Premixed, laminar H2/O2/Ar and CH4/O2/N2 low-pressure flat flames doped with iron pentacarbonyl (Fe(CO)5) were used to investigate the initial steps towards the formation of iron-oxide nanoparticles. The particles were extracted from the flame using a molecular beam sampling probe and the mass flow rate of condensed material was measured by a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM). It was observed that particles are already formed on the cold side of the flame, and vanish quickly once they pass through the flame front. To understand the process and assess the perturbations caused by the sampling probe, spatially resolved laser-based measurements of temperature, Fe and FeO concentration as well as molecular-beam sampling with particle mass spectrometry (PMS) were carried out. Numerical flow simulations of the synthesis flames, the reactor, and the sampling were performed and the simulations confirmed the experimental findings of very early particle formation. The detailed knowledge of the perturbation caused by invasive probing enabled further insight into the iron-oxide nanoparticle formation mechanism. From the results it is concluded that neither Fe atoms nor FeO molecules belong to the growth species of iron-oxide nanoparticles from flame synthesis.