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Cast iron sticky after seasoning? Here’s how to fix it

I guess you are wondering why is your cast iron sticky after seasoning? That's because you're either using too much oil, using the wrong type of oil, and you're seasoning your cast iron cookware the wrong way.
food stuck on cast iron cookware

To make my cast iron pans, skillets, and pots non-stick, I follow a two-step process. First, give my cookware a proper cleaning. Second, season cast iron the right way.

I’ve done this process of cleaning and re-seasoning cast iron cookware many times before. Follow along with this guide, and I’ll explain in detail why your pans are still sticky after season and what you can do to fix it.

Keep reading if you want to learn:

Why is Your Cast Iron Sticky After Seasoning

sticky cast iron pan

The only reason why your cast iron is sticky after seasoning is because you seasoned it the wrong way. A well-seasoned pan has a smooth surface, and it doesn’t feel sticky even though it has a layer of oil on it.

So what you need to do first is give your cast iron cookware a proper clean since it’s still sticky after seasoning. Here’s an article on how to clean a cast-iron skillet if you don’t know how to take care of your cookware. Second, season it using the methods described below.

But first, let’s identify what caused your pans to become sticky in the first place:

You are using too much oil

One of the main reasons why your cast iron cookware became sticky in the first place is because you used too much oil when seasoning. 

When there’s a thick layer of oil on the surface of cast iron, your cookware becomes sticky. The only way to fix this issue is to clean and re-season your pans and pots all over again.

Your aim is to have a smooth, mirror-like surface both on the interior and exterior of your cookware. A thin and smooth layer will create a non-stick coating that will prevent food from burning.

After you are done with the re-seasoning, take your pan and test it out if it is still sticky. Fry an egg. If it sticks to the pan, it means something went wrong. Move on to the next cause explained below.

You are using the wrong oil

If your cast iron cookware is still sticky after seasoning, it’s likely because you’re using the wrong oil for seasoning it.

According to the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, you should avoid using saturated fats.

Suppose you intend to use butter or olive oil for baking your cast iron. It’s not the best option. Both burn easily at low temperatures, and that is not ideal for seasoning. It will leave residue on the cookware, which will become sticky.

There is plenty of other neutral oil you can use, but more on that later in the section on how to fix cast iron pan from sticking.

You didn’t apply enough heat when baking your cast iron cookware

One of the reasons why your cast iron cookware is sticky it’s because you baked it at the wrong temperature. Most likely at a lower temperature than it should.

To create a seal, you need to bake cast iron in the oven at a high temperature. This will make the oil polymerize. This process will create a nice thin non-stick layer of oil.

You didn’t bake your cast iron cookware as much as it needs

If you don’t let cast iron bake for long enough, it can cause stickiness. It doesn’t matter if you used the right amount of oil or if you used the right type of oil. It would be best if you let it sit in the oven for at least an hour.

If you want to create a seal, you need to follow the proper steps to prevent cast iron from stickiness. And baking your cookware long enough is one of those steps.

The right amount of oil, correct temperature, and time spent baking are three main factors to good seasoning. Later in the article, I’ll explain to you how to correct this issue.

You are seasoning on a stovetop when you should be using the oven

Yes, you can season cast iron cookware on a stovetop, but I don’t recommend you do that unless you have experience with that.

The seasoning on the stovetop may seem more manageable, but actually, it’s not. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s challenging if you’re doing it for the first time.

I recommend you bake your cast iron cookware in the oven to avoid uneven seasoning. 

When seasoning on the stovetop, the bottom of the cookware heats up first. It creates an uneven seasoning process which is terrible, especially for pots and skillets.  

In the restaurant, I used to season some of my pans on the stovetop. I did that because I used these pans for the only purpose, like pan-frying a steak. Other than that I highly recommend you to pop it in the oven and don’t worry about it.

How to Fix Sticky Cast Iron After Seasoning

Since you know what can cause your cast iron to become sticky, we need to fix it. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way around it. You’ll have to wash your cookware first since your first seasoning did not yield the wanted results. Only then can we move on to apply oil and bake it in the oven. Follow these steps below to avoid sticky cast iron pans. 

1. Clean Your Sticky Cast Iron Pan

clean cast iron cookware

Yes, you’re going to need to clean your sticky cast iron pan first. Only then, move on to seasoning your cookware. This step is crucial since your first attempt didn’t create a proper seal. You ended up with a sticky layer on top of your cast iron cookware, and that must be cleaned.

So here’s what you need to clean a pan:

  • steel wool or a stiff brush
  • Kosher salt
  • Rubber gloves
  • A paper towel or a clean, dry cloth

Instructions on how to clean your sticky cast iron cookware:

  1. Soak your pan in hot soapy water for at least 10 minutes,
  2. Remove the water,
  3. Add a few tablespoons of kosher salt.
  4. Scour cast iron until all fat is removed
  5. Rinse cookware under warm water
  6. Use a clean towel or clean, dry cloth to dry it out
  7. Put the pan on a stovetop over medium heat for three to five minutes to remove any excess moisture.

2. Use a Small Amount of Neutral Oil to Season Cast Iron

The best way to avoid thick layer building on cast iron surfaces is to apply a small amount of oil. This will prevent your cookware from becoming sticky.

Some oils are more suited than others to use for seasoning. As I mention before, I highly suggest you avoid saturated fats. Olive oil or melted butter is not suitable for cast iron, so make sure to avoid it.

vegetable oil for seasoning cast iron cookware

Here are the best oils to use for seasoning:

  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Linseed (flax) oil
  • Canola (rapeseed) oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Refined coconut oil

Instruction on how to apply oil to the cast iron:

  1. Pour a few tablespoons of your chosen neutral oil into the cereal bowl
  2. Take a clean, dry cloth and dip it carefully into the bowl filled with oil
  3. Rub it onto the surface of your cast iron both to the interior and exterior.

3. Bake Cast Iron in The Oven

At this point, you should have your cast iron clean, and the oil should be applied to the cookware. 

Remember, do not cut corners. Use the oven to season your cookware properly. Yes, it takes more time to season using this method, but the results are much better.

oven to bake cast iron cookware

Instructions on how to bak cast iron in the oven:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place a tray lined with aluminum foil on the bottom rack
  3. Place your cast iron cookware on a middle oven rack upside down. A tray is going to catch any oil dripping from cast iron
  4. Bake it for an hour
  5. Take out your cookware and let it cool
  6. Again repeat the process of applying oil and baking another two times

These steps are essential to prevent your cast iron pans from becoming sticky after seasoning. If you don’t have enough time to spend on seasoning your pans, properly plan your time ahead. It’s going to take at least three hours to do it properly.

Additional Notes

  • If you seasoned your pan correctly and you don’t want to mess it up, there are certain ingredients you want to avoid. Acidic ingredients such as tomatoes and wine can be harmful to your cast iron cookware. 

The Bottom Line

As we can see, there are several reasons why your cast iron cookware is sticky after seasoning. But that should not discourage you from using it. Try to identify what could have caused your pans to become sticky. And make sure to follow along with my guide. It’s a sure way to season your cookware correctly.

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