bonds to the previous layers and the steel.
The Arteflame seasoning pucks are formulated specifically for seasoning the cooktop and make it easy. You can also season your Arteflame cooktop very simply with regular use! Every time you grill and heat oil or fat for an extended period of time on the cooktop, you have the opportunity to add a thin, durable layer of seasoning. These thin layers build on each other like coats of paint on a wall, slowly but surely forming a resilient, ultra-slick surface. Using the seasoning pucks make this process easy. When it comes to good seasoning that lasts, we can’t stress the importance of thin layers enough. Compare it to thick coats of paint on a windowsill; once air and moisture sneak past the surface and work their way down to the wood beneath, those coats will start to peel off like a giant scab. On your cooktop, thick layers of seasoning will scrape off in the same way. Only the thin layers, molecularly bonded to the cooktop and each other will stand the test of time. When you fire up your Arteflame the first few times, it can be hard to get the cooktop to season evenly. What and how you cook as well as hot spots on your cooktop will influence how the initial coats of seasoning form. They can appear in patches rather than a perfectly even layer. Patchy seasoning is perfectly fine, it allows layers of seasoning to interlock and strengthen each other forming a truly durable layers of seasoning.
For best results, gradually heat up the cooktop to bake the seasoning into the surface, not just on top of it. To season, you need to reach the smoking temperature of the oil. At this point the oil breaks down into carbon and short-chain polymers that bond with the steel. If the cooktop is too cold for the oil to smoke, the oil won’t polymerize and won’t bond to the cooktop. If the cooktop is too hot, the oil will skip past the polymer stage and go straight into completely burnt carbon. Thus it is key to heat up your cooktop slowly and apply the oil before it starts to smoke.
Carbon Steel vs Cast Iron
Why use carbon steel cooktops rather than cast iron?
Carbon Steel and Cast Iron are very similar. This is why both are very good for cooking and grilling. The main difference is that Carbon Steel contains about 1% Carbon while Cast Iron contains 2% - 3% Carbon. This difference might not sound like much but the carbon effects the grain structure of the metal. As the Carbon gets added to the steel mix, Carbon has a tendency to clump together into lumpy carbides and form pockets of pure carbon (graphite). When this happens, the metal becomes very hard and very brittle. It disrupts the grain of the metal, making it irregular, brittle and prone to cracking. This is the reason why Cast Iron often cracks or breaks. When Cast Iron is heated unevenly, the heat differential causes stress in the metal as the thermal expansion is uneven. When this stress encounters a pocket of carbon, Cast Iron cracks. This is also why Cast Iron often breaks when it is dropped. The area of high carbon is extremely brittle and can’t stand the shock.
Because Carbon Steel has only 1% Carbon, this phenomena is negligible and much easier to control and prevent from happening. The grain structure in Carbon Steel is very uniform and virtually impervious to heat stress or shock. In addition to this, Carbon Steel is “rolled” in the steel mill. It is forced between heavy rollers while the steel is hot. After rolling the steel and getting it to the right thickness, the steel is “doused” with cold water that causes the grain structure to freeze in place. This makes Carbon Steel very strong and the choice material to cook on. Even with uneven heat loads or dropping Carbon Steel, it will not break or crack. This allows for a lifetime of use.
The larger the surface area and the thinner the material, the more prone Cast Iron is to cracking and breaking. In a grill, the heat is never uniform. This makes cast Iron an especially poor choice for grill inserts. For this reason, all Arteflame cooktops, inserts, griddles and Burger Pucks are made of Carbon Steel.